The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Hensperger

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PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Although my posting has been erratic, baking has continued at a fairly steady pace.

The Saturday of the Easter weekend, I baked Beth Hensperger's Sweet Vanilla Challah from her Bread Bible.  It is a favorite of my older grandson and we took a loaf with us for dinner with he and his parents.  I've blogged about it previously.  By the way, if any lasts long enough, it makes some of the best french toast, ever!  The turban shape is still a favorite of mine for its elegance and simplicity:

I also baked some honey whole wheat bread that same day for sandwiches:

This weekend, I managed to squeeze in a pain au levain with whole wheat, from the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book.  One loaf was served at dinner with friends today and one went home with them (along with a bunch of hostas that were getting too big for their growing area.  Loaf:

Crumb:

I had elected to do some kneading for the dough, followed by a single stretch and fold about 45 minutes into the bulk ferment.  My rationale was that I wanted a finer, rather than more open, crumb.  It worked.  Other tweaks included bumping up the quantities by about 40% to achieve slightly larger loaves and using an autolyse of nearly an hour, which is longer than mentioned in the formula.  Otherwise, I hewed to the directions and was rewarded with some bread that is pleasing to the eye and the tongue.  

Paul

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Saturday's game plan was to do a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for some of our South African friends.  The aim was partly to broaden their cultural sensibilities (not to mention waistlines) but more importantly to thank them for how pleasant they have made this past year for a couple of Americans who are a long way from home.  Alas, it was not to be.  My wife came down with some sort of abdominal unpleasantness that had her down for the count on Friday and left her feeling very weak on Saturday and Sunday.  Fortunately, she's back to her usual self but the planned activities for the day were pretty much shot to tatters.


With only a few errands to run and not wanting to leave her home by herself, I made up a Plan B which, wait for it, also involved food!  It started small enough and then morphed into something bigger.  It wasn't too long after starting that I thought "I have the whole day.  I could make some bread to give away as well as some for ourselves."


I started with Leader's Polish Cottage Rye, since that is naturally leavened and would therefore take the longest to go from ingredients to finished bread.  I've not made this before but I will be making it again.  It contains just over 25% rye flour (I used whole rye instead of the recommended white rye), all of which is in the rye sour.  It makes a beautiful big miche-sized loaf, just over 1200g in weight.  I missed that note.  I had the oven all set up to bake on the stone, with steam.  When I looked at how the dough was doming over the top of the bannetons, I realized that wasn't going to work.  Then I pulled the stone and steam pan out of the oven and put each loaf on parchment in its own half-sheet pan.  The oven in this house has only two shelves and the coil is exposed in the bottom of the oven, so that left no room for the steam pan.  Consequently, I baked them with convection.  When first transferred from banneton to pan, each loaf spread quite a bit.  Each one had good oven-spring but I wonder whether they might have been even higher if there had been a way to get steam in the oven at the same time.  Note that I'm not complaining about result.  The crumb is smooth, moist, cool and creamy; sorry, no pics of that.  The outside looks like this:


Leader's Polish Cottage Rye


It's the time of year that I usually make Bernard Clayton's Pain Allemande aux Fruits.  I've blogged about this previously, so won't repeat myself here except to say this is a wonderful bread!  It is rather messy and tedious, which is why I usually only make it once a year. Shaping is always a challenge with that much fruit and nuts in the dough.  The fragrance and the flavors are so exquisite, though, that I can't just not make it.  Here it is, all baked, bagged, and ready to go:


Clayton's Pain Allemande aux Fruits


And, just because I knew some friends wouldn't be all that jazzed by rye bread or fruity bread, I decided to make Sweet Vanilla Challah from Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible.  This has been blogged about, too.  The shaping is extremely simple, especially compared to a braid, but the result is stunningly elegant:


Hensperger's Sweet Vanilla Challah


So, instead of saying thank you to a few friends, we were able to thank several more.  While my wife would have preferred to skip the whole sickness thing, the end result was much appreciated by others.


Paul

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I wanted to make a bread for a recent gathering of friends.  My preference was for something sweet but not a sticky, gooey kind of sweet.  After paging through a number of books, I came across a recipe in Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible for a sweet vanilla challah that sounded like it would fit the bill.  The recipe called for just 1/2 cup of sugar in a two-loaf batch of bread, so it wasn't excessively sweet.  The flavor, though, was driven by 1-1/2 tablespoons of vanilla extract in the dough and another teaspoon of vanilla extract in the glaze.  How could it be anything but good?


The dough ingredients include:


1 tablespoon yeast (instant or active dry)


1/2 cup sugar


1 tablespoon salt


6-1/2 to 7 cups of flour


1-3/4 cups hot water (120 F)


4 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten


1/2 cup vegetable oil


1-1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract


The glaze ingredients include:


1 large egg yolk


1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1/2 teaspoon sugar


Process


Combine the yeast, sugar, salt and 2 cups of the flour; mix by hand or by mixer.


Add the hot water, eggs, oil, and vanilla.  Beat hard until smooth.  Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time.  Continue beating until the dough is too stiff to stir.


Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead until soft and springy and a layer of blisters shows under the skin, about 4 minutes.  (Note: I did not see any blisters forming, but kneaded until the dough was smooth and elastic.)  The dough needs to be slightly firm for free-form loaves.


Place the dough in a greased deep container.  Turn the dough once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.  (Even with room temperature at a relatively cool 65F in my kitchen, it did not need this much time to double.  I could see this doubling in less than an hour with warmer, summer-time temperatures.)


Grease or parchment-line 1 or 2 baking sheets.  (I went with 2 sheets, not wanting to risk the two loaves growing together while they baked.  It turned out to be a good choice.  Note that Ms. Hensperger also offers the option of using springform pans.)  Gently deflate the dough.  Turn the dough onto a lightly-floured surface.  Divide the dough in 2 equal portions.  Roll each portion out into a smooth, thick strip about 30 inches long, with one end 2-3 inches wider than the other.  (Picture a shorter, thicker billiard cue stick.)  Roll to to lengthen and taper the thinner end.  With the wide end on the work surface, lift the tapered end and wind the rest of the dough around the thick end 2 or 3 times, forming a compact coil.  Pinch the thin end to the body of the coil and tuck it under.  Place the coils, with the swirl pattern facing up, on the baking sheet(s).  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise until nearly doubled in bulk, about 30-40 minutes.  Because of the eggs, this loaf does not need to double completely; it will rise enough in the oven.  (And how!  It sprang up to double or treble its original height.)


Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350F.  To make the vanilla egg glaze, whisk together the egg yolk, vanilla and sugar in a small bowl.  Beat until well blended.  Gently brush the dough surfaces with a thick layer of the glaze.  Place the baking sheet(s) on a rack in the center of the oven and bake 40-45 minutes, or until a deep, golden brown and the loaves sound hollow when tapped with your finger.  Carefully lift the turbans off the baking sheet(s) with a spatula and transfer to cooling racks.  Cool completely before slicing.


The finished bread looks like this:


Sweet vanilla challah


Sweet vanilla challah


Now, any bread smells good when it's baking.  This bread's fragrance while baking is over the top; our whole house was perfumed with vanilla. 


The flavor is also marvelous.  The crumb is fine-textured, smooth and moist.  It's good all by itself, with a dab of butter, with jam or marmalade, and toasted.  It will never last long enough to go stale, but it would make a wonderful base for either French toast or bread pudding.


The results were every bit as good as I had anticipated and a big hit with my friends.


Paul

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