What did I do during the holidays? Baking, of course! (We were invited for Christmas dinner, so no family cooking). I love my newest addition to my evergrowing collection of baking books, Jan Hedh's "Swedish Breads & Pastry". Though I do not follow his technique in every step (I prefer steaming with a steam pan and a cup of boiling water), and, also found the baking times for some recipes way longer than the bread needed in my oven, I think it's a great book.
After my first trials with apple yeast leavened Pain au Levain, I tried my hand with Miche Bread with Sourdough. Jan Hedh suggests rising the shaped loaves on a couche. I own one, but I rarely use it, preferring a perforated baguette pan for my Pains a l"Ancienne, bannetons or simply a parchment lined baking sheet for boules and bâtards. Though I dusted the loaves with flour, and covered them with a towel, after 2 hours (without extra plastic wrap protection) the breads had developed a skin (except for the bottoms). When I tested them with my finger, it felt like poking a rubber ball - the skin didn't allow a small indentation, but folded in somewhat, and then bounced back.
No scoring was required, and I placed my rubber balls in the oven, hoping that their soft belly would let them spring, even if the skin didn't. Fortunately I was forewarned, by my earlier experience with Hedh's bread, not to trust the baking time in the recipe. Indeed, the bread reached the desired 208 F/98 C internal temperature already after 28 minutes, instead of 45! And though they didn't have much oven spring, the crumb was good, my rubber balls had been filled with all the air they needed during the rise. The bottom, as to be expected - not having a "skin" - was less brown, and the crust thinner.
Miche with rye sourdough
Miche crumb shot shows the difference between top (drier skin) and bottom (no skin).
My next bread was, again, an example of The Power of The Apple Yeast. Fed with juice drops from cutting oranges for our cereal, the apple yeast water was peacefully fomenting in the fridge, waiting to become leaven for the next dough. I started building a 3-steps-levain, with my lamp-on-only oven as perfect environment. WhileRising the breads - two large loaves - I had another surprise. With the same temperature in the kitchen, these breads rose much faster than the time given in the recipe, whereas proofing the sourdough miche had taken nearly twice the time. Well, I've heard somewhere that "the dough is always right, not the clock".... This time I let the boules rest on a parchment lined baking sheet, they rose mightily, no skin development - and no bouncing rubber balls.
Because of my earlier experiences with shorter baking times, I checked the breads for done-ness after 30 minutes, but, surprise, this time they needed the full 50 minutes, as stated in the recipe.
Pain de Campagne with apple yeast - spiral scoring inspired by txfarmer.
Pain de Campagne crumb
Both breads had an excellent taste, and kept for 3 days in a brown bag. The large Pain de Campagne loaf (ca. 1200 g) I cut in halves and froze the other half.
After all that serious bread baking - the stollen and lebkuchen being eaten - I needed some peanut butter relief, while a Nor'easter howled around the house and a blizzard promised a great workout with the shovel. Several opened glasses with peanut butter (our daughters tend to dump their kitchen leftovers at our house) provide a never ending supply, creamy or crunchy, organic or less healthful.
Peanut Butter Muffins from "The Muffin Bible".
These muffins are wonderful, moist and, with an additional dose of toasted peanuts , even more peanutty.