The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A thankful, if not Thanksgiving, weekend

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

A thankful, if not Thanksgiving, weekend

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

Comments

trailrunner's picture
trailrunner

I am so sorry that your wife was ill but glad she is now so much better. What a terrible way to have to spend a holiday weekend.


Your breads...wow...they are beautiful . Weren't you the smart one to get going and make " lemonade from lemons" as it were. 


I love that Challot chaping...have never tried that recipe or shaping but may have to do so...you are right it is very elegant.


I haven't made the Clayton bread in years...again may need to try that. I have made the rye and we love it. c

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Sorry to hear your wife was unwell this weekend, Paul.


Lovely looking loaves.

wally's picture
wally

Old saying, but you proved its wisdom Paul.  Sorry about your wife's illness, but very happy with the results of your Plan B.  The challah is indeed elegant looking, and I'm certain your friends will be thankful that simple yielded more bread to be shared.


Nice looking bakes, all.


Larry

LindyD's picture
LindyD

Sounds as if your wife got hit with the norovirus bug - currently circulating in Northern Michigan - at least according to the local news.  Glad she's feeling better and that your "plan B" was such a success.


Love the shape of your Challah.

SylviaH's picture
SylviaH

Sorry to hear your wife was ill and happy to hear she is feeling better.  Looks like all worked out very good.  I always love the way you shape your Challah...the vanilla challah is delicious!


Sylvia

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Beautiful loaves, all of them!  The weather must be great in SA this time of year!  Are you baking outside?

louie brown's picture
louie brown

Beautiful loaves, Paul. I agree about the simple elegance of the challah shape. We use it for the holidays.

jonalisa's picture
jonalisa

Paul,


Sorry to hear about your wife's illness for the Holiday.


It seems you turned things around and made the best of it. What beautiful bread!
The challah looks amazing and magazine worthy.


Jonalisa


PS. Good thing your wife was in bed...if I saw loaves of bread on my white couch, I'd have a cow.  :-)

rayel's picture
rayel

Hi Paul, happy your wife is feeling better. I thought no one would comment on the white couch with challah picture, but when I saw it I said that is one great bread guy, who knows his wife will never see these pictures. I liked them all by the way. Nice breads and pictures, and I bet the gift breads were well recieved.


 Happy Holidays, Ray

highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam

I know when I'm sick, it's really nice when I think my significant other is busy and happy. You wife probably got better every minute you were baking.


Pam 

happylina's picture
happylina

Oh! so  lovely Challah, so white sofa (^_^)

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

but my thought was that the sofa better not leave anything on my bread!  Just to quell the fears, that sofa (one of two, plus two matching armchairs) sits outdoors in the covered area of our stoep.  Keep in mind that the challah was baked on parchment, so it's not like there's an oily residue to be concerned about.  Plus, there's the small matter of the cooling rack as a barrier...  Did I mention that I'm an engineer, too?


Thank you all for your concern and well wishes for my wife.  Norovirus wasn't something that I had thought about but it is a possibility.


And thank you for all the compliments. 


Yes, the weather is lovely and no, I haven't been doing any outdoor baking.  Maybe I should experiment with potbrood.  It is bread that is baked in a potjie, which is a three-legged cast-iron Dutch oven sort of pot.  Given that many Afrikaners are descendants of the Dutch East Indies Company employees that established Cape Town as a resupply point for company ships, Dutch ovens by any name shouldn't be a surprise, should they?


All breads were happily received and even more happily eaten.  I had a great day puttering about in the kitchen.  And my sweetie is feeling fine again.  To quote the Bard, "All's well that ends well."


Paul

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Beautiful, Paul. and a belated happy thanksgiving to you and your wife.. i hope she recovered.


You seem to enjoy reading so much more than to blog, we miss your blogs, Paul.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

And yes, she is back to full strength now.


You are right that I am not the most prolific blogger.  It is mostly a function of time.  I typically get up at 4:30 in the morning, leave the house at 5:15, and don't get back until 6:30 or 7:00 in the evening.  Then it's back to bed around 9:30 to start the cycle again.  That effectively limits my baking to weekends.  Between errands, baking, church and any recreation/relaxation things to do, blogging tends to suffer.  Perhaps next year when I'm back in the States and on a lighter schedule...


Garrison Keillor, on his (presumed) last airing of The Prairie Home Companion show, said something along the lines of "It's better to leave before people wish you would than stay around and hear them jingling their car keys in their pockets."  So, better for me to know that you want more than to have worn out my welcome.  Thank you for your kind words.


Paul

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

So how is it done?


Mary

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

The dough is divided into two pieces.  Each piece is rolled into a "snake" about 30 inches in length that is thick at one end and tapers down to a thinner tail.  You could almost picture a softball bat, minus the knob at the end, for the shape.


Place the thick end of the roll in the center of a parchment-lined baking sheet and coil the rest of the roll around it so that the tail is at the outer edge of the now-formed loaf.  Tuck the tip of the tail under the body of the loaf and pinch it so that it will stay in position during the final rise and baking.  If you are more of a visual thinker, you might picture a coiled snake, or coiled rope, or a reversed snail (thicker in the center and thinner at the periphery). 


I aim for a loose coil with no gaps between outer and inner arcs of the coils.  It's going to grow in volume while rising and even more while baking, so a really tight coil might lead to distortion as the dough tries expand.


Since the thickest part of the roll is in the center of the loaf, it bakes up tallest because a) it was thickest to begin with and because b) the outer sections of the coil help to contain the expansion, directing it upward.


Although you didn't ask, I choose to bake each challah on a separate sheet.  It allows for the most even browning and avoids "Siamese twin" loaves.  That requires rotating the pans and swapping upper/lower positions in the oven at mid-bake for even baking of each loaf.  The deep color of this bread's crust comes from a glaze consisting of egg yolk, sugar and vanilla extract which is brushed on just before the loaves go into the oven.


Let me know if any of that isn't clear.


Paul

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

Thank you Paul, you've unintentionally corrected one of my assumptions: that these were small rolls!


An excellent description and I'll do it when I take some challah to a son's for Christmas, his daughters will fall on them - in fact I daren't go without challah!


This will fool them, another shape :-)


Mary


who has no idea what a softball bat is ...

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Perhaps I should have looked to see where you are before using that descriptor.


How about a billiard cue stick, albeit much shorter and thicker?  Or a paper twist for chips, much elongated and skinnier?  Or a cudgel, but smoother?  Anyway, fatter at one end and thinner at the other, with a smooth taper. 


I hope that helps and that your granddaughters enjoy the challot.  My grandson loves this particular challah.  I'm not sure if it is the vanilla flavor, or just that it's a cool shape that grandpa made.


Paul

Mebake's picture
Mebake

I understand, Paul.. I hope you have some recess soon. As to blogging, few lines in a blog would suffice to keep us updated on your baking.


You are always welcome.

highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam

With that schedule, I would be unable to even lift the lid of my laptop.  Just give us a peek at what you are doing.


Pam

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Khalid, we do have some recess scheduled for the near future to visit our families in the States: Deb's mom, my dad, brothers, sister, nieces/nephews, kids and grandkids.  There's one new little fellow who we will see for the first time during our visit.  He's the third grandchild so far.


Pam, my present assignment is as the lead planner for Eskom's Kusile Power Station project in South Africa.  The plant is a 6-unit coal-fired generating station that will supply the country with 4800MW of electricity when the final unit comes on line in 2017.  Kusile is sorely needed to support South Africa's growing demand for electricity and to replace older, dirtier plants.  My team prepares and updates the master project schedule, monitors contractor schedules, provides reports to management for both Eskom and my employer, keeps tabs on the schedule impact of proposed or implemented changes, etc., etc., etc.  Construction is underway and it is one impressive job site with over 7,000 workers here today and an anticipated peak of 12,000 workers when everything is going full bore.  I've been in the business for 30+ years and this is, by far, the biggest, most challenging project of my career.  I have not been bored since arriving here.


Paul

highmtnpam's picture
highmtnpam

A big challenge, but a very satisfying one, I think.  We will think of u.  Please send pic of your "challenge".  Pam

Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

I see, like a rounders bat :-)


Thank you,


Mary