The Fresh Loaf

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A very happy (belated) 4th of July to all American TFL'ers!

Weather's been good lately and I've tried to spend as much time outdoors as possible, so I'm sorry for this late post. To make up for it, I had a go at an all-American favourite this sunday: Yes, you guessed it. And what better way to enjoy a juicy burger than with home-made buns? Here's a link to my recipe.

Hamburger buns


My Norwegian take on the American classic:



For breakfast, I was inspired by Karin's post on the quintessential Danish tebirkes (click here for the post on those). It's been years since I last enjoyed that particular breakfast pastry, so her blog post was all the push that I needed to make some of my own. On my last trip to Denmark, I distinctly recall a "whole-grain" version of the tebirkes. The pastry itself was laminated, and it was sprinkled with sesame seeds (instead of the poppy seeds (or "birkes") used to cover tebirkes). I know there's a version of these pastries called grovbirkes, which is essentially "whole-grain birkes", so that could be the proper name for these things... except there's no poppy seeds ("birkes") on them. If someone knows the name of what I'm trying to describe, please chime in!

Anyways... For my version of these mouthwatering breakfast pastries, I used the whole-wheat croissant dough formula from Suas' ABAP. This dough has 25% whole-wheat flour, which gives the pastries an interesting flavour note compared to an ordinary all-white dough. I wouldn't go as far as saying these guys are healthy, but they're awfully tasty. And you probably don't have them every morning either, so I say go for it.

I shaped them as you would ordinary pain au chocolats (leaving out the chocolate, of course), and sprinkled them with linseeds and sesame seeds. A 1kg dough (not counting the 250gr butter used for lamination) gave me eight well-sized pastries. Baked in two batches:



Utterly delicious!! (I apologise for the lack of crumb shot - I brought all along to work for co-workers to enjoy...)


hansjoakim's picture

Now that virtually everyone in Europe is obsessing about the ongoing soccer world cup, I get the chance to hide away in the wonderfully soccer-free corners of my kitchen and indulge in my favourite hobby! Great thing that world cup, isn't it? ;)

Well, this weekend I put together a bread with toasted pumpkin seeds, toasted hazelnuts, raisins and some rolled oats. I just bought some delicious local washed rind cheese, and this loaf was the perfect pairing! You'll find the recipe by clicking here, and a photo below:

Raisin and nut sourdough


For this week's sugar-and-egg yolk section of my blog, I offer a fresh fruit charlotte. This is the charlotte from "Advanced Bread and Pastry", one that I also made last summer, and now I wanted to revisit it using some of this year's fresh berries. The charlotte is made of a ladyfinger bottom and ladyfinger band, it's filled with diplomat cream (a combination of pastry cream and whipped cream, set with gelatin), and frozen inserts of berry compote (I used fresh blackberry puree for this insert) and a tart lemon cremeux insert. Since the diplomat cream starts to set up really quickly after gelatin is added, unfortunately I didn't have opportunity to photograph the charlotte while placing the frozen inserts into it. Anyway, here's one from just before filling goes in:

Fresh fruit Charlotte

... and below is the finished charlotte. It has a wonderful combination of tart and sweet flavours, and, once you've prepared the frozen inserts, is very quick to put together. Would make a terrific, refreshing dessert on any sunny, summer afternoon:

Fresh fruit Charlotte

hansjoakim's picture

I thought I'd give a brief update on what I've been tinkering with in my kitchen over the weekend. I baked a nice rye loaf on Saturday morning - it's based on my regular 70% rye recipe, but I added some toasted sunflower seeds and whole-rye flour to a cold soaker. The dough is a breeze to mix and work with, without being terribly sticky or otherwise up to no good. You can find the recipe here. The loaf is pictured below:

70% rye with toasted sunflower seeds


For dessert, I prepared some princess pastries. I had a genoise cake in the freezer just waiting for one application or other. I split the genoise into thin cake layers, brushed them with Grand Marnier cake syrup, and spread raspberry jam on top of one layer. Rounds were cut out with a 5cm cookie cutter, and pink coloured marzipan wrapped around the two sandwiched genoise layers. Some pastry cream on top of the genoise and then whipped cream to fill up the marzipan cylinders. The pastries were then decorated with fresh raspberries and chocolate figurines and shared with co-workers :)

Princess pastries


And here's the assembling stages; raspberry jam on genoise layer:

Princess pastries


... and the pastries before and after pastry cream:

Princess pastries

hansjoakim's picture

Well, I'm not suggesting putting rye flour into your macaron batter, although that could be interesting for savoury macarons...if such a crazy thing as a "savoury macaron" exists... Let's do the rye thing first and then look at the macarons afterwards.

This week I've been playing around with a very simple recipe for a 40% rye. I wanted a formula that I could mix and bulk ferment in the afternoon/early evening, and then bake straight out of the fridge, first thing next morning. I also wanted a bread with a subtle, pleasing rye taste - nothing overtly sour or aggressive on my plate, thank you very much. So after some fiddling around, I ended up with this recipe.

Here's my mise en place (clockwise from bottom): Ripe rye sourdough, lukewarm water, flour mix and salt.

40% rye mise en place

The modest 72% overall hydration makes this dough easy to work with, and shaping is straightforward. The dough was noticeably gassy both during the fold and when it came time to preshape and shape. I'm not really sure if a fold is necessary for this kind of dough, but I still like to pull it out from the bowl, place it on the table and feel its consistency. I ended up with simply degassing it lightly, and then stretching the sides ever so carefully before folding the sides up as usual. Make sure you don't tear or rip the dough - the rye flour makes this kind of dough a bit tough and not particularly extensible.

First thing next morning:

40% rye


And here's the crumb shot (from a little later in the day):

40% rye crumb

The formula yielded a bread that was pretty much as I expected it would be: Delicate rye flavour, hints of rye sour and a rather light crumb. The crust packs much flavour on its own, and it even had clear signs of crackles along the sides of it. I've been enjoying a couple of these loaves with sausages and smoked salmon all week long.


Now, for the (as advertised) macaron part. Macarons is a great way to get rid of leftover egg whites (should you have any). The batter is merely whites, sugar (powdered and granulated) and almond meal. There's no such thing as almond meal around here, so I had to buy whole almonds, blanch them, grind them and then process until a very fine consistency together with powdered sugar. I'm not sure if grinding fresh almonds yields a better macaron, but it took me over an hour to produce that almond meal... better be worth it... better be worth it...

To some, there are two things that require all the stars to be perfectly aligned to get right (not to mention the humidity, temperature and performing several sacrificial ceremonies): Starting a sourdough culture from scratch and getting the macaron batter to the right "flowing like lava" consistency...

There seems to be (at least) two schools re: macaron making, depending mainly on what kind of meringue the batter is prepared with. Most internet sources and textbooks (including ABAP), settle for a simple French meringue. Non-compromising, hardcore macaron aficionados never settle for anything less than a full Italian meringue. The Italian meringue is supposed to give more consistent results, less lopsided feet, no cracked shells, a batter less prone to overmixing and shells that can be baked immediately (as opposed to the French meringue ones, which benefit from at least 20 mins. rest between piping and baking, in order to produce a firm shell). It is also claimed that success with the French meringue method hinges on using either aged egg whites or egg white powder. Phew. Such a simple, straightforward list of ingredients and then these detailed, scientific instructions, no wonder the stars need to be aligned to get these guys right.

I had enough egg whites over to try two batches, so I decided to make one with a French meringue and one with an Italian. Some remarks:

  • I did not use aged egg whites for either method, and I did not add any egg white powder. All eggs were separated merely hours before mixing the batter, so there shouldn't be any "aging" effect in either mix.
  • For both mixes, the shells sat approx. 20 mins between piping and baking, in order to toughen up their shells.
  • I found it easier to mix the French meringue batter than the Italian one. The batter made with Italian meringue took quite some time to come together, while the French was easier and quicker to get to the "flowing like lava" consistency.
  • I followed the recipes and baked the French meringue macarons at 180C for 10 mins, with the door slightly ajar the entire time. The Italian meringue macarons were baked at 160C for 15 mins with the door closed. I baked them in a conventional oven (no convection/fan-forced bake), and the shells were baked on the thin, perforated baking sheets shown below:

Piped macarons


I'm not sure how to explain it, other than either blind luck or being blessed with a macaron-friendly oven, but both batches had close to 100% success rate. Of approx. 40 shells in either batch, only one or two came out with lopsided feet. No cracks. I couldn't believe it.

Of the two recipes, I was most pleased with the one with the French meringue method. I think that baking at 180C produced a better interior body in those macarons than those that were baked at 160C. Some of the latter had air pockets close to the top shell, whereas the first ones had a full, lovely chewy body. I bet the Italian meringue macarons, baked at 180C, would've produced equally good interior bodies in the shells. I also feel that baking with the door slighly ajar produced a more even heat in the oven, at least a more even colouration was noticeable.

Filled macarons


The macarons were filled with a dark chocolate ganache (with a hint of Grand Marnier thrown in for good measure).

Breakfast for champions:

Macaron breakfast


hansjoakim's picture

Last week I've been enjoying a variation of the pain au levain I blogged about in my previous post - I'm really loving the bite the breads get by the rye sourdough. For the loaf pictured below, I raised the whole-grain amount slightly and added a healthy dose of walnuts. I'm such a sucker for walnuts; only bad thing about them is that they're not a "local food" around these parts. The ones I find in the stores are pricey and have travelled all the way from California... Still my favourite nuts, though. Here's a link to the recipe, and here's the loaf:

Walnut levain

...and here's the crumb:

Walnut levain crumb

A delicious bread!


I also baked a batch of croissants this weekend. I'm not sure exactly what beats the smell of croissants baking...

I split the dough in two after rolling it out, and used one half to make large-ish croissants and the other half to make smaller, regular sized croissants. Photo below:


And here's the crumb shot:

Croissant crumb

I was really happy to see how they turned out - probably my best batch so far! One of these with a cup of freshly brewed coffee makes the morning routine bearable :)

hansjoakim's picture

Sometime last week, I built up my rye starter for a run-through of some rye loaves. For some reason or other I ended up with quite a bit more mature rye sourdough than I needed for the loaves I had planned. Too bad to throw it all away I thought, so I put the left-over starter to good use in a pain au levain-style formula. The result was more than I could've hoped for, so darn tasty as a matter of fact, that I worked a bit more on the formula, and baked a few of those rye-sourdough-pain-au-levain breads this weekend. Here's the loaf (and some Swedish hazelnut tarts) from Sunday afternoon:

Pain au Levain with rye starter

I enjoyed slices of the loaf with a salad (spinach, bacon, hard-cooked eggs, mushrooms, in the background), a smear of blue cheese and a glass of red wine. Doesn't get much better than that.

Here's the mandatory crumb shot:

 Pain au Levain with rye starter


I was surprised by how drastically the taste of the bread changes when it is leavened by a rye starter. I tend to bake breads like these with a firm white starter, but now I'm more and more leaning towards using the rye starter instead. There's a distinct sour note to the breads, and a wonderfully tangy bite to every piece of the crust. I was also taken by how crackly the crust became when I baked the bread with a rye starter instead of a white starter; just have a look:

 Pain au Levain with rye starter


All in all, I'm really happy that I mixed up too much rye starter in the first place :)

Edit: Here's a link to the formula.

hansjoakim's picture

Better late than never, right?

I've been out of the loop for a little while, but I've still been baking. This week I have slowly worked my way through the flaxseed rye shown below, based on Hamelman's flaxseed rye from Modern Baking (link here to recipe here). I prefer to bake it as a pure sourdough, so the final proof is extended by approx. 50% compared to the original recipe. I've savoured the loaf with slices of brie, smoked ham or fish.

Flaxseed rye with old bread


On Friday, I spotted some of the season's first strawberries at my local market, and I simply couldn't resist:


Delicious early-spring treat! ...and would you believe it? The snow's almost all gone here now! :D (<-- happy grin)

Raisin buns is a perfect snack to pack along for upcoming hikes:

Raisin buns

hansjoakim's picture

I've been experimenting with some different levain breads recently, all made with more or less the same procedure: Between 15% and 20% prefermented flour, bulk fermentation around 2.5 hours with one or two folds, and retarding in fridge overnight (or at least 8 hours).

First up was a semolina levain, loosely based on Hamelman's semolina bread from the levain chapter in his book. I added a pinch whole-wheat and whole-rye flour to the formula, to give it a bit more body. There's toasted sesame seeds in the dough, and flavourful seeds on the crust, that provide a rich taste to each slice. A very nice bread to go with cured sausages or paninis!

Semolina bread


A bread that really blew me away was a levain made with roasted potatoes, roasted garlic and fresh herbs. Here's a link to my spreadsheet which details the formula. If you want to try it, keep an eye on the hydration of the dough as you mix it: You might have to add or reduce water depending on the moisture of the roasted potatoes. The garlic gets a mellow, rich buttery flavour after roasting it, and it blends perfectly with herbs and potatoes in this humble bread. I used parsley, but anything from thyme, basil, rosemary, dill to oregano would work equally well. You could also replace some of the water with olive oil if you prefer a softer crumb. Either way, I can heartily recommend it.

Roasted potato and garlic bread


Finally, my everyday pain au levain from "Bread", the pain au levain with whole-wheat flour:

Pain au levain with whole-wheat flour


PS: If you're a literature buff (like me), keep an eye out for Sofi Oksanen, a young Finnish writer who's making waves in literature circles here in Scandinavia. Two of her three novels are translated into my mother tongue, and her third novel "Purge", is soon published in English ( link). Estonia, torn between Finland (West) and the Soviet union (East), is central to her work, and the tension between the two blocks has devastating effects on her characters. "Purge" is nominated for this year's Nordic Council's literature prize, arguably the most prestigious award for literature written in the Nordic languages, and I wouldn't be surprised if she wins.

hansjoakim's picture

I'm still patiently working my way through the Schrotbrot, but with a bubbly and ripe rye sourdough on the counter, I decided to try out a new formula. I love my everyday pain au levains, and I wanted to see how it would work out with a rye sourdough and an increased amount of rye flour. This loaf is 30% whole-rye flour, 70% bread flour and is made with a whole-rye sourdough. You'll find a snapshot from my spreadsheet detailing the formula by clicking here!

With a modest 30% rye, the overall dough behaves very similar to any other pain au levain dough, but slightly stickier. You notice that it's not quite as strong when you tug at it, and the cuts tend to tear easier and be less well-defined than in straight wheat breads. Still, I think it turned out well! Although it looks pretty much like your everday pain au levain, there's a distinctive rye character to the bread - you'll sense that both by the smell of the baking loaf and most definitely in the flavour of the finished bread. I'd say it brings about a surprising lightness to the crumb, even though it still wholesome and filling. A most agreeable accompaniment to many cheeses.

30% rye


This week's dessert is a delicious chocolate mousse cake with bananas: A rum-flavoured chocolate mousse on top of some ripe bananas, sandwiched between two thin layers of a cocoa-almond sponge. Very tasty!

Chocolate mousse cake with banana


hansjoakim's picture

It's the time of the year where blistering cold winds sweep the city and the surrounding mountainside. Rest assured, no matter how many layers you put on, the cold will penetrate them and get to you eventually. I'm certain that the freezing temperatures are partly to blame for me baking a dense Schrotbrot this week... I had a careful look over my kitchen shelves, pencil in hand, and jotted down potential ingredients for a solid log. I had a vague idea of what I wanted, but this turned out quite good I think.

This week's Schrotbrot:


I've snapped a screenshot of the spreadsheet I used to make up the formula; you'll find that at the bottom of the post!

The base formula is pretty simple, and you can put any kinds of grains and seeds in it - flavour it either way you like. I love toasted sunflower seeds in these rye breads, as they give a nutty chew that goes well with soaked rye berries. I used a tad malt syrup to bring out a subtle sweetness in the final loaf. It's not very pronounced, but rather lingers somewhere in the background. I bet either honey or another syrup would work equally well. You might want to alter the overall hydration if you exchange other seeds in the soaker(s), but keep in mind that you want to keep the final dough very wet. Wet your hands with water, give the dough a rough cylindrical shape, and carefully place in a tin. The recipe below is scaled to fill a 1 liter tin approx. 2/3 way up. After about 1 hour final proof, the dough should have risen noticeably, and the top should start to look a bit fragile.

Let cool at least 24 hours. Slice as thin as possible and enjoy at 5 AM with a cheese platter and a glass of cold milk. Then go run the New York marathon.


Recipe Schrotbrot


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