Sourdough: Take One

We’ve been wanting to try a loaf of sourdough – mostly because it’s delicious.  And it reminds me of being in San Francisco with my dad.  We ate chowder out of sourdough bread bowls and he showed me where Janis Joplin’s ashes were spread.  

Anyway, Evan and I recently started our own wild yeast starter.  It’s really cool – if you like science or food science, or you have friend/family member/partner who likes you enough to pretend to like the science of wild yeast, well, then this is fun for everyone! 

We followed the directions in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, but no matter where you find instructions, the gist is the same.  We started by mixing whole rye flour and pineapple juice and leaving it out on the counter.  Each day you throw some out and add some bread flour and water.  It begins to ferment and develop from the yeast in the air.  But be careful – it’ll spill all over your counter if you don’t use a large enough container. ( I speak from experience – it even overflowed in the fridge, when it was supposed to be cool enough to stop the fermentation!)  Once you have a developed starter, you can use it to make all sorts of different types of bread.  It gives a unique depth of flavor to the bread, and you can adjust that by altering the percent hydration of the starter.  

Now, we tried one sourdough recipe that didn’t exactly rise that well.  Okay, okay, to be honest, it rose just fine, but we left it on the counter too long while we were out running errands and it over proofed and the dough collapsed.  We ended up with tasty bread, but fairly flat loaves.  

We tried a new recipe this time, and we (okay, Evan) created an at home couche to proof the dough in, and it really helped!  

We used this recipe: Norwich Sourdough, from the Wild Yeast Blog, which is a fantastic resource for home bakers.  Here’s how it went:

Ingredients:

  • 900 g white flour
  • 120 g whole rye flour 
  • 600 g water at about 74F
  • 360 g mature 100% hydration sourdough starter
  • 23 g salt

Yes, the ingredients are in grams.  Get a kitchen scale and deal with it. 

Directions: 

1.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix the flours, water, and starter on low speed until just combined, about one minute.

We don’t have a stand mixer, so we just mixed this well by hand. 

This is our starter: 

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This is the appropriate weighed amount of starter.  Weird stuff, right? Now, I should be clear – our starter looks firmer because it is 50% hydration.  We lowered it to try and get a more sour flavor.  So we added 270 grams of our starter and 90 grams of water to even it out.  Baker’s math: see here and here.  

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Artsy-fartsy picture of the different flours – note that this is a mountain of flour.  This makes two large loaves of bread.  

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Be prepared to get out your punch bowl to mix it in.

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2.  Let the dough rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.

3.  Add the salt and continue mixing on low or medium speed until the dough reaches a medium level of gluten development. This should only take about 3 or 4 minutes.

Again, we did this by hand.  (Okay, okay, Evan did all the kneading.  What can I say, he’s stronger than me and it takes him less time!)

Dough when Evan first finished kneading:

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Dough after the first fold, 50 minutes: 

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Dough at the second fold, 100 minutes:

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Dough at the end of the first rise: 

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Transfer the dough to an oiled container (preferably a low, wide one so the dough can be folded without removing it from the container).

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter. Divide it into 400g – 500g pieces. I usually make four 400g loaves and refrigerate the rest to use for pizza dough later. Preshape the dough pieces into light balls.

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I did all the dough shaping.  Honestly, the progress I’ve made with shaping loaves of bread is probably my biggest accomplishment of the summer.  #realtalk

Sprinkle the balls lightly with flour, cover loosely with plastic, and let rest for 15 minutes.

Shape into batards and place seam-side-up in a floured couche or linen-lined bannetons.

Don’t have a couche or linen-lined bannetons? Neither do we!  We do, however, have a rolling pin and a pepper mill, which Evan used to support the sides of the batard.  I was amazed.  Serious kitchen genius at work here, people.

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The boule loaf I shaped and then placed into the parchment-lined Dutch oven to proof. It worked pretty nicely. 

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Slip the couche or bannetons into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for 2 – 2.5 hours. Alternatively, the loaves can be proofed for about 1.5 hours at room temperature, then refrigerated for 2 – 16 hours and baked directly out of the refrigerator; this will yield a tangier bread with a lovely, blistered crust.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven, with baking stone, to 475F. You will also need steam during the initial phase of baking, so prepare for this now.

It’s this point in the baking that I like to dramatically shout, ‘PREPARE THE OVEN FOR HEARTH BAKING!’ Hint: I shout it in the exact same way one might yell ‘release the kraken!’

Turn the proofed loaves onto a semolina-sprinkled peel or parchment. Slash each one with two overlapping cuts that are almost parallel to the long axis of the batard.

Once the loaves are in the oven, turn the heat down to 450F. For 400g loaves, bake for 12 minutes with steam, and another 15 – 18 minutes without steam. I leave the oven door cracked open a bit for the last 5 minutes of this time. The crust should be a deep brown. Then turn off the oven and leave the loaves in for 5 minutes longer, with the door ajar, to help them dry. Larger loaves will need to be baked longer.

Cool on a wire rack. Don’t cut until the loaves are completely cool, if you can manage it! 

I have finally developed some patience in this area – and only because I read that if a loaf is above 160 degrees, it’s still gelatinizing.  And since most breads set at about 200 degrees, I really have to wait a while for it cool.  I don’t want to ruin my bread and interrupt it while it’s still technically cooking!  If you do cut in too soon, you’ll end up with bread that could be soggy.  Letting the loaf cool completely also allows the flavor to fully develop.  

Final products!!  The loaves got really good color – I can’t say enough about using steam when you bake bread.  It really helps.  The slashes on the batard didn’t quite work out…it’s just not our strong suit. Every time we try, I just claim that we would be better at it if we had a bread lame.  Or a sharper knife.  Or a better innate ability to cut neat slashes into dough.  

Still, they look pretty good, I think!

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Light, crispy crust with a nice soft crumb that’s just a little bit open. 

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What I think is particularly incredible about this bread is that we didn’t use any commercial yeast – it was only the wild yeast that was naturally in our starter.  The loaf had a really nice depth of flavor, but it wasn’t quite as sour as I like my sourdough to be.  I’m looking into ways to develop a more sour flavor, and our next attempt will likely be this recipe, which was a follow up on Wild Yeast: A More Sour Sourdough.  Until then, bake on, friends!

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Pitas!

I’m trying a new format for this post…we’ll see how it works!

I’ve been baking fairly regularly, but I’ve gotten lazy about actually blogging.  I’m super good at instagramming a few photos of loaves that I’ve finished, but I’ve been slacking on the actual blogging.  Fear not, friends, I’m determined to get back on track.  Luckily, I have a bit of a blog backlog of things that I baked and Evan photographed but I never actually posted.  So, here I present you with: pitas!

This is actually a recipe that we found on Smitten Kitchen.  Head over there and check it out, and then browse the photo gallery to see how our pitas turned out.

Making these pitas was fun – it was a nice change to make something totally different.  And this summer was the first time that Evan made homemade baba ghanoush, and I’m obsessed with it.  These pitas would be the perfect bread for dipping into baba ghanoush or hummus!

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Focaccia!

Make this bread.  And then make these sandwiches.  Trust me.

This week I baked focaccia bread.  It’s one of my favorite breads, it’s so crispy and slightly oily in the best way.  I decided to bake it because we had a sandwich recipe that called for focaccia, and it seemed like a good enough reason to bake it!  There’s also restaurant in Buffalo that has some of the best focaccia I’ve ever tasted.  Actually, it has some of the best food I’ve ever tasted.  Officially endorsed by this blog, go try Bistro Europa.  It’s incredible, every time.  So, inspired by good local bread and wanting to make the best possible sandwich, this week we made focaccia!

We used a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.  It was actually super easy – but it took a while, you definitely have to be patient to make this bread.  But it’s worth it.

Here’s the recipe and directions from Cook’s Illustrated website:

Biga 

  • 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) warm water (100-110 degrees F)
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast

Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for shaping
  • 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) warm water (100-110 degrees F)
  • 1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

INSTRUCTIONS

1. FOR THE BIGA: Combine flour, water, and yeast in large bowl and stir with wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains, about 1 minute. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature (about 70 degrees) overnight (at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.) Use immediately or store in refrigerator for up to 3 days (allow to stand at room temperature 30 minutes before proceeding with recipe.)

 

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Nice and bubbly.

2. FOR THE DOUGH: Stir flour, water, and yeast into biga with wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 15 minutes.

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3. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons salt over dough; stir into dough until thoroughly incorporated, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature 30 minutes. Spray rubber spatula or bowl scraper with nonstick cooking spray; fold partially risen dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees; fold again. Turn bowl and fold dough 6 more times (total of 8 turns). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat folding, turning, and rising 2 more times, for total of three 30-minute rises. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, place baking stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees at least 30 minutes before baking.

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After the three rises and folding – so easy, there’s no kneading! Mostly because the dough is too wet to knead, really.

4. Gently transfer dough to lightly floured counter. Lightly dust top of dough with flour and divide in half. Shape each piece of dough into 5-inch round by gently tucking under edges.

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Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with 2 tablespoons olive oil each. Sprinkle each pan with ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Place round of dough in pan, top side down; slide dough around pan to coat bottom and sides, then flip over. Repeat with second piece of dough. Cover pans with plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes.

5. Using fingertips, press dough out toward edges of pan. (If dough resists stretching, let it relax for 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.) Using dinner fork, poke surface of dough 25 to 30 times, popping any large bubbles. Sprinkle rosemary evenly over top of dough. Let dough rest until slightly bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes.

Now, we don’t have cake pans.  What we have is one skillet and a square baking dish. We also didn’t have any rosemary.  We had Greek oregano and garlic powder.  So:

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6. Place pans on baking stone and reduce oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake until tops are golden brown, 25 to 28 minutes, switching placement of pans halfway through baking. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pan and return to wire rack. Brush tops with any oil remaining in pan. Let cool 30 minutes before serving.

We also don’t have a baking stone.  I put a baking sheet tray in the oven upside down, so it made a little platform, and preheated it with the oven, and placed the baking dish and skillet on top of that.  It was a little crowded, but it worked.

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Okay, this bread was delicious.  Like, incredible.  So tasty.  We ate a few pieces just warmed up, it didn’t even need butter.  (I know, right?!)  But, as I mentioned at the beginning, the main reason for this bread was for sandwiches.  Now just trust me when I say this….Roasted Eggplant and Pickled Beet Sandwiches.  From Bon Appetit’s sandwich issue (obviously) this is a recipe that caught Evan’s eye.

Roasted Eggplant and Pickled Beet Sandwiches

Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Mayo

  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • Kosher salt, ground pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar

Beet Salad and Assembly

  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup mixed tender fresh herb leaves (such as flat-leaf parsley, dill, and mint), torn if large
  • 1/2 cup chopped pickled beets
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted oil-cured olives
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 6×4-inch pieces focaccia, split
  • 6 ounces feta, thinly sliced or crumbled

Preparation

Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Mayo

  • Preheat oven to 400°. Place eggplant slices on a large rimmed baking sheet and rub both sides with oil. Season with paprika, salt, and pepper. Roast until golden and tender, 30-40 minutes.
  • Whisk garlic, mayonnaise, and vinegar in a small bowl; set aside.

Beet Salad and Assembly

  • Toss scallions, herbs, beets, olives, capers, and oil in a medium bowl to combine.
  • Spread cut sides of focaccia with garlic mayo. Build sandwiches with focaccia, eggplant, feta, and beet salad.
  • DO AHEAD: Eggplant can be roasted 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Now, we grilled our eggplant instead of roasting it.  We also used parsley, mint and basil as our herbs because that’s what we had in the house.  We were also out of sherry vinegar for the garlic mayo, so we used balsamic.  All still so delicious.  Now I know what you’re thinking. “Pics or it didn’t happen!” Well.

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Make this bread.  And then make these sandwiches.  Thank me later.

 

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Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire!

Surprise! This blog still exists!  I’ve still been baking, just less often, and nothing new or exciting.  I’ve been super busy with school and work.  Since I’d been so busy and stressed, Evan bought me a brand new bread book!  It definitely cheered me up a ton.  He bought me The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and I highly recommend it.  It’s almost more of a basic textbook on baking – it has lots of great recipes, but it also goes into depth about baker’s math and understanding the ratios of ingredients that go into different basic types of bread.  I’m still reading through it and working on really understanding the concept of the baker’s percentage formula, and it’s a great read.

It took me a few weeks to find the time to actually try one of the recipes from this book.  I decided to try the recipe for “Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire” because I’ve been wanting to try a multigrain bread, and the description claims that this bread makes the best toast in the world.  So I had to try it.

Multigrain Bread Extraordinare

Soaker:

  • 3 tablespoons or 1 ounce of coarse cornmeal, millet, quinoa or amaranth
  • 3 tablespoons or .75 ounces of rolled oats of wheat, buckwheat or triticale flakes
  • 2 tablespoons or .25 ounces of wheat bran
  • 1/4 cup of 2 ounces of water at room temperature

Dough:

  • 3 cups of 13.5 ounces of unbleached high gluten or bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons or 1.5 ounces of brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of .38 ounces salt
  • 1 tablespoon or .33 ounces of instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoons or 1 ounce of cooked brown rice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons or 1 ounce of honey
  • 1/2 cup or 4 ounces of buttermilk or milk
  • 3/4 cupo r 6 ounces of water at room temp
  • About one tablespoon of poppy seeds or sesame seeds for topping, optional

 

Directions:

  1. Make the soaker the day ahead.  The water will just cover the grain, hydrating it slightly.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight to initiate enzyme action.  It’ll look like this:IMG_1423
  2. To make the dough the next day, stir together the flour, brown sugar, salt and yeast.  Add the soaker, rice, honey, buttermilk and water.  Stir until the ingredients form a ball.  Add a few drops of water if the flour remains separate.
  3. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough and knead for about 12 minutes, sprinkling in flour if needed to make a dough that is soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky.  The dough will smooth out and become slightly shiny.  The dough should pass the windowpane test and be about 77 – 81 degrees Fahrenheit.  IMG_1430Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let dough rise for 90 minutes, or until doubled in size. IMG_1435
  4. Press the dough into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick, 6 inches wide, and 8 to 10 inches long.  Your bench scraper is really helpful for making these measurements.  Form the dough into a loaf by rolling the rectangle from the short end, pinching the seam with each rotation.  Pinch the final seam closed with your thumbs, and rock the loaf to even it out.  Don’t pinch the ends. IMG_1436 Place into a lightly oiled 9×5 pan.  Mist the top with water and sprinkle with seeds if desired.  Mist again with oil and cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap.IMG_1439  Allow to rise for another 90 minutes or until nearly doubled in size. The dough should fully crest the top of the loaf pan, doming about 1 inch above the pan in the center. IMG_1441
  5. Preheat the oven to 350.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes.  Rotate the pan in the oven and bake for another 20 to 40 minutes.  The bread should be at least 185 to 190 degrees in the center, be golden brown and make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom. IMG_1443IMG_1442
  7. Remove the finished loaf from the pan immediately and cool on a rack at least 1 hour, preferably 2, before slicing (yeah, right).

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Results!  I loved this bread.  I thought it was absolutely delicious.  The seeds on top really gave it some great flavor and I liked the way it looked – it baked up nice and round, too, into a nice uniform loaf shape.  And it did make delicious toast. And it was good for sandwiches too.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t Evan’s favorite.  He liked it a lot, but for him, the brown rice gave the bread a little bit of an odd flavor.  We made a loaf of multigrain loaf bread later in the week – hopefully I’ll add that to the blog eventually – that Evan liked a lot more.

What I liked most about this recipe, though, is that there are so many options for it.  You can vary the grains that you use in the soaker as well as the grains you use in bread.  And you can of course top it with whatever you like.  I really want to go back and try a few different variations of it.  But these are the types of recipes that really appeal to me – I learn one basic technique, but there are lots of options and quick, easy changes to make that will allow me to do basically the same thing, but have a different, equally tasty end product.  But for now, this loaf was a very successful first foray into multigrain breads.

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Easter Edition: Hot Cross Buns

I decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to make hot cross buns for this Easter.  Sure, they’re traditionally a Good Friday food, but I was busy on Friday baking slow-rise bread and making homemade pasta with Evan (humble brag!!).  Plus, it was on Saturday that we went out to visit Evan’s family for Easter brunch, and that seemed like the perfect time to bake and share hot cross buns.

Things didn’t go exactly to plan. (Classic, I know.)  I decided to use a Martha Stewart recipe, and I read it carefully, and noted that it called for an hour of resting for the rolls to rise.  So I thought we would be good to bake these rolls after work on Friday.  Evan gets home a little after 11, I usually get home sometime between 11:30 and 12:00.  Which is fine, I’ve baked batches of bread at this time of night plenty of times before, we’re usually up pretty late anyway.  So we started getting everything ready to bake.  Then at about 1:30, Evan realizes that I hadn’t read the recipe that closely at all, and there are in fact 2 hours of resting and rising time in the recipe.  And if we kept on baking tonight, we would be taking out final products out of the oven at about 4:30.  Not gonna happen.  It would be best to wake up earlier the next morning and bake them before we left.  Turns out, this also wasn’t going to happen.

Here’s what did happen.

We chose this recipe to follow, available here: Martha Stewart Hot Cross Buns.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons whole milk
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 ounce (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for bowl and baking sheet
  • Salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 4 ounces (3/4 cup) dried cherries, coarsely chopped
  • 4 ounces (3/4 cup) golden raisins, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

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Directions

  1. Heat 1 cup milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until it registers 110 degrees on a candy thermometer. Pour milk into a mixer bowl, and fit mixer with a dough hook. With mixer on low speed, add granulated sugar, yeast, butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, the nutmeg, cinnamon, and eggs. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, and knead until mixture comes together in a soft, sticky dough. Continue kneading, scraping down hook as needed, until dough is smooth, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add cherries and raisins, and knead to incorporate. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead to distribute dried fruit. Coat a large bowl with butter. Shape dough into a ball, and place in prepared bowl. Cover with a piece of plastic, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Generously butter a rimmed baking sheet. Turn dough onto a surface, knead briefly, then divide into 3 pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time, divide each third into 10 pieces, and shape each into a tight ball. (Keep dough covered with plastic.) Place on prepared sheet, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover with plastic, and let rise in a warm spot until buns have doubled in size and are touching, about 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together egg white and water in a small bowl. Brush tops of buns with egg-white wash. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until golden brown, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool on sheet on wire rack for 30 minutes.
  5. Whisk together remaining 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons milk, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Spoon icing into a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/4-inch round tip, and pipe icing on buns in the shape of a cross. (Alternatively, spoon glaze on buns.) Serve immediately.

So we mixed up our dough, and it looked like this:

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Then we kneaded it a bit more and let it rest, once it was a nice smooth batter:

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After letting this rise for an hour, everything was coming along fine.  Then I split up the dough into the 3 pieces like the recipe said, and it was at this point that I realized this recipe made 30 buns.  30! That’s a lot.  Is that going to fit on my baking sheet? Not really.

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Note: the recipe says to shape them into ‘tight balls’ which I don’t think I really did a great job doing.  I was in a rush, because we had overslept, because we were up too late not actually baking these rolls.  We hate running late, and we were already behind schedule, so the only solution was to take these rolls as they were, and let them rise on our trip.  Here’s a bad picture I took with my iPhone of the tray of rolls on my lap in the car while Evan drove.

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Every time we took a turn, all the rolls slid towards one side of the pan and they all squished together.  They also rose pretty successfully, despite my doubts, which meant they were bigger and squished together, and I crammed all 30 of them onto one baking tray.  So this is the result:

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We felt pretty proud showing up to Evan’s mom’s house with this tray of squished and misshapen, unbaked rolls.  Presentation isn’t our strong point.  Luckily his mom was still really enthusiastic about it, which I appreciated.  And, as is also classic with this blog, we didn’t let any of these roadblocks stop us, we just forged ahead and baked these suckers!

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BOOM! We ate a few of these, and they were delicious.  Then we went outside and Evan climbed a tree:

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Then we came back inside, and mixed the frosting for the buns together.  Then Evan’s sister Nora had fun Pinterest tip to help keep the frosting bag clean, so she helped Evan make that, and he frosted the rolls.  And with the frosting on them, they looked perfect and they were so, so good.  We ate almost all of them…and it was awesome.

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Happy Easter, everyone!

 

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Adventures With Alternative Flours: Rye Bread, Attempt 1

I’ve been saying for a while that I’m interested in baking with different types of flours – whole wheat, rye, potato.  I wanted to branch out, and really try something new.  It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped.

I used this recipe for Deli-Style Rye from Cook’s Illustrated.

Sponge  

  • 2/3 cup rye flakes (optional)
  • 2 3/4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour

Rye Bread  

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
  • 3 1/2 cups rye flour, such as Pillsbury medium rye or King Arthur light rye
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon table salt
  • Cornmeal for sprinkling

Glaze  

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon milk

Directions:

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For the sponge: Heat oven to 350 degrees; toast rye flakes on small baking sheet until fragrant and golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Mix water, yeast, honey, rye flakes, and flour in the large mixing bowl of a heavy-duty mixer to form a thick batter. Cover with plastic wrap, and let sit until bubbles form over entire surface, at least 2 1/2 hours. (Can stand at room temperature overnight.)

  • I found rye flakes in the bulk section of our local co-op grocery store, and I was excited to have them – I wanted this bread to be as rye-y as possible. And they look cool, too, right? IMG_1209

My sponge, mixed together and ready to rest, safely sitting in what I thought was a large enough bowl:

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Careful when you make this sponge, though.  Keep it in a safe place, away from small pets and children, because it will grow like the amazing blob and I’m pretty sure destroy anything in its path.

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This is a 4 quart bowl, people!  This sponge grew to an alarming size.  I was scared to be alone with it, I wasn’t sure I could fight it off before it absorbed the kitchen and me with it.  Turns out it was pretty easy, I just gently pushed it down with a spoon. Kind of an anticlimactic.  Sorry.

For the bread:

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1.  Stir all-purpose flour, 3 1/4 cups rye flour, caraway seeds, oil, and salt into the sponge. With machine fitted with dough hook and set on speed 2, knead dough, adding the remaining 1/4 cup rye flour once the dough becomes cohesive; knead until smooth yet sticky, about 5 minutes. With moistened hands, transfer dough to a well-floured counter, knead it into a smooth ball, then place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in size, 1 1/4 to 2 hours.

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Even stirring the dough was difficult.  This was the first point of many during this bread that I thought to myself, “Huh.  This does not look or feel right. Well, whatever, better forge ahead!”

Kneading the dough was almost impossible.  I had to bread it up into smaller pieces to attempt to knead.  They looked like this:

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I was able to knead these smaller pieces, sort of, but the dough was so tough, it was almost impossible.  I managed to create these small round balls of dough, so I would have two loaves.

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They barely rose.  They got a little bit bigger, but not much.  And usually after rising, dough will be easier to handle and more malleable.  This also did not happen.  Again, I thought to myself, “Huh. This does not look or feel right. Well, whatever, better forge ahead!”  Moving on to step two.

2.  Generously sprinkle cornmeal on a large baking sheet.Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and press dough into 12×9-inch rectangle. (For 2 smaller loaves, halve the dough, pressing each portion into a 9×6 1/2-inch rectangle.) With one of the long sides facing you, roll dough into a 12-inch (or 9-inch) log, seam side up. Pinch seam with fingertips to seal. Turn dough seam side down, and with fingertips, seal ends by tucking dough into the loaf. Carefully transfer shaped loaf (or loaves) to prepared baking sheet, cover loosely with greased plastic wrap, and let proof until dough looks bloated and dimply, and starts to spread out, 60 to 75 minutes. Adjust oven rack to lower center position and heat oven to 425 degrees.

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Evan’s attempt at shaping a rectangle of dough is on the left…needs work!

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Loaves right before baking – they were so dense and so heavy!  At this point, both Evan and I both seriously considered throwing in the towel and just tossing out this dough.  But we’d already come so far, so we thought we should at least bake them, and see what happened.  We skipped the glaze, though.  For bread you fully believe will be terrible, what is the point in making it look pretty?

3.  For the glaze: Whisk egg white and milk together and brush over sides and top of loaf (loaves).

4.  Make 6 or 7 slashes, 1/2-inch-deep, on dough top(s) with a serrated knife, single-edge razor blade, or lamé. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 400 degrees and bake until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of the loaf registers 200 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes for small loaves and 25 to 30 for larger loaf. Transfer to a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.

Our final products:

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Thin slices of this bread, with a selection of hog salami and soft and hard cheeses…maybe the most delicious home made charcuterie to date.

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What Went Wrong?!

I’d like to take a moment to welcome everyone back to the ‘what went wrong this time?’ section of this blog.  There were a few possibilities, as well as the possibility that maybe nothing went wrong at all.  While these loaves of rye bread were best described as bricks, they were actually pretty tasty.  They had to be warmed to be softened, or cut thinly and toasted, with plenty of butter, but they were absolutely edible and pretty good.  However, Evan and I suspect that the sheer volume of caraway seeds might be responsible for that.  If something is flavored with plenty of caraway, how can it really be bad?  But, this rye bread was not ideal.  It wasn’t the perfect rye toast that I wanted with my eggs in the morning.  It was good, but it wasn’t what I wanted.  Let’s think about why.

The Flour.  The Cook’s Illustrated recipe noted that we should use a light or medium rye flour.  I couldn’t find any.  So I bought the only kind I could find, which was Whole Grain Rye Flour from Hodgson Mill.  And I bought 5 pounds of it, because it seemed like a good idea.  Whole grain rye flour includes the bran and germ, whereas a light rye flour has the germ and bran removed.  This gives for a lighter texture and density…things that I could have benefitted from.  So maybe after I find a way to work through the rye flour I have left, I’ll make it my business to find a light rye flour.  This particular recipe also had a lot of rye flour in it – there are other recipes that call for a smaller proportion of rye, and that might be a way I could continue to use the flour I have.

The lack of a stand mixer and my poor upper body strength.  Even if it was the flour’s fault that the dough was so dense and dry, it doesn’t change the fact that I could barely knead it.  I don’t know if a stand mixer would have helped – it was that dry and tough.  Evan found a review of this recipe online that said one person actually burned out the gears of their stand mixer trying to mix this bread.  The dough was also particularly dry, a lot drier than the recipe suggested it should be.  That only made kneading it harder.

So.  What do we take away from this weeks foray into alternative flours?  Two loaves of bread that were just okay.  That actually made delicious charcuterie.  But the rye bread could be better.  I was bummed about these loaves, because I really had my hopes up.  I told Evan I needed a little bit of space from alternative flours, so I want to make a few other loaves before attempting another rye.  But I will definitely come back to it – I have to, I have almost an entire 5 pound bag of rye flour, after all.

 

Posted in Baking, Bread, Flour, Rye | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Pain de Mie: A Demonstration of the Fact That Things Sound Fancier in French

This past weekend, the mood to bake struck me.  I wanted to try something new, but I also realized that we needed bread for the week.  So I decided to try Pain de Mie, or French Sandwich Bread.  Turns out, that’s a fancy way to say ‘white bread’.  So it’s not the most exciting loaf of bread, but it is tasty and it’s a good practical recipe to have.  Also, if you’re a type of person who likes an opportunity to buy new pans, this recipe is a perfectly good excuse to invest in a Pullman loaf pan, if you’re so inclined.

Pain de Mie

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons or 200 grams of whole milk, scalded and cooled
  • 1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon or 100 grams of room temperature tap water, about 75 degrees
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons or 7 grams of yeast
  • 1 tablespoon or 14 grams of sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups or 470 grams bread flour
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons or 40 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons or 9 grams fine sea salt
  • One 9 x 4 x 4 inch Pullman loaf pan OR one 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan, brushed with soft butter and sprayed with nonstick spray

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mis en place, another example of how things sound fancier in French.  I put all the ingredients into separate bowls before I started.

Directions:

1.  Whisk water and yeast together, then whisk in the cooled milk and sugar.  

2.  Stir flour into the liquid, and continue mixing until no dry flour is visible.  Distribute the flour in 8 or 10 pieces on the dough.

3.  Mix the dough on the lowest speed for 2 minutes.  Stop and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.  I still don’t have a stand mixer, so I kneaded the dough for about 5 minutes, until I felt like all the butter was mixed in thoroughly.

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4.  Sprinkle in the salt and beat the dough on medium speed until it is smooth and elastic.  I kneaded for about 10 minutes, and then realized I’d forgotten the salt, and so I added it, and kneaded for about 5 minutes more until I felt sure the salt was evenly distributed.

Here’s my dough after kneading:

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5.  Scrape the dough into an oiled bowl, turn it over so the top is oiled, let it rise until almost doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Then after rising:

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6. Scrape the dough to a floured work surface.  Flatten to a disk, fold the sides in to overlap at the middle, and roll towards you.  Flatten and repeat.  Place the dough back in the bowl and wait another 30 – 45 minutes until it is fully doubled in bulk.  

7.  Invert the dough to a floured work surface.  Divide it in half.  One piece at a time, pull the dough to a rough rectangle and tightly roll it from the farthest long end toward you, jelly roll style, pinching the end of the dough to seal.  Leave the pieces of the dough seam side up, let rest for 20 minutes.

Divided in half:

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Attempts at rolling the dough – not very pretty:

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8.  To form the loaf, place both pieces 1/4 of an inch away from each other.  Grasp each end and twist them together.  Invert the dough seam side down into the prepared pan.  Slide the cover of the pan about 2/3 of the way across the pan.  Let it proof until it is about 1/2 of an inch away from the top of the pan.

Here’s how I twisted the two rolls of dough together.  It ended up being too long for the pan, so I kind of had to push it together and squish it into the pan.

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Now, we don’t have a Pullman loaf.  We have a regular pan, and so Evan suggested that we put a sheet pan on top of that pan, to approximate a Pullman pan.  This idea worked…sort of.  We forgot to take pictures, so imagine a sheet pan sitting on top of a small loaf pan, slightly teetering.

9.  Slide the pan closed and preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Place the pan in the oven and immediately decrease the temperature to 375, and bake for 25 minutes.  Then carefully slide the cover off the pan and bake for 10 – 15 minutes until the internal temp is 200 degrees.

When we went to open the oven and take the baking sheet off, we realized that we hadn’t weighed it down, and the dough has risen in the oven while baking, and had pushed the baking sheet upwards – but only on one side.  So instead of having the perfectly square shaped loaf that a Pullman pan would have created, we had a loaf of bread with one end higher than the other.  Shaping loaves of bread before baking is really on my list of things to keep practicing.

Kind of like a ski jump, right?

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10.  Remove the loaf from the pan and let it cool on a rack.

This loaf baked to a really nice golden color:

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So even though this bread was slightly oddly shaped, it was still pretty good.  It made perfect sandwich bread – it had a nice, delicate crumb and a subtle flavor.  It also made good toast, which you all know is important to me.  As far as sandwich breads go, though, I still prefer the golden sandwich bread I made a few weeks ago.  That bread was sweeter and a little sturdier.  But, I still recommend this one, too!

Stay tuned for our first (mis)adventures in alternative flours….

 

Posted in Baking, Bread, Sandwich | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment