Monday, May 24, 2010

Mellow Bakers: Miche Pointe-a-Calliere

For the third Mellow Baker bread of May, Miche Pointe-a-Calliere, I was planning to cut the recipe in half. Like the Poilene-style miche from the BBA Challenge, this recipe makes a monster loaf. I didn't figure we needed that much bread (especially in the same weekend that I baked the potato, chive, and cheddar torpedoes), and anyway, I've already made a giantic loaf once; that seems like enough.

But hubby was really disappointed. He insisted that we could cut it in quarters like they do with the real Poilene miches, each take a quarter to work, and find a way to eat the other half. How could I say no?!

I started by turning my starter Austin into a stiff starter. Once he showed some activity, I combined a small bit of him with some flour and water, and I left this levain build out overnight. Hamelman calls for high-extraction whole wheat flour, but says that you can use a blend of 85 - 90% regular whole wheat flour with white bread flour, so that's what I did.

By the next morning, the levain had doubled. I mixed the flour and water and let them autolyse for about 40 minutes, and then I added in the salt and levain. I kneaded it all in my stand mixer for a few minutes and then poured (yes, poured; this is a very wet dough!) it into a well-oiled bowl. At fifty minute intervals, I gave the dough a stretch and fold.

Then I preshaped, let it rest for about twenty minutes, and shaped it into a giant round. It was a little challenging to get all of that dough to fit in my hands, but it worked. My new round banneton is way too small, so I improvised one out of a mixing bowl.

Hamelman calls for a final fermentation of two hours, but it's really warm here and I remembered Paul saying that his overproofed in that time, so I checked after a little over an hour (luckily I'd had my oven preheating the whole time), and the dough was just about perfect. I tipped it out onto a sheet pan lined with my silpat. Unfortunately, the towel I'd used to line the bowl stuck to the back of the loaf; luckily, it only stuck a little in one spot; it could've been so much worse!

As usual for me, slashing didn't go very well. And I clearly didn't go deep enough, as the dough ripped a bit when it baked. I baked it for 35 minutes (the first 15 with the aluminum pan fake-steam method), and the internal temperature was at 205 F, so I pulled it out and set it out to cool.

Final stats: 3 pounds, 6 ounces; about 11 inches in diameter; about 3 inches high.

In the book, it says this makes a 5 pound loaf, and I followed the directions explicitly, weighing all of the ingredients, so I'm a little confused as to why it was so much lighter. Still, it's a massive thing.

Hubby and I have always sliced into a loaf within an hour or two of pulling it from the oven, but (especially since we're still working on the potato, cheddar, chive bread) this time I'm making him wait for a full day to cut it, just like you're supposed to!

About 18 hours later, we sliced. Not nearly as holey as I was expecting, given the huge holes in Oggi's miche, but still a nice open crumb.

It's definitely has the strongest sourdough flavor of any bread I've ever made, and I like the complex nutty flavor from the whole wheat. Still, hubby (who declared it a good bread) and I are not the biggest sourdough fans, so we'll have to see what the sourdough-lovers at work have to say when we bring it in today!

For others baking this monster (in various sizes), check out: the Mellow Bakers' discussion on Miche Pointe-a-Calliere.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

BBA #42: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes

Here we are at bread #42 of the BBA Challenge!!! I can't believe it. I've actually finished the whole alphabetical list of breads, from Anadama through Whole wheat, and am now in "The Final Grace Note: Wood-Fired Baking in Bennett Valley" of The Bread Baker's Apprentice, wherein Peter Reinhart profiles a new artisan bakery in California. The last two breads in the book are favorites from this bakery, and they have both received high marks from the BBA Challenge bakers who have finished before me.

So, potato, cheddar, and chive bread: what could be bad?!

This is a one day bread (always exciting for me), assuming you have your starter ready to go . . . which I did. However, I hadn't looked at just how much starter I was going to need (10 1/2 ounces!), so I had to improvise a bit. I used five ounces of my regular ol' Austin, who I had just refreshed the previous day, but I needed to be sure to save enough of him to return to the fridge. What to do?! I looked around my kitchen, and noticed the stiff starter that I'd prepared for my next Mellow Bakers' bread. Ah ha! Exactly five more ounces, which brought me to ten, and which I decided was close enough. Re-refreshed Austin to make enough for both Mellow Bakers and the fridge, and I was on my way!

I boiled a few yukon gold potatoes for about twenty minutes until they were soft. While the potatoes and the potato water were cooling, the baby and I quickly drove over to my dad's house, where we cut a large handful of strong-smelling chives. When I called home and had hubby check the temperature of the potato water, it was already down to 87 F, so we jumped in the car and raced back home.

I used my trusty dough whisk to stir together the barm, potatoes, some bread flour, some potato water, and some instant yeast. (Yep, this is another mixed leavened bread.) Then I let it sit for a bit while I cut up my chives and caught up on the dishes. Then I added the rest of the flour, the salt, and a couple more ounces of potato water. I thought I'd need a little extra water to make up for using a stiff starter, but I ended up having to add a bit more flour during kneading, so I guess I probably could've made it without adding any additional water.

Anyway, my stand mixer kneaded the dough for me (with the addition of about 1/3 c more flour), and then I added in the chives (a bit more than an ounce, including some of the purple flowers, because really, they were fresh and free, and how could it be bad to have more?!), and then put it into an oiled bowl. The dough doubled in about an hour, which was great because I was in a bit of a rush to finish the bread before I had to leave for a meeting.

I cut the dough into two pieces, pressed each into a rectangle, and placed three thin slices of sharp cheddar cheese on top. I rolled these into batards, and they rose for another hour while I preheated the oven and my baking stone. It took me a few tries to get my slashes down to the cheese layer, but slashing has never been my strong suit, so that wasn't a huge surprise.

I used my aluminum pan fake-steaming method and couldn't believe the incredible oven spring after 15 minutes. P.R. says to bake them for 35-45 minutes, but mine registered just a tad over 200 F after 30 minutes, so I pulled them out. I waited exactly 45 minutes, then lopped off a chunk to take to my meeting, and bolted out of the door.

The result? We absolutely loved this bread! Definitely in the top ten. The flavor combination of melty cheese with oniony chives combined with a slighty chewy, melt-in-your-mouth texture . . . yum! Everyone at my meeting loved it and hubby ate most of what remained of the first loaf during the evening at home. Today, we sliced the second and used it for sandwiches at lunch. The baby ate hers with butter (her favorite way to eat bread). I put sliced chicken on mine; it didn't need anything else. Hubby sliced open the center a bit more - you're supposed to roll the batards really tightly to avoid air pockets, but I guess I didn't do this very well, which hubby took full advantage of! - and put in ham and salami. Then he dipped it into salsa. He said it made a fabulous sandwich. This definitely goes into the make-again pile!

Stay tuned for the last bread of the Challenge, which I will likely make later this week. What a ride!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Butterscotch scones, take 2

After my rave review of The Modern Baker's butterscotch scones, is it possible they could be even better?!

Reading Renee's post (at Every Pot and Pan), she wrote:
However, I forgot Phyl's reminder that this recipe calls for salted butter. Salted butter is used so infrequently in recipes I make that I don't even look for it in a recipe. Nick Malgieri says, "to my mind, good butterscotch always has a hint of saltiness".
Um, salted butter? Like Renee, I never even bother to look, always assuming that a recipe will call for unsalted butter.

Well, of course I had to try them the *right* way to see the difference! Besides, after hubby finished the last two scones yesterday, he said, "Um, you posted in your blog that these were really easy. Does that mean you could make them again soon?" And then he got really good news about his job today, so clearly we had to celebrate . . . right?

Unfortunately (not really!), I was almost out of butterscotch chips, so I had to (had to) use half butterscotch chips and half chocolate chips.

Oh me, oh my! Yes, it's possible they could be even better.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Modern Baker Challenge: Butterscotch Scones

One of my favorite parts of online baking challenges is getting to read about other food bloggers' experiences, experiments, adaptations, and even mishaps. In addition to making delicious food, I have learned so much!

This was no exception. As I said in my real Welsh scones post, I love scones, so I knew I would be baking all of the variations in The Modern Baker. And after I read Andrea's post (Family & Food), I knew I would be using her ideas of adding butterscotch chips and making these into mini-scones.

This recipe was so easy. It took fifteen minutes from taking the ingredients out of the cupboard to putting the scones into the oven. I let the food processor do all of the work: combining the dry ingredients, cutting in the unsalted butter, adding the chips and the wet ingredients. I dumped the dough onto my cutting board, formed it into three rounds, cut each into eight scones, and put them on the baking sheet. Another fifteen minutes of baking, and they were ready to eat.

Man, were these ever good! I don't think I've ever brought something in to work that has disappeared quite so quickly with so many compliments. I made twenty-four scones exactly twelve hours ago and there is not a single thing left but crumbs.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

BBA #41: Whole Wheat Bread

I was so excited when I saw that there was a whole wheat bread at the end of The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. 100% whole wheat is our sandwich bread of choice around here, and although the light wheat bread and the multi-grain extraordinaire were both good sandwich breads, I was hoping to find one that was more similar to what we usually eat . . . especially for the little guy, who will not eat any bread that I bake. He will only eat one specific brand's 100% whole wheat bread. That's it. Try to sneak in another kind, even one that looks the same, and he will take one bite and then say, "This isn't my favorite bread! I don't like this bread!"

But as people started completing the Challenge, I read nothing but horror stories about this bread. Sally from Bewitching Kitchen said that it competed with 100% sourdough rye for last place in the Challenge. Oggi from I Can Do That called it a "total fail." Phyl at Of Cabbages & King Cakes called it "meh" and didn't even bother to take a picture of the final loaf. Sadness.

Because of the consistent bad reviews, I took a few more liberties with this recipe than I normally do. The first change I made was to make half a recipe, not wanting to have two loaves of bread that were only good enough for ducks.

Last night, I made a soaker; Peter Reinhart calls for coarse whole-wheat flour or other coarsely ground whole grains. I decided to use a 5-grain cereal I had in the cupboard, which has wheat, rye, oats, barley, and flax. I soaked the cereal in water and left it overnight.

At the same time, I prepared a whole-wheat poolish, using some high-protein whole wheat flour, instant yeast, water, and a little kick of vital wheat gluten. Instead of refrigerating it overnight, I simply left it on the counter.

This morning, I mixed the soaker, the poolish, more whole wheat flour, a bit more vital wheat gluten, salt, instant yeast, honey, and the optional egg and vegetable oil. The dough came together easily. After about five minutes of kneading in my stand mixer, it was a little tacky and felt perfect.

It doubled in about an hour and a half, so I formed it into a sandwich loaf and stuck it in my 8x4 loaf pan. It again rose faster than expected (about an hour), and I put it into the oven.

Hubby pulled it out of the oven at exactly 45 minutes, and the internal temperature was already above 200 F, so it probably could've come out five minutes earlier. Then he brushed it with butter.

The verdict? Not outstanding, for sure, and not even close to one of the best breads I've made so far . . . but it's not even close to the worst either. It's definitely comparable to the store-bought stuff and pretty tasty with a smear of butter. We'll see if the little guy will eat it! If so, I can see making it again. If not, I'll put it in the maybe column and stick to Mags' oatmeal bread for the hubby and me.

UPDATE: Well, the little guy happily ate half of his sandwich. Did he not eat the other half because he wasn't hungry anymore or because he figured out that this wasn't truly his bagged stuff from the grocery store? I guess I'll have to make it again to find out because the rest of the loaf disappeared at dinner last night.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mellow Bakers: Corn Bread (May)

When I first read that we were going to be baking cornbread for the Mellow Bakers, I thought I'd have to quickly get in another batch of chili before the weather completely turned to summer. Unexpected in Hamelman's Bread, but Peter Reinhart included a cornbread in The Bread Baker's Apprentice, so . . . .

But I was wrong. This isn't a quickbread cornbread; this is corn bread: a bread made partly with corn flour. Intriguing.

This bread starts with a poolish of bread flour, water, and yeast, left to sit out overnight.

The next afternoon, you mix fine cornmeal (I couldn't find any, so I sifted my medium cornmeal) and water, and let them sit for a few minutes until the cornmeal softens. Then I added more bread flour, yeast, salt, the poolish, and extra virgin olive oil. I also added a little of my discard starter; I've always thrown it away in the past, but I know you can use it as a flavoring agent in other breads, so I decided to try it and dumped about four ounces in (and reduced the bread flour and water by two ounces each).

I mixed the dough with my dough whisk until all of the ingredients were incorporated, and then switched to the dough hook on my stand mixer for three minutes. I've talked before about how I'm still adjusting from Peter Reinhart's very detailed instructions to Jeffrey Hamelman's very brief instructions. I had to laugh a bit as I decided that the dough in my mixer had achieved "moderate gluten development;" a year ago, I would have had zero idea of what that even meant.

My dough was really wet, but I scraped it into an oiled bowl and figured that I'd take care of it during the stretch and fold stage. After thirty minutes, I did two stretch and folds, oiled the bowl well, and put it back into the bowl for another hour. It doubled easily.

I dumped the dough out onto a floured board. The dough was still really slack, but I followed Hamelman's directions for preshaping and I really saw the difference this time! After a twenty-minute rest, it was pretty easy to shape my two preshaped rounds into a boule and a batard. And then I put them into my brand-new floured bannetons! (Yes, I finally caved . . . These were my mother's day present from hubby.)

After an hour, the dough seemed to be ready to go into the preheated oven. I always have problems sliding my dough off my make-shift peel (a flat cookie sheet), so I cut out little pieces of parchment paper, put them over the loaves, stuck my cookie sheet on top, and very carefully inverted the bannetons. Worked like a charm and it was so easy to slide these onto my baking stone!

I tried to slash the oval loaf, but it didn't go well (again!), and that loaf really flattened out even though I got it into the oven really quickly.

I used my aluminum pan steaming method for the first fifteen minutes, then lifted it for the rest of the baking. Hamelman suggests that the loaves will take forty minutes; I checked them after thirty-three and they were already well over 200 F.

Final result: this bread made pretty good sammies for our first tailgating meal of the baseball season. The corn flavor and slightly gritty texture were pretty obvious. It definitely wasn't my favorite kind of bread, but it's fun to make and eat something new!

Modern Baker Challenge: Whole Grain Apple Raisin Bread

This is another easy quick bread from The Modern Baker. The only difficult part of preparing it was the number of dishes it created.

I mixed the dry ingredients in one bowl: whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, cinnamon, and baking soda. I whisked the wet ingredients in another: egg, safflower oil, and brown sugar. I grated the apple into another bowl, chopped up the walnuts, and measured out the raisins. Then I combined it all with a rubber scraper and dumped it into a pan.

I baked it for 35 minutes (the shorter end of the time frame), remembering how my blueberry muffins were a little overdone and dry. Checked it again after 40 minutes. Then I remembered Andrea's post (over at Family & Food) in which she talked about how she needed to bake this bread for 50 minutes before it was cooked all the way through.

I got a dry toothpick after 45 minutes, so I pulled the bread out and we let it cool for about 5 minutes before slicing into it. The first few slices were great: we loved the nutty flavor of the whole wheat mixed with the apple, slightly sweet raisins, and crunchy walnuts. But about three slices in, we ran into a problem: uncooked batter. Argh.

The oven was still on (I was making granola), so I threw the bread back into the pan and back into the oven for another 13 minutes. But it was obviously too late in the process. We ended up cutting off slices from both ends and then having to throw away the middle section of the bread. Very sad.

I'm not certain why it took so much longer to bake; I had even squeezed a lot of the excess moisture out of the apples before adding them to the batter. Still, the taste (of the cooked parts) was delicious and we will likely try this one again.

Friday, May 14, 2010

BBA #40: White bread

I can't believe that I've finished bread #40 already! Only three more to go . . . Thank goodness for the Mellow Bakers and the Modern Baker Challenge or I would be feeling much sadder about nearing the end of the BBA Challenge!

It feels a little anticlimactic to be baking plain ol' white bread this close to the end of the Challenge, but I guess that's what happens when you go in alphabetical order!

Peter Reinhart gives three variations for his white bread: one with powdered milk, one with buttermilk, and one with a sponge that includes whole milk. We actually keep all three of these in the house, so knowing we were grilling burgers and brats tonight, I simply went by Peter Reinhart's recommendation: "Variation 1 makes particularly good soft hot dog or hamburger buns."

This is a quicker bread - only one day, only five hours start to finish. However, when you work all day and come home only a couple of hours before dinner needs to be on the table, five hours isn't really feasible. So this morning, I woke up early and mixed up the dough: bread flour, yeast, salt, sugar, powdered milk, an egg, some unsalted butter, and some water. My dough was pretty wet, and I ended up adding quite a bit of extra flour.

The dough doubled while I got the kiddos ready for the day. Once doubled, I quickly shaped it: I ended up with seven three-ounce hot dog buns and seven three-ounce hamburger buns (decided to make knotted rolls to make it interesting). The kids each played with an ounce of leftover dough. Then we threw the two trays of rolls into the fridge and headed out for our day.

When I got home, I let the rolls sit out for about an hour. I brushed them with an egg wash and sprinkled some sesame and poppy seeds on the burger buns. I baked them in a 400 F oven for fifteen minutes; I should have checked them a few minutes earlier as they were already well over 200 F in their centers.

I actually don't use buns for my burgers or brats, but these were pretty popular with everyone else at dinner tonight. This recipe made a very soft, slightly buttery bun with a much better flavor than the store-bought buns we usually have on hand. I'd still prefer that the hubby and kids ate whole wheat breads, but if we need white bread for anything, this easy, tasty recipe will definitely fit the bill!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Modern Baker Challenge: Triple Chocolate Scones

Another easy recipe from The Modern Baker, thanks to my handy-dandy food processor. This was really similar to the other scones and biscuits, except for the additions of milk chocolate (I only had semi-sweet), cocoa powder, and chopped bittersweet chocolate (I used 60%). The scones came together easily in the processor and were easy to pat into circles and cut into triangles. And they smelled wonderful.

These were not as sweet as I was expecting; they were very dark. I guess it's not too surprising, especially with my semi-sweet chocolate substitution. Maybe I should have/could have increased the sugar beyond the called-for 1/4 cup or waited until I had milk chocolate on hand.

But when we tried them with a small dollop of vanilla ice cream at my book club . . . oh my goodness, they were to die for! Hubby also said they were absolutely perfect with a cup of coffee this morning.

Another successful recipe for the Modern Baker Challenge. Here's the official post by Renee at Every Pot and Pan.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Modern Baker Challenge: Pecorino & Pepper Biscuits

I started the Modern Baker Challenge feeling unconvinced that I would make many of the quick breads in Nick Malgieri's The Modern Baker, and now I've planned my meals two nights in a row around trying one of his recipes.

Saturday night, I was craving scones, so I decided we'd have breakfast for dinner (we had eggs-in-a-nest).

Last night, I really wanted to try the pecorino and pepper biscuits, which I've been drooling over on Phyl and Andrea's sites, so I decided to make a pot roast.

This was a very easy recipe; once again, my new food processor came in handy. I processed the butter and finely grated cheese (I didn't have pecorino, so used his substitution suggestion of paremesan, which we always have in the house). Then I added in the flour, salt, coarsely ground pepper, and baking powder. Finally, I added in the milk.

When I dumped the mixture onto my counter, it was very crumbly, so I took NM's advice and dribbled on some more milk until I could pat the dough into a rectangle. I finally used my new biscuit cutters, which my husband bought for me over a year ago (!) but which I'd never used. The dough made exactly twelve biscuits.

I baked them for 20 minutes, and then we sat down to dinner.

These were okay. As with the grissini (from the Mellow Bakers Challenge), we weren't hugely fond of the cheese flavor in the bread. And I was actually a little short on cheese, so I'd used a half ounce less than he called for. Soaked in the broth from the meat, however, hubby and I both enjoyed them more. The kiddos were not fans.

I do think I'll try this recipe again, but next time I'll try the old-fashioned baking powder biscuit variation.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Vienna Bread (BBA #39)

I can't believe I'm on the 39th bread in the Bread Baker's Challenge! Only four left: two sandwich breads and two specialty breads that have both gotten rave reviews.

Number 39 brings us to Vienna bread; Peter Reinhart explains that "most of the great French breads tht we love today . . . came to France a couple hundred years ago via the Austro-Hungarian empire." The difference between this Vienna bread and French and Italian is that Vienna bread includes some enrichments.

It starts with a pâte fermentée, which is supposed to rest in the fridge overnight. Instead, I started it early in the morning, put it in the fridge once it doubled, and took it out seven hours later. I figured seven hours could be overnight, right?

A big highlight for me is that I used baker's math for the first time! This recipe calls for 13 ounces of pâte fermentée, while the recipe makes 16 to 17 ounces. Instead of throwing some away, I just adjusted the recipe, calculating that I needed 7.75 oz of flour rather than the 10 called for in the original recipe. Then I adjusted everything else accordingly using the percentages in the book. Success!

I mixed bread flour with salt, sugar, yeast, barley malt syrup, butter, egg, water, and the pâte fermentée. I kneaded the dough in my stand mixer for six minutes. The dough seemed buttery, like brioche dough, even though there was only a tablespoon of butter. It just didn't seem to have the right gluten development and it seemed almost sticky, but it was time to sit down for dinner. I scraped/poured the dough into my prepared measuring cup, and then gave it a stretch-and-fold after a while and another one ten minutes after that. What the stretch-and-fold can accomplish just amazes me!

After two hours, the dough had doubled and felt much more like dough. I divided it into two, shaped it into boules, let it rest, and then shaped it into batards.

Meanwhile, I made the Dutch crunch topping. Peter Reinhart explains that rice flour or cream of rice cereal are the perfect base for this topping, but I didn't have either, so I used semolina. Based on advice of those who have gone before me, I cut the recipe by thirds. I mixed semolina, bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, vegetable oil, and water, and made a paste.

After the loaves had risen again and the oven was preheated, I had two more items of business before baking: scoring the loaves and painting on the Dutch crunch. I just didn't know which one to do first. I went back and forth and finally re-read the instructions that "the paste is brushed on the dough . . . just before the bread goes into the oven," so I decided to score them first.

Big mistake. As I'm sure more experienced bread bakers will predict, while I was painting on the topping, the loaves started to collapse and spread outward. By the time I took my fake-steam-oven aluminum pan off of the loaves after the first ten minutes of baking, the loaves were low and squat with zero evidence of scoring. I was so bummed.

But while the look of the bread was disappointing, the bread itself was not. We could definitely tell that this bread is related to French and Italian breads, but the presence of the enrichments was clear as well. It has a very similar flavor to baguette, but with a texture that makes it well-suited to making a sandwich.

And that's exactly what we're using it for: Picnic sandwiches for our Mothers' Day trip to the zoo . . . Happy Mothers' Day, everyone!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Modern Baker Challenge: Real Welsh Scones

I have a confession to make: I'm not much of a baked goods person. Weird, huh? I mean, I love a good homemade cookie, I love a good hearty whole grain bread for my sandwich at lunch, and I love a piece of buttered bread with a bowl of soup, but that's about it. I'd take a piece of chocolate candy over any cake, pie, muffin, or any sort of quick bread, any day. It doesn't even have to be good chocolate candy.

But I love to bake, and my family loves baked goods of every kind, so it all works out.

The one exception to the quick bread thing is scones; I've always enjoyed a good scone. Something about the texture when it's just made just right: not too crumbly, just a little moist, almost hearty. And that slight hint of sweetness. Yum. I've been really wanting to try the scones in The Modern Baker, so tonight, I decided to have breakfast for dinner so I'd have an excuse to make them.

This is by far my favorite recipe from the Modern Baker Challenge so far. I could eat these scones every day. And given how easy they were to make, it probably wouldn't be too much of a stretch to have them in the house every day (although probably not so good for us . . .).

These were a cinch with the new food processor that hubby bought for me last Christmas. Pulse all of the dry ingredients together, throw in chunks of cold butter, dump it all into a bowl and slowly mix in egg and milk. My dough seemed a lot wetter than the pictures in the book, but I just dipped my hands in a little water before forming it into circles and it worked out okay. They baked for the maximum fifteen minutes, and we finished the first one within sixty seconds of removing them from the oven.

We tried them with butter and with jam, which were unnecessary, but certainly didn't hurt the scones in any way. Hubby loved these, the kiddos did, too, and I couldn't stop eating them. YUM!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Modern Baker Challenge: Chocolate Spice Bread

One of the best things about the Modern Baker Challenge (at least for now, while we're in the quick breads section), is that if I feel like baking something but don't have a lot of time, I know there's a perfect recipe just waiting for me. And most of them use ingredients that are sitting right in my cupboard, so I can get right to work!

This morning I felt like whipping up a quick bread while the kids were eating breakfast. I let the little guy choose, and he picked chocolate spice bread.

This was an easy recipe: whisk flour, sifted cocoa, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and fresh nutmeg. Whisk eggs and sugars in another bowl; add sour cream and melted butter. Stir it all together. Pour it in a pan. The kiddos even got to help with the whisking from where they sat at the breakfast counter. The only thing that surprised me was how thick the batter was; more like a thick fudgy cake rather than a quick bread.

I baked it for a few minutes longer than required until I got a dry(ish) toothpick (I didn't want it to be too dry). We (barely) waited a few minutes until we sliced into it; I sliced off a chunk to leave with hubby and the kiddos and grabbed the rest to take to the Lunch Bunch as I headed out the door.

I'd been on the road for five minutes when hubby called me. "Why didn't you leave us a bigger piece of the bread?!? It's already all goooooooonnnnne!!!" Needless to say, it was a hit at work, too. Moist with a slightly spicy, lightly chocolately, complex flavor: much loved all around!

The official blogger for Chocolate Spice Bread was Phyl over at Of Cabbages and King Cakes. (He's actually already finished a bunch of the Modern Baker recipes; check it out!)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mellow Bakers: Grissini (May)

So I just had to get that Tuscan bread off the top of my page. Looking at the Mellow Bakers' breads for May, I noticed that grissini seemed to be a fairly quick one.

Indeed! At 3:20, I mixed the ingredients (bread flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, softened unsalted butter, and water) and kneaded them in my stand mixer for five minutes. The dough was beautiful: silky, smooth, not sticky at all.

When I first read the description of grissini (p 256 in Hamelman's Bread), I planned to try both the roasted garlic version and the cheese and pepper version. Unfortunately, making these tonight was a spur of the moment decision and I didn't have any garlic roasted (except for a tiny bit of frozen and I was worried about what it would do to the temperature of my dough); you're supposed to add it to the ingredients at the beginning. So I proceeded with the dough, and I roasted some garlic while the dough was fermenting, using the speedy method detailed on the King Arthur website.

I put the dough into a cup to ferment for an hour. It didn't move. Luckily, I had read Steve's experiences and remembered him saying that his never moved either, but that the breadsticks turned out fine.

Then I divided the dough into 1 1/3 ounce portions and let them rest. And then I realized that, since I was in the middle of cooking dinner, I probably should've just rolled them and cut them with my pizza cutter. But they were already in pieces, so I rolled each one out by hand; actually, it went pretty quickly. I experimented with four toppings:

My variations:
* rolling the sticks in Parmesan and freshy ground black pepper
* rolling the sticks in sesame seeds and kosher salt
* pressing the dough into a rectangle, spreading roasted garlic on it, and then rolling them up
* combination roasted garlic inside and cheese outside

Then I put them in a 380F oven for 25 minutes (they were not golden after 20).

Verdict: Easy peasy recipe! Started at 3:20 and by 5:30, we were sitting down to spaghetti and homemade breadsticks. These were very tasty! Even my non-bread-eater little guy liked them. I'm excited to experiment with other variations. Hubby and I both prefered the plain garlic ones the best. The cheese and garlic combos were our second favorite and then the cheese-only. I didn't like the ones with salt and sesame seeds. I think next time I will make them with the garlic incorporated in the batter, although I may use more than Hamelman calls for . . . I roasted an entire head of garlic and it was only enough for about a dozen breadsticks, and even in those, the garlic flavor wasn't very strong. But I'm really excited to add such a quick and tasty recipe to my repertoire!

No salt added?! Tuscan bread (BBA #38)

Hubby says that we've all given Tuscan bread a bum rap because, unlike the rest of the breads in the Bread Baker's Apprentice, this bread is not meant to stand out on its own, but is just a vehicle for other flavors.

Nonetheless, I still was so startled by the flavor of this bread that I spit out my first bite. (Then I ate it, of course.) But the bland, slightly sweet, almost non-flavor really caught me off-guard.

This recipe started out strangely by pouring boiling water over flour, stirring it into a paste, and leaving it to sit on my counter for a day.

The rest of the process was pretty standard, except that my dough kept the paste-like consistency for quite a long time. Well, and when you add more flour, yeast, olive oil, and water, you don't add salt; that was weird. And (maybe because I wasn't excited about this one based on the reviews its gotten?) I didn't seem to have enough patience to let the dough do what it needed to do; instead, I added too much water, then had to add more flour, then more, then more. Finally it achieved a normal, non-play-doh-like texture and I was able to proceed with the recipe.

The dough doubled in exactly two hours. I shaped it into a boule and let it rise for another hour. Sprinkled it with flour and slashed it. Baked it with a steam pan filled with water and a few water spritzes. After twenty minutes, it was exactly 200F internally.

Hubby and I tried this one by itself ~ very plain, although it had a really soft, almost Wonderbread-like texture. We tried it with salted butter ~ I couldn't believe how clearly I could taste the salt in the butter. We tried it with honey and butter ~ the honey really dominated. Hubby tried it sprinkled with salt.

Today, I've got an artichoke dip on the menu; maybe Tuscan bread will be a good vehicle for that.

UPDATE: Didn't end up making the dip. We needed bread for sandwiches, so we used up most of the Tuscan for PB&J and PB&B. Seemed to resemble good ol' PB&J on Wonderbread . . . however, I have never been a white bread fan and I really didn't enjoy it. Still, hubby and the kids seemed to enjoy their sandwiches, the loaf is almost gone, and we will not be making it again. On to bigger and better loaves!