Posts Tagged bread

Baking along

I’m a sucker for internet challenges, so when a friend told me about King Arthur Flour’s bakealong, I decided to give things a go, for this month anyway. They promise a recipe a month, and encourage bakers to Facebook, pin or tweet the results. I don’t use Pinterest, my Facebook account is as private as I can make it and I save Twitter for work and bikes. But I can always blog.

And besides the August recipe, for a cheese-tomato pane bianco, called for slow roasted tomatoes in the filling to a yummy sounding twisted yeast loaf. What better use for my first effort to rein in that magnificent heirloom tomato glut?

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The good news first, and it was an easy recipe, although my dough seemed to take longer to rise than the people over at King Arthur said it would, and it didn’t really double in size, either in the first rise or in the second one, after the slicing and twisting that the recipe told me to do. But the bread is far denser than I thought it ought to be, probably because I didn’t have enough bread flour in the pantry, so used a mix of bread flour, all-purpose flour and wholewheat. The dough just wasn’t light enough — I felt as though it needed far more liquid — and that made the bread heavy.

But it tastes so good that I might just have to try it again, just to see how it works when I do use the right flour.

King Arthur Flour promises something with pumpkin for next month. I’m not a great fan of pumpkin, so no promises on that one. Let’s see how it all goes.

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It had to happen one day

It’s been almost two years since I started baking bread on a pretty regular basis, so I guess I should be grateful that the failures have been few and far between, especially as I’ve more or less given up on recipes. I have a basic formula (6-7 cups flour, 2 tsp yeast, a scant 3 cups water, 1 tbsp fat, quarter cup honey (or something sweet) and 1 tbsp salt), and it usually works. I tend to use about half wholewheat and half white bread flour, and often throw in something vaguely exotic (oat, buckwheat, rye) for a small portion of the mix, I chop and change the fat (olive oil, coconut oil, butter) and I add about a cup of nuts or seeds, and sometimes spices too. Ground coriander works particularly well, for some reason. Yes there were failures — a set of loaves that really never rose (cue small, wholewheat bricks), and ones that crumbled to nothing after I used too much buckwheat flour. But they are usually pretty damn awesome. One batch makes two loaves, and that lasts me about two weeks. Then I throw another set of ingredients together and start all over again.

But today my brain just didn’t quite engage properly as I put the mix together, and I absent-mindedly measured two half-tablespoons of yeast rather than the normal two (slightly skimpy) teaspoons. I spotted the mistake only as I cleared the measuring spoons away after the bread was ready to rise, and that meant trouble.

I guess I could have divided up the dough and added (lots) more flour, salt and water to each half, but I decided just to see what happens. It was a fast rise (less than two hours), an even faster time to proove the loaves in their tins (45 minutes) and a surprisingly speedy bake. The result: a rather too crumbly loaf that tastes rather too much of yeast.

Oh well. Let’s chalk it down to experience and move on.

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Is quickbread bread?

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I was switching the oven on for some roasted veggies, and there wasn’t time for real bread, so I scoured the internet for a recipe that was quick, and that mostly used stuff I had in the house already.

Cue orange-glazed cranberry bread from Sally’s Baking Addiction, which she said was super moist, and which fitted most of the have-the-ingredients requirements.

Except I didn’t want glaze, I’m not a great fan of streusel and I didn’t have any oranges.

So what? I had lemons (which I didn’t use in the end), and I had the candied orange peel I made earlier this winter and then forgot about in a corner of the fridge, and I wanted to experiment with spelt as well as regular flour.

Here’s the final version, with thanks to Sally for the inspiration.

Cranberry orange loaf

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup wholewheat spelt flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup frozen cranberries (recipe says chop; I didn’t)
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/2 cup candied peel
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk (no substitutions)
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the dry ingredients and set aside. Then whisk the egg with the sugar and add the fat and the buttermilk. Gently stir in the flour/salt/soda mix and then the cranberries, nuts and peel.

Bake at 350F for about 50 minutes.

Let it cool down before you take it out of the tin. It’s fragile when it’s hot.

And it’s delicious — moist, orangey from the peel, and with a beautiful cranberry tang.

One to make again.

 

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Seriously seedy

One challenge of adding different things to different breads is the number of partially opened packets of Stuff that clutter up the kitchen. I bought poppyseeds for my hugely successful challah a year ago and I haven’t used them since, and even putting flax seeds into my morning oatmeal isn’t making much of a dent in the large pack I bought for $2.50 a while ago. So my latest bread experiment was designed to use some of those seeds up, plus sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and a few hemp hearts (which may, or may not, count as a seed).

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I used honey for the sweetener, olive oil for the fat, added some of the liquid that pools to the top in a pot of unflavored Greek yogurt to my warm water and kneaded it all together to get ready for the bake. Flour was a mix of stone-ground organic white, stone-ground organic wholewheat, stone ground organic spelt and rye, because it’s what I had in the pantry.

Then crisis. Counting back to when I had to leave (friend and I had opera tickets for last night), I realised that I didn’t have time for my two loaves to rise, prove and bake. I know yeast dough will rise overnight in the fridge — I’ve done it several times — but a 20-hour fridge-based rise? Short of abandoning the opera (not an option) I didn’t have much choice in the matter.

Let’s just say that the dough rose nicely overnight, but the second rise, the one in the tins, took far, far longer than I thought it would, which meant spending most of the morning waiting to see if I’d get bread, or a doughy brick. But the yeast woke up in the end and I threw the loaves in the oven for the 45-plus minutes they took to cook. If truth be told I probably overdid the cooking by a minute or five — this bread is seriously crusty. But it’s good. So good that I ate the crust (with a smearing of home-made marmalade) and went straight back downstairs to hack off another slice to eat all by itself.

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Seriously seedy mixed grain bread (measurements were a little vague. It was one of those days)

A generous 6 cups of flour (I used about 2-1/2 white, 1-1/2 wholemeal, 1 rye and one wholewheat spelt)
Almost 3 cups of warm liquid (mostly water, plus almost half a cup of yogurt whey)
2 tsp dried yeast
1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 generous cup of mixed seeds (poppy, sesame, sunflower, hemp and flax. I dry-roasted the sesame seeds first in a cast iron pan until they turned a few notches darker)

Mix the water, honey and yeast with half the flour and leave for a few minutes until it starts bubbling a little.

Add the rest of the flour and the salt and mix/knead until it’s springy. I’m guessing it was 10-15 minutes. Knead in the oil, and then the seeds.

Allow to rise (in a warm kitchen, or in my case in the fridge for a very, very long overnight).

Knock the dough down and put in greased loaf pans.

Allow to rise again.

Bake, at 425F for the first 15 minutes, and then at 375F for 30 minutes or so until the bread is sounds hollow when you take it out of the oven and tap the base. I like to put it back in the oven for another 5 minutes without the tins, just to firm up the crust a little. (Just don’t do as I did, and forget to take them out.)

Have the patience to wait for it to cool down before you cut and eat.

Of course, having started this bread to use up seeds, I bought both sesame and sunflower seeds to add to the variety, which is something else to use up. Anyone got sesame seed recipes? Things to cook with sunflower seeds?

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It wasn’t a disaster

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I suppose in a year and a bit of bread making, and a lot of playing fast-and-loose with recipes, it was inevitable that not everything is going to work out quite the way you think it should. There was the (delicious) wheatberry bread where I broke a filling cracking down on a kernel, and the bread that never rose, and ended up as tasty, solid, twice baked-bagel chips. But most of them have been pretty wonderful, bringing the challenge of how not to eat a whole loaf of bread at a single sitting.

The basic non-recipe comprises 6-7 cups of flour (usually a mix of white, brown and something vaguely exotic), 3 (ish) cups of water, a tablespoon each of salt and fat, two teaspoons of dried yeast, a quarter cup of honey (or other sweetener) and a cup or two of Other Stuff, which could be nuts, or grains, or oat flakes, plus maybe a spoonful of cumin or coriander to make things a little bit more interesting. My recent favorite used spelt flour for a third of the flour and walnuts for the extra. It was very lovely.

But today’s adventure had me wondering if I should actually start measuring things  again, and reminded me that using up “the rest of that flour” might not be a particularly smart way of following a recipe. The idea was to do a 2:2:2 ratio of stoneground whole wheat bread flour, stoneground white bread flour and spelt flour, and maybe up the flour just a little because I wanted my two loaves to be a little bit larger than they were last time. For extras I chose some leftover pumpkin seeds, a couple of spoons of lightly ground flax seeds and half a cup of  hemp hearts, which the internet tells me are a protein-rich superfood. I added about a teaspoon of cumin too, just because I like the taste.

Then I discovered a baggie of a couple of cups of red fife flour in the freezer, so I decided to use that instead of the spelt even though it was freezer cold. And I was so close to finishing the wholewheat flour, that I just kept pouring that in after my two cups were full. Total flour? Seven cups, perhaps. Maybe a bit more. I didn’t measure it, and I didn’t weigh it, and I just threw in something over 3 cups of water and hoped for the best.

Hmm.

This dough was sloppier than anything  I’ve ever worked with — it practically walked off the countertop while I was reaching over for the coconut oil. It stuck to my hands, my clothes and anything that came anywhere near it. And the extra (white) flour I added in an attempt to make it slightly less sticky was fresh from the freezer too, so it chilled the dough some more and probably slowed the kneading/rising process. After twenty nervous minutes and a lot of extra ice cold flour I had a dough that I could almost handle, so I kept going until it felt good and elastic before putting it to one side to let the yeast do its stuff.

It rose, threatening to spill over the bowl.

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I squished it down and transfered it to tins and let it rise again, and baked it for about 55 minutes, first at 425F and then down to 350F.

And to my deepest surprise, it’s a really, really nice bread, with a good crust, a healthy chew and a lovely taste. And of course, having no idea what I actually did,  there’s no way I am going to be able to make it exactly the same again.

Lessons:

  • Those cookbook writers know what they are talking about when they say it’s better for a dough to be too wet than too dry
  • A stand mixer would be really nice for a dough this wet
  • You do need to knead bread to develop the gluten, and even sloppy doughs might (might) turn into something you can use
  • Experimentation is often very scary. But it sometimes works
  • You may never be able to recreate a newly invented recipe, which is actually rather sad

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Sugar, sugar, sugar

IMG_0599I spent a few months earlier this year playing along with the Cook the Books lassies over on the West Coast, grumbling as they wheeled out a vegetable cookbook before so much as a stalk of rhubarb had made it to the Toronto markets. Each month they throw out a recipe book, which you beg, steal, buy or borrow, and then you cook and blog about something that takes your fancy.

But while I had fun with a French recipe book at the start of the year, and made awesome cinnamon buns from the Mile End Cook Book, I abandoned ship mid year when the challenge moved to ice cream, which would have involved investing in an ice cream maker. Now it’s November, and it’s a bakery book, The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook. I’m in.

Sadly, this is not my book. The instructions are dogmatic and repetitive, and the recipes irritatingly badly converted, throwing out 99g measurements when any sane person would round things up to 100g. Their signature recipe is for coconut cream pie, which is not my type of cake, so I opted for the intriguing sounding Rustic Olive Oil Cake instead.

Serious, serious, epic fail. Even after baking this one for almost 50 percent longer than the recipe said I should, and then chucking it back in the oven (it stuck to the pan the second time), this reminds me of a sweet Asian pudding rather than a cake. The edges are nicely crumbly, but the only thing I can taste is sweet, and the center of the cake has the texture of boiled glue. What a waste of perfectly good olive oil, freshly squeezed orange juice, eggs and Grand Marnier. Their suggestion is to serve this with honey syrup (another 127 grams of sugar and 196 grams of honey), and sweetened whipped cream. Spare me, please.

IMG_0601I admit to somewhat more success with the banana bread, which is satisfyingly moist, perhaps thanks to the sour cream addition, with a nice banana taste. But it’s also dense and very sweet, and I am forced to conclude that I just don’t like chocolate in my banana bread. I might make it again, if I can be bothered to photocopy the recipe before I throw the book back at the library, but I will double the walnuts, cut the sugar drastically and abandon the chocolate chunks.

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Edit: The olive oil cake mellowed slightly over time (or I mellowed slightly), and I now admit it was quite a pleasant taste. But it was still sweet, the center was still uncooked, and a honey syrup would only had added to the problems. But I admit my initial comments were perhaps a little harsh.

The good thing about the weekend baking?

I made two more wing-it loaves of bread, adding a teaspoon of ground coriander for flavor, walnuts for crunch and protein and oat flakes for bulk, along with two cups each of red fife flour, wholewheat flour and white bread flour, two teaspoons of yeast, some honey and olive oil and three cups of liquid.

It’s awesome.

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Best bread yet

My latest bread-baking attempt has to be my best bread yet, a dark, tasty, chewy loaf with a large hint of je ne sais quois (it’s the cocoa and the nutmeg). I adapted my wheatberry bread from early September to use farro, a high-protein ancient grain that I’ve used before for a filling breakfast cereal. And I cut the water, yeast, honey and fat to streamline the recipe a bit.

The new bread works equally well with sandwiches (cheese, avocado and horseradish today) as it did yesterday with peanut butter and the very last of my home made quince jelly.

Amazingly, seriously yummy.

Farro bread

2 cups farro
3 cups warm water
3 tsp dried yeast
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
3 cups white bread flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oatmeal

Cook the farro until tender (I gave it about 20 minutes in a pressure cooker) and drain, reserving the water to use in the bread. Measure out 4 cups of cooked berries. Chop them roughly in a food processor (maybe a little less roughly than I chopped — see tooth story below).

Top up the water that’s left from from cooking the farro to get 3 cups of liquid. Mix in the yeast, oil, honey and beat in 2 cups of the flour, along with the cocoa, nutmeg and salt, and allow it to sit for 10 minutes or so until it starts to bubble. Add the rest of the flour and then the farro and the oatmeal and knead until it comes together into one smooth, glossy ball.

Allow to rise until doubled in size.

Punch down, divide into two bread tins and rise again.

Bake for 15 minutes at 425 and then for about 30 at 375, until the loaves sound hollow when you take them out of the tin and tap them. I think I could have baked mine a little longer.

But let me offer a word of warning. The farro inside the bread is soft, chewy and delicious, but the grains on the outside are crisp enough that I cracked a well-filled tooth. and will probably need a horribly costly crown. (Edit: Dentist fixed tooth. No crown needed.)

Make this bread, and enjoy it. But eat it carefully.

No picture. It looks a bit like the wheatberry bread.

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