Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sherry Raisin Bread

You've heard it here before: in this house we're all about The Toast.  I can't even remember the last time I made (or ate) a sandwich; our bread, baked in a loaf pan, is invariably consumed after a trip through the toaster.

My favorite bread-baker, Dan Lepard, recently published a recipe for Sherry Raisin Bread, Here's how Lepard explains the role of the sherry: "using it instead of milk or water, sherry adds a gentle flavour that lends richness without being immediately detectable."  Doesn't that sound good?

Lepard said how good it was toasted, and I knew I had to make the bread.  My baking buddy Kayte, who blogs at Grandma's Kitchen Table, was up for a virtual bread bake, so we baked "together" via electronic communication.  She made her dough into rolls for the week's sandwiches, but you know that I stuck with the loaf, because: Toast.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  you can find the recipe here.

-  I followed the recipe's ingredients, except I skimped a bit on the measure of raisins and almonds.  There were still plenty of each in the dough.

-  The sherry is not the only distinctive ingredient.  The recipe also calls for adding marmalade to the dough.  I used Branches Three Citrus Marmalade from Katz Farm.  Milk, a substantial proportion of rye flour, and bread flour complete the flavor profile

-  Dan Lepard baked this bread as a hearth loaf, but I split my dough into three smallish loaf pans, to better optimize the bread for Toast.

- My dough took longer to rise than the recipe's times.  This is unusual for me with Dan Lepard's recipes, which are usually spot-on in my kitchen.  I gave the extra rising time until it rose close to the appropriate amounts.  Even so, the crumb of the finished bread was pretty dense.

the verdict:

Even though the bread didn't rise to lofty heights, oh, my, it was exceptional in flavor.  We loved it toasted with butter, and it was pretty darned good just sliced and eaten plain.

To see how this recipe tuned out as buns, check Kayte's post. (hint: they look amazing!)

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Challah of My Dreams

I've baked challah before and posted it on this blog.  I told you then about the mythic challah of my adolescence.  Here's the condensed version: when I arrived for my weekly babysitting job there was always a fresh-baked loaf of Sabbath challah, baked by the mother of the family.  As much time as I spent with that family, helping with nearly every aspect of their lives, bread-baking is one task that I never assisted or even watched.  And it never crossed my mind that I would ever (ever) bake bread myself.  I have several recipes from that family, but not their challah recipe.

It took me more than 30 years from those babysitting days, but eventually I did start to bake bread.  And thanks to the Bread Baker's Apprentice, I baked that first challah (about 3 years ago).  That challah was good bread, to be sure, but it wasn't the bread I've dreamed of ever since I left that family to go to college.

As luck would have it (thank you, luck!) one of the friends I've made since beginning this baking-and-blogging thing is a marvelous baker from Vermont named Rebecca, who blogs at Grongar Blog (cool, right?)  Rebecca shared her challah recipe with me, and I couldn't wait to try it.  And then, once I made it, I couldn't wait to bake it again!

It's that good.

Rebecca has posted her challah recipe today, in celebration of the Jewish New Year, and I'm joining the celebration by posting my challah loaves too.  For the recipe, click over to Rebecca's post.  She made the traditional-for-Rosh-Hashanah round shape, which symbolizes the cyclical nature of time, circling back on itself.

I made my loaves a little while ago, as long braids: first I made a regular three-strand braid:

Then I tried a six-strand braid, using a Youtube tutorial (below).  Once I got in the swing of things, the braid went fairly smoothly.  It definitely wasn't perfect, but it was tons of fun and I love the way the bread turned out:

To make the six-strand braid I used this tutorial.  Easy Peasy!!

This bread tastes exactly like the challah of my youth; you cannot imagine how happy that makes me!  Thank you, Rebecca, for sharing your recipe with me, and now, with all of us.  Happy New Year!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Quick and Tasty Hamburger Rolls

We consume far more loaf bread - nearly always for morning toast - than we do any other kind of bread.  I'm always happy when I have an excuse to bake a hearth loaf or, better yet, rolls.  I love forming little balls of dough and shaping them into mini boules, or knots, or cloverleafs.  And then there's the cute factor when they're baked and nestled into a basket, or lined up on a tray.

Last week my friend Kayte was baking a new recipe for hamburger rolls.  We were about to host a dinner party, and I baked along in my kitchen, making mine into dinner rolls.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  You can find the recipe on Kayte's blog post.

- The recipe is called "French bread" which made me think we'd have mini baguettes with a chewy crumb, but when I saw the ingredients I realized it was more an enriched white bread - with egg in the dough.

-  I had no active dry yeast in the house but I did have some lovely fresh yeast, so that's what I used.  

- There's a lot of yeast in the recipe - 1 tablespoon active dry - so the dough rose really really quickly.  On the first rise I actually punched it down and let it rise again, to give the dough time to build some flavor.

- I used around 2 oz of dough for each roll.  They could have been even a bit smaller for dinner rolls.

- The egg white wash gives a nice shiny, golden brown finish to the crust.

the verdict:

This recipe produced a nice, soft roll that was a perfect accompaniment to dinner.  I liked the rolls even better when I split and toasted one, and spread it with butter.  

I'd also like to try these as hamburger rolls, maybe comparing side by side with my favorite recipe (Beautiful Burger Buns from King Arthur Flour) to see which one comes out on top!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

BBA White Bread, variation 3

After baking bread more and less steadily over the past few years, one thing that I've learned (and relearned): bread is forgiving.  It's not usually difficult, and it rarely requires much hands-on work, but there is a fair amount of time waiting for the yeast to do its work raising the dough.  This process can be manipulated, and a simple bread can be baked in increments over a day or two rather than in one long session.

Such was this case with this bread in my kitchen.  It was kind of a busy day when I tackled this bread, and and the process of making it took me from 10am in the morning to 1am the next morning.  It became an exercise in me waiting for the dough and the dough waiting for me!

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  I made full recipe of this bread.  Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice has three different variations of White Loaf Bread.  I baked Variation 3 first because I had milk on hand that I needed to use up. [I later baked Variation 2, using buttermilk, but have skipped Variation 1, which calls for powdered milk. At some point I might revisit that formula]

-  This recipe starts with a sponge of warm milk, flour, and yeast.  My sponge was a bit stiff, so I probably should have added more liquid.  It never bubbled but it did swell.  After more than an hour, I added the other bread ingredients, mixing the dough first in the food processor and then finishing kneading it by hand.  It was looking as though the dough would need some more liquid, but when I added the fat to the recipe - I melted the butter so it would be liquid - the dough was perfect in texture.

-  My schedule didn't permit me to continue with the bread in one continuous session, so I put the dough in a rising bucket and straight into my fridge.  The dough was warm, and it rose as it cooled in the fridge - when I checked on it later I saw that it had nearly doubled!

-  I deflated it the dough intentionally and let it warm to room temperature and rise as it warmed.  Once the dough had doubled, I divided it then formed the loaves, placed it into bread pans and parked them back in the fridge while I attended a meeting.

-   There really wasn't that much dough.  I weighed it, and a full recipe of the bread - supposed to be 2 loaves - weighed just a bit more than the weight of one loaf in my standby Milk Bread recipe, so I measured out the amount of dough that goes into the typical milk loaf - 450g, and placed in a smallish loaf pan (the size I use for the milk loaf usually - it's about 7x3").  The remainder - about 575 g, went into the 8.5x4.5" pan.

-  After the meeting I pulled the pans out of the fridge, let it warm and rise.  I could have left the bread refrigerated overnight and baked the next morning.  Retarding the dough helps develop the flavor, so baking in an interrupted fashion always has a silver lining!

-  Before popping the bread into the oven, I slashed the tops with the lame and rubbed some oil into the slash.

-  Even with adjusting my pan sizes, the loaves were still pretty petite.  Next time I'd bake this recipe as one loaf in one larger (9x5) pan, or as sandwich rolls.

the verdict:

The bread had a close crumb, moist, soft, and golden. It was sweet and eggy in flavor. We used it for toast, but I think it's better suited for sandwiches, either in loaf or in roll form.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Old Fashioned Raisin Bread, No Cinnamon

Nick Malgieri has released a recipe for Old Fashioned Raisin Bread as a foretaste of his upcoming bread book (it is called BREAD, and will be released in September.)  My baking friend Phyl is a friend of Nick's, so with just two degrees of separation you could pretty much say that Nick and I are buddies!

Over the weekend Phyl decided to bake the raisin bread and the recipe looked so appealing, I decided to join him in the kitchen, virtually that is, since Phyl is in Ohio and I was in California.  It turned out to be a regular bread-fest, as Kayte in Indiana also baked the bread.  Because of schedule constraints I had to retard mine in the fridge between rises so the other two bakers had each baked, sliced, photographed, consumed, and blogged their loaves before mine even made it into the oven!  You can read about Phyl's bread here and Kayte's bread here.

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  The raisin bread recipe is on baker Nick Malgieri's blog post.

-  I made half a batch - one loaf - in my long thin loaf pan.  Everything was exactly per the recipe, except that I mixed and kneaded the dough completely by hand.

-  This is an easy one day bread, using the direct method of mixing, rising, shaping, rising, baking.

-  I love that the recipe calls for two kinds of raisins (or currants).  I reduced the quantity of raisins just a bit, and there were still lots of raisins in each slice of bread.  Most of the slices had more raisins than the ones in the picture, actually.

the verdict:

This is a lovely bread, with a soft crumb and, and little pops of sweetness from the two kinds of raisins.  Although I was tempted to put a cinnamon swirl into this loaf, it really is nice just as a plain raisin loaf, especially toasted with a slick of salted butter.

We had the toast for dessert after dinner and it was the perfect ending to a meal.  My husband couldn't stop exclaiming over this bread, which left me wishing I had made the full recipe!

I'm submitting this bread to Yeastspotting, a weekly roundup of all things deliciously yeasty.  Click over there to see what's baking in ovens around the world; new posts go up each Friday.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pain a l'Ancienne {bba}

It's been quite a while since I've posted a hearth bread on this blog.  Truth be told, I don't bake many hearth loaves; most of the bread consumed in our house is in toast form, so I'm usually baking bread in loaf pans to be sliced and toasted for breakfast.  And (maybe because I make so many sandwich/toast loaves) I'm not very comfortable baking hearth loaves. 

At any rate, Peter Reinhart's book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice has a hefty share of free-form loaves, so I inevitably get some practice as I make my way through the book as part of the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge - an endeavor that I am still erratically pursuing, although I will be skipping the part of the challenge that deals with sourdough starters.  It's a bit too much of a challenge for me right now!  Anyway, enough digression. 

The next bread from BBA is the Pain a l'Ancienne, a venerable baguette in which all of the flavor of the wheat is unlocked via a process of delayed fermentation at controlled temperature, ie, using cold water and storing the dough in the refrigerator for a time.

Although it sounds pretty complicated, if you follow Reinhart's directions it comes together fairly easily.  I'm still not very confident in my bread-shaping abilities, but my loaves turned out decently and I have to say the aromas wafting through my kitchen as the bread baked were tantalizing!

n.o.e.'s notes:

-  I made half recipe of this bread, which yielded three baguettes.

-  I have to admit that I didn't keep many notes when I was making this bread, but you can see step by step photos of how this bread is made on this post by BBA Challenge founder Nicole.  Members of the Challenge are asked to not post the recipe.

-  The crust of my bread developed a beautiful golden color, but the crumb was a bit denser than I would have liked - some big holes would have been lovely!

 I ordered this cool bamboo cutting board here after hearing about it from Jaden of Steamy Kitchen
the verdict:

I served this bread to my to book group, and it was a resounding hit with everyone.  I was smitten with the chewiness and flavor of this bread; in fact it might be the best loaves that I've ever baked!
If I had my druthers, I would have preferred large airy holes inside, but who can quibble when the bread tastes this good?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

River Cottage Basic Bread

I was lucky enough to find The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens at the library recently. I've been intrigued by the series of cookbooks put out by River Cottage, an English food-based entity founded by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. In its words, River Cottage stands for "less dependence on the outside world, food integrity, and the consumption of local, seasonal produce." River Cottage runs a variety of programs and coordinates its activities with several different charities.

My daughter ALE has used the River Cottage Preserves Handbook with notable success, and I was eager to dive into the bread volume. The first part of the book sets out in great detail the principles behind bread and how the ingredients interact with each other. I decided to start baking with the first recipe, the Basic Bread, which is more of a formula. The basic recipe gives a lot of leeway to choose the type of flour, the liquids, the (optional) fat and sweetener, as long as the same baker's percentages are maintained.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- To see a very basic form of the recipe, click here.

- I made a half recipe, yielding one large loaf of slicing bread. The recipe, as I made it, is at the end of this post.

- For this first loaf, I stuck with my favorite combination of bread ingredients: part whole wheat flour, milk, honey, and olive oil. This made it somewhat similar to Dan Lepard's Milk Loaf, except that the River Cottage formula is less hydrated: 300g of liquid per 500g of flour, to Lepard's 350g liquid to 500g of flour.

- I used freshly ground hard red wheat for 30% of the flour, and the remaining 70% was all-purpose flour.

- The liquid I added was milk, and I included optional fat (olive oil) and sweetener (honey).

- I began kneading in food processor, but the processor I was using proved to be too small for the job. So I finished kneading the dough via Dan Lepard's method: brief kneading alternated with 10 to 15 minute rests. The dough was pretty stiff, so I ended up adding a bit more milk.

- In the recipe, Stevens says that you can deflate and then let the dough rise up to four times, and it will improve the bread's flavor. I gave my dough lots of resting periods, in between the kneading.

- After shaping the loaf, I coated in whole wheat flour before putting it in the bread pan. This was a new technique for me. Here's the way Stevens explains this step:
You can leave your loaves naked, but they will be much more grateful - and feel much more beautiful - f you give the a lovely coat to wear. Select a flour, or choose grains and seeds.
- The loaf rose beautifully as it baked.

- I started baking the bread in a very hot oven then I turned it down to around 350 degrees because it was so browned.

the verdict:

This was a fun bread to make, especially coating the outside of the bread with flour. I like the resulting crusty crust on the sandwich loaf. The loaf's crumb was sturdy and soft at the same time. This bread made lovely toast.

the recipe:

Whole Wheat Loaf with Milk and Honey

adapted from The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens

350 g all-purpose flour and 150 g whole wheat flour (4 cups total flour)
5 g instant yeast (1/2 T)
5 g fine salt (2 tsp)
300 g(ml) milk (1 1/4 c) (warm)
a good slug of olive oil (or could use 2 tsp butter)
1 handful of whole wheat flour, for coating
- Mix the ingredients in a large bowl, then knead the dough by hand on an oiled counter until satiny (about 10 minutes). Alternatively, mix the ingredients in a large food processor, dry ingredients first then add the wet ingredients steadily while the motor is running. Pulse for about a minute, then test the dough to see it forms a windowpane when stretched between your fingers.
- Form the bread into a round and put in an oiled bowl to rise until doubled, approximately an hour, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
- Knead the bread to degas it then form into loaves as desired and coat the bread in whole wheat flour. If you're making sandwich loaf, place the dough in an oiled and floured 1 pound size loaf pan. Allow loaves to rise, covered loosely with a plastic bag, until nearly doubled.
- Bake the bread at 525 degrees (500 convection) for 10 minutes. A steam method is recommended, as well as spritzing the bread first with water before placing it in the hot oven. The recipe also specifies that the loaves be slashed. I slashed but didn't steam my loaves.

- Turn the oven down to 425, 375 or 350 degrees, depending on how brown the crust is getting, for about 30 more minutes, until the loaves sound hollow when tapped, or register about 195 degrees on an instant read thermometer.

I'm submitting this bread to Yeastspotting, a weekly roundup of all things yeasty.