Sunday, January 31, 2010

Buttermilk Baps

The word "baps" is not heard in these parts - these parts being the Southeastern US - which only made Dan Lepard's recipe for Buttermilk Baps all the more appealing (as if being a Dan Lepard bread recipe wasn't appealing enough!) A "bap" - a British English word dating from the 16th century - is a soft roll, often made with fat to keep the crumb tender. With Lepard's wonderful easy bread mixing/kneading method, these rolls are a snap to bake.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- You can find the recipe here. A couple things to note: 1 sachet of instant yeast = 7 g of instant yeast, and strong flour = bread flour.

- The method is slightly different from Lepard's Milk Loaf; the wholemeal flour is soaked in water with the yeast for 30 minutes before the dough is mixed. Also the butter is rubbed into the flour before any other ingredients are added. The kneading process is quite similar, with slight variations in rest times.

- I've made these rolls several times. One time I used hard red wheat for the wholemeal flour, another time I replaced 50 g of the bread flour with oat flour.

- The first time I baked them, I snipped chives from my little herb garden and added them to the dough, as the recipe suggests. I've also baked them herb-less, which makes for a more versatile roll.

- I usually make these rolls about 3 oz, and end up with 10 generously-sized rolls, which can serve as dinner rolls or for a small sandwich. The dough is first shaped into balls, then elongated into torpedo shapes.

the verdict:

I love to bake these just past the point of undercooked (about 190 degrees on a digital thermometer); they turn out nice and soft and wonderfully moist. To me the baps are good with or without the herbs, but my husband definitely prefers them plain. Nonetheless, he gave the chive version a rating of 9.5 out of 10. This is a versatile dough, and the rolls would be at home in the dinner bread basket or in a lunchbox. These baps just might be my favorite rolls (and not just because of their name!).

I'm sending this bread to Yeastspotting, a weekly compendium of all things yeasted; stop by and check out all the yeasty goodness!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

French Bread {bba}

Peter Reinhart's book The Bread Baker's Apprentice is organized alphabetically, although it seems as though suddenly we are getting to a section of the book with serious breads: lean doughs where the flavor comes from how the flour water yeast and salt are handled, how long the dough ferments and rests, how the loaves are shaped and baked. There are few enriching ingredients such as milk, eggs, fruit, nuts or sweeteners to cover any baker deficiencies. No, these breads are veritable proving grounds, or so it seemed to me when I surveyed the upcoming breads: French, then Italian, and a bit later Pain a l'Ancienne, Pain de Campagne, and Pane Siciliano. Whew, these are the real deal!

Just the thought that I was going to bake French Bread was enough to produce trepidation, if not outright fear. It seemed so, well, French, and so perfect. We're talking baguettes here! Just as I was getting ready to tackle this bread I was browsing in a fancy kitchen store and saw some baguette forms. I bought one on impulse, hoping that would help me prevail in the challenge of baguette-baking.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- My new baguette mold is made to hold two, loaves, and Reinhart's recipe makes 3 loaves, so I scaled the recipe to 60%.

- The French bread formula is a two step process, with at least a day between making the pre-ferment dough and making the final dough. In this case the pre-ferment dough is a pate fermentee, which has the exact same ingredients and proportions as are added the second day to make the final dough. Making the first half of the dough in advance allows for the flavors to fully develop from enzymes breaking down the starches in the flour over time.

- In the pate fermentee I used instant yeast, bread flour and all-purpose flour, and I mixed it in the food processor. It was pliable and perfect in a matter of minutes. The dough rose a bit on the counter, then I deflated it and popped it in the fridge. What followed next was a series of fridge and freezer sessions for the pate fermentee. I was trying to get this bread baked over Thanksgiving, but there just wasn't time.

- Finally the day dawned for baking French bread! For the final dough, all of the pate fermentee is used, and additional flour, water, salt and yeast (in the same amounts and proportions as had been used in the pre-ferment dough) are mixed in. I had ordered a bunch of specialty flour when King Arthur Flour had a free-shipping special, and for the final dough I used French Style Flour rather than all-purpose. (King Arthur's description: "This high-ash, medium-protein flour makes extra-flavorful baguettes and boules.") Additionally, I used fresh yeast, stirring it into the water before adding it to the dough. I mixed my dough in the food processor.

- Once the dough has risen, it is important to handle it lightly when shaping the loaf into loaves, so that the final bread will have lovely holes inside. I formed the loaves and let them rise on the baguette forms, then baked them right on the forms.

- I had a few missteps in shaping the dough (I'll spare you those details!) and my baguettes were a pair of ugly ducklings when they came out of the oven. They had cracked sides, and were a bit pale, not at all like the perfect crusty baguettes from a bakery. But they smelled wonderful!

the verdict:

My baguettes weren't very pretty, and didn't get very crusty in the oven, but oh! the taste of this bread was out of this world! Luckily, I found - yet again - that bread is forgiving.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

BBA Slow & Steady #12: English Muffins roundup

Finally liberating ourselves from the "C" section of Peter Reinhart's book The Bread Baker's Apprentice, The Slow & Steady subgroup of the BBA Challenge baked English Muffins. I'm going to have to say that for me, the most amazing part of this bread-baking odyssey is that my oven has produced breads that look and taste as good (often better!) than those purchased at a bakery. Bagels, Ciabatta, Raisin Bread, and now: English Muffins! The Slow & Steady bakers really hit the ball out of the park with this recipe. Read on!


Leslie of Lethally Delicious had a lot of fun making the BBA English Muffins on a (borrowed, or was that stolen?) griddle, and loved the soft texture and "heady yeasty flavor" as well. Next time she plans to use whole wheat flour and let the dough rest in the fridge to develop the flavor. Way to plan ahead, Leslie! Here's Leslie's post: BBA - English Muffins


Breakfast is a favorite meal at the home of Margaret of Tea and Scones, and English muffins are the favorite bread of the favorite meal! Margaret is very excited to add English muffins to the list of breads that she bakes herself and no longer buys at the store. I can understand why - just look at that yummy muffin and strawberry jam! Here's her post: Slow and Steady BBA - English Muffins + More


Despite a bumpy start the first time she tried baking this recipe, the second time was a charm for Sarah of Blue Ridge Baker. She used half whole wheat flour and salted butter in place of the oil and loved the way the earthy, salty flavors combined with the caramelization of the crust. Brilliant job, Sarah! Read more at: BBA Challenge: Whole Wheat English Muffins


Jessica of The Singleton in the Kitchen would much rather have a biscuit than an English muffin for breakfast, so even though she liked the BBA English Muffins she is not likely to bake them frequently, but she might try this recipe in loaf form next time. Her post: BBA S&S: Globe Trotting Breads


Initially Karen of the blog Shortbread didn't think it was possible to make cornbread crusted English Muffins at home but she found the process "much easier than I had expected and with terrific results." The beautiful nooks and crannies and delicious taste won over her previously non-English-muffin-loving husband, too! Here's her post, called Don't Go Down the Drain English Muffins


Back when she was 21 years old, Natalia of Gatti, Fili e Farina left her native Italy for a year in the U.S. Two American foods that she really enjoyed are bagels and English muffins, and Natalia is thrilled that she can now bake both! She loved tasting them herself and sharing this taste of America with her children too. Check out her post: BBA Slow and Steady: English Muffins


Never one to leave a variation untouched, Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table baked this bread in both suggested forms: as muffins and as loaf bread. Her family enjoyed both, especially toasted, and Kayte has added to her list of "never buy at the store again" breads! You can find many more pictures if you click over to her post: BBA Challenge: English Muffins and English Muffin Bread


At Kayte's insistence, I baked both muffins and loaf bread from this recipe.  I added a little bit of whole wheat flour and used honey as the sweetener. I also used high gluten flour to encourage a sturdy and chewy crumb. Nonetheless the bread ended up pretty soft, but delicious anyway!  Here's my post: Honey Oat English Muffins and English Muffin Bread {bba}

The next roundup in the BBA Challenge, Slow & Steady style, will be Focaccia.  Look for it soon!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Almond-Milk Loaf

It's been about a year since I began my bread baking journey, and although I love to bake breads from a variety of sources, and have found a collection of delicious recipes, I'm never more excited than when I bake a new Dan Lepard bread. His method of kneading is so unusual and fun that it hardly seems like work, and his ingredient combinations are equally unique.

I'm not often drawn to white loaf breads but the inclusion of pureed almonds in this recipe for Almond Milk Loaf sounded too interesting to pass by without trying.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- This recipe is from Dan Lepard's book The Art of Homemade Bread; Contemporary European Recipes for the Home Baker, (first published in a British edition called The Handmade Loaf). You can also find the recipe online here from my baking friend Ulrike in Germany.

- I used a blender to grind almonds with sugar and water (I needed additional water). At first I tried my mini prep food processor but didn't get the almond mixture as smooth as I wanted.

- The actual mixing and kneading technique is typical of Dan Lepard's bread recipes: a series of resting times punctuated by 10-second kneading, then forming, proofing and baking.

the verdict:

This is an unusual white bread with a lovely texture and subtle almond flavor. Almond baked goods are usually of the sweet variety, so it's refreshing to come across a recipe that tastes distinctly almond but is not sweet.

[edit to add: I'm sending this bread to Yeastspotting, a weekly compendium of all things yeasted]

Friday, January 8, 2010

BBA Slow & Steady #11: Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread roundup

Back in, oh, October, the Slow & Steady subgroup of the BBA Challenge - in our slow and steady march trhough Peter Reinhart's book The Bread Baker's Apprentice - baked Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread, I have to be honest here. Most of us were less than enthusiastic about the prospect of baking this bread. We'd been in a run of sweet breads and/or fruit-filled breads and we were longing for a lean crusty hearth bread. But this BBA adventure is meant to be a challenge, right? We rose to the challenge and all of us loved the versions of this bread that we baked.


Natalia of Gatti, Fili e Farina baked the most beautiful double-braid loaf for her celebration bread. She substituted raisins for the cranberries and pecans for the walnuts, and found herself cutting thinner and thinner slices to stretch this delicious bread! Read her post: BBA Slow and Steady Raisin Pecan Bread


Karen, of the blog Shortbread found this bread the perfect way to enjoy Fall baking in November, even if it did remind her just a bit of her favorite December fruitcake. (Hey, Karen, I'm a fan of fruitcake too!) Here's her story: Celebrate Fall Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread


Although she was tired of sweet enriched breads, Jessica of The Singleton in the Kitchen soldiered on and baked the (huge) loaf of bread (plus a little roll for her to taste - wasn't that clever of her?) and luckily found that it is really delicious. And added bonus, the loaf came in handy as a hostess gift. Here's her post: BBA S&S: Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread


Because nuts in bread are no cause for celebration at her house, Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table baked her celebration loaf sans walnuts and the bread was a hit. Her family found it especially delicious as the base of grilled cheese and turkey sandwiches. A little taste of Thanksgiving! Nobody can say it quite like Kayte, so read her post BBA Challenge: Cranberry (not Walnut) Celebration Bread


Despite my initial reluctance to bake this bread - I thought I was tired of enriched, sweet, fruit-filled bread - I sucked it up and baked two small loaves, intending to give at least one of them away. My hybrid braids-in-a-loaf-pans bread was so delicious that we kept it all for ourselves! Here's my post: Cherry Walnut Whole Grain Celebration Bread


Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook loved the raisin bread we made in the BBA Challenge a few breads back, but wasn't in the mood for another fruit-filled loaf. Being a very creative baker, Di turned the Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread into Cranberry Pecan cinnamon-type rolls - it was a regular party going on at her house! Check out the details here: There's a party goin' on right here


Margaret of Tea and Scones has realized that she loves "really good Home Made Bread" including this loaf. She tackled the double braid shaping method, and despite a bit of slippage, look how beautifully her bread turned out! Here's her post: Slow and Steady BBA - Cranberry Walnut Bread


No braided loaf for Sarah of Blue Ridge Baker! Following Di's lead she took this bread in a completely different direction, baking date pecan rolls with orange caramel sauce. Her rolls look and sound amazing; I just wish I could have had a little taste. Read more: BBA Challenge: Date Pecan Rolls with Orange Caramel Sauce


A bit apprehensive about the upcoming complex breads in the BBA book, Leslie of Lethally Deliciouswas grateful for a simple, forgiving bread to bake. She eschewed the braiding and baked her dough into a mama and a baby loaf. The bread was a huge hit at her house, as you can imagine from looking at the beautiful picture above. Here's Leslie's post: BBA - Cranberry walnut celebration bread


So there you have it: a plethora of celebratory breads baked by the Slow and Steady bakers of the BBA Challenge. With this bread we have true cause for celebration, as we finally exit the "C" section of the book!