Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Singing Hinnies

It's been hot and humid here in Southern California for last two weeks.  While I don't mind firing up the oven, it was a treat to 'bake' a bread on a griddle for a change.

Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms was July's Kitchen of the Month, and she offered up Singing Hinnies, a scone-like bread from England that is cooked the stove top.

The dough came together quickly, sort of like a pie crust, and it had a similar texture.  I halved the recipe.  Just as well, or I would have eaten every last one immediately.  Four was fine.

I portioned the dough into four pieces, formed each one into a ball, and flattened them slightly, then placed them on the griddle over low heat.  They took awhile to cook through, which allowed me to clean up and do other kitchen tasks, checking every so often on how brown the bottoms were.   There wasn't much of a rise, but that was fine.

I split each little roll with a fork, then slathered on soft butter.  They disappeared in the blink of an eye, and I only have myself to blame.

Some of the other Babes experimented with different flours and dried fruit.  They are tasty no matter how you tweak the ingredients.

If you make these by the 29th of the month, and share with Elle, you will be included in the Buddy roundup.

Singing Hinnies

225grams (8ozs) plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
100 grams (4ozs) butter (or margarine)
50 grams (2ozs) currants
Milk to mix to a dough (about 6-9 tablespoons)

Sift the flour and baking powder (and baking soda if using) into a bowl.  Rub in the fat (or cut in with pastry blender or two knives) and stir in the currants.  Add enough milk to make a dough.  Roll out onto a floured tray or board and cut with scone or biscuit cutter into rounds of chosen size, usually about 3 inches wide.
Heat pan (griddle or cast iron skillet work well) and lightly grease.  Place scones onto griddle on a very low heat so that the scones can cook very slowly.  Turn once and cook on other side.  To check that they are cooked remove one of the scones and tap it gently – it should sound hollow. The top and bottom should be browned but not burnt.
Serve warm, either split and buttered, or not. Strawberry jam should be great with these.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Novel Food #33 (summer edition): Bread

I make my living reading books, all non-fiction, so having a few stolen moments to enjoy a novel is, well, novel.

A friend had recommended A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles.  I put my name on the library's waiting list, and after months and months, it was finally my turn.  I had just three weeks to squeeze in a 400+ page book!

A few other friends had only made it as far as the second page, then put it aside, but I persevered, and was well rewarded.

The primary character is Count Rostov, who has been declared a Former Person by the new Bolshevik regime, and placed under house arrest/exile in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow.  Additionally, he is forced to move from his suite to a 100 square foot room at the top of the hotel.  The novel is an account of the Count's philosophical acceptance and survival during the decades that follow.  In the hotel, he makes friends with and becomes part of the staff, and also makes friends with various hotel visitors.  Food is a part of the scenario, especially since the Count eventually becomes Head Waiter. 

Occasionally, a long-time friend stops by, and during one particular visit, this friend is visibly upset because changes have been requested to his manuscript on Chekhov, a passage relating to bread.  Years later, the friend leaves a book in the Count's care, a collection of literary passages about bread.

Since I am a bread baker, that was what I had to make.

I chose a bread that I make on a weekly basis:  a simple no-knead bread that is proofed overnight, then baked in a piping hot Dutch oven.  Each time I make this bread, I make small changes.  For this iteration, I added emmer flour, sesame seeds, and nigella seeds.  The resulting bread had a nutty flavor and a nice, open crumb.

The original recipe can be found here.  It can also be found in Book 3 of Good Eats.

I should say that I enjoyed the book, and was a bit sad when I finished it.  Because I studied Russian and Russian history in college, names and locations were also familiar, so perhaps that made a difference.  I hope that you, fellow reader, will give this sweet novel a try.

Whenever I have the opportunity, I do my best to participate in Simona's Novel Food event.  Find information on the latest edition on her blog.  She will post a roundup in the next few days.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Lethal Weapon: Bread Edition

First, a disclaimer.

I can, actually, bake bread that turns out near-perfectly  -- brown crust, open crumb, great flavor.  I do this at least once a week, experimenting with flours and flavorings.

I explain this, because, once again, my June bread for the Babes has failed.  Oh, it looks fine on the outside and has a tangy flavor, but if one were to throw it at an intruder, and if it were to connect with said intruder, that individual would be knocked out cold.

The experience began on a promising note.

I revived my dormant starter.  It looked fine, smelled fine, and was all nice and bubbly.

I picked fresh lemons and tangerines from my backyard trees.

I used the emmer flour that I had purchased at a local, artisan bakery.

I used a seed mixture that I found at Trader Joe's.

All ingredients came together nicely, although there was little evidence of a rising dough.  That should have been a red flag.

But, I continued on.

The loaves went into the oven.  The loaves came out of the oven.

Dense.  Heavy.  Dangerous.  Small crumb.  Too sour.

Because of my initial disclaimer, I know I can bake bread.  I've been doing it successfully for decades.  Clearly, there must be a weak link among the ingredients.  I suspect it is the starter.

Before I condemn it to the compost bin, I have been experimenting with a different process.  Stage one was successful; stage two had mixed results, but I did take the stage two #2 starter and refresh it.  Stage three seems viable.  Tonight I have created a biga, using the stage three starter.  In 24 hours, or so, I will see if that works, then continue on to the next stage.  If it works, terrific.  If not, it's back to square one and a new process.

All that aside, the other Babes had great success with the June recipe.  All their breads look beautiful, outside and inside.

Cathy, at Bread Experience, was the Kitchen of the Month.  You can find the recipe for Pain au Levain on her website.  You still have time to bake this loaf and submit it to Cathy for the Buddy roundup. 

Also, be sure to check out the results from the other, successful, Babes. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Red Pepper and Pine Nut Coques

Baking was a better experience this month, meaning things worked out.

First win was this month's bread challenge, Red Pepper Coques, selected by the Babe's Kitchen of the Month, Karen at Karen's Kitchen Stories.

The dough was easy to prepare, and rested in the refrigerator for a few days.  By the third day, the dough was actually showing some signs of life. 

For not being handled very much, it was certainly a springy dough.  It took quite a while to roll out to the proper dimensions.  I gave up when I was about an inch short in the long direction, and while I did dock the flat dough, it still puffed up during the first bake.

The red pepper and onion topping was quick to make, and delicious as well, especially with the pine nuts sprinkled on top.  I used jarred red peppers from Trader Joe's and Late Harvest Riesling Vinegar.

I just made half a recipe, and the results disappeared quickly.  I didn't leave the bread for as long as instructed, because I think my oven runs a bit on the hot side.  For the last part of the bake, I did drop the temperature by 50 degrees and made it a point to watch so it wouldn't get extra crispy.  I could have removed it a bit earlier than I did, but it is still definitely worth baking and eating.   You can get tips from Karen for rolling out the dough.

To get the recipe, go to Karen's blog, and if you want to be a Buddy, bake the coques by May 29th and share the results with Karen to be included in the roundup.

The second success was a no-knead Dutch oven bread from Alton Brown.  Easy to make and it turns out beautifully.  But that's another story.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Wrong party

March was THAT kind of month.  Every time I turned around, I hit a wall.  Nothing worked.  Some of it carried over to April, but with yesterday's funeral behind me, I hope for better things.

This brings me to the April bread for the Bread Baking Babes.  I was excited to have a chunk of free time well before the April deadline, so, instead of waiting until the last minute, I decided to bake the bread early.  And, the bread?  A lemon-fennel wholewheat bread that had a yeast version and a starter version.  Time-wise, I decided to use the yeast version, since my starter is still in hibernation.

Little did I know that the recipe challenge changed without my knowing.

From the start, the recipe was off.  When the zest from three lemons failed to weigh even one gram, let alone three, I should have been warned. When the final rise required three hours in a small loaf pan, I should have been warned.

Actually, I was leery by then.

So, after 15 minutes into the rising time, I turned on the oven, and did have the foresight to place the bread pan onto a sheet pan.

Good thing.  After the oven hit the right temperature, the bread went inside.  It was already overproofed at 30 minutes.  This was the end result:

Somewhat disheartened, I thought about making the starter version, but then I tasted the bread.  Awful!!  I wouldn't recommend it.

Fast forward ten days.  I discovered that I had attended the wrong party -- a different challenge bread was in the queue.  Who knew?  (Clearly, not me.)

Some day, when I've recovered from this disaster, I will attempt to make the Lariano-style bread.

Meanwhile, for my bread-making sanity, I will find a tried-and-true recipe to counteract my questionable and declining skills.  I will also wait until the last minute to make the next challenge and hope that April/May will be a less frustrating time.

All the other Babes baked the correct bread.  Stop by their blogs to see the beautiful results.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Tea Time with Nazook

Sounds like a person, right?  But, no.  Nazook is a delicious pastry-like bread, filled with walnuts, that pairs deliciously with tea or coffee.

For March, Kelly is Kitchen of the Month, and she chose Nazook, an Armenian (or Russian, depending) sweet bread, that is very simple to make.  So simple, in fact, I read the recipe a dozen times looking for rising times.  I even checked other recipes out on the Web, and found essentially the same instructions.

Make the dough.  Let it rest over night.  Prepare the filling.  Shape the little rolls.  Bake.

There are no excuses for not making this bread.  Just plan ahead the night before to make the dough.  Shaping 48 rolls does take a bit of time, but you can be making them while the first pan is in the oven.  I did turn the pans around after 15 minutes so the bread would brown evenly.

If you want to be a Buddy, bake your Nazook, blog about the process, and let Kelly know by March 30th to be included in the roundup.

from Mom's Authentic Assyrian Recipes
makes 48 pastries

2¼ tsp (7g) active dry yeast (I used 2 tsp instant yeast)
1 cup (227g) sour cream
3¼ cups (390g) sifted flour
½ tsp (6 g) salt
1 cup (226g) chilled, unsalted butter
1 egg
1 tbsp (12g) vegetable oil
1 tsp (5g) lemon juice

1 cup (226g) butter, melted (+ 3tbsp melted, optional)
2 cups (240g) sifted flour
1 cup (198g) sugar
1 cup (113g) walnuts, finely chopped
1 tsp (5g) vanilla
1 tsp (2g) cardamom

2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp (5g) yogurt (I used water)


Dough: If using active dry yeast, add to the sour cream and stir in.  Set aside for 10 minutes.  If using instant yeast, add to flour.  Combine flour, salt and butter and blend with your fingers until crumbly. Add egg, oil, lemon juice, and sour cream and mix until incorporated.  Knead the dough on a floured surface for 5 minutes, or until no longer sticky.  Add more flour if necessary.  (You may need to add another 60g flour).  Form into a ball, and to follow tradition, mark with a +, symbolizing a cross. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 5 hours, or overnight.

Filling: Mix flour, sugar, walnuts, and cardamom. Add vanilla to melted butter and pour slowly into flour mixture while stirring.  Stir until the mixture is smooth.  (This ended up as a  streusel consistency, at first a paste and then nice and crumbly as it cooled.)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Assembly: Melt the 3 extra tablespoons of butter and set aside.  Remove dough from refrigerator and divide into 8 equal portions. Roll each dough ball into a 10 x 6” rectangle.  Brush with melted butter.  (The filling adheres to the dough just fine without the added butter and since there is a full pound in the recipe.)  Crumble 1/8th of the filling over each rectangle, leaving a ½-inch border.  Cover with a piece of parchment paper.  Press down lightly with your hands, so that the filling adheres to the dough.  Fold the edges in ½-inch over the filling.  Roll into a cylinder.  Gently flatten with the palms of your hands.  (Do this because they puff quite a lot in the oven.)
Cut each roll into 6 pieces and arrange on 2 parchment lined cookie sheets.  Brush liberally with the egg glaze.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown.  Excellent with coffee or hot tea.  Not too sweet, just sweet enough!


Friday, February 16, 2018

Anniversary Bread

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Bread Baking Babes.  To celebrate, the Babes are re-baking their very first challenge:  Royal Crown's Tortano Bread.

Since I wasn't a member of the group at that time, and (hopefully) my breadmaking skills had improved, I looked forward to giving this recipe a try.

The dough doesn't appear to rise very much during the proofing process, and it is fairly wet and slack.  There were multiple cautions about over-proofing, so, I suspect, at times, I didn't proof it long enough.  To preserve the hole, I placed a greased, glass custard cup in the middle.  I proceeded as directed up until the end, when there were multiple flipping tasks.  In fear of totally deflating the dough, I didn't do the last flip.  And, even though I did my best to score the top, I just couldn't get the cuts deep enough.

But, here it is.  It turned out decently, with a nice texture and good flavor. 

It's definitely worth baking.  Perhaps the dough is more forgiving than it appears!

Royal Crown's Tortano Bread

Time Required for Recipe: About 19 hours, with about 20 minutes of active work
The Evening Before Baking: Make the starter and if you like the mashed potato.

The Next Morning: Mix the dough and let it ferment for about 4 hours. Shape it, proof it for about 1 1/2 hours, and then bake the bread for about 45 minutes.

The Evening Before Baking: Making the Pre-Ferment:
Ingredients Metric
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 cup water 105 - 115 degrees F
100 grams unbleached bread flour
85 grams small potato

Stir the yeast into the water in a glass measure and let it stand for 5 - 10 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of this yeasted water (discard the rest) to the flour and beat this very sticky starter until it is well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment until it is full of huge bubbles and sharp tasting, about 12 hours. If your kitchen is very warm and the pre-ferment is fermenting very quickly, place it in the refrigerator after 3 hours of fermenting. In the morning, remove it and allow it to come to room temperature 30 minutes to an hour before beginning the final dough

Preparing the Potato: For efficiency, you may want to prepare the potato the night before. Quarter it, then boil it in water to cover until it can be easily pierced with a knife tip, about 20 minutes. Drain; if desired, reserve the water for the dough. Press the potato through a ricer or sieve to puree it and remove the skin. Store it in a covered container in the refrigerator. You will need only 1/4 cup puree.

Bake Day: Mixing the Dough

Ingredients Metric
575 grams unbleached bread flour
420 grams Water, including the potato water if desired, lukewarm
14 grams honey
60 grams Potato puree
15 grams salt

By Stand Mixer: With your hands or a wooden spoon, mix the flour and water into a rough, very wet dough in the work bowl of your mixer. Cover the dough and let it rest (autolyse) for 10 - 20 minutes.

Fit the mixer with the dough hook. Add the pre-ferment, honey, potato and salt and the mix the dough on medium speed for 15 - 20 minutes, or until very silky and wraps around the hook and cleans the bowl before splaterring back around the bowl. This dough is almost pourably wet.

Fermenting and Turning the Dough:

Shape the dough into a ball and roll it in flour. Place it in a container at least 3 times its size and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let it ferment until doubled in bulk and filled with large air bubbles, about 4 hours. Using plenty of dusting flour, turn the dough 4 times in 20 minute intervals, that is, after 20, 40, 60, and 80 minutes of fermenting, the leave the dough undisturbed for the remaining time. Do not allow this dough to over ferment or ferment to the point of collapse, for the flavor and structure of your bread will suffer.

Shaping and Proofing the Dough:

Turn the fermented dough out onto a well floured work surface, round it and let it rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle a couche or wooden board generously with flour. Slip a baking sheet under the couche if you are using one for support.

Sprinkle a generous amount of flour over the center of the ball. Push your fingers into the center to make a hole, the rotate your hand around the hole to widen it, making a large 4 inch opening. The bread should have about 12 inch diameter.

Place the dough smooth side down on the floured couche or board and dust the surface with more flour. Drape it with plastic wrap and let it proof until it is light and slowly springs back when lightly pressed, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheating the Oven:

Immediately after shaping the bread, arrange a rack on the oven's second to top shelf and place a baking stone on it. Clear away all the racks above the one being used. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees (230 C)
Baking the Bread:
Unwrap the bread and flip it onto a floured peel or a sheet of parchment paper. Do not worry about damaging the bread as you handle it; it will recover in the oven as long as it is not overproofed. Slash it with 4 radial cuts in the shape of a cross. Slide the loaf onto the hot baking stone and bake until it is very dark brown, 40 -50 minutes, rotating it halfway into the bake. Let the bread cool on a rack.

To be a Buddy, bake the bread and tell your story by the end of the month.


Happy anniversary to all the Babes!