Wednesday, December 24, 2014

BBB Buddy: Nutella Brioche Flower

I'm in the midst of some down time.  This might sound like a good deal, except I haven't had this much free time in years, and, while I dreamed about free time, once it actually happened, I'm a bit lost.  Plus, it means no income, which puts a damper on things.

However, it does mean that I can still bake bread and take my time with an intricate recipe like the Nutella Brioche Flower.

This month's challenge from the Bread Baking Babes was hosted by Cathy Warner, who chose this delicious and beautiful bread for us.  Her recipe called for a filling of Nutella, which I love, but shouldn't keep in the house for fear of wantonly consuming it.  I substituted Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter instead.  On second thought, it is equally dangerous, so I will have to hide it away.

The before-powdered sugar photo shows the lovely layering.  Somehow, the powdered-sugar-applier got overly energetic while sprinkling, leaving clumps of sugar on the bread.  Boo.  It didn't, however, affect the taste.

Try as I might, I couldn't get the flappy ends to adhere to themselves.  I pinched, and squeezed, and glued quite a few times, but to no avail. So, I just reframed the design in my mind -- yes, they are supposed to look like that.

In any case, the bread was easy to prepare and super delicious.  I did share some with my neighbor so I wouldn't be tempted.  I kept telling myself to freeze some it for later, but you know how that goes.  Me 1, freezer 0.  I know I can always make it again, and, hey, I still have cookie butter hidden somewhere in the pantry!

This was a great choice for the holidays, definitely worth repeating.

Check Cathy's website after Christmas to see all the Buddy entries.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

World Bread Day 2014

Today is World Bread Day!

Once again, Zorra is our hostess for this year's event.  The roundup will be posted on her website in a few days.

We were allowed to bake any bread that caught our interest, and this year I chose Pumpkin Swirl Bread from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, using the Oatmeal Pumpkin Dough.  It was fun to make and delicious to eat.  With the bit of leftover dough, I also made a dozen little swirl rolls.  Nice to have in the freezer when the large loaf is gone.  


Sunday, September 28, 2014

BBB: Robert Mays French Bread from 1660

Ilva (Lucullian Delights), the host kitchen this month, challenged everyone to make Robert May’s ‘French Bread the best way’ from The Accomplisht Cook, Or the Art and Mystery of Cooking (1665-85).  (The adapted version is found in English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David.)  

In addition, because she thought this recipe would be too easy, we were tasked to be creative and add some kind of design to the top of each loaf.   

I was in a whimsical mood the day I baked the bread, so I created faces.  Were they aliens, or replicas of Mr. Bill?  Who knows.

For ingredients, I used slightly more whole wheat flour than all-purpose flour, and because I rarely have liquid milk in the house anymore, I substituted powdered milk.   By chance, I also happened to have 2 egg whites in the fridge.

All my dry ingredients (flour, yeast, salt, and milk) were mixed together; the egg whites were beaten with some of the water, then added, along with the remaining water, to the dry mixture.   The resulting dough was allowed to rest for about 15 minutes, followed by the kneading-rising-shaping-rising process.  

This is a tasty, simple bread, that isn't particularly time-consuming and serves well as an 'everyday' bread.

To check out the Babes' results and versions and see which Buddies joined the challenge, head over to Ilva's website.  You'll find the recipe there as well.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Bread Baking Day #70: Breadsticks

For August's edition of Bread Baking Day, we were asked by our hostess, Marion, to create some breadsticks. 

Since I have two tubs of lively sourdough starter in my refrigerator, I decided that I would search for a breadstick recipe that uses starter and also whole wheat flour, if possible.

Luckily, I came across a simple recipe, although it was a bit strange, leading to last minute modifications.

After mixing all the ingredients together, the dough was actually a batter.  I thought that would be a little challenging to form into breadsticks, so I add enough additional flour to make a soft dough that I could pat out on my board.  There is no rising time, and the breadsticks form quite easily and quickly.

The second change to the recipe was the baking time.  Had I left them in the 450 degree oven for the full 25 minutes, we'd be looking at totally black, charred sticks.  As it was, they came out very crispy.  I would probably make these again, but I would bake them at a lower temperature (425) and for much less time (10 minutes?).  For this recipe, it is crucial to watch the baking (and take notes!).

Given the changes, I would still recommend trying these breadsticks as they were pretty tasty.

Event #70 was brought to us by Marion (MaRa) and Zorra of Kochtopf.  Check there in a few days for the roundup.

Sourdough Bread Sticks

Prep Time: 30 minutes to make dough; 25 minutes to bake   |   Servings: Makes about 2 dozen 11-inch bread sticks


Coarse semolina for dusting baking sheets
397 g fresh sourdough starter
40 g semolina flour, whole-wheat flour, or bread flour (will need to add more flour for a soft dough)
15 g sesame seed, toasted
10 g olive oil
9 g dried milk powder
6 g kosher or sea salt
5 g diastatic malt powder (optional)
Bread flour for dusting dough and work surface
Gray salt for sprinkling bread sticks


Preheat the oven to 450°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats and dust them with the coarse semolina. Hopefully, your fresh sourdough starter is very loose and bubbly and at room temperature. This is the easiest state to add ingredients. Stir in the semolina flour, sesame seeds, olive oil, dried milk, salt, and malt powder. Mix just until evenly incorporated.

Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a heavily dusted work surface. Push and prod it into as even a rectangle as you can. Dust the top with more flour. With a dough scraper, cut the dough into strips about 1/2 inch wide and 5 inches long. Dust lightly with flour so they don't stick to each other. Pick up each strip by the ends and let it stretch between your fingers until it is as long as you want it. Sometimes the dough will not want to stretch, in which case, hold it by the middle and let gravity pull at the ends. Or gently stretch the dough with your fingers. As each bread stick is shaped, transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Your bread sticks will be uneven looking, very rustic, and authentic. Grind salt over the bread sticks.

Bake them for 25 minutes, rotating the pans front to back and top to bottom 1/2 way through the baking time. You do not need to let the dough rest between shaping and baking.  Remove and let the breads cool on a rack. Choose one as a cook's snack. If the breads are not sufficiently crisp, turn off oven, and return them to the oven, placing them directly on the baking stone or oven rack for a few minutes. Freshly baked bread sticks tend to have a short shelf life. To refresh and crisp them further, you can dry them in a 150°F after baking and cooling. As always, keep tasting as you go.

Note:  Best advised to lower the oven temperature and take them out long before 25 minutes is up.  Keep an eye on the bread sticks so they don't burn!


Friday, August 29, 2014

BBB: Polenta Bread

The Bread Baking Babes challenged everyone to make Polenta Bread this month.  And, a challenge it was!  

Not the dough-making part, or the baking part, or, even the eating part.

No.  It was the shaping part.

This is a very slack dough, and when I oh-so-carefully placed it on the baking sheet, it instantly became the Blob that ate New York.   sigh

It's the reason I don't use brotforms or other basket/cloth-based techniques.  First, the dough always sticks no matter how thoroughly I flour or grease the container.  Second, the sticking thus causes the dough to deflate, creating the aforementioned blob state.  Third, the baker then deems herself a total failure, even though she has successfully been baking bread for decades.

No one else had this problem (view the perfect loaves), so clearly this technique eludes me.

Upon further study, I have determined that a confined space and a super hot oven temperature are the best roads to success.  I might try again.  Might.

That all being said, the bread, itself, is absolutely delicious.  I relented at the end and photographed some slices before they disappeared.

Elizabeth was the Babe responsible for August's recipe.  You can find it and links to the other Babes' loaves on her website.  Best of luck!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Rosemary Breads -- Mine and the Bread Baking Babes

For some reason, July was the month of Rosemary Breads.  

Because I have viable sourdough starter around, I was able to make one of my most favorite breads -- Sourdough Rosemary Raisin Bread.  I haven't made this in several years, so I was really looking forward to the end result.  I was not disappointed!  It's as delicious as I remember it.  Clearly, there will be more loaves in my future, if only to preserve my happy starter.

Cathy, one of the Bread Baking Babes, must have been on the same wavelength, for when this month's challenge bread was unveiled, it turned out to be Panmarino, an Italian rosemary bread.  Well, I just couldn't let that opportunity pass me by, especially comparing two breads.

Panmarino is another tasty bread.  I would probably change the mixing instructions just a bit, for my dough was swimming in olive oil at the end of the process.  The salt level, cause for some concern, was just fine, and not particularly noticeable in the finished product.  Another change would be substituting whole wheat flour for some of the bread flour.  My sourdough version does contain whole wheat flour, and it adds a nice nutty quality to the flavor.

All in all, a successful month for bread baking.

For the Panmarino recipe and links to the Babes and their Buddies, go to Cathy's website and check it all out.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bread Baking Day #69: Local/regional breads

It's been quite awhile since I've posted on my blog.  Truth is, I have been baking bread every month, but for one reason or another, it just wasn't good enough to post or I missed the deadline.

This time, even though I'm currently out of town, in Las Vegas, Nevada, I managed to bake the bread, have it turn out, upload the photos, and have a few spare minutes to write the post.  (I brought the bread with me, too, so I could share it with my family.)

The first decision I had to make was what kind of bread to make.  I live in California.  What bread is associated with this state?  Sourdough.  Specifically San Francisco Sourdough.  Now, I don't live in San Francisco, so my sourdough can't be called official.  I call it Central Coast Sourdough.

The first part of the process was to actually create the starter.  I made two versions, each slightly different, and hoped that one, at least, would be viable.  That process took five days, and the successful starter wasn't the one I expected, but it worked, so that was all that mattered.

For my first bread experiment, I created a white sourdough using both yeast and starter.   It had a mild flavor and a good crumb.

For my second bread experiment, I made a white sourdough using only the starter.  Its flavor was more sour.

For my third bread experiment, I made a whole wheat sourdough using only the starter.  There was a small amount of bread flour added, so it wasn't 100% whole wheat, but it definitely had a sour flavor.

(I will have to add recipes later, since I didn't bring them with me.)

When I return home, I will continue experimenting with my starter and see what tasty things I can make.

This sourdough baking experiment was conducted in honor of Bread Baking Day #69, featuring local or regional breads.  Our host this month is Thomas of Der Gourmet.  He will post the roundup on his website in early July.

Thanks also to Zorra for creating such a delicious event.