Saturday, February 28, 2015

BBB Buddy Bake: Kouign Amann

At the moment, my kitchen is packed in boxes. This past week I moved from California to New Mexico.  Back home, at last.  My welcome greeting?  Nearly a foot of snow!   Too bad the kitchen is in boxes for it is a wonderful time to bake!

However, moving aside, I managed one more baking experience in my beloved California kitchen -- the February Bread Baking Babe challenge, Kouign Amann.

I can't tell you how long I've been wanting to try these, scouring my cookbooks and websites for the 'right' recipe.  I was watching the Great British Bake-Off recently, and when they announced a surprise challenge, I somehow knew what it was going to be.  Yep, Kouign Amann.  I watched intently.

Then, the BBB announcement was made.  Kouign Amann.  It was a sign.

So, I knew I had to make this before I left.  And, I did, not once, but twice.

The first time, I followed the recipe.  I'm no stranger to laminated doughs, so it was not intimidating, but I thought the process could be improved.

The second time, I did it my way, which meant that I spread on the Irish butter in pinches and dabs and gave the dough an extra turn to make sure it was well chilled.  I also couldn't resist adding a small piece of chocolate to the center.  

Although I'm aware that these pastries are best eaten fresh and warm, I have to say that even at 2 days, they were still delicious.  In fact, you can really see the flaky layers when they have matured.

When my new kitchen is finally in place, you can bet that I will be making Kouign Amann again and sharing them with a whole new set of friends.

Thanks to Lien, the Kitchen of the Month, for the perfect challenge.  If you want to see what the Babes and Buddies did and get the recipe, check out her website. .

Sunday, February 1, 2015

BBB Buddy: Chapati

Do you ever have those moments where, if you don't do something creative, you'll just explode?   For me, that situation has been building up for weeks.  My work requires brain-power, but if I don't complement it with cooking or even quilting, my thought processes are compromised.

So, Saturday, I just had to try the latest challenge from the Bread Baking Babes:  chapati.

How hard could these be?  I've been making my own flour tortillas for years, and, since chapati seem very similar, I decided to make up a batch.

I used 100% white whole wheat flour entirely, 1 1/2 cups worth, along with some Kosher salt, and enough just-boiled water to create a pliable dough.  It was very satisfying to spend nearly 10 minutes kneading it into a satiny ball of goodness.

After an hour's rest, I heated up my comal, placed a rack on top of the neighboring burner, then got to work rolling out thin rounds of dough.  

Such a nice feeling to watch the rounds start to bubble and puff.  And, when I moved the first one from the comal to the heated rack, it ballooned up completely.   Nice.

The remaining seven pieces of dough cooked without incident, and I ended up with 8 lovely chapati and a sense of mental restoration.   Definitely something to remember for future crises.

The hostess this month was Elizabeth, but you can visit any of the Babes to see how they fared.

Until next time, happy baking!

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!