Thursday, November 29, 2007

20 and counting . . .

Add two more breads to the Reinhart tally. At this rate, I'm tempted to complete all the remaining recipes in the book after this class session is finished.

The first bread of the evening was the New York Deli Rye. Sauteed onions are added to the sponge. Yum. Chris and I decided to omit the caraway seeds, so we could taste the full rye flavor, and, as luck would have it, he doesn't care for rye bread, so I went home with both loaves. Double yum. The coarse salt on the top made it extra good.

The second bread of the evening was the Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche. This bread requires more time than our 4-hour allotment, so we fermented the dough, then shaped it and left it overnight. The early morning baker had the task of topping the loaves with the additional cheese and the roasted onions before baking. I picked up my still-hot loaves around 9:15 am, after my wine class. I would offer a recommendation on the roasted onions: slightly undercook the onions, since they will darken considerably during the baking process, hence the black onions in the photo. It does actually taste fine in spite of the crispiness.

And, at least this week's paper bag decoration wasn't X-rated.

So, this 24-hour period is finished. Only two more to go, and then another semester will be behind me. Today was particularly stressful, as I presented my business plan for my restaurant concept in my Restaurant Ownership class. It has consumed my attention for the last few weeks, and I'm greatly relieved to have it behind me. Now I can concentrate on baking and work (in that order -- priorities, by all means....)

Next week is my Practical Final Exam in artisan breads, and we get to choose whatever recipe we wish as long as it uses yeast and can be made in 4 hours or less. So, I'll spend the next few days searching for an interesting or unique bread that meets those requirements.

(Oh, and I do have more food interests than just bread, as future postings will hopefully show.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Potato Bread -- The Challenge

Well, it's that time of the month again -- Challenge Time! (What else?) November's experience was Tender Potato Bread, brought to us (the Daring Bakers) by the talented Tanna at My Kitchen In Half Cups. The recipe may be found on her blog site.

Now, making and baking bread is a comfortable thing for me, since I've been doing this, like, forever. The challenge part was 1) the sticky factor and 2) the kneading process, meaning it all had to be done by hand. This is usually not a problem, but with the amount of dough and the stickiness, I really, really wanted to plop it all in my mixer and be done with it. I was a good girl, though, and didn't give in. I did end up using all 8 cups of flour and my biggest bowl, which is too big to fit anywhere but on the open counter. At least it got used.

The dough rose nicely. Just as I began deflating it, I remembered the camera, so this is partially degassed dough.

For benching, I formed three loaves.

At this point, the dough could be shaped however we wished.
So, I chose a Couronne for one.

Snipped the top of the second one.

And made a variety of rolls from the third one.

The texture was fine, not a lot of open spaces, but I think that's the nature of this particular bread.
I will try this again, probably using the Silver Sage as an experiment (and to avoid wrestling with the sticky dough). Be sure and check out the results from all the other Daring Bakers, and tune in again in late December for the next exciting challenge!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

More sourdough

Last night was my artisan bread class, and to no one's surprise, only half the class showed up. Those that did had fun baking two more recipes from Reinhart's book:

Basic Sourdough Bread

Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes.

The barms had been prepared the day before, which helped the process along. Both breads are straightforward -- we mixed and fermented as usual, then shaped and proofed, then baked. Even though I had bread in my freezer for today's holiday, I decided I would use these in addition. The cheese bread is especially yummy.

My baking partner, Chris, decorated my brown paper bag for me. He's such a trip.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Dutch Crunch

The other night, my super fine partner, Chris, and I baked yet another bread from Reinhart's Bread Bakers Apprentice. This time it was the Vienna bread with Dutch Crunch topping. We made a dozen small rolls, some topepdo-shaped, some round, and I was lucky enough to take them all home with me, since Chris had ridden a motorcycle to class that night.

We also prepared the Pane Siciliano, which had to proof overnight. It was baked off yesterday, and is very delicious, so none remains to be photographed. I'll have to try both breads again since they are so delicious. At last count, we've made at least 16 of the breads from this book.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Panna cotta

Today I hosted my small quilt group. We belong to a larger guild and take turns, about every 2 weeks, hosting and making dessert. It's always interesting to see what my friends choose to make.

Since I was hostess this time, I also chose to make dessert. I've been wanting to make panna cotta for my friends for quite awhile, and because it doesn't transport that well, I needed to prepare it when I hosted. The marvelous thing about this dessert is that it can be made ahead of time. I made it on Monday morning so it had plenty of time to set. Then, this morning I unmolded each one before everyone came and also made the pomegranate sauce. The sauce adds just enough acidity to offset the sweetness of the custard. I was also excited to try a suggestion I read about on eGullet for removing pomegranate seeds -- cut the fruit in half, then using a wooden spoon, rap hard on the outside of the shell. Amazingly, the seeds just fall out -- no mess, no fuss. It will be my preferred way of removing seeds from now on.

In honor of the season, I made a pumpkin panna cotta with a pomegranate sauce. The plates were licked clean. Lucky for me -- 2 people didn't show up! So now I can enjoy my pumpkin panna cotta for one more night. Here's a before-sauce and after-sauce look:

For reference, the dessert came from Camilla Saulsbury's Panna Cotta cookbook.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Second time's the charm

This past week, while I was perusing 200+ blogs detailing Daring feats of Bostini baking, I ran across a recipe for No Knead Sourdough Bread. For the life of me I can’t remember which blog led me in that direction, but I did have the presence of mind to print a copy.

Since I have starter (Henry) that needs love and attention now and then, I decided it was worth a try. It’s really a 24 hour process, so planning ahead is essential.

Round 1

At 10 pm on Friday night, I mixed the dough ingredients together, placed the dough into a bowl, and the bowl on the counter for the 18 hour rise. Now, I was just a wee bit skeptical, since there was no yeast added to the mixture and I wasn’t sure how Henry would actually perform since he is generally a quiet type. Oh, and I halved the recipe in case it turned into a disaster

Well, to my surprise and amazement, 18 hours later the dough was bubbly and had risen satisfactorily. I scooped it out onto the bread board and waited 15 minutes.

In the meantime I tried to decide which container would be the best for baking. I don’t have a dutch oven or much that is metallic, so I settled on a 3 quart Corning ware saucepan with lid. After time was called, I gathered up the dough and plopped it into the pan as the recipe instructed.

Then, it was left to rise again for 4 hours.

Now it was ready for baking and placed into a cold oven with the temperature set for 450 degrees and the timer set for 70 minutes. I walked away.

Well, not every experiment succeeds, you know.

It wasn’t exactly a failure – it was a learning experience. As is said, every failure gives you the information you need for success, and I figured I’d be really successful the next time.

Issue 1: a 3-quart pan was too large for half a recipe.

Issue 2: there was no instruction to grease the pan, so the bread had to be chiseled out.

Issue 3: 70 minutes at 450 was waaaaay too long, especially when I was distracted and didn’t watch carefully. Burnt bread.

On the postive side, after tearing out hunks of unburnt bread for examination, I discovered that the texture was good, nice and open, and that the taste was fine with a nice sour tang. So, not to be outdone by a loaf of bread, I went to

Round 2

This time I calculated back from when I wanted to actually eat the bread (dinner tonight) so began the assembly process at 5 pm on Sunday evening. Since Henry had been rejuvenated in the meantime and since I knew the dough would perform as expected, I was confident about that part of the process.

I gave more thought to the container and this time chose a 1 quart Corning ware pan with lid. And I greased it.

At the 18-hour mark, this morning, I removed the dough from the bowl, let it rest 15 minutes, then gently scooped it into a roundish form and plopped it into the smaller, greased container. Another 4 hours of rising ensued. Then, I once again placed the bread into the cold oven, set the temperature for 450 degrees and the timer for 45 minutes. And, I kept an eye on it. All went well. I removed the lid with 12 minutes to to, and added an extra 5 minutes so the top could turn nice and golden.

I ended up with a nice small loaf of sourdough bread that had a pleasant sour taste, open texture and chewy crust. Next time I will try the full recipe. And I'll have to figure out how to keep the camera flash from whiting out the photo.