Friday, December 23, 2011

BBA #39: Stollen

StollenI mostly worked half days this pre-holiday week, using up some of my excess annual leave. This let me tackle the relatively quick stollen during the week instead of waiting for a weekend opportunity. My stollen, like my panettone, has no candied fruit, though I did use some candied orange and lemon peel. (First time I'd ever tried the candied peels, and I won't repeat the experiment--they really are bitter despite being candied, and many times have an unpleasant texture.) My fruit mix was dried tart cherries, chopped dried apricots, and golden raisins. I decided not to add crystallized ginger, though maybe on some other occasion that would be interesting. All that plus another 1/2 cup of mixed fruit went into a plastic container with the brandy and orange extract 4 days before starting the bread. I shook the container regularly to re-distribute the liquid.

Not counting the fruit-soaking, stollen is a one-day bread. The process starts with a yeasty sponge with flour and whole milk, and that sits for an hour until very foamy. The main dough is more flour, a little sugar, cinnamon, salt, then the wet ingredients of butter, the sponge, and an egg. Or half an egg, in my case--I halved the recipe as usual. That dough is mixed, sits for 10 minutes, then the fruit is added. I added very little water to the dough process, maybe a half-ounce, but the fruit was very moist and tipped the balance the other way and I added more than a quarter cup more flour to get a dough that wasn't too sticky to handle. In the process (I machine-knead) the dough got worked enough for the fruits to color the dough.

StollenFirst rise was very slow--I can't see how I could have killed the yeast, so I attribute it to the heavy load of sweet fruit inhibiting the yeast activity. After 2 hours with only a little bit of puffy area showing, I gave up and formed the loaf. The instructions for folding the stollen were pretty baffling even with several photos to illustrate them, but I made some reasonable attempt at the double fold shown. As a lover of almond paste the option to include marzipan or almond paste instead of sliced almonds was the way to go, though that may have complicated my attempts to follow the shaping method--I was using the tube-form marzipan (Odense), that being what was on hand, so I cut the tube in half lengthwise, and rolled half out to the length of my dough. That got tucked into the first fold along with a little additional soaked fruit. For the second fold, I cut a strip off the remaining marzipan, again rolled it to flatten, and tucked it in. My loaf didn't have the fruit spilling out of the folds, but the thing was more or less shaped like the picture.

The second rise was again slow--I gave it an hour and a half, and saw very little increase in size. Finally with the hour getting late, I went ahead and baked it, and the results seem OK to me. The loaf is a little dense with the various fruits, and the marzipan didn't give me the effect I wanted--the larger piece folded as I shaped the loaf and is a thick C-shaped piece in each slice. What I wanted was for the marzipan to meld a little with the bread so I wouldn't get a separate "marzipan bite" in each slice. Maybe almond paste would be softer and integrate better, maybe a superior type of marzipan would, or maybe this just isn't the nature of the beast. If I repeat the stollen, I think I'll go with sliced almonds. <g> Actually, I'll probably go back to the panettone--I liked it better than what I got with the stollen recipe.

BBA #38: Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo

Potato, cheddar, and chive torpedoMy other BBA bread from last weekend was the Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo from the Grace Note chapter at the back of the book, a recipe from Tim Decker,one of Reinhart's bread apprentices. The potato part of the name is from mashed potatoes and water from cooking the potatos in the dough, making it a very soft, tender bread. The chives also go in the dough, but the cheddar is sliced thinly and rolled up in the dough to get a spiral, and the loaf is slashed so that the cheese can also bubble out during baking.

A barm is used but there's added yeast as well, making the barm a flavoring agent. The most confusing part of the recipe was another of those "dough should be tacky but not sticky" instructions for the kneading process, this time saying "very tacky". I maintain that tacky means sticky in this context, so finding the line for these breads is tough. The other note on the recipe is that I don't see how the weight and volume measures for the chives can both be correct--for my half recipe I should have used 1/2 ounce or 2 tablespoons of chives per the directions. I started with the weight and realized I'd have well over 1/4 cup of chives if I included all I'd weighed out. I ended up putting in about 3 tablespoons or so.

Potato, cheddar, and chive torpedoThe dough rose enthusiastically on both rises--the barm plus the yeast gave it plenty of lift. I nearly burned the loaf--it got to nearly black on the first interval of the hearth baking, though the internal temp was still low. I covered it with foil to keep it from further darkening, and the finished bread was just very dark brown.

Taste results: it's a bread with that ultra soft potato-bread texture, not a favorite of mine. It had nice crumb, and a very crisp crust from the hearth baking--almost too much with the very soft interior.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

BBA #37: Swedish Rye (Limpa)

Swedish Rye (Limpia)Last weekend was my first back from my vacation (I came home the previous Sunday night, so no weekend at home), and I spent it in my classic nesting activity: cooking. Three different breads, two soups, and other stuff. Oh, and prep for the stollen I plan to bake this week. First bread up, after the weekly challah, was this last rye bread from The Bread Baker's Apprentice, the aniseed-, fennel seed, orange-, and cardamon-flavored Swedish rye. When a search of my many herb and spice bottles failed to find aniseed, I substituted star anise--it was difficult to get it ground with my old blade coffee grinder, but any larger fibrous bits weren't noticeable in the finished bread.

I made my usual half recipe, and went with a loaf pan instead of a free-standing loaf. The bread starts out with a sponge, and an odd-looking one--the flavorings are brought to a boil with molasses and water, that gets cooled, then added to a barm (rye, in my case) and additional rye flour. The molasses/spice mixture looked evil (dark brown liquid with...stuff floating in it) but smelled great. The sponge sits out for 4 hours or until foamy, then is refrigerated overnight to build flavor. The next day the rye sponge gets additions of bread flour, yeast, salt, brown sugar, and a little melted shortening to complete the dough.

Swedish Rye (Limpia)The dough was slow to rise for both first and second rises, even when I gave up on "room temperature" and moved it to the warming drawer on 'proof'. I gave up on the second rise after 2-1/2 hours when it had crested the pan at 1/2 inch (not the called-for 1 inch). As a result, the loaf was a little short.

Tasting report: a lovely light rye, not overwhelmed by the spices but nicely flavored by them. Texture was great, with a nice 'chew' and even holes. Should I want to bake rye bread, this recipe will be a top candidate.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Turkey Chowder

IMG_0311 I thought for sure I had posted this recipe somewhere, but haven't turned it up searching here, my LJ (where food posts went pre-Blogspot), or various email list archives. Time to fix that.

This soup was a Thanksgiving staple of my mother's--she was a soup-maker par excellence, usually without recipes, and I don't know if she evolved this one on her own or if it started with a clipping way back when. By the time I remember her making it there was no recipe around. I (being a recipe-reliant type even when doing my own variations) worked out this set of proportions that make a reasonable facsimile of Mother's turkey chowder.

Turkey Chowder

1-2 T. olive oil or butter or turkey fat skimmed from the stock*
2 small onions, chopped
2 stalks of celery, trimmed and chopped
1 c. raw rice (Mother used white, brown is fine but adjust the cooking time)
2 qts. hot turkey stock*
2-3 cups 2% or skim milk
1 cup chopped turkey meat (optional)
1-1/2 tsp salt or to taste
8-10 grinds of pepper or to taste

Saute onions and celery in the oil until onions are translucent. Add the raw rice and stir to coat with the oil. Add the hot turkey broth, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer about 20 minutes or until the rice is tender. Add milk and chopped turkey, if using, and season to taste. Bring back to serving temperature over low heat.

Notes: I generally have skim milk on hand, and like the consistency I get with about 3 cups of milk. If I have whole or 2%, I use less milk--I don't like this as a very rich soup. If you like a richer soup, go for the whole milk and more of it.
I like my turkey chowder peppery, so that 8-10 grinds is just a starting point.

*Turkey stock

The way the Thanksgiving ritual went, at least in years featuring roast turkey, was that my father dissected the bird in the kitchen with a serving platter on one side to receive the sliced meat, and a crockpot on the other where all the bones, skin, fat, and other scraps, including any aromatics from the turkey roasting, went. When the turkey was completely dissembled, generally the crockpot was full. Mother would add water almost to the top, turn it on, and let it cook overnight. (Wonderful smell in the house the next morning...) Then the stock was drained from the skin and bones (which was all discarded--any meat in there would be tasteless after 14+ hours of cooking) and strained into a container to go into the fridge to cool. That afternoon or the next day the stock would have solidified, and the fat layer on top, also solidified, could be easily removed to leave an almost completely fat-free and very flavorful stock. Smoked turkey? Even better.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

BBA #36: Sunflower Seed Rye (Sourdough)

Sunflower Seed Rye (Sourdough)The Tuscan bread was actually last weekend's project, before I left for Denver last Sunday. This weekend I backed up to the last of the sourdough breads, the Sunflower-Seed Rye. This one uses a soaker and a firm starter, which I made from my rye starter. However, I forgot to move the starter to the fridge overnight--perhaps that gives a little more sourdough tang to the bread, but as it's a yeast-assisted recipe I suspect the sourdough will be fairly muted.

Sunflower Seed Rye (Sourdough)Not much to say about the process on this one: it didn't need much additional water and kneaded easily in the KitchenAid. I added maybe half again the called for sunflower seeds for extra crunch, and to use them up from the freezer. I didn't use a room-temperature rise, instead using the proof setting on my warming drawer to move things along. The loaf is shaped as a couronne or crown by making a boule, then working a hole in the middle to get a doughnut shape, then pressing down on that with a dowel (chopstick for me) in 4 places to get a very un-crown-like flattened circle-square, um, thing. Supposedly the dusting of flour over the dowel traces will prevent them from closing up during the rise, but just as when I tried this shape on the Pain de Campagne, the grooves mostly disappear. I tried a shallow slash down each of them before baking this time, which perhaps helped retain the shape a little, though nothing like the picture in BBA.

Sunflower Seed Rye (Sourdough)The loaf got the hearth-baking technique with the oven temp dropped after the spritzing, then again after 10 minutes and the loaf rotation. Rather like my loaf of Tuscan bread, this loaf had more breadth than height, and was done after 10 minutes at the last temperature setting instead of 15. Results: nice texture, good chewy crust, and a mild rye/sourdough flavor.

BBA #35: Tuscan Bread

Tuscan BreadI jumped ahead to the Tuscan Bread, avoiding two rye breads in a row and also skipping the stollen, better suited for Christmas. The Tuscan bread is distinguished by being salt-free, and having tasted it all I can say is "why?". Reinhart calls it "dull and flat tasting", and I agree. Trying to eat it with intensely flavored things just couldn't overcome the basic blah in this bread.

Tuscan BreadAnother distinction of the Tuscan brea is that it starts with a flour and water paste, made by pouring boiling water over some of the flour the night before baking the bread. I was expecting a thinner mixture than I got--it was really stiff. However, from that point it was much like working with a soaker or a barm: the mix goes in with flour, a little olive oil, yeast, and water. Make a dough, knead it (by machine for me), let it rise, make the loaf, rise again, and bake using the hearth-baking setup.

Tuscan BreadMy loaf was rather flat (in shape as well as taste), which I'll attribute to still not doing well in the "create a taut skin when shaping the loaf" task, but the resulting texture was fine. It's just that without salt, the bread is not worth eating. IMHO.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

BBA #34: Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

Sourdough PumpernickelNext up in the BBA Challenge list is another sourdough rye--the third with one more to come (and one more non-sourdough rye as well). As the group 2011 Challenge seems to have fallen apart, I may re-arrange these last breads to an order more to my liking, avoiding 2 rye breads in a row, for example, and tackling the stollen over Christmas week. It's looking like I won't quite finish within 2011, but I do hope to have baked my way through the BBA by early 2012. I have 10 breads to go counting this one and 7 weeks in the year, but in there are the holidays, a business trip, and my annual Disney vacation week+ that eliminates 2 weekends of baking time. Yep, it'll be 2012 before I'm done, for sure.

The sourdough pumpernickel is an instant-yeast-assisted bread, using the sourdough starter for flavor. There's an option for pure sourdough, but I went for the faster and more reliable combination method. The bread is also not a 100% rye, using 2:1 bread flour to pumpernickel plus the flour in the starter, which in my case is probably mostly rye. The procedure is the familiar-by-now multi-day procedure: refresh the starter one day, make a rye starter with that, pumpernickel flour, and water and let it work for several hours before refrigerating it, then make the dough and bake the next day. For the dough, it's a mixture of the starter, bread flour, brown sugar, coloring to get the dark pumpernickel color--I had liquid caramel coloring, though coffee or cocoa powder are options, salt, instant yeast, fresh bread crumbs, oil, and water. All that is mixed quickly to not turn the rye flour gummy, then it rises for 2 hours. I decided to bake this one in a bread pan instead of using the hearth baking method--Reinhart gives directions for both.

The first rise went fine, if a little slow--I moved the dough into my warming drawer on "Proof" after an hour and a half and very liitle rise. (I've been adhering to Reinhart's instructions for long, slow, room temp rises most of the time.) I shaped the loaf and put it in a pan for the second rise, supposedly for 90 minutes or so. This time it went straight to the proofing drawer, but even after 2 hours the dough had barely crested the loaf pan. I went ahead and baked it after another 30 minutes, hoping for some oven spring, but alas, there was none and the loaf is a little flat.

Sourdough PumpernickelTexture-wise, the bread is fine, with a nice crumb. It's not dense, rather belying what I think pumpernickel should be, but consider this a grocery store pumpernickel and it's perfectly OK: a little rye flavor, light textured, the right dark color (well, I see pumpernickels a lot darker, but this is in the range), but not a dense or chewy loaf. I ate one piece as a taster, part solo and part with herbs and oil, and had a little more as a wrapper for my Italian sausage at dinner. Having had that much, I don't think this bread warrants any more calories spent on it, so I'll see if the folks next door will take the rest of the loaf.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

BBA #33: Poilâne-Style Miche

BBA: Poilâne-Style MicheNext up in the BBA Challenge list was another entry in the sourdough section, the Poilâne-Style Miche. This bread is in the cover photo--a huge round of very dark-brown bread. I did my usual half-recipe, so my round loaf was merely large, not huge. After seeing the size of my loaf, I don't think my baking stone could handle the full-sized miche. To deconstruct the recipe title: Poilâne is Lionel Poilâne, a famed French baker. Miche, according to wikipedia, is the word for a large round loaf. The recipe uses a sourdough starter and long fermentation times to build flavor in the bread, and calls for a sifted medium-grind whole-wheat flour to replicate Poilâne's flour. I went with the suggested substitution of half whole-wheat, half bread flour.

The mixing of the miche was much like other sourdoughs: it started with making a firm starter the night before using a refreshed barm, and letting that rise for 6 hours. The day of, the starter came out of the fridge to warm up, then was mixed with flour, salt, and water to make the dough. Reinhart warns that this bread is too large for machine mixing, but my half recipe worked well in the KitchenAid. I added the maximum amount of water (11 ounces), then added almost another ounce during the kneading--that was almost too much, and my dough was probably beyond 'tacky' to 'sticky'. With generous coatings of Pam, I was able to keep it from sticking too much.

The first rise was in a plastic dough bucket, and I let it go for a full 4 hours. Then I shaped the dough into a boule, trying hard to get a good taut skin without degassing the dough more than necessary. The boule then went into a mixing bowl (a rather shallow one) lined with a heavy pastry cloth, and rose another 2-1/2 hours. I got the risen loaf turned out onto my peel without too much difficulty, but found my pastry cloth had stuck some despite the spray of Pam and a dusting of flour--I got a few little folds in the top of the loaf while removing the cloth. Then it was on to the slashing of the loaf, where again my lame snagged and produced an irregular cut, then I slid the loaf onto my baking stone, poured the 2 cups of hot water into my steam pan, and closed the oven. Unlike other hearth loafs, this one doesn't call for spraying water on the sides of the oven in the first few minutes, so the loaf bakes undisturbed until it is rotated for an even baking.

BBA: Poilâne-Style MicheI should haver reduced the first oven period from the 25 minutes for the full-sized miche, as mine was quite dark when I rotated the loaf and turned the oven down. I covered the loaf with foil and gave it another 10 minutes (the full loaf goes for 30-40), and the internal temperature was at 203.

The bread got sliced while still a little warm (both nieces wanted some for dinner), but wasn't gummy. It has a nice even and chewy texture, maybe a little dense, and a good crust. I had some with herbs and oil, and a little more with butter, both of which complemented it well. The bread is supposed to keep well, too, so I look forward to trying it on day 2 or 3.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

BBA #32: 100% Sourdough Rye Bread

100% Sourdough Rye BreadAnd I'm up to date on the bread blogging--I baked this bread this weekend. The seven weeks between baking the NY Deli Rye and this one allowed for recovery from Too Much Bread and Too Much Sourdough Baking (I love sourdough, but it does create more hassles in the bread-baking process), and for ordering white rye and pumpernickel flours from King Arthur to use for BBA challenge breads coming up. Other baking occurred (to be blogged later) and there were two business trips to Denver in there, too, for other distractions. Now the weather has gotten cooler, I've got a gap in my work and personal travel, and bread baking has picked up.

I refreshed my rye starter early in the week, then made the firm starter for my usual half recipe of bread on Friday morning. It took 5-6 hours to double, then I moved it into the fridge for an overnight stay. Friday evening I mixed up the soaker of pumpernickel flour and water, and left that out overnight.

Saturday morning started the real bread making. The firm starter came out of the fridge and warmed up, then I mixed in the soaker and the rest of the ingredients, including fennel seeds as a switch from the usual caraway. I was trying to mix and knead it in the KitchenAid, but sort of messed that up--I didn't add much of the water at first, had the dough go to a pretty firm ball on the dough hook instead of Reinhart's "very tacky ball", then tried to add more water. That never works well (much easier to add more flour than more water after the dough has started to come together), so I ended up mixing more than I wanted then having to hand-knead anyway. In the end I didn't have as hydrated a dough as I wanted.

It rose well, doubling in 4 hours. I then made my second error in the shaping--while trying to form a batard without degassing the dough, I didn't get a good skin on the dough. When it rose, the loaf had lots of open holes against the covering plastic wrap. I decided to try to fix this and turned over the mostly risen loaf, brushed off as much of the flour-and-semolina dusting as I could, then let it rise a while longer. That got a better surface on my loaf (though it did crack and open up a little in that last rise), but I lost some height on the final bread in the process. Baking went smoothly using the hearth baking setup, and the somewhat flat loaf was browned and at 200°+ degrees in 20 minutes.

100% Sourdough Rye BreadThe crumb was denser than I'd hoped given how well the dough rose initially, but it had a nice flavor with the fennel seeds and the rye flour. We ate most of the loaf with the now standard herbs-and-oil dip purported to be the blend used by Carrabba's Restaurants, despite competition from a whole-wheat-and-dried-cherry challah still warm from the oven. I do have to attribute part of the gobbling of the rye bread to the herbs and oil, and another part to older niece breaking her Yom Kippur fast in serious carb-loading mode. I think the bread goes in the "good, but won't try it again" pile.

BBA #31: New York Deli Rye

NY Deli RyeCatchup, catchup, baked this bread on August 20. It's the second bread in the sourdough section, a New York Deli Rye, or onion rye. A hefty quantity of sauteed onions go into the rye sponge starter to give the finished bread a definite oniony character.

I made a rye starter from my old sourdough starter, just refreshing it with rye flour earlier in the week before baking. It was therefore about a 50/50 rye/white starter for this one--if I keep it around and keep feeding it rye flour only, the wheat component will keep shrinking. I used a generic organic rye flour, as I couldn't find white rye flour locally.

The bread is a blend of rye and wheat flour, with a little brown sugar, some oil, buttermilk, and the usual salt and water. As usual I made a half recipe to get one 1-pound loaf, and did bake it in a loaf pan instead of as a batard. I left out the caraway seeds, as I think someone next door dislikes them.

Memory has faded on this one, but from the photos it rose well (despite being a sourdough bread with no extra yeast), and I seem to recall it had a nice flavor and did well as a sandwich loaf. Should I ever go back to fixing sandwich lunches, this would be a good bread for them.

NY Deli Rye NY Deli Rye NY Deli Rye NY Deli Rye

BBA #30: Basic Sourdough Bread with Asiago and Walnuts

Basic Sourdough with Walnuts and AsiagoStill catching up--this one was baked August 14. It's the first bread up in the sourdough section. I skimmed over the "make your own sourdough starter" section, choosing instead to use my years-old sourdough starter, originally from King Arthur Flour but by now probably all local yeasts. That starter, like the one Reinhart develops, is made of equal weights of flour and water, which works out to about double the volume of flour to water. Weighing is easiest!

I made the firm starter the first day, a mix of the refreshed starter and more flour and water--but less water, to end up with a kneadable dough. The firm starter took perhaps 6 hours to double, slower than Reinhart's base estimate of 4 hours. After an overnight refrigeration, the final dough was made from it plus more flour and water, plus salt. I got it a touch too wet, maybe, and had to dust the counter with flour while moving it to my rising container. I also went with Reinhart's suggestion to try some variations, and added walnuts to get the lovely purplish color to the bread, and a dry asiago cheese in about 1/4" dice, spread on the dough and rolled in. I put in about 1.5 oz walnuts and 2.5 oz. cheese to my half-recipe of bread--about 10 oz. of flour so that's the 40% of the final flour weight in addtions that he recommends.

Basic Sourdough with Walnuts and AsiagoThe dough tose slowly, so I eventually put it in the warm garage to speed up (August, Atlanta...the garage was probably 85 degrees) and it had almost doubled in maybe 5 hours. I decided to shape it as a batard. I'm still working on shaping-without-deflating: I didn't deflate my dough, but as my loaf ended up pretty flat but not dense, I think I didn't manage to get enough surface tension during the shaping.

Basic Sourdough with Walnuts and AsiagoI baked it using the hearth baking method on a stone with steam in the first few minutes, yanking the parchment out from under the loaf when I rotated the bread after 10 minutes. Results: very tasty bread. It had a nice sourdough flavor. The asiago cheese was crusty on top and crunched nicely with the good bread crust, and formed little pockets of melted cheese inside the loaf. The walnuts did give a lovely purplish cast to the bread, and added another crunchy element.

It's a keeper. There are lots of other interesting variations listed, but I'll be coming back to this one, I'm sure.

BBA #29: Pugliese

PuglieseA pugliese, Reinhart says, is a rustic bread similar to ciabatta but baked in rounds instead of slipper shapes, and using durum flour. It should be a very wet dough when baking with U.S. flours, to get the characteristic large open holes. I couldn't find any variety of durum flour (besides the coarser-grained semolina), so for me this bread was another chance to practice handling very wet dough. I'm still doing catch-up blogging: I baked the pugliese July 31.

The pugliese starts with a biga--flour, water, and yeast mixed to a firm dough, let rise, then refrigerated for at least overnight. Come to think of it, so did the potato rosemary bread, and what I did was make a full recipe of biga, then split it to make half recipes of that one and this. I also used leftover mashed potato from the potato-rosemary bread, learning from that loaf to press the potato through a sieve to get out the lumps.
Don't remember much of this one, except that I think I deflated it when trying to slash the loaf despite my new and therefore supposedly sharp lame. I must be lacking in the proper technique. The bread had a nice flavor (we ate most of it dipped in olive oil and herbs), but it was flat and didn't have the larger holes shown in the book. Technique again--if I made high-hydration breads every week for a while, I might get this down.

Pugliese Pugliese Pugliese Pugliese

BBA #28: Potato Rosemary Bread

Potato Rosemary BreadAnother bread with few notes, but the iPhoto pictures have survived to tell me I baked it on July 24. It's a white bread with added mashed potatoes to make the dough more tender, flavored with chopped rosemary and roasted garlic. I did leave a note to run the cooked potato through a ricer or a sieve as I had some small lumps in the dough that didn't bake out--my usual mashed potatoes are on the rustic side. Those lumps just show the mashed potatoes are not from a box, right?

I used a jarred chopped roasted garlic, I think, certainly not as flavorful as if I'd roasted some fresh. The rosemary was fresh from my abundant rosemary bush--the stuff grows like a weed in my herb garden. Overall, the bread didn't make much of an impression, so that may be the judgement there. I'd hoped for a more open, "holey" texture, but only had a few larger holes.Potato Rosemary Bread

BBA #27: Portuguese Sweet Bread

Portugese Sweet BreadI've been a couple of senses. I'm in the travel-heavy part of my work year, so had fallen behind on posting and somewhat on baking. computer drive failed. Or maybe it was a problem with the system software, but no matter what I had a business trip, came back and almost immediately had the computer failure, took it off to the shop for a new drive (bless you, AppleCare), and left on another trip before the repair was done. Once the computer was back up and the drive restored from Time Machine, I discovered that iPhoto had longer-standing problems than the drive failure, and I have lost the originals of all of my photos back to May or earlier. On some of those I still have the thumbnail version iPhoto produces, on others I just had an album thumbnail which I never could dig out of the iPhoto file structure that was visible in the damaged iPhoto library--just enough to remind me that I had various sets of photos that are now lost. Since all that there have been 2 more business trips, further delaying blogging and baking.

Moral: save and backup digital photos multiple ways. They cannot be replaced. On a few of these sets I made Flickr uploads, just not enough of 'em.

Portugese Sweet BreadSo anyway, last bread post was July 4. I baked the Portuguese Sweet Bread July 16, which tells you how behind I am between computer messes and not-baking due to travel. And since I didn't blog these as I baked them and didn't always make notes, things may be....brief, this one in particular. I have very little memory of this bread, but as I'm not fond of Hawaiian/Portuguese sweet bread that's perhaps not completely due to the several months' lag in the writeup. It's an egg bread with enough sugar to make it taste sweet but not to put it in the sweet-roll category, and is flavored with lemon, orange, and vanilla extracts. My photos (uploaded before the computer crash and iPhoto losses) show that I made a single loaf, braided and baked in a loaf pan instead of the suggested boule. It had a nice even crumb, but with the sweetness and flavorings, not much got eaten as a loaf bread. The remainder did make very nice French toast, though.

Portugese Sweet Bread Portugese Sweet Bread Portugese Sweet Bread

Monday, July 4, 2011

BBA #13a: Poolish Focaccia, Pizza-Style

BBA Pizza-style focacciaThe leftover poolish from the poolish baguettes did end up in focaccia, pizza-style. I had enough poolish for a half-recipe of focaccia, which made 2 nice thick-crust (focaccia, after all) pizzas of about 9" diameter. The dough was mixed up yesterday (it took about 3 tablespoons of added flour to get the dough to clean the bowl), then came the stretch-and-fold, rise, stretch-and-fold bits before I split my dough in two, shaped the pieces into rounds, and put them in the fridge.

BBA Pizza-style focacciaToday the rounds came out of the fridge onto the counter, and got pulled into circles for pizza crusts. The directions say to do this with your fingertips, not your palm, and that's what I did, though I must say the result still looked pretty deflated. I spread a generaous tablespoon of herb oil (basil, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, and parsley, all from the garden) on top, then added walnuts and kalamata olives to one and jarred minced roasted garlic to both as "pre-proof" toppings. Let me interject that the garlic was a poor choice as pre-proof, as the little pieces stayed on the surface and burned in the oven. BBA Pizza-style focacciaBetter go for whole rasted cloves of garlic if you want to add 'em up front. After a couple of hours of rising I added feta with sundried tomatoes and basil to the walnut/olive pizza, and torn prosciutto to the other. They baked on parchment on a stone at 550 degrees, and were done in about 12 minutes. The prosciutto pizza got removed at the 6 minute mark and had a mix of grated asiago and parmesan added to it. I overdid the cheese a little, making it a little weighted down plus definitely beyond the "I don't like cheese" younger niece's tolerance level--but very much to the taste of the cheese-loving older niece. (Nephew is away at summer camp.) YOunger niece made do with the other pizza, after picking off all the identifiable chunks of feta.

BBA Pizza-style focacciaGood pizza, or rather a thin focaccia, and it had better texture than my first round of focaccia. Lots more open holes, good and chewy, etc. For true pizza I like a thin crust, generally, but as a pizza-alternative, this focaccia with extra toppings made a very nice meal.

A Tale of Two (or Three) Strawberry Cakes

For a number of years I made a strawberry cake collected off a flour ad--Martha White, according to my note, back when they were trying to market packages of 2 cups of flour (that being the most common amount needed for recipes, at least according to their market research). The recipe is an oil cake and calls for strawberry Jello and a bag of frozen strawberries, and came out lovely and moist and, pink. I used to think, very pink, until last week. <g>

Strawberry CakeSo, the birthday was coming up, and I had flashbacks to that strawberry cake, but wanted something different. I started out thinking "get away from the Jello" but somehow ended up with an even more artificial look: a strawberry cake I found on Lottie+Doof. It used strawberry jam in the batter, added enough red food coloring to be Red Velvet Cake, then made a cream cheese frosting with more red food coloring and artificial strawberry flavoring. I really don't know why this ended up intriguing me enough to tackle it for my birthday cake, but both the violent color and a desire to use up strawberry jam from my fridge played into it.

Strawberry CakeMy version of the cake was just as on Lottie+Doof, but the frosting called for cups of powdered sugar. I've gone off on that type of frosting, and used Rose's Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting instead, which is cream cheese, a little butter, a touch of sour cream, and melted white chocolate. I had very high cacao white chocolate from Trader Joe's, and used that. I couldn't find artificial strawberry flavoring and used natural. <g> And red food coloring. Lots of it.

Results: it's a good cake, moist like most oil cakes, but doesn't have much strawberry flavor. Same for the frosting, which of course I experimented with--could be both less punch from the natural flavoring, plus the white chocolate asserting itself in competition. The color was....striking, but all in all this one won't be repeated.

Strawberry Summer CakeI still had a strawberry cake fixation, though, and so turned to Smitten Kitchen's Strawberry Summer Cake. It's a simple butter cake batter that is poured into a pie or cake pan (I used a 9" cake pan: a pie plate would have been much easier to serve from), then the top is covered with halved strawberries, sprinkled with sugar, and baked. Simple, lots of strawberry flavor....decidedly not Pink. I did cut back the sugar to 7/8 cup in the batter as Deb mentioned. Strawberry Summer Cake Most of my strawberries sank, unlike Deb's, and I'm wondering if that's another advantage to the pie plate over the cake pan. It can't be called a pretty cake, but I served it with whipped cream with a little strawberry puree mixed in, and it was very good.

I may still pull out the "Simple Strawberry Cake" with Jello recipe and give it another try--I don't recall it being artificial-tasting, and it was certainly moist and good. Be interesting to see how it seems after the RHC bake-through and other incidents in the evolution of my tastebuds.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Lots-of-Ways Banana Cake

Lots of Ways Banana Cake (Made this a week or so ago and found the half-done blog post in my editing program...)

Bananas browning in the fridge (after aging on the counter first)...must be time to bake. I don't have a standard banana bread recipe and need to dig through my and my mother's recipe files in search of one, so for this occasion I went browsing in the cookbook collection. I ended up with Lots-of-Ways Banana Cake from Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours, a banana cake with options for the liquid and the mix-ins. Mine ended up with dark rum, sour cream, and coconut, and I made a half recipe to get a 9" round snacking cake--no frosting or other embellishments. In fact, baked in a loaf pan, this could easily be "banana bread".

It's good, nice texture, moist, banana flavor present but not overwhelming. The coconut doesn't lend much flavor, and the shreds (I used the grocery standard Baker's Sweetened Flakes this time) are something of an aggravation as they pull when you try to slice the cake with a less-than-sharp knife. That little problem would be greatly improved by pre-toasting the coconut as the recipe suggests, but which I forgot to do. This isn't a cake where I want dried fruit, but I might try adding toasted pecans next time.

BBA #26: Poolish Baguettes

Poolish baguettesThe poolish baguettes are another of the several recipes for "French bread" variations, this one made with a poolish (another variation on a mix of flour, water, and yeast made ahead, to add flavor) and part whole wheat flour. I made all of the poolish amount, then noticed how little of it was needed for the baguette recipe. What to do? The only other thing in the book calling for a poolish is a variation on foccacia--perhaps I'll try a half recipe of it this weekend, as pizza. The tail end of the poolish is (hopefully) fermenting on the counter to become sourdough pancakes.

I debated making a half recipe of the baguettes. I probably should have not only for cutting down on the amount of carbs in the house, but also because my baking stone is small for three baguettes which have to be somewhat fat to fit on the short stone. But I went ahead with the full recipe and managed in one baking, though the longest baguette hung off the edge (but surprisingly didn't burn) .

Another interesting direction in this recipe is to sift the whole-wheat flour through a fine sieve to reduce the amount of bran. I got a good bit of bran from my whole-wheat flour (the bran went into the prospective pancake batter). This is about a half-whole-wheat recipe, all to the good for my family, as we tend to eat more whole wheat and multigrain than white breads.

That done, the recipe proceeded more or less as usual, mixing flour, salt, yeast, water and the poolish, and machine kneading. I added the full 10 ounces of water then a little more to get an almost-sticky dough as specified. The dough rose rapidly--the first "2-hour rise" took about an hour and a half, the second an hour and 15 minutes.

I cut the dough into thirds and proceeded to shaping. I'm still working on the baguette shaping technique--the video Chris found helped, though I only folded mine twice and didn't elongate the loaves much due to the short baking stone issue. The loaves baked up very prettily. They got a little curved in the rush to slide them onto the hot stone from awkward angles as the oven rack doesn't pull very far out of the oven, my peel is too short for baguettes, and of course I wanted to minimize the heat loss from the open oven. 'Sall right, the shape didn't hurt the taste.

Poolish baguettesWhat about that taste? Trust is more chewy than crackly--I think I'd like it crisper, and don't know if that is inherent to this recipe or if it is more an issue with the baking technique. Partly both, I suspect. The bread has a nice texture, but not many large holes, and a good flavor. The wholewheat definitely improves things in my book flavor-wise. We ate it with herbs and olive oil, making a great accompaniment to the dinner of grilled shrimp and sausages my sister-in-law fixed.

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