Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Almost a Disaster - No-Knead Bread with Sunflower and Flax seeds

Well maybe I'm exaggerating, but just a little. My problem is that I am not a patient person when it comes to baking bread. No, that's not entirely true either. If you are going to bake bread, you have to be patient. Period. What I mean is, that when I get an idea, or hear about a new technique, or just plain 'get bitten by the bug', then I have to do it and right away. I mean now. I am still burning up trying to figure this one out. Really. One of the latest 'rages' sweeping the the bread-baking world is no-knead bread. This is a method (a shortcut really) to make an artisan-style loaf without kneading the dough!! I know! Huh? So I had to try it. I mean, how could I not try this? The problem was that it needs to 'bake' (cook really) inside a superheated cast-iron pot. Which I don't have. So... I said to myself, maybe I can use a large soup pot I have, protect the handles and it will be fine. And I melted the handle on the cover. I mean it's totally distorted, despite my efforts to reshape it through the aluminum foil while still hot. I don't get it!! Anyway, in the end, I baked the bread in the oven, conventionally but with no kneading, on a baking stone. It was delicious with a tough chewy crust and fairly open crumb. The seeds (sunflower and ground flax seeds) added great nutritional value and, of course, the extra crunch we all like. Now all I need is to find a cast-iron pot with a lid! (The one I saw at a restaurant supply store yesterday sold for about $185!!! So I'm still looking.

Here's What You'll Need:
3 cups of flour (bread flour is recommended)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/3 cups of cool water (approximate amount)
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup ground flax seeds

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. Mix together the flour, salt and yeast. Pour in the water and stir with a wooden spoon for about half a minute. The mixture should be sticky. If it is not sticky enough, add more water until it is.

2. Cover your bread dough and let it sit at room temperature until it is twice the size and covered with bubbles. This can take 12 to 18 hours.

3. When the dough is ready, using a rubber spatula or similar tool, push the dough towards the center of the bowl. The dough will be sticky and will pull out in long strands. This is how it should be so avoid the temptation to add flour, other than lightly flouring your hands. Do what you can to tuck in the edges of the dough and to form a round shape.

4. Turn your dough out onto a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper. Put the seam side down and cover the dough with a towel. Be sure the dough is not sitting in a draft. Allow it to sit again until it doubles in size. This could take between one and two hours.

5. Now at this stage, you're supposed to preheat the oven to 500F (260C). Place the iron pot with the lid in the oven to heat thoroughly for half an hour after it reaches the temperature. Then, carefully, remove the pot from the oven open the lid, and slide the risen dough, smooth side up, into the pot (you will hear it sizzle) cover it and place it back in the oven. Lower the temperature to 450F (220C) and bake for about 40 minutes. Remove it and cool it on a rack. It will be very dark and gnarly but also very chewy and delicious. Yum

6. However, as I said, instead I ruined my soup pot since I have no patience. So...
I placed the dough on the baking stone, shaped like a boule, and baked conventionally, at 450F (220C) for 40 minutes. You can see the results for yourself.!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not quite a croissant - Rolled-up Breakfast Rolls

The title is a little misleading actually. Because when you see the recipe you will know immediately that it is actually not even close to a croissant. Not close. These rolls are not made from laminated dough, although the dough is fairly rich. Also, they are rolled-up, but not even crescent shaped. I mean really! Croissants? Nuh uh! Instead, these rolls ended up a little smaller than I planned but hey, sometimes things don't work out exactly as planned, did you notice that? They are bite-sized breakfast rolls that, when warmed, are gone in about two gulps. They are also 1) soft, 2) rich tasting, and 3) full of flavor and aroma. So, hey, maybe they aren't exactly like croissants. They will keep for a few days. But again, that is not usually an issue.They are rolled up kinda like a croissant, so I guess that counts for something.

Anyway, I started out looking for a quick-baked roll, that you can snatch on the way out the door to work, school etc. These fit the bill perfectly, I'm sure you'll agree.

Here's What You'll Need:

2 2/3 cups bread flour
 1/2 Tbs. yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup butter or margarine
3 tablespoons margarine or butter, softened
Margarine or butter, softened

Here's What You'll Need to Do:

1. Mix 1 1/3 cups flour, yeast (dry), sugar, salt and baking powder in large bowl. Heat buttermilk, water and butter or margarine until very warm (125º to 130º) 52º-55º C.
Let the mixture cool a bit (say to 100º F or 38º C). Add to flour mixture. Beat on low speed until moistened, scraping bowl constantly. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle. Knead on floured surface 5 minutes. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

2. Lightly grease cookie sheet. Roll dough into 12-inch circle.
Spread with 3 tablespoons margarine.
Cut into 16 wedges.
Beginning at rounded edge, roll up. Place each roll with points underneath on cookie sheet.
Curve ends of rolls to form crescents if desired. Lightly brush with margarine. Cover; let rise 45 to 60 minutes or until double.

3. Heat oven to 375º. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

 * The reason I think the rolls were a little small is because, IMHO, perhaps I should have rolled the dough out into 12 portions instead of 16. That would have made the rolls a little larger then I could have curved them more to look like a croissant. Not a biggie, for sure but still...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Whole Grain Rolls with Parsley and Olive Oil - Yum!

I have to admit I was a little skeptical. These rolls sounded just toooo easy! And yummy! And they were. This is the second time I have tried a variation on a recipe from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients
and the second time I have been pleased with the results. It's just a great cookbook. The best part of using his method for making dough, is how easy it is to make a big batch, and then keep it for a week or so in the refrigerator. Then, of course, there are all the variations on the 'Master Recipe'. These rolls are one of those variations, an adaptation of his whole grain 'Master Recipe' The addition of lightly sauteed parsley and garlic topped with shredded cheese make wonderful rolls that are healthy and that keep really well. But, truthfully, they were gone in a day or so. So it wasn't really an issue!!

Here's What You'll Need for 1 batch of the Master Dough:
 5 1/2 cups (720g) whole wheat flour
2 cups (270g) AP flour
1 1/2 Tbs. (15g) yeast
1 Tbs. salt
1/4 cup (35g) wheat gluten
4 cups (900ml) warm water
a large bunch of fresh parsley (no stems) chopped coarsley
3 or 4 large cloves of fresh garlic chopped coarsely
some olive oil for sauteeing
some cornmeal or semolina for dusting the peel or baking sheet

Here's What You'll Need to Do:
1. Mix together the dry ingredients (the flours, yeast, salt, wheat gluten) in a large container with a (not air-tight) lid.

2. Mix in the water just until the dry ingredients are hydrated. You do not have to knead the dough! Cover and let it rise and rest for about 2 hours or until the dough rises and then collapses back on itself.
3. At this stage you can put the whole container into the refrigerator overnight to develop the flavors fully. Or you can bake a portion of the dough immediately. However, for best flavor it is recommended to let the dough rest overnight.
4. This dough can remain in the refrigerator for as much as 14 days! When you are ready to bake, cut off a portion weighing about 1 lb (450g).Be careful not to degas the dough. This dough traps gas inside and if you knead it, it will produce dense loaves of bread, not light and fluffy!!
5. Cut off portions of the dough weighing about 3oz. (about 85g) roll them into 'snakes' and tie them into loose knots.

6. Place the 'knotted dough' on a baking sheet covered with cornmeal or with baking paper. Cover and let rest for about 45 minutes to relax and rise slightly.
7. In the meantime, chop the parsley roughly along with the garlic and sautee them lightly in the olive oil. Just before baking, brush the rolls with olive oil from the pan, and sprinkle the sauteed parsley and garlic

over the top. Add finely grated cheese if you like on top of all that.

8. Preheat the oven to 450 F (220 C). When the rolls have finished rising, bake them for about 15 minutes until golden brown and your kitchen smells heavenly.

9. Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Back to Italy - Scali Italian Bread

Ok. I can't help it. Really I can't. I love Italian breads.  Not what they call 'Italian Bread' in supermarkets and bakeries all over America. Usually this is really just a variation on a classic French loaf but maybe a little softer. In fact, there are many, many kinds of wonderful bread from Italy, some famous (Ciabatta, for instance) and some less so. But what goes for Italian bread in America usually isn't. Sorry.

This bread, called Scali and justly popular and quite famous in the Boston area is a classic Italian loaf. It is a rich brown color, with a slightly chewy crust, a soft interior, and a tang that comes from the fermented dough. It uses a starter that does not have to sit that long. Just overnight. But of course, the longer it ferments, the sharper the tanginess. What gives it that extra special nutty flavor is the sesame seed coating. If you want, you can knead the sesame seeds right into the dough and then coat (generously, of course) with even more seeds. This is a great sandwhich bread and, when made correctly, it is eminently satisfying. A real favorite in Italian neighborhoods, I am sure you'll love it too!

Here's What You'll Need for 2 loaves (or 12 rolls):

for the starter
1 cup AP flour
about 1/3 to 1/2 cup warm water
a pinch of yeast

for the dough
all of the starter
2 cups AP flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. dry milk powder (Sometimes I use Baby Formula when I want to avoid dairy for this bread)
2 tsp. yeast
2/3 cup warm water
2 Tbs. olive oil

for the topping
1 large egg white beaten with 1 Tbs. cold water
1/2 cup sesame seeds

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. Start the day before baking with the starter. Mix it together (essentially this is a biga that I have used before) and let it sit at room temperature, covered, overnight.
2. The next day...add the fermented starter to the other dough ingredients, and mix, then knead them into a smooth pliable dough.
3. Place this dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover and let it stand for about 90 minutes or until about doubled in size.
4. To make 2 loaves, remove the dough from the bowl, divide in 2 equal pieces, then divide each piece into 3.
5. Roll each piece into a 'rope', then pinch the ends together and braid the 'ropes' into a loaf.
Coat the loaf with the beaten egg white, then sprinkle generously with the sesame seeds. Finally, cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and let the loaf rise until very puffy, about 90 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C) about 20 minutes before the end of the rise. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes until it is a deep brown and the toasted sesame seeds smell heavenly. If making rolls, the baking time is about 15 minutes.
7. Cool on a rack.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Whole Wheat Bran Muffins

I have to admit that I hesitated a while before posting this recipe. After all, there will be some, who claim that muffins are not really bread. And I suppose on some level they are right. But, really, does this matter in the grand scheme of things. In truth, there are different kinds of muffins (just like there are different kinds of biscuits, BTW) and some are breadier, and others are cakier. I don't even know if those are words and I suspect not. Anyway, I have also been thinking for a long time about expanding this scope of this blog to include all baked goods not just bread. I mean I have posted a recipe for a 'quick' brioche, and is brioche bread or cake? I don't know. Some will argue bread, others cake.

And so we come to muffins. Everybody loves them, but they do seem to fall on the cake side of the debate. Even the breadier ones. These muffins are for the health conscious, meaning that although they include sweeteners (brown sugar and molasses) they also include a whole cup and a half of wheat bran, i.e., lots of fiber. I mean lots. They are delicious and not too loaded up with fat (only a small amount of oil).   They can be ready in time for breakfast, or to grab on the way out the door to work. Anyway, enjoy.

Here's What You'll Need for 1 dozen muffins:
1 1/4 cups AP flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
7 Tbs. softened butter or margarine
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbs. molasses
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup plus 3 Tbs. buttermilk
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 cup raisins

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
2. Whisk together the dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices) in a medium bowl.
3. Mix thoroughly the wet ingredients (butter or margarine, eggs, vanilla, molasses, sour cream and buttermilk) in a separate bowl. It is important to mix in the order they appear in the ingredient list. So... start with the butter, mixing until it becomes a little fluffy then add the brown sugar and beat until they are light and fluffy. Afterwords, add the eggs, one at a time, then the other ingredients adding each one and incorporating before adding the next.
4. Finally, pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet and beat them together adding a little bit at a time until they are all mixed.
5. Mix in the bran and then the raisins to make the final mixture.
6. Fill the cups of a lightly oiled muffin tin about 2/3 full and bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in one of the muffins comes out clean.
7. Let the baked muffins sit in the muffin pan for about 5 minutes or so before removing them. Then, remove them carefully, and let them cool completely on a rack.

8. Enjoy!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

OK - This One Is Pane Siciliano

It had to happen. With everything going on I was preparing two posts for this blog at once. And wouldn't you know it, I mixed up the names!! The last post, now corrected to its proper name is for a sourdough whole wheat bread. This one is Pane Siciliano (literally Sicilian Bread) is also a sourdough made with fermented dough. However, the last post featured a soaker and a poolish allowed to ferment overnight in the refrigerator. This bread uses a technique I've used before called pate fermentee (literally fermented dough in French). The idea is the same, a 'dough' is mixed, allowed to ferment at room temperature for a few hours, then placed in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, the dough is revived, mixed with the remaining ingredients, then allowed to rise and is baked. The idea is to slow down the rising process of the yeast so that the natural complex flavors of the wheat flour can be maximized. Yum!!

This bread is usually baked as a loaf. I have chosen to make it as rolls, both because they bake faster and also because they are more easily stored (and eaten!). They have been liberally coated with sesame seeds in the Italian tradition. The result is a chewy, very stable roll, perfect for sandwiches and snacks. Whether you make it as a loaf or as rolls, you'll love this bread.

Here's What You'll Need for 3 loaves:

for the pate fermentee
1 1/8 cups AP flour
1 1/8 cups bread flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
about 3/4 cup water, at room temperature

for the dough
3 cups pate fermentee
1 3/4 cups bread flour
1 3/4 cups semolina flour
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs. honey
about 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water

Here's What You'll Need to Do:
1. About an hour before starting the bread assembly process, remove the pate fermentee from the refrigerator to bring it to room temperature. Cut it into about 10 or 12 pieces and place it in the mixing bowl, covered so it doesn't dry out.

2. Stir together the bread flour, the semolina, salt and yeast, add the pieces of pate fermentee, along with the oil, honey 1 1/4 cups of water.
3. Mix thoroughly with a mixer until the dough forms a smooth dough adding a little flour or water as needed.
4. Knead for about 10 minutes, then place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat.
5. Leave the dough, covered, to rise until doubled for about 2 hours.
6. Divide the dough into 3 pieces (for loaves) or about 100g. (4oz.) for rolls. While working with one piece keep the others covered. Roll out each piece into a 'snake', then rolling from each end bring the ends to the center to form an 'S'.

7. Place the 'S' shapes on a prepared baking sheet covered and let the dough rise until doubled, about another hour.

8. Place an empty pan on the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 500F (250C) about 20 minutes before baking time.
9. Just before placing the dough in the oven, lightly coat it with egg white then sprinkle sesame seeds liberally all over.
10. Pour about 1 cup of boiling water into the pan in the oven, spray the walls with water and close the door quickly. After a few seconds, place the dough in the oven, lower the temperature to 425F (220C) and bake for 18 minutes or so (for rolls) or about 30 minutes for loaves.
11. Cool on a rack thoroughly before slicing.

This is so good, you've gotta love it!