Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Basis Artisan Bread - An English Bloomer

I have to admit that I came across this bread quite by accident. I was doing something I do a lot. I mean, I DO THIS A LOT! Search for recipes, especially for bread. Only recently I found a recipe for a 'tartine-like' bread a la Chad Robertson. Not his recipe, but apparently close enough. I will need a bit more time to get up the courage to try this bread. In the meantime, with my 'research' I found this bread. An English bloomer, so-called because it expands on the slash lines as it bakes and so it 'blooms'.

As you can see by my latest offerings, I have entered a 'European' phase with breads and this one fits perfectly. It's origin is England. It is a peasant bread with a slightly chewy crust and a soft moist crumb. Very stable, not at all crumbly and so it makes great sandwiches and even better toast. Yum!

Here's What You'll Need:
  • 500g/1lb 2oz strong white flour, plus extra for kneading
  • 10g/¼oz salt
  • 1 x 7g package of instant yeast
  • 320ml/11½oz cold water
  • 40ml/1½fl oz olive oil, plus extra for kneading
  • extra oil and flour, for kneading

    Here's What You'll Need To Do:

    1. Mix together the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, then slowly, while mixing by hand, add the water. You may not need all of it. Mix just until you have a shaggy dough. It will be sticky.

    2. Remove the dough to a lightly-oiled surface (OLIVE OIL, PLEASE) and knead vigorously for 8-10 minutes. The dough will slowly become smooth and elastic.

    3. Place the kneaded dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover to rise until at least doubled. This could be up to 2 hours.

    4. Remove the dough from the bowl, punch down to remove the air, then shape into a tight 'torpedo shape. Spray with oil, lightly, then cover to rest and rise again, this time for about 45 minutes, until half again its original size.

    5. Preheat the oven to 400F/190C. Just before baking, spray the loaf with water. Sprinkle some flour over the top. Then slash the bread 3 or 4 times. 

    6. Bake with steam for 30 minutes. Then lower the heat to 350F/180C and continue baking for another 10 minutes. The bread is done when it sounds hollow when it's tapped on the bottom.

    7. Cool on a rack.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Another European Classic - Pain aux Noix (French Nut Bread)

Sometimes you can just look at a bread, and know, before you even taste it, where it comes from. This is one of those breads. It is a dark brown in color, and with a soft, almost crumbly crumb. The crust is crunchy, and well...crusty. The best part of it is that the nuts of various kinds, chopped coarsely, are mixed into the dough and then baked together. Traditionally, this bread is made with hazelnuts, but truthfully, can be made with any kind, almonds, walnuts or even a mixture. If you want to give an American twist to a Eurpean bread, use pecans. Any way you slice it (pun intended) this bread won't disappoint. It fills the whole house with the most incredible aroma. And after it's baked, if you toast it, it does it again. This bread is also very versatile: the nuts make it perfect for a breakfast bread, but it works just great with smoked meats and mustard too. Please try this bread... you won't be disappointed. BTW, this recipe is adapted from one of my favorite bread baking books of all time, TheBread Bible by Beth Hensperger. A truly remarkable collection of bread recipes containing everything from traditional European breads like this one, to modern quick breads. It's all here and a book well worth adding to your collection.

Here's What You'll Need: (for 2 round loaves)
2 1/2 cups hazelnuts, roughly chopped skinned and lightly toasted (or other nuts)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 Tbs. dry yeast
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup warm milk (or water, or unflavored soy milk for non-dairy)
1/2 cup walnut oil (or hazelnut oil)
2 1/2 tsp. salt
about 3 cups AP flour

Here's What You'll Need To Do:

1. Combine about 1 1/4 cups of the nuts with about 1 cup of the whole wheat flour. Mix well to coat the nuts completely. Grind to a rough (not flour-like) consistency in a food processor and set aside.

2. Sprinkle the yeast over 1/4 cup the warm water with a pinch of brown sugar dissolved in. Let it stand for about 10 minutes to activate the yeast.

3. In a large bowl, combine the remaining water, the milk (or soy if using), oil, sugar and salt. Pulse to mix, then add the yeast mixture. Finally add in the nut and whole wheat mixture as well.

4. Add the remaining shole wheat flour and mix to form a soft fairly sticky dough. Then add in the AP flour, 1/2 cup at a time until the dough 'cleans the bowl' but remains soft and elastic. It will be just slightly tacky, and will not stick to your fingers.

5. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes to develop the gluten, then place it in a lightly-oiled bowl, turn to coat, and cover. The dough should rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

6. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and shape each piece into a round, tightening the surface as you shape it. Lightly spray some oil on the dough balls, and cover with plastic wrap to rest. This will take about 45 minutes.

7. About 20 minutes before baking time, pre-heat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Use a baking stone, if you have one. Just before baking slash the bread with 3 or 4 cuts about 1/4 inch (3mm) deep. Spray water into the oven and pour boiling water into a steaming pan to create a wet environment.

8. Bake for about 45 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Pain Noir - 'Black' Bread with a Twist

This is a bread I have been 'threatening' to bake for a long time. I say threatening, because, for me at least, it is a very unusual bread. I have made many breads using AP flour, of course. And whole wheat. I have even made some using rye. But the color and the texture of this bread is so unusual, for me, that in a way I was a little intimidated. Also, the flavorings. This bread is dark, dark brown. Almost black. Hence the name - Pain Noir - literally Black bread. The color comes from two sources: dark, bitter-sweet chocolate, and molasses.

And here is the problem, the molasses. Molasses, especially blackstrap molasses has a very strong flavor. Sharp, bitter and a little sour. This recipe, if followed exactly from Bernard Clayton's encyclopedic New Complete Book of Breads, ends up, in my opinion, too sharp. Too bitter. Too sour. And so, I have adapted it, just a little to lessen the flavor impact of the molasses. The result is a wonderful, almost creamy textured bread, with a soft crust. Black as coal, almost and, toasted, with mustard, perfect with cold-cuts, or a nice sharp cheese. Definitely, worth trying and tweaking to your palate. Let me know what you think.

Here's What You'll Need:
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup boiling water
1/3 cup cold water
2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast
1 oz. (30g) unsweetened chocolate
1/2 Tbs butter
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2 cup mashed potatoes (or 1/3 cup potato flakes)
2/3 cup rye flour
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup AP flour
 1 egg, beaten
coarse salt for garnish

Here's What You'll Need To Do:

1. Stir the cornmeal into a pan with the boiling water. Continue stirring until the mixture is smooth. Gradually add the cold water. When the mixture is only just warm, stir in the yeast.

2. In a small pan, melt together the butter with the chocolate. After they are combined, let the mixture cool.

3. In the large bowl from your mixer, combine the cornmeal mixture, the chocolate mixture and the molasses, honey, salt, caraway and mashed potatoes. Beat this altogether with the paddle attachment (or a large spoon) until smooth. Add the whole wheat flour to form a shaggy dough. Cover and let it stand to ferment for about an hour.

4. Add the rye flour. Remove this very shaggy dough to a floured work surface, and, using a scraper, lift and fold the dough to knead it for up to 8 minutes.. This dough should be quite sticky and hard to handle. Add AP flour liberally to keep it from sticking to the work surface.

5. Place the elastic (but sticky) dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover and let it rise for about 1 1/3 hours until doubled in volume. When finished, remove the cover, punch it down, the form into a ball. Let the dough rest for another 15 minutes.

6. Shape it into a round loaf, and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

7. Pre-heat the oven to 375 F (190 C) about 20 minutes before baking time. Paint the loaf with the beaten egg, and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Slash the loaf 3 or 4 times just before baking.

8. Bake for about 35 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hoagie Rolls a la Peter Reinhart

I love a great sandwich as anybody who follows this blog must know. And without being overly particular, I like a sandwich with corned beef, or other cold cuts. Or with a nice fruity jam, or peanut butter. Or pan-seared veggies and cheese. The key to all of this is the right kind of bread, of course. And there are so many kinds to choose from for making good, no great, sandwiches.

One of my baking heroes is Peter Reinhart, the Master Baker whose many cookbooks, show his genius as a baker along with the learning process he is going through as he experiments with different approaches to baking bread. His bread is truly world-class and his books, like The Bread Baker's Apprentice, from which this recipe is adapted, are all classics. Because they are both cookbooks with great recipes, and also. teaching books. Peter Reinhart in other words, is not only a Master Baker, he wants to teach you how to take your bread to a whole other level. Put the two together, the love of sandwiches and the truly wonderful bread and you know you can't miss.

These rolls are from bread in the style of classic Italian bread. Not what they typically call Italian in the US, i.e., French only softer. Italian bread in the rustic tradition. A crunchy crust with a soft interior. The crust crackling with every delicious bite, and the soft crumb, holding the fillings heroically and sopping up every drop of mustard, mayo or whatever. In other words, a great hoagie roll with a rustic tradition. Try it, making sure to pay attention to the details. You won't regret it.

Here's What You'll Need:

for the starter (biga)
2 1/2 cups (320g) unbleached AP flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
3/4 to 1 cup warm water

for the dough
2 1/2 cups (320g) unbleached AP flour
1 2/3 tsp salt
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp instant yeast
1 Tbs. olive oil
3/4 to 1 cup warm water
cornmeal or semolina for dusting

Here's What You'll Need To Do:

1. The night before baking, stir together the flour and the yeast, then slowly add the 3/4 cup of water. Mixing by hand bring it together to form a rough dough. If needed, add up to 1 cup water total.

2. Remove the dough to a lightly-floured surface and knead for a few minutes until it becomes smooth. Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover to ferment.

3. After about 3 hours, you can place the biga in the refrigerator overnight.

the next day...

4. Be sure to remove the biga to the counter at least an hour before proceeding so it comes to room temperature.

5. Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast thoroughly in a large bowl.

6. Cut the biga into smallish lumps and add it in, then, finally, the remaining water. Continue to mix until a soft dough forms. You may have to slightly adjust the flour and/or water. The resulting dough should be soft and just barely sticky. It is not a batter or stiff (like bagel dough for instance).

7. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl to rise until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

8. Remove the dough to a lightly-floured surface. Cut it in 2 being careful not to deflate it too much. If you are making loaves, shape each half into a 'log' shape, then after a short wait into a 'batard', i.e., slightly tapered at each end. If you are making rolls, cut each half into 4 equal pieces. Then after a short wait, shape each piece into a 'torpedo', or a round.

8. Place the shaped dough on a parchment covered baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Spray lightly with oil, then cover lightly with plastic to rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour. Slash the rolls down the middle just before baking. The loaves should be slashed in a decorative pattern too.

9. Bake in a preheated oven (450 F / 220 C), with steam for 30 minutes (loaf) or about 17 minutes (rolls).

10. Cool on a rack.