Thursday, June 25, 2009

BBA Challenge #7 Ciabatta

So for the purposes of this challenge, I'm doing everything by the book and as it's written.  I'm not tinkering, even when I really really want to fix something.  I did the poolish version out of the book, and I've made ciabattas before, so I knew pretty much what I was looking for. Having read several threads on TFL in the past when I was looking for recipes and research, I knew that this version was going to be tricky.

The poolish version has a very low hydration for a ciabatta, which usually has hydrations of at least 80% and upwards.  The last ciabatta I'd made used a 95% hydration which was crazy wet but also tasted and looked amazing.  PR's poolish ciabatta only has a hydration of 72% in comparison! It's more like a baguette dough than a ciabatta, in that sense. The biga version is a little better, but not by a whole lot (78-79%, I believe).  Why do we want high hydration? So we get those nice big holes inside that are the mark of a well handled dough.

Knowing all this, I was absurdly gentle when I handled the dough.  I made sure to flour the board (we don't have enough counter room) really really well, and then I lined my couche with parchment that I sprayed oil on and then floured so the flour would stick.  I didn't want to take any chances of stickage with this, and the parchment made transferring into the oven very easy: slide on peel, stretch a little, and slide right onto stone.

I did add a tiny bit of olive oil, as in the side notes, but not the full 1/4.  I think I only added about 1TB and when I cut it open to taste, it was awesome.  The crust had softened a bit so that it was still a little chewy, but not tough and leathery, and the crumb was again nice and chewy, but a little more tender from the touch of oil.  I really enjoyed the taste of this, but I'll continue pushing the hydration higher too.

BBA Challenge #6 Challah

Note to self: do NOT get distracted in the middle of braiding loaves! Hence the funny looking skinny spot in the middle of the 6-strand braid.  My bad.  I was juggling the Casatiello, Challah, and the Ciabattas at the same time and got lost in a blizzard of dough. That's how I'm justifying it.

I couldn't decide if I liked this one or not.  I gifted the 3-strand braid to a friend at the local dive shop, and she said she and her husband ate half of the loaf in one sitting! Everyone at the shop was shocked (and you have to wonder why!) that I made the loaf.  The dough did colour very nicely in the oven, with just the egg white wash.  I cheated and brushed the loaves with milk straight out of the oven to try to soften the crust.

It wasn't as light as my regular challah recipe, but it did have less oil in it.  What bothered me the most was the eggs.  If you know me, you know I hate wasting ingredients.  Recipes that call for adding just one yolk, and discarding the white, or using a cup of poolish and chucking the rest, it irritates me.  I invariably wind up saving whatever the thing is and trying to figure out a way to use it.  I hate waste.  So having to add 2 egg yolks, and knowing that 2 egg whites was going to be way too much for glazing, was irritating. (There's still a white floating around in the fridge)

Whenever I make braided loaves, I usually do at least one that is a 6-strand braid.  But I do this so infrequently that I always forget what the order of braiding is.  Strands are numbered 1-6 from Right to Left.  Pinch all the tops together, with #6 on the bottom, and tuck them underneath the bundle by folding under and pushing them up (let gravity help you here) so that they stretch up and pretending like you're trying to poke them through (but don't really).

The pattern is pretty easy: Cross #6 over #1 (so that it becomes #1).  **Cross #2 over #6 (so it becomes #6).  #1 over #3, then #5 over #1, then #6 over #4** Repeat everything between the ** until you run out of dough, and pinch the ends together and tuck underneath again, pushing them up into the braid to secure them.
6 - 1
2 - 6
1 - 3
5 - 1
6 - 4

Challah does make fabulous french toast, bread pudding, and is a nice all-around bread.  I do have to give this recipe points for browning up beautifully in the oven.  The loaves also had huge spring!

BBA Challenge #5 Casatiello

I LOVED this bread! I'd been waiting and waiting for this one to arrive in the lineup, and it lived up to the dream.  Light and fluffy, so buttery but packed with flavour.  I used pastrami and sharp cheddar (can we get a T for Tillamook!), and because I was only doing a half recipe, I baked it in a 6" cake round, and added a tall parchment collar.  Thank goodness I did, because this baby rose so high it was crazy!! The part of the crust that looks paler is because that's the part that was covered by the round :)

When I started the dough for this, it looked really dry to me, but I fought the urge to add water to it, knowing that the addition of the butter was going to loosen it way up.  The dough felt really wonderful, so velvety smooth and supple - I almost hated to add the mixin's into it! I'm betting this dough will work well with almost anything you can think of adding, sweet or savory.

It made awesome roast beef sandwiches and One-Eyed-Jack (Egg in a Basket or Nest, same thing).  I actually couldn't really stop myself from slicing and eating it while it was warm.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Flaky Fudgy Cakey Brownies

These brownies are amazing.  I love them.  They're incredible! That flaky top that brownies should have, kinda fudgy and a little cakey with just a little chew to them even though your teeth sink right through them... How can they miss? 

Honestly, if I want to eat fudge, I'll make fudge! When I want a brownie, it needs to be more than just fudge.  Recipes that call for no baking powder, just don't do it for me.  This recipe is a one-bowl wonder, with no need to break out a mixer.  So when you need a quick fix (and even when you don't!), this is definitely the one to go to.

We tried this last night with Tollhouse chips and a little less sugar (I don't like my desserts uber sweet), but the texture is a little different. I find that Tollhouse has a little extra added stuff to help it keep the shape of the chip which is good for cookies, but not for melting applications, whereas Ghirardelli chips are easier to melt and come in bittersweet. The recipe below is not the Tollhouse version, but my favourite original version where I used the Ghirardelli chips (any other kind of nice melting chocolate, bar, or whatever, will work - I just don't like Tollhouse for things like brownies, ganache, or frosting).

I've made tons of brownie recipes, recipes people have been handed to them from their families, and just read too many recipes to count.  This is what I've ended up with, and with "the secret" to getting the elusive flaky top!

Flaky Fudgy Cakey Brownies

1 c butter (2 sticks)
2 c bittersweet chocolate chips
1 c white sugar
1 c light brown sugar
4 eggs
1/2 c cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp espresso or coffee powder, or kahlua*
1 TB vanilla extract
2 c all-purpose flour

*optional, but darker, deeper flavour if added
Oven - 350F, greased and parchment lined 9x13 metal pan

In a large, microwaveable bowl, put the butter and chocolate chips.  Microwave on medium-high heat until melted, stirring frequently so the chocolate doesn't burn.  When completely melted, add the sugars to the bowl, and whisk in.  Microwave for another 30-45 seconds, stirring in between (melting more sugar into the mixture is what gets the flaky top).

Stir the cocoa powder into the mixture.  One at a time, slowly whisk in the eggs, and then stir in the vanilla and espresso powder.  Add the flour on top of the batter, followed by the salt and baking powder, and whisk everything in until smooth.  The batter will be really thick.

Pour into 9x13 greased, parchment lined baking pan and smooth the batter evenly around the edges of the pan.  Bake in 350F preheated oven for 30 mins, until a toothpick comes out with crumbs still clinging to it.  If the brownies are still very wet at 30 mins and you aren't sure, give them another 3 mins, but no more than that.  I almost never leave mine in for more than 30. Cool at least 30 mins before cutting and eating, otherwise the brownies will fall apart when you try to pick them up :)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Chocolate Almond Brioche Bread Pudding

After a weekend of open water diving, I'm sunburned to heck and back, and just wanting something light and sweet to celebrate the month of June! No more no-sweets May :) I had made the brioches a tete earlier in the week, and was surprised they hadn't molded yet, so I stuck them in the fridge over the weekend knowing I was going to make bread pudding.

I looked at a ton of recipes online, didn't see one that I liked, so I decided to make something up.  This happens fairly often (unfortunately) and hence is why I started just blogging it so I could refer back later.  This bread pudding will work with any kind of egg bread (challah, brioche, etc) and probably a white bread (cut off the crusts) but don't quote me on the white bread bit.  I haven't tried it yet, so I can't verify.

I don't particularly care for dense bread pudding that sits like a rock on the plate.  I also didn't want to add any butter to the custard (as apparently some people like) because the brioche was plenty rich enough!  I did want a really creamy custard, so I used whole eggs and cut the milk with some heavy cream.  Did I mention this was absolutely delicious?

Chocolate Almond Brioche Bread Pudding

12 oz brioche, cut in cubes
6 large eggs
3 c whole milk
1 c heavy cream
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c white sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 c semisweet chocolate (chips or chopped)
3/4 c sliced almonds

Oven - 350F

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs together with the sugars until there are no more lumps.  Slowly whisk in the milk and then the heavy cream.  Add the extracts and mix until well blended.  Add the bread cubes and let soak 20 mins, every so often stirring and pushing the cubes down so every piece is well-soaked in the custard.

At the end of 20 mins, add the chocolate and almonds and stir until everything is evenly mixed.  Don't worry - it's supposed to look lumpy.  Pour into a greased 9x13 or casserole of at least 3 quarts since the pudding will puff a little.  I used an oval casserole that was smaller than a 9x13 but was 3 inches deep.  Put into another baking pan that is slightly larger than your dish, either a roasting pan or deep baking sheet, and pour very hot or boiling water into the outer dish to make a water bath.  Put the whole thing into a preheated 350F oven and bake until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1hr for a 9x13, more for a deeper pudding.  The top will be golden brown and puffed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

BBA Challenge #4 Brioche (Brioches a Tete)

BBA Challenge #4 was Brioche, and we could choose any of the 3 classes (Rich, Middle, or Poor Man's) and since I had made the Poor Man's version before, I decided to go with the Rich Man's version this time.  I made just a half recipe, since I planned on making the Middle Man's version later in the week, but unfortunately ran out of time before scuba certification weekend took over!

I was using premium butter for this, since it's the main flavour ingredient in this brioche, and I absolutely loved it.  While I was mixing the dough, I really wasn't sure how it was going to come out with such a high percentage of butterfat in the formula.  I did the initial mix with the paddle, but switched to the dough hook when I saw the dough begin climbing the paddle and head towards the inner workings of the machine (gross).  It visually looked like a very high hydration dough, probably because PR calls for the butter to be at room temp.  The dough had really wonderful elasticity though, and once I put it on a baking sheet to retard overnight, it definitely firmed up.

Forming the Brioches a Tete was a little bit of a challenge, because even just rolling the divided pieces into balls melted some of the butter and caused the dough to turn super sticky again.  I guess you just need to work as quickly as possible!  I did the method where you form a ball and then pinch a small blob part-way off, and then smush it back down (yup, that's the technical term for it).  I also baked mine in muffin tins since I couldn't splurge on the traditional fluted molds, but they still turned out really well.

It was like eating a cloud of butter! So amazing.  I'll probably make the Middle Man's version soon, just for fun and for french toast since we didn't get to have that last week.  DF and I spent zero time in the kitchen over the weekend, since we were so worn out from the dive weekend.  I did make bread pudding yesterday... That post is coming up!

And for anyone wondering why I didn't post for BBA #3, it was because I really dislike PR's bagel recipe, and even though I did it by the book, it was still a fail.  It's not the first time this recipe has failed for me, but it will probably be the last time I make it! :)


Have I mentioned lately how much I love sourdough? Really sour sourdough, where it makes the back of your teeth tingle because you can taste the acid.  I'm also learning that I prefer my sourdough with a little bit of enrichment, so using milk instead of water, and adding a couple tablespoons of butter to this really does it for me.  It's quickly becoming my go-to recipe for sourdough and everyone who has tried it has loved it.  The crust isn't very thick, and it doesn't take all my jaw strength to bite through it, so I really dig it.
Sourdough (enriched)

3 1/2 c bread flour
1 1/4 c milk
2 TB butter
2 tsp salt
1 c starter (100%H)

Oven - 400F, about 2 loaves, 2 days

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix everything together until well hydrated.  You may need to add a little more milk to incorporate all the flour.  Mix with the dough hook on medium for about 6 mins until a smooth dough forms and cleans the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Turn into a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 6-8 hours.  Lightly degas and retard the dough in the fridge overnight.

Next morning, divide and shape while still cold, and proof until the dough is almost doubled, about 4-6 hours.  Bake in preheated 400F oven for about 40-50 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 195F.  Cool before slicing.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cuban Bread

I love this stuff.  Can't get enough of it :)  It is quickly becoming my go-to bread dough for making hoagie rolls, hamburger buns, hot dog buns, everything under the sun.  It's really versatile, so soft and fluffy but still sturdy enough for angus hot dogs... And it has tremendous keeping power due to the addition of starter discard.  I keep starter discard in a container in the fridge, since I can't bear to throw away good KAF and beasties!  The trick is to not overbake these guys, since they'll dry out a lot faster than you think they will.

Good cuban bread uses lard, which I bought recently for making tortillas.  Then, I experimented with half lard half butter for those tortillas, and found that DF and I really loved them, so I thought I'd do the same thing here.  Success!  While it may not be "traditional" to use butter (you could certainly leave it out and use all lard), I really liked the hint of butter flavour it added.

Cuban Bread

21oz all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c warm water
4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1TB sugar
5/8oz kosher salt (about 1TB)
3 oz sourdough starter (about 1/4 c), 100%H
1 oz lard (about 2 TB)
1 oz butter (2 TB)
milk, for brushing after the bake

Oven - 350F, 15 hamburger buns, about 6 large hoagie rolls

In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the water with the sugar.  Let sit for about 10mins until foamy.  Dissolve the starter in the water, and then add the flour and salt.  Mix with a spatula until everything is well hydrated, and then insert the dough hook and begin mixing on low speed.  Once everything seems to be coming together into a cohesive dough, about 1-2 minutes, begin adding the butter and lard slowly, incorporating each addition completely before adding the next.  When all the fat is mixed in, turn the speed up to medium for about 4-6 minutes, kneading until the dough is smooth.  You may add a little extra flour if the dough is not cleaning the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise until doubled, about 1-1 1/2 hrs.  Divide into 6-8 pieces for hoagies, and about 15 pieces for burger buns (about 2.5-3oz each).  Shape into batards or rolls and place on parchment lined baking sheets.  If making burger buns, flatten each ball into a flat disc about the diameter of the desired bun.  Lightly mist with oil, then cover with plastic wrap and proof another 20-30 minutes, or until almost doubled.

Bake in preheated 350F oven for about 25 mins, rotating halfway through, until the middle of the breads reaches 200F.  Immediately brush with milk to soften the crust, then cool completely before eating.

Baguette and a Boule

The baguette was bred from roughly the same baguette dough as before, but without the addition of the starter and with a little extra rye flour.  I'll put the formula below, since it's pretty easy to remember.  I think we ate the entire first baguette before they finished cooling completely!  The crust was very thin and turned out kind of chewy but still a little crisp.  It was really interesting.

The boule beside it is my standard enriched sourdough recipe which uses milk and a little bit of butter.  Not sure if I've posted that yet or not, but I'll get around to it soon if I haven't :)  I was trying a different kind of slashing on it, trying to get it to rise taller instead of wider, but I think the dough was cold and it didn't open up as much as I'd have liked.  Oh well, it's always a work in progress :)


450g all-purpose flour
50g rye flour
350g water
4g instant yeast or 5g active dry
10g kosher salt

Method is the same as my other post on baguettes.  I did try giving it a 45min autolyse without the salt, but I find that adding the salt later- it never fully dissolves into the dough.  I think it's fine to go ahead and add it at the beginning.

All White Baguettes

I'm so proud of these baguettes.  I've discovered lately that while I previously thought that baking bread on a baking stone was just not worth the extra effort, it does tremendously improve the oven spring!  This is definitely the way to go for getting the nice round (tall!) baguette shape.  I also proofed these in my couche, instead of straight on the parchment paper as I had previously been doing.

The recipe came to me from a post on TFL where another poster had challenged us to try this recipe.  Making baguettes with good flavour in 1 day with no preferment is tough! These were made with plain flour, water, salt, and a touch of yeast, and no mixer.  I only used folds in the bowl for this one and it couldn't have been easier.  I've also found (lately) that even though so many people say to not flour the bench when final shaping, it's easier for me if I do because it ensures that the loaf will release from the couche (even after it's been well floured).  Regardless, I was really happy with these baguettes, especially as they were singing so loudly to me!

5 Hour Baguettes, 70%H dough

500g all-purpose flour
335g warm water
5g active dry yeast, or 4g instant
100g sourdough starter, 100%H
10g salt

Oven - 450F, 3 baguettes

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and let proof for 10 mins until foamy and domed.  You can skip this if using instant yeast.  Dissolve the starter in the water, and then add the flour and salt.  Stir well until all the flour is hydrated.  Let rest, covered, for 20 mins.

Stretch and fold in the bowl for 30 strokes.  Repeat 2 more times at 20 min intervals.  Transfer to a lightly oiled, covered bowl and let rise for 45 minutes (1.5 times original size) before doing another stretch and fold.  Ferment for another 45 minutes before dividing into 3 equal pieces and preshaping into rounds.  Cover and let rest for 10 mins, then final shape into baguettes about 15" long.  Proof on canvas couche until 1.5 times original size.

Bake on preheated baking stone at 450F with steam for about 23 minutes.  Turn off oven, but leave loaves on baking stone for another 5 minutes.  Cool before eating.

BBA Challenges 1 and 2

I decided last month to join the BBA Challenge that has been going around TFL, mostly to make myself follow a recipe exactly since I'm guilty of tinkering where I think it could be better :) This has been especially hard for me, but it's interesting to hear about other people's thoughts on our forum.  That being said, I won't post the recipe because I don't think Reinhart would really appreciate that, and since I know I followed the recipe, I can just look it up in my own book.

May was a super busy month, hence the lack of posts.  It was also a month where DF and I decided to go on a no extra sugar and fat kind of restrictive diet- hence all the bread baking.  Between the audition trip from hell and getting scuba certified, there wasn't hardly time at all for blogging!

BBA Challenge #1 was the Anadama bread.  I'd never had this before and was curious to try it.  The molasses definitely gave it a nice dark sweetness, and the cornmeal I used was fine ground white cornmeal since it's what we had on hand.  It was kind of nice and nutty though, but not sure if I'd make this again since it's not so punch wow amazing that I have to have it all the time.  It was definitely soft and fluffy, which we both appreciated.  Having to remember to start the soaker the night before means it's harder to make in a pinch.
BBA Challenge #2 was the Greek Celebration Bread: Artos.  I chose to make mine without the dried fruits, but did add all the extracts (lemon and almond) and spices (everything under the sun) that the recipe called for.  It made an exceptionally fragrant bread that grew to ginormous proportions during the final proof!  I thought making just a boule was going to be a little too boring for me, so I shaped the small boule and overlaid the cross as directed for one of the alternate versions.  I also used some of my overzealous SD starter in place of the poolish (also an option - see, I can follow a recipe!).  The end result was this wonderful bread which was also very light and fluffy in texture.  It would've made fantastic french toast if I could have figured out the best way to slice the dratted thing.  While the shape is pleasing, it's definitely harder to figure a way to slice it into manageable pieces.