Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Playing Catch Up

The Holiday Season sort of got in the way of regular posts, so this is the catch up for the past six weeks or so. I've worked on two more of Peter Reinhart's test breads, a Struan and a Challah recipe.


Struan is a soft, enriched multigrain bread. It has corn meal, oats, wheat bran and cooked grain. My cooked grain of choice is bulgar wheat, but you could use brown rice, quinoa, millet or couscous. This is a picture of the dough before it went in the refrigerator for the overnight slow rise.

This made two pan loaves. Not as much oven spring as I expected, but a nice, dense wholegrain loaf nevertheless. This is the finished product.


What an interesting recipe. Makes a very soft enriched dough with a great golden color from 8 egg yolks! Finished up with four challah and one soft pretzel. Photos will have to wait as the loaves are currently in the freezer. They will be taken to Temple B'nai Shalom for use in the Shabbat services.

Other Breads

Along with the testing, I also made several batches of bagels, a pannetone, and several harvest grain ciabatta. The ciabatta recipe came from the King Arthur Flour website. All in all we had no shortage of homebaked breads for the holidays.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Chocolate Cinnamon Babke

This one didn't even last 24 hours out of the oven! This is the third of Peter Rienhart's test recipes and what a great one it was. Starts with a rich dough with four egg yolks, butter and sugar. This ferments for about 2 1/2 hours then gets rolled out into a square, about 1/8 inch thick. A mixture of chocolate, cinnamon and butter is spread over and the whole lot is then rolled into a log. I chose to join the ends of the log so it looked like a large donut with about a 2 inch hole in the middle. This can be a same day bake but I elected to hold it overnight in the refrigerator. After a final rise the loaf was baked at 300F for about 70 minutes. I tested the internal temperature and took it out when it reached 190F.

This is what it looked like out of the oven:

And then the final test - cut and eat!This would make a great alternate to a coffee cake or cinnamon buns. The combination of chocolate and cinnamon is a wonderful flavor.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008


Peter Reinhart's recipe this week was for bagels. Now I'll be the first to admit that I have only baked bagels once before so a bagel baker I'm not! But anyway, in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say. Recipe was very straight forward, and like most of Peter's recipes calls for an overnight in the refrigerator for the dough. Shaping was the big bugbear and as you will see in the photos, not a good job of joining the ends. Bagels were shaped before putting in the refrigerator.

Next day, pulled the bagels out, and after they got back to room temperature, boiled them in simmering water for 1 1/2 minutes. Then dropped the still wet bagels into poppy seeds for a garnish. 16 minutes in a 450 degree oven and they were done.

Took some over to some friends with cream cheese and lox. Wow! Were they great - good tight crumb and real chewy texture. Their verdict? "Three thumbs up". These will be a try again recipe.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Testing, Testing, Testing

Managed to get a spot on Peter Reinhart's testing panel for his new book in production. Wow! Do I feel honored. This past week was the first recipe, a pre-fermented French Dough. Basically it is flour, salt and water with a little yeast, mixed together then allowed to proof slowly in the refrigerator. Mine stayed in for 30 hours. The result can be formed directly into loaves, or used as a dough enhancer for a 'same day' French bread. I obviously can't and won't share the recipe, but I will share some photos of the finished product. The baguettes were particularly good and I will certainly use this recipe for baguettes in the future.

The baguettes and boule baked directly from the preferment.

Two batards baked using the preferment as a dough enhancer.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Mash-based Seed Culture

This week I spent time making Peter Rheinhart's mash-based seed culture.
Mash is a partially cooked whole wheat flour and water mixture that partly gelatinizes the starches. This is then successively mixed with more whole wheat flour and water over 5 - 6 days, in a similar fashion to creating a sourdough starter. The final is a mother starter at 75% hydration that can be used directly in making a whole wheat loaf. This is a wonderfully vigorous starter as seen in this photo.

Today was
bake day. Last night I finished refreshing the mother starter and made a whole wheat soaker. This is a mix of whole wheat flour and milk at 87% hydration. It is covered and left at room temperature over night. The starter and soaker are combined with a little more flour, brown sugar, salt, oil and yeast. Peter Rheinhart describes this as his 'epoxy' method because you are mixing essentially equal quantities of two pre-doughs, just like mixing an epoxy adhesive. The photo below right is the soaker just before combining.

The final combination felt good after kneading - no added flour or water other than a small amount of flour used for dusting. Rising went well and the dough was split into two 2lb loaves. A second rising in the pans, then into the oven they went.

Here's the finished product, just out of the oven. Not as much oven spring as I get with the multi-grain bread, but to be expected as this is a 100% whole wheat where the other has some regular bread flour. Tried one piece, tight crumb but good texture. So chalk up another success.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Multigrain Loaf

Today I finished a multigrain loaf from Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads" . I've been playing around with his recipes for some months now, and generally find them to be somewhat dry. So I decided to try one of his transitional recipes that have some regular bread flour to lighten the texture. This one has whole wheat flour, cornmeal, rolled oats, wheat bran, flax seed and a cooked grain. For the cooked grain I used Bulgar wheat. The grains are all mixed together with buttermilk and left overnight as a soaker. The bread flour goes into a biga that is refrigerated overnight.

When the soaker and biga were mixed together with the remaining ingredients this morning I had a dough that was wetter than usual, so I added a little bread flour to make a soft and slightly sticky dough. Then the dough went through a five minute autolyse and final kneading. First rise was in a ball, then shaping to a batard for the final rise.

Here is a photo of the finished product. Moist and chewy, it has a nice crust and crumb. This will definitely be on my regular recipe list.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Too Much Starter?

This weekend found me with an excess of starter. So it was muffin time. Here is my recipe for my all time favorite muffins, moist, flavorful and with a useful amount of fiber.

Ultimate Cranberry Orange Muffins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a muffin tin or line with paper cups for 12 muffins. I use large silicone muffin cups that make a 6 double size muffins.

Combine in a large bowl:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup oatmeal

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tspn baking soda

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup candied orange peel cut into 1/4 in pieces

Combine in another bowl until well blended

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1 cup sourdough starter

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients gradually, stirring only enough to moisten and bring to an even consistency. Spoon evenly into the muffin tins. Batter should come almost to the top.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes, until done. Remove immediately from the tin and cool on a rack.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Follow Up and Some Equipment Notes

Follow up:

Last Thursday and Friday's bakes went well for the most part. The sourdough ciabatta turned out well and the sourdough cinnamon buns were fantastic. Moist and chewy, not like the commercial buns that often turn out to be dry. The two loaves the next day were also good. I think I have the basic sourdough recipe down now. The sourdough waffles for breakfast were a really nice change and we have two more lots in the freezer now for sometime later. The only disappointment was the challah. Came out of the oven looking very nice, with a crisp brown crust and a nice yellow crumb, thanks to the use of some saffron. But turned out to be dryer that I like, possibly over baked, so will reduce the time in the oven when I try again.


I Thought that a few notes on what equipment I use might be an idea.
My bread machine is an Oster Model 5844. This will make up to a two pound loaf and I use it primarily for dough making for rolls and pizza dough.

My sourdough breads are first mixed in a Kenwood Chef stand mixer with 5 quart bowl and a dough hook. My favorite for proofing is the plastic Kenwood bowl or I use a recycled 1 gallon ice cream pail. A four pound capacity kitchen scale and various measuring cups are used for measuring ingredients.

Proofing the final loaf is done either in a pan, or especially for the sourdoughs I have two brotforms and four bannetons. For the non-bakers, brotforms are a spiral wound willow basket that leaves a really attractive marking on the bread and can be seen in this first photo.

Bannetons are similar in that they are round wicker baskets with a linen lining. Both make the loaf shape commonly referred to as boules.

Along with the usual loaf pans, I have a two section baguette pan as well. I use a large rectangular baking stone in the oven and a metal bakers peel to transfer the loaves in and out of the oven. I use a regular home oven in which I often put a pan of water to provide steam inside the oven. For loaves that need to be scored or cut before baking I use a single sided razor blade.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Back at it

I've been baking sourdough now for about two months. Previous attempts over the past two years were mediocre to say the least. It wasn't until I found a copy of Nancy Silverton's Bread from the LaBrea Bakery in a local thrift store that I managed to create a really good sourdough starter. So far I have mastered the basic sourdough and ciabatta recipes. Entered one sourdough loaf in a recent baking contest and the judges felt it was good enough for a second place. Lost out to a Swedish sweetbread.

Went away for the last weekend, so the sourdough starter was consigned to the fridge. Took it out on Tuesday and refreshed. The recipe for refreshing makes nearly 1 gallon of starter! So today was a bake day!

Made three ciabatta loaves and started two sourdough and two challah loaves. They are both two day processes, so will finish tomorrow. Also have a batch of sourdough cinnamon rolls on the go, and enough starter put aside for sourdough waffles for breakfast tomorrow.