Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Flaxseed Bread (Mellow Bakers: April)

I baked my first bread from the sourdough rye section of Hamelman's book Bread yesterday.  I'm now keeping a second, rye starter to go along with Lucky, and its name is Rudy.  I know, the name thing is kinda silly, but right now it seems fun to name them.  My husband loves to know what I'm doing at all times, and so now when he asks what I'm up to, I can reply, 'Oh, just feeding Rudy' and he'll be satisfied with my comprehensive answer and not ask any more questions.

On to the bread.  I made the flaxseed bread from page 211 in the book.  I cut the recipe in half, like alot of others did and just made one loaf.  The violet was looking so pretty yesterday, so I included it in the picture for added color.
For the sourdough that I mixed together the night before baking, I used a 100% hydration rye starter that I'd been feeding whole rye flour.  Since its been so warm in the house, in the upper 70's, he was quite perky all week and after each feeding it puffed up nicely and probably doubled.  It was so cool to look thru the bottom of the bowl and see the intricate network of air pockets.

The flax soaker was also prepared the night before, however I did contemplate just soaking the flax for a couple hours in the morning to avert any gooeyness issues.  Here's the soaker after I added it to the other ingredients.  It kind of oozed as one big glob into my mixer bowl.   Could that creepy blob be used to garnish some kind of Halloween dish?

I had some trouble with my dough coming together in the mixer.  It was so sticky that even though I kept adding flour, the dough hook just wouldn't grab the dough and bring it together.  I was worried about adding too much flour and/or mixing it too long in the mixer so I stopped the mixer after ~ 3 1/2 min. and finished kneading by hand.  The first bulk fermentaion was 40-45 minutes and then came the shaping.  Right after shaping, I rolled my boule onto a damp cloth and then rolled it onto a plate of sesame seeds.  I probably didn't use more than a Tbsp of seeds as I knew that most of the seeds would end up on the floor or the counter when I sliced the bread anyway. 

After the final fermentation of exactly 60 minutes, I uncovered my boule, which I'd covered with plastic wrap and..... bummer!!  The surface of the dough had started to kind of tear, or pull apart on top.  I should have taken a picture, but I just didn't think to do it at the time.  I scored the loaf, still puzzled by the ripping phenomenon, and slid the parchment and boule onto my baking stone. 

The baking went great, and the top looked pretty good, except just a little rough where the surface of the dough had torn a little during final fermentation.  I searched in the rest of the Bread book trying to figure out what caused the tearing and spent the rest of the afternoon online looking at The Fresh Loaf site and the Mellow bakers site, trying to find a cause.  I dunno???  I thought one of the other Mellow Bakers, with sourdough expertise, might know what happened.  Was I too rough in shaping?  Did I add too much extra flour?

I didn't cut into the loaf until today as instructed.  It had nice flavor, although I couldn't taste the golden flax seeds the way I can in a loaf I make where the seeds are all ground before going into the dough.  It definitely had a nice tang to it and the crumb was not too chewy, not too soft, but just right for my turkey sandwich. 
Take a look at Joanna's post of her flaxseed sourdough rye at Zeb Bakes.  She has some wonderful pictures of the whole mixing/shaping/baking process that bring everything to life.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hamelman's Hot Cross Buns

It was about a month and a half ago when I saw some Hot Cross Buns w/ Dried Strawberry and Candied Orange for sale at Panera Bread and I was intrigued.  I had never heard of hot cross buns before.  I began looking up recipes online and then discovered via The Fresh Loaf that Hamelman had a recipe for these in his book Bread.  Well, that settled it for me, I was going to try Hamelman's version of these.  I saw just this morning that the Mellow Bakers group baked these together back in March 2010, as their very first assignment together, so I'm just a tad late, but I'm glad I made these so that now I know what hot cross buns taste like!  Here are my hot cross buns I made yesterday:
Unfortunately, I hadn't read any of the Mellow Bakers' posts on these buns before I began my project, so I experienced most of the same problems.  The recipe for the paste in the book makes way to much for piping crosses on 12 buns.  My crosses were probably a little thinner in diameter than Hamelman intended, but still I had more than half of the paste left over.  I too, had trouble piping these crosses.  The paste was thick and my poor hands were shot after piping all 12 crosses.  The paste also would not come off the pastry tip at the end of each cross strip I piped; it clung to the tip and I had to take my finger and pull it off the tip.  Also, the recipe for the simple syrup makes way to much syrup for 12 buns.  I did decide to cut the recipe back on this, and made only a quarter of the syrup recipe.

The other fun part of this project came from the experience of making my very own candied orange peel.  I followed this recipe for the candied orange peel.  I had never tasted candied orange peel before and thought it was quite good when I tasted it.  My husband said it tasted like the candy orange slices you can buy.  I have some slices left over, so their going to be dipped in dark chocolate this week for a little treat!
Here are my orange slices drying after their long simmer.

I'm so glad I tried these buns as they were quite fun to make despite the little difficulties and they tasted way better than plain old dinner rolls.  They were very fruity, incredibly moist and just a little spicy from all the fresh ground allspice that went into the dough. 

The only change I would make is that next time I will pipe on my crosses after the buns bake and just use powdered sugar, milk, a tad of vanilla and a drop or two of Fiori Di Sicilia.  I think the buns have much better visual appeal with a white cross on top. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hazelnut and Fig Bread w/ Fennel & Rosemary (Mellow Bakers: April)

Finally, I did a Mellow Bakers April bread yesterday.  I had wanted to try the Pain au Levain sourdough first, but I don't think my stiff starter was vigorous enough to raise a 1 1/2 lb piece of dough, but I might try it later.

The hazelnut and fig bread was the April bread that I was really looking forward to.  My first task was to decide what kind of figs to use.  Well, that shouldn't be hard, given that there are only over 700 varieties of figs.   I finally settled on a package of Sun-Maid California Mission figs, since they were on sale, and I thought they might be fresher/moister having been sealed in a bag.  The figs at Whole Foods in the bulk bins looked very dry and almost crusty.  Early yesterday I gathered my four main ingredients which Hamelman says make this bread 'loaded'.  They were fennel seed, rosemary, roasted hazelnuts, and my figs:
Its funny how just the other day I was reading on the mellow bakers site where someone said that the HOME column is prone to error.  Well, I think I found one as I was adding all my ingredients (except the hazelnuts and figs) to my stand mixer bowl.  The 2 1/4 cups of water given in the HOME column is incorrect.   I knew right away, after adding 1 1/8 cups of water for half the recipe, to the other ingredients, that there was not enough water.  I adjusted by adding more though and everything was fine, but I will probably double check the HOME column from now on before starting a recipe.

My dough did not exactly seem moderately loose as I did my mixing on first speed.  In fact all the way through the kneading, my dough seemed very, very stiff, but I just kept going.  I added my figs and hazelnuts after the ~ 3 minutes of kneading.  The figs I quartered and the hazelnuts I chopped a bit before adding them in.  I turned the mixer to low speed, waiting for these additions to get incorporated, but it just wasn't happening  in the mixer.  I stopped the mixer, and lifted the dough, along with all the nuts and figs at the bottom of the bowl, out onto my silicone mat.  After much difficulty in kneading the dough, I was finally satisfied that everything was OK, even though the occasional nut kept popping out and figs insisted on poking themselves through the surface of the dough.  The dough went through its bulk and final fermentations and it was ready to be scored and tossed in the oven.  I finally found some razor blades, thanks to Abby at Stir it! Scrape it! Mix it! Bake it!., who told me where to look.  I was anxious to try scoring this loaf with the razor blade, as I had done quite a poor job of it on a loaf of Vermont Sourdough a couple weeks back.

Everything worked beautifully!!  No problems scoring and I steamed the oven diligently, squirting the walls of the oven at least 4 or 5 times during the first 10-15 minutes of baking.  I raised the oven rack up one notch that my stone sits on, since previous breads were baking too quickly and browning a bit much on the bottom.  This time my loaf finished in 36 minutes and was beautiful and smelled heavenly.  The scoring opened up nicely (I think), and I didn't have any unusual blowouts from the bottom side.  The bottom was perfectly flat and not too browned.  Oh, so nice:

Hubby and I haven't discussed whether we liked this loaf better than the whole wheat w/ hazelnuts and currants made in February, but I'm guessing it is a close tie.  This loaf is definitely loaded with lotsa flavor!!! 

Thank you for visiting my blog this time around and stop by Living in the Kitchen with Puppies to see the lovely Fig and Walnut buns that Natashya made from the same recipe!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Crackers n' Sprouts

Last night was healthy food night to my husband's dismay.  As he took his second and third spoonfuls of soup, he asked "so, what's in this?"  I know he was kinda hoping that any second now, one of the ingredients I mentioned would be a 'meat' component that he just hadn't encountered in a spoonful yet.  Well, sorry to say he was disappointed last night.  We had Alton Brown's Garden Vegetable Soup for supper with Peter Reinhart's Thin Wheat Crackers from his book, Whole Grain Breads.  For the soup I used red potatoes and frozen corn and green beans.  I thought the soup might be bland with no spices.  However, it was very tasty, but maybe the fact that I used Seitenbacher's Vegetarian Vegetable Broth & Seasoning to make my broth helped the flavor.  I love using this broth mix to make my vege broth when I'm in need of some.  The broth is very tasty.  Anyway, the reason I wanted to have soup for dinner last night, was so that I had a soup on which to try my sprouted adzuki beans. 

Back in February or early March, Michelle at BigBlackDogs held a giveaway and I won the HomeTown Seeds sprouting kit.  I was so thrilled and amazed that I had won anything.  I never win anything, EVER.   I'm having so much fun sprouting my different seeds.  I have hard red wheat, buckwheat, mung bean, soybean, daikon radish just to name a few of the seeds that came in the kit.  It's so simple to sprout these seeds.  I just soak the seeds overnight in a wide mouth canning jar (you can use any jar though), drain the seeds next morning, and then rinse and drain the seeds 3-4 times daily for 2 or 3  more days.  I keep the jar on its side in an open closet or in the kitchen somewhere that's not in direct sunlight.  When my adzuki beans were ready they looked like this:
I've been trying to find any info I can on the web about seed sprouting and I haven't found alot, but I did find some useful info at sproutpeople.  According to what I've read various places, the sprouts are ready when the little tail sprouting from the seed is ~ 1/4 inch long.  I don't know, maybe that varies by type of seed you're sprouting.  I really liked my sprouts in the soup!  Hubby said they were a little strong in flavor and overpowered the other flavors in the soup.  Just ignore him.  He was just grumpy because there was no meat in his soup.  Here's our soup:

With the 'wheat thin' crackers
I made from Peter Reinhart's book, Whole Grain Breads, this was a perfect 'meatless' meal for me!  I was very pleased with my use of these sprouted adzuki beans.  I plan on using the rest of the sprouted beans in an Ina Garten potato salad recipe.  I'm going to omit the celery and sub the sprouts in place of it. 

Thank you for visiting my blog!  If you happen to have seed sprouting experience, let me know your favorite ways to use sprouts? 

Note:  When using agave nectar in making Reinhart's 'Wheat thins',  the dough came together much easier and the cracker was sweeter and softer.  Another batch, this time using brown sugar, produced a much crisper, less sweet cracker, but the dough was more difficult to bring together.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gingersnaps (AB version)

This Saturday was a productive day, with over 4 dozen gingersnaps coming out of my kitchen.  I've had Alton Brown's gingersnap recipe sitting on the landing above the living room for ages.  I'm not a gingersnap fanatic or anything, in fact I can't even remember having one before, due to the fact that if I don't make it, I don't eat it, if it's a cookie.  I cannot bring myself to buy store boxed cookies.  I have seen gingersnaps called for in numerous recipes before and I've heard many people exclaim that gingersnaps are one of their favorite cookie, although they've only had store-bought gingersnaps.

I've always had success with Alton Brown recipes and when I saw his recipe for gingersnaps, I was intrigued.  His recipe calls for three forms of ginger: ground, candied and fresh grated.  I knew these cookies would have flavor, but would I like them?  Another reason I was hesitant to make these at first was because they call for molasses and hubby does not like molasses.  On Saturday though, I asked him if he would like me to substitute honey for the molasses, but he said 'no, its ok, go ahead and make them with molasses'.  (He likes the gingerbread men I make at Christmas and they do have molasses in them)

I had also considered making Nick Malgieri's Three-Way Gingersnaps from The Modern Baker, but Alton's recipe was way more interesting spice wise.  AB's recipe calls for ground cardamom and ground cloves as well as the ground ginger.  For the ground cardamom I used:

This past year I had skipped making several recipes because they called for ground cardamom and I didn't have any.  When I checked the price at the grocery stores, I thought no way am I spending that for a spice I will use only occasionally.  Well, it just so happens that Penzeys carries cardamom, the white kind, in the whole pods.  They also carry green cardamom, which I believe is usually used in savory dishes, whereas white cardamom is usually used in desserts & breads.  I've been told that the cardamom will last quite some time in the pods, without being ground yet.  This is one pungent spice!!  I snip off the tip of a pod and dump the teeny black seeds into my coffee grinder (used only for spices).  I'm sure the fact that I ground my own cardamom gave these cookies even better flavor.

The verdict, after Saturday's baking, was that these little gems are exceptionally good.  I don't know this for certain, but I would bet that the cookies I made do not even compare with ones you buy in a box, not even the ones I've heard they sell at Trader Joe's.  However, I will be trying Nick Malgieri's recipe in the near future just to see how they compare.  If you would like to give AB's recipe a try it can be found here.

 Thank you for visiting my blog and feel free to leave a comment and/or let me know if you have a favorite gingersnap recipe!