Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Oatmeal Bread with Cinnamon & Raisins (Mellow Bakers: August)

I was in the mood for a sweeter bread today, and since August is nearly over, I thought I'd get in one last Mellow Baker's bread from August's list.  I still hope to try the Black Bread, but that'll have to wait for now.

It feels a little awkward posting today, as I've not done one in a number of weeks.  I'm very sad to say that we lost our 12 yr old golden retriever, Tucker, a few weeks back and that is the reason for my temporary absence.  Its been really hard for Dean and I thru this, as Tucker was such an integral part of our lives and just like our child.  I will miss my sous chef incredibly, but  in my mind I will always have him lying on the floor beside me, encouraging me thru my baking adventures.

My husband encouraged me to not give up the blog just yet, so here I am posting about this wonderful bread I made today.  I just consumed one of the cinnamon buns, and it was so worth the effort to make these this afternoon.  I cut Hamelman's recipe from page 236 in his book, Bread, in half and made a medium loaf  (8 1/2 X 4-in pan) with 1.5 lbs of dough, and 4 cinnamon buns with the 14 ounces left.  I decided I wanted an added bonus from making this recipe, in that I got an afternoon snack.

I wanted a cinnamon-sugar swirl in my bread, but I didn't want my raisins falling out of the swirl, so I decided to incorporate the raisins into my dough.  Also, for the dough I made my usual change in that I used King Arthur's Baker's Special Dry Milk plus water in place of the milk called for.  I incorporated that change into the recipe for the Oatmeal Bread, which is now in our regular rotation, and it seems to work well.  I decreased the yeast percentage used to 2% as well, since I wasn't going to incorporate the cinnamon into the dough.

I was so pleased that I was able to get 4 buns out of my leftover piece of dough.  Perfect!!  Three for me, one for hubby. Oops, sorry! That's 2 for me, 2 for hubby.  I think I will save my other one for breakfast and heat it up in the oven.  I placed the four buns in my smaller 8-in round pan, instead of on a large sheet pan, so that I could fit both the loaf pan and the buns onto the same oven shelf.  I baked them at 350° with the buns finishing in ~25 min. and the loaf in about 34 minutes.  The heated cinnamon-sugar smell filled the whole house as they baked.   Aaaaah, it was wonderful.

After letting the buns cool for 10 minutes in the pan, I made up a smidgen of glaze to drizzle on them.  I used maybe a third cup of confectioners sugar,  a little warmed milk, and 1 drop of my favorite secret flavoring,

I didn't even use half of the glaze though, because hubby does not like his buns highly sweet and all gooey and neither, really, do I.  The bread is almost ready to be sliced so I can see how the 'swirling' looks...  Here it is,

Mmmmmm, nice tasty, toasting bread for breakfasts the rest of this week.

That's all for this time and hopefully I'll see you in September :)  Don't forget to visit mellow bakers to see all the wonderful breads baked in August.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Focaccia w/ Herb Oil (Mellow Bakers: August)

After seeing Abby's wonderful focaccia and reading her encouragement to make this, I decided to whip it up this weekend.  I decided to make up the full batch of biga from the ciabatta recipe on page 105, but I had planned on only using 2/3 of it for the final dough.  I figured 2/3 of the ciabatta recipe would be just enough to make both the regular focaccia and the focaccia con formaggio.  However, as quite often happens when I do things like this,  I goofed and put the whole biga in with the other ingredients when I was mixing up the final dough, instead of only 2/3 of it.  I didn't realize my error until all the fermentation was finished and I was ready to put my dough into the pan.  I was mad at myself for committing this blunder, and hoped that it didn't have an adverse impact on the finished product.  As Abby said, this dough was very wet and quite sticky.  I even tried oiling my hands really well, but it didn't seem to help much. 

I don't have a 10-inch cake pan so my focaccia ended up going into my 9 inch cake pan, and I just used an ounce less of dough.  Since I had my PR book, 'Bread Bakers Apprentice', open to his focaccia recipe, I decided to just go ahead and make the herb oil he describes, for mine as well.  I didn't have any other ideas and it won't be too long before cooler weather comes and the only way to get fresh herbs will be from the grocery stores.  I used a generous amount of fresh basil and rosemary.  I didn't have fresh oregano so I threw in dried.  I think I had about 2 heaping tablespoons full of herbs that I put into my 1/4 cup of warmed (to ~ 100°F) olive oil.  To the warmed oil I also added kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and a minced garlic clove.  Mmmm did it smell good. 

I put 2 Tbsp of plain olive oil into my cake pan, which I had lined w/ a piece of parchment.  I made sure the bottom and sides were nicely coated.  After reading Jeffrey's instructions for shaping and panning the focaccia, I thought 'Heck with that!!  I'm not shaping and then trying to move that very wet dough to the pan'.  So I did what Mr. Reinhart recommends, and that was to put the dough into my cake pan, smoosh it out a little bit, pour on a generous amount of my herb oil and then using my fingertips, to dimple the dough until it stretched out and just touched the sides of the pan.  I covered it for 1 1/2 hours for its final fermentation and then into the oven it went. 

As we were sitting down to dinner, hubby had already tried the focaccia before I had touched mine, and he says 'you better let me have yours, it tastes aweful'.  He said this with such a straight face, and is usually very honest w/ me, that I almost believed him (especially since I was worried that my biga blunder might have hurt the dough in some way).  Then I detected a slight upturn at the corners of his mouth and realized he was fibbing to me. 

This focaccia was absolutely awesome!!  This is our favorite focaccia by far, compared to the others I have made so far.  It is incredibly light, even compared to the others I've made.  Here are our first two slices, which we devoured, and then decided to finish off the whole thing, since it always tastes best straight from the oven the first day.
So, I have to ask, for those who have made the BBA focaccia and this one, is the BBA focaccia even better than this one?

Friday, August 5, 2011

Falafel and a Bath Break

I did it!  I made my first falafel for dinner last night.  I had fully intended to purchase Ziyad brand falafel mix in a box, but when I saw this post at Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice, a blog I've been following recently, I couldn't resist trying these.  I'm sure Ziyad brand falafel mix in a box is good, but I figure anything made from scratch with fresh herbs and newly acquired spices has got to be better, right? 

Another aspect which attracted me to this post and recipe was the fact that there was a recipe for skillet flatbread accompanying it.  I think these skillet flatbreads are so cool!!  I had wanted to make my own pita breads for the first time, but these skillet flatbreads are perfect for falafel in the summer and are sooo easy.  No heating up the oven, just two minutes per flatbread in the cast iron skillet! The only change I made to the skillet flatbread recipe was that I replaced about 1/3 of the all-purpose flour with white-whole wheat.   These skillet flatbreads can be used for sandwiches too, as Reeni suggests in her post here for salmon burgers.  These are wonderful as well!  I made them last week to test out the flatbread recipe, but I substituted fresh tarragon for the dill, and then used this tartar sauce recipe

So last night, after having my test run with the flatbread the week before, I was ready for the falafel.  I had a little problem with my falafel mixture staying together in 1 Tbsp balls after the mix had chilled in the freezer for 20 minutes, but that was the only issue.  The only thing I could see to do at the moment was to add flour to the mix, so I added maybe a tablespoon or so, until the mix started sticking together better.  This was only my second time cooking with a large quantity of hot oil, the first being my adventure last fall with doughnuts.  This time I was only working with oil that was 2" deep, which was nice and not so scary. 

We had three falafel balls per flatbread, nestled in with some chopped Romaine lettuce, and some tzatziki sauce, which also included a bit of chopped up fresh mint from one of my pots.  (Most of the herbs in my pots have died, but the mint is still trying to hang on.)  The outside of the falafel balls were crunchy and the inside moist and incredibly yummy from cumin, coriander, cayenne and lots of garlic.

I just had to share my first falafel attempt and hopefully there will be many more.  This stuff tastes better than fast food did from McDonalds or Wendy's when I was in my tweens :) 

Also, I thought I'd share what I did between baking tasks today.  It was the dreaded B-A-T-H day for Tucker.  It is so nice to be able to do this outside on the back patio in the warmer months.  Although Tucker is made for the water (undercoat and webbing between his toes), he is not the water dog!  I tried when he was a puppy to get him to jump in and play in kiddie pools, but he would have none of it.  I think, however, that if he could talk to me, he would tell me he rather likes the cool, cool water out of the hose, drenching his heavy fur on a 92°F day. 

Shaking off the excess H20
Finishing touches! 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Oatmeal Bread (Mellow Bakers: August)

We were finishing our last loaf of bread on Friday, and I saw that the Oatmeal Bread was on the list for Mellow Baker's for August, so I thought I'd give it one more try.  I made this bread back in February maybe? and I was not too crazy about it. 

When I made this bread the last time and saw that overnight retarding would work well for this straight dough bread, I decided to go that route.  I really love being able to mix up the dough for a bread, and then shoving it in the fridge until the next day when I just have to shape, proof and bake.  On page 232 where it explains that overnight retarding can be used for many of the breads in the straight dough section, it says 'little time' is needed the next day to finish the job.  So when I looked at the oatmeal bread recipe and saw that final fermentation was 1 to 1 1/2 hours, I assumed that was roughly the time it would take to proof after it came out of the fridge and was shaped.  I cut the recipe in half last time and proofed it in a 9" by 5" pan and I remember wondering if I had used the wrong size pan, because after an hour and a half, the loaf had still not crested the lip/edge of the pan.  I was puzzled and I think I let it proof a bit longer, but not much, and threw it into the oven, as I was concerned that the dough would overproof.  I thought maybe I had done something else wrong that prevented the dough from rising very much in the pan.  Anyway, that loaf I made back in the winter was pretty flat when it finished baking, and I thought it was dry, dense and I couldn't taste any sweetness to it at all.  I actually thought it tasted quite bland.

This time around I thought I'd change up the ingredients just a bit to try improving the flavor and/or texture.  Sometimes I make changes, though, and I'm not sure why I did it.  I just think it might perhaps bring some improvement.  I used whole milk as opposed to 1%.  (I had a small quantity of whole milk in the fridge this time, because I had been using it for a Nick Malgieri cake recipe).  My thinking was that perhaps a higher fat content in the milk might make a more tender loaf.  Instead of the King Arthur whole wheat, I used their white-whole wheat and I subbed some barley flour for part of the wheat flour as well.  I had just made some cookies last week with oat flour, barley flour and whole wheat flour and I thought the barley flour might give a more complex, nuttier flavor to the bread.  I didn't have enough high-gluten flour, so I had to use some of my bread flour.  I used 1/4 tsp less salt than called for when cutting the recipe in half, but don't ask me why.  No reason. 

Just like last time, the loaf hadn't even risen above the lip of the pan after 1 1/2 hours of proofing in my 9 by 5 pan.  I looked at some of the recipes in Peter Reinhart's book Artisan Breads Every Day, and those loaves required 2 1/2 to 3 hours of proofing after the dough was shaped and had come from the fridge.  So I decided everything was fine, and that I'd just leave the loaf go for 2 1/2 hours and then come back to it.  When I came back, it had crested the top of the pan and was ~ 1/2 inch above the lip of the pan.  I left it go another fifteen minutes and decided it was probably ready to go. 

The loaf had nice oven spring and rose at least another good half inch or so upon baking.  I was fairly pleased with that.  The loaf didn't taste nearly as dry this time I believe.   It slices very nicely and doesn't seem  too dense.  I still don't taste any sweetness at all, but maybe its just me.  I think next time I'll use agave nectar and see if that gives me my sweetness.  It tastes much better than before, but I'm going to increase the amount of barley flour next time anyway, just to see if I get a more pronounced nutty flavor. 

Now its on to the bread I'm really looking forward to, the Oatmeal Bread w/ Cinnamon and Raisins Smiley