Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Herbed Fougasse Without Olives (Mellow Bakers: November)

After being away for four days, all I could think of when I got home was how much I wanted to bake something.   So since I'd only completed one of the Mellow Bakers November breads so far, I decided to whip up the Pate Fermentee for the Fougasse on page 278 of Hamelman's book, Bread, late on Saturday night.  I guess I had too much pent up energy after not cooking, doing dishes, or even laundry for 3 1/2 straight days!  It was wonderful, and I had such a good time seeing my cousins (and their kids) and my aunts and uncles which I hadn't seen for 2 years.  I think we had ~42 people at our Thanksgiving get-together.

The original recipe for this Fougasse calls for olives to be mixed in w/ the dough at the end, but since I didn't have any olives in the house and since I love herbs, I decided to use Cathy's idea and add Herbes de Provence to the dough.  It seemed quite fitting to add this particular herb mix, since fougasse is a regional specialty of  Provence in France.  I only made half the recipe for this bread, so I only made one round fougasse and added 1 1/2 tsp of Herbes de Provence to my dough.  I also incorporated Cathy's change to increase the salt in the recipe since I omitted the olives.  For the half recipe I made, I added an extra half teaspoon of salt to the salt already called for.

This bread is so simple to put together and looks quite impressive when its finished baking.  I had already made a fougasse earlier using the traditional 'leaf' like scoring so I wanted to do something different this time.  I noticed the round shaped fougasse in one of the color photo plates in the middle of Hamelman's book and thought it looked pretty.

I also made some dipping oil to accompany our Herbed Fougasse.   I just used a heaping teaspoon of Herbs de Provence, adding in some red pepper flakes, fine sea salt, garlic, fresh pepper, and dried oregano and then some extra-virgin olive oil. Then it sat for awhile so the flavors could mingle a bit before we had dinner.

Hubby complained that the fougasse didn't quite go with the salmon patties I had on the menu for that evening's dinner, but it turned out to be a fabulous fougasse and it didn't matter what else was on the table.  The next night we finished off the fougasse w/ some Cream of Wild Rice Soup and we were in heaven with our bellies full of fougasse and steaming hot soup:)

I hope everyone else had a wonderful Thanksgiving!!  I was thinking about my online baking friends all during my Thanksgiving break, grateful for their kindness and willingness to share baking experiences and also wondering what they were cooking up in their kitchens for the holidays.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Five-Grain Sourdough w/ Rye Sourdough (Mellow Bakers: November)

I decided to bake the Five-Grain Sourdough first this month for mellow bakers, since I hadn't used by starter to bake with in awhile and  I was eager to try it after reading Cathy's post on this bread.  She did an excellent post of this bread here and like her, I didn't have any rye chops so I thought it an excellent idea to use rye flakes, which I have, and to make a cold soaker as opposed to a hot one.

I chose to cut the recipe in half for this one, whereas Cathy made the whole recipe, and since it was a cold soaker I decided it wasn't necessary to include the salt in it.  I added the salt in when I mixed up the final dough.  I included some process pictures below for fun, since the shaping process went smoothly and I was in the mood for taking lots of pictures.  I'm also trying to learn how to use Picasa to do fun things like making collages and this gives me more practice.

The top left picture is the dough just after pre-shaping.  I used ~ 2lbs of the dough for my batard and since I only had 8 ounces left, I decided what the heck, rolls would be nice for dinner.  So with the 8 oz piece of dough, I made two little 4 oz dinner rolls.
I folded the dough for my batard just like Cathy did, except that I added the 4 or 5 extra steps that JH includes in his book Bread on page 72, which is what I was doing in the bottom left picture.  I finished the final shaping of my batard and the rolls and transferred them to a piece of parchment on my peel, covered them for their final fermentation, and then scored them after ~ 70 minutes.  Since Cathy liked her loaf with the single score down the middle I went with that one too.  I tried snipping my rolls w/ the scissors for scoring, but the slits actually just closed right back up when they baked :( 
It's always fun to see just what shape the bread is going to assume after scoring it, since for the home bread baker like me,  the scoring is a constant struggle and learning process.  On this one my bread opened WAY up, and it looked pretty neat.  It almost kind of looked like it had an 'ear' on top, but I'm not really sure.  Regardless of whether the scoring was correct, hubby and I thought it looked wonderful and possibly like I'd just gone and picked it up from the corner artisan bread bakery :)
The loaf was soft inside, but the crust is firm and just slightly crunchy, which hubby said was a good thing.  We couldn't really taste much tang from the sourdough component, but it does have a mellow, nutty quality.  I made the loaf on the day I did, with the hopes that it might make good grilled cheese sandwiches to go w/ homemade tomato soup the next night.  It tasted super as 'grilled cheese bread', and I think I'll probably make this one again, as it is quite tasty.  The batard shape made it much easier to get nice sandwich slices from it, which can be more difficult when I shape the loaf as a round boule.
Mmmmmmm, it doesn't get much better than grilled cheese and tomato soup on a rainy, cold evening after a difficult day at the office (for hubby)!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

English Muffins & Cinnamon Apple Twist Bread

I didn't do any baking out of Jeffrey Hamelman's book, Bread, this past week, but I did have some fun playing with a new toy in the kitchen followed by a sweet bread experiment .  I made my first ever English Muffins along with a Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread.

I bought my English Muffin rings at least a month ago, but hadn't tried them out yet.  There sure are a lot of different muffin recipes and methods of baking them out there, and it was tough deciding which one I was going to start with.  Several recipes I saw told you to just use biscuit cutters to cut out your english muffin 'dough' and then bake in the oven or cook them in a skillet.  Well, I knew I wanted to use my bright, shiny new English Muffin rings, and to me English Muffins should be made in the skillet on the stovetop, not in the oven like dinner biscuits.

I settled on trying Peter Reinhart's recipe for English Muffins from his book, Artisan Breads Every Day.  The muffin dough for this recipe is mixed up the night before and tucked into the fridge for the night.  The next day, after bringing the dough up to room temperature, and adding a little baking soda/water mixture, you're ready to begin!

The recipe made 8 muffins for me and I could only fit 2 muffin rings comfortably into the skillet at a time, since I only have a little 8 inch cast iron skillet.  I made four little batches of muffins with each getting better as I went along.  I used too much batter in the first couple I think, because as they cooked on the first side for 12 minutes, the batter climbed above the top of the rings.  I also tried to flip them too early and the batter was still wet on the top. Oops!  Even though I tried to flip carefully, the runny batter on top glopped out into unwanted places, before being completely flipped.  So on future batches I put less batter in the rings, and made sure the top was dry before flipping to cook on the other side :)

I used three of the finished muffins for Tuna Melts for dinner that night.  Mmmmm were they good!  I had been having a craving for tuna melts for quite some time, but didn't want to buy muffins from the store.  It was well worth the wait.  I even splurged and went for the more expensive Cabot Sharp Cheddar cheese for the tops of my tuna melts.  I'm sure I'll experiment with some other recipes, but for my first muffins, Peter Reinhart's muffins turned out to be pretty darned good!

My husband and I have been meeting at someone's home the past several months for a small group bible study, and it dawned on me this past week that I could use this opportunity to make some sweet breads that I normally wouldn't try, because they make more than my husband and I can eat, plus who needs the extra calories/sweets sitting around the house.

So I chose to try this Cinnamon-Apple Twist Bread recipe that I found at the King Arthur Flour website.  The recipe didn't call for anything too exotic or expensive and the only ingredient I needed to buy was the two Fuji apples that I used in the filling.

This Cinnamon Apple Twist bread was indescribably wonderful!  It was pillowy soft and tender inside and just pleasantly crisp and sweet from the apples and scant amount of glaze that I drizzled over top.  The Vietnamese Cinnamon in the filling was heavenly, and the grated apples that dotted the surface were moist and still a little juicy.  However, this bread did prove to be a little tricky to put together.  Actually the recipe made two twists, but the first one of mine, kind of ended up in the trash :(

The problem I had was that my filling was too juicy.  I'm not sure if the problem was that I used the flour for my thickener or the fact that I used more grated apple than called for or both.  When I went to roll up the dough into a log for the first braid and then went to slice it vertically along the length of the log, juices came pouring out everywhere and it was a mess!!  So I, sadly, decided to place that one in the trash and try again.  On my second try I used a slotted spoon to place the filling on my dough, so that I wouldn't get too much of the juice.  This time worked a little better, although I still had some juices to deal with, but I managed to get the log rolled and pinched shut, and then sliced and braided.

This bread was so good, that despite my difficulties, I'm pretty sure I'll be making this again sometime.  I'm definitely not as comfortable working with sweet doughs and rolling them up into logs with filling so I'll need to improve on my techniques.  The braid was devoured in a very short time, with only two small end pieces left, so I think it was a hit with the group.

So if you're looking for a sweet bread featuring apples that's not too sweet, but delicious, look no farther.  This is a great recipe!