March 31, 2009

Apricots Are Sublime

I love apricots in baked goods...there is just something so delightful in finding bits of dark golden sweetness in a scone or muffin or sweet bread.

The aroma is also enticing and the sweet-tart taste is sublime.

In honor of Bread Baking Day # 18 - Quick Breads, hosted by Mansi at Fun and Food Blog, , I made an Apricot Almond Sweet Bread. This is a type of quick bread, which is called quick because the leavening isn't my beloved yeasties, but instead is a chemical reaction between acids and bases. In this case I mixed two recipes from the Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham; a Poppy Seed Bread and an Apricot Almond Bread.

From the first I took the proportions for using buttermilk, butter and eggs for the quick bread, including how much baking powder and baking soda to use. From the second I took the proportions for the apricots, almonds, and almond extract. I also followed the directions for mixing from the first one.

This recipe makes two loaves which are on the sweet side, perfect to go with your afternoon cup of tea or coffee (or ice cold milk!). Xam had a good time licking the bowl.

When the bread is still in the oven and you see the enthusiasm with which the bowl is being licked, it's hard to wait until that bread is both baked and cooled enough to cut!

Apricot Almond Quick Bread
based on two recipes in the Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda (the base)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (my addition)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (the acid)
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled (my substitution)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup dried apricots, diced (about 8 pieces per dried apricot half)
1/2 cup chopped almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2 inch loaf pans. Set aside.

Mix together in a bowl the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, buttermilk, melted butter and almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix just to blend. Don't over mix. Stir in the apricot pieces and chopped almonds and stir just until incorporated.

Pour batter into the two loaf pans, distributing evenly.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and let cool for about 5 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

This bread makes a nice gift so keep this in mind for birthdays, Easter, Christmas, etc.

March 28, 2009

Pain Francese with the Babes

No, that's not pain, it's bread. Simple white bread. Delicious artisan bread.

The Bread Baking Babes baked a very simple loaf this month, Pain Francese, from King Arthur flour folks.

You start with a chef. You might think that means someone wearing a tall white hat, but actually its the term for a small piece of dough from a previous baking session.

Since I didn't have a chef, I made one with some sourdough starter, so that added to the time necessary to make this bread. It has a number of stages, so it takes a couple of days. The good news is that the flavors become more complex with all that time.

Once you have your chef, you cut it into small pieces and dissolve it in some water. Then you make a dough by adding flour, let it rise, then chop it up again, dissolve it again in warm water, again make a dough by adding flour...simple doesn't mean fast by any means.

My loaf formed a wonderful crust, a fine crumb, and deep flavor considering that it is mostly yeast, flour and water. Have not tried it toasted yet, but I'll bet it makes nice toast. Top Gun tried it for lunch as part of a sandwich and gave it thumbs up.

Thanks to the Bread Baking Babes for choosing this recipe...I now have a chef in my fridge to use for some future baking session!

Check out the BBB's and the recipe at Sara' blog at I Like to Cook
or by clicking on the recipe link at the top left of this blog.

The Bread Baker's Dog himself is not one to give kisses very often, but after eating some of this bread he gave me a simple kiss. (Sorry, no photo...he was too quick).

Pain Francese

First stage- chef
¼ cup sourdough starter
¼ cup warm water
¾ cup bread flour, plus about another ¼ cup for kneading
Mix dough together, then knead about 5 minutes using bench scraper and adding flour as needed. Put in oiled bowl, cover with plastic, let rise until doubled, 5-6 hrs.

Second-Stage Levain
All of the levain (from above)
1/2 cup warm, chlorine-free water
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Special Bread Flour

"Refresh" the levain by placing it in a medium-sized bowl, chopping it into small pieces, and adding the water and 1/2 cup of the flour, stirring till smooth. Add the remaining flour gradually to create a stiff dough. Knead the dough for several minutes, then return it to the bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise for 3 to 5 hours, till it doubles in size. Punch down the risen levain, and reserve 1/4 cup as your next chef. (Let the piece ferment at room temperature for 3 hours, then wrap it in plastic and store it in the fridge. It'll develop a hard crust; that's OK.)

all of the second-stage levain (from above)
3/4 cup warm, chlorine-free water
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Special Bread Flour

Chop the levain into small pieces,

and mix them with the water, stirring till they begin to dissolve.

Add the salt, then 1 1/2 cups of the flour. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured or lightly greased work surface, and knead until the dough is smooth and satiny, adding only enough additional flour to keep the dough from sticking unbearably. Return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place for 8 to 10 hours.

Shaping: Cut the dough into 2 pieces, and shape each piece into a round or oval. Transfer the loaves to a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, or to a floured banneton; cover with a heavily floured cloth, and allow them to rise for 2 to 3 hours, or until they're almost doubled in bulk.

Don't slash or glaze the loaves. Bake the bread in a preheated 450°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until they're a deep, golden brown. Yield: 2 loaves.

This is what the bottom of the loaf looked like after it was baked. I baked it on a Silpat mat...wonder if that caused the interesting crust? The top crust was much more floury looking.

March 25, 2009

All It's Cracked Up to Be

Walnuts are such a great addition to so many foods, but I particularly like them in breads. A nice waffle becomes great with the addition of chopped walnuts. A good muffin with dates or dried fruits becomes deeply satisfying with the addition of walnuts.

This bread would be fine without the walnuts, but I think they add just the perfect crunch and flavor for fine sandwiches or toast. The other players are my whole wheat sourdough starter, (although you could use active dry yeast proofed in water and that would be fine, too), a mixture of seeds including sesame, poppy, flax and sunflower, plus a little barley flour, more whole wheat flour, regular bread flour and milk and honey. With the nuts and seeds that were on the surface toasting while it baked, this loaf sure made the house smell good during baking. This seems like a good candidate for this week's Yeastspotting over at Susan's Wild Yeast blog. Truly an inspiring collection of yeasted recipes...check it out!

When I took the loaf out of the oven, there was the baker's dog, standing by the kitchen, ready for any piece of bread that might come his way.

Elle's Whole Wheat Seeded Walnut Bread

1 cup sourdough starter, preferably a whole wheat one
½ cup condensed milk mixed with ¼ cup warm water
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup barley flour (or use more whole wheat flour)
2-3 cups unbleached bread flour
¼ cup mixed seeds – I combined flax seed, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and poppy seeds
½ cup chopped walnuts

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the dough hook, combine the starter, milk, honey and mix to combine.

In a bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the salt and flours. With the machine running, add the dry mixture, a half cup at a time until the dough forms around the dough hook and cleans the sides of the bowl. Continue to let the machine knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding more of the dry mixture, a tablespoon at a time, if needed.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead another 2-3 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl, turning to oil all sides of dough, cover and let rise in a draft free place until doubled in bulk, about 2-3 hours.

Punch down dough and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. With your hands, spread the dough out into a rectangle about 10 inches by 10 inches, by pushing down on the dough. Sprinkle all of the seed mixture and all but a few tablespoons of the walnuts evenly over the dough, leaving about an inch at the edges free of seeds and nuts. Roll the dough jelly roll fashion to enclose the seeds and nuts. Press down on the roll to flatten it a bit, then sprinkle on the remaining walnuts. Fold the ends of the roll toward the middle, then knead the dough to distribute the seeds and nuts.

Again flatten the dough into a rectangle about 10 inches by 8 inches. Roll again jelly roll fashion along the long side. Pinch the seam where the roll stops, then fold under the ends and place in a loaf bread pan. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Uncover the pan and place bread pan in preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.

Let cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

March 18, 2009

Fruits and Nuts

This past weekend we went to the beach...Doran Beach in Bodega Bay to be exact. There's nothing quite like a nice smooth piece of driftwood to chomp on...if you're a dog.

The bread baker's dog and I live within driving distance of the Pacific ocean in California, a place know by some as the land of fruits and nuts. I'm of the nutty persuasion myself, having decided many years ago, long before it was 'green', to recycle, to use water wisely, to live in a passive solar home, to grow my own veggies and fruits and, yes, nuts. I also have chosen to take the road less traveled in the work world, working for much of my working life in slightly alternative medical situations with no benefits beyond a regular paycheck (for which I am grateful) and the knowledge that I'm helping people who need my help.

Here's hoping that some of the current trends toward self sufficient living, locavore-ism, economic eating and so on will encourage more people to bake bread. You can have an artisan loaf that you have made, which sometimes is reason enough to bake. You know exactly what is in your bread and if you want, you can attempt to use mostly local ingredients. You can tailor the bread to be what you want to eat that day. If you use sourdough starter, your loaf will stay fresh longer...sandwich bread for the whole week!

These loaves are full of dates and walnuts. The dates come from a far warmer climate than here, but the walnuts come from the tree out back. Together they create a toothsome loaf (I've always wanted to use the word toothsome). The semolina flour was some I happened to have on hand since I was planning on making fresh pasta. It adds a smoothness to these lovely braids.

One of these loaves will go to a friend who is coming by today. She is not the least bit fruity or nutty, but is sweet, just like the dates. I think she will enjoy some freshly baked bread.

Date Walnut Semolina Braid
makes two medium braids or one large braid

1 cup sourdough starter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup lukewarm milk (not over 100 degrees F) – I used reconstituted condensed milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
¼ cup lukewarm water
1 egg, slightly beaten
4-5 cups all-purpose flour
Note: Flour amounts vary depending on moisture of the flour and of the kitchen
1 cup semolina flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup date pieces – if using whole dates, cut each one into six or eight pieces
1 cup chopped walnuts
Glaze: 1- 2 tablespoon(s) milk
Sanding sugar - optional

Combine the sourdough starter, maple syrup, milk and butter. Set aside.
Combine the water and active dry east in a small bowl. Stir and let sit for 15 minutes.
Stir the egg and the proofed yeast into the milk mixture and put in a mixer bowl. If you have a large stand mixer use it.

With a spoon or whisk, stir one cup of the flour and the salt into the milk mixture. Attach the dough hook and on lowest speed continue to add flour, including the semolina flour, until a shaggy mass forms around the dough hook. Continue to add flour, about a half cup at a time as the mixer kneads the dough and the dough cleans the side of the bowl. At the end you may need to add the flour a tablespoon at a time. Stop adding flour when the dough no longer sags down into the bowl bottom. Continue to knead with the mixer for another 5 minutes. While that is happening, oil a large bowl. If not using a stand mixer, turn out on a floured surface when it is too hard to stir the flour in. Knead the rest of the flour in. Knead with mixer or by hand until dough is smooth and elastic.

Place dough in an oiled bowl, turn over to oil both sides. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 ½ hours.

Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment or a silicone mat. Set aside.

Turn risen dough out onto a floured board. Knead for a minute to release trapped gas. Spread dough out on a flour surface. Evenly distribute the dates and walnuts over the surface.

Roll the dough up like a jelly roll, then fold the roll in half. Cut the rolled up dough into two even pieces. Set one piece aside. Divide remaining piece into three even pieces of dough. Shape each piece into a long ‘snake’, about 12inches long.I sometimes twist the snakes a bit, too, before braiding.

Place the three strands side by side on the prepared pan. Starting at the middle, braid the three strands, then turn it and braid the other side. Tuck the ends under. Repeat with the second hunk of dough. Cover loosely and leave loaves to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the loaf with the glaze using a pastry brush. Optional – sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake until golden, for about 40-45 minutes. Turn out onto a rack to cool.

March 16, 2009

Twice the Oatmeal Bread

Sometimes you just want an easy, simple sandwich loaf. You can go buy one at the store, but it is so much more satisfying to make it yourself...and you get the advantage of that fresh bread smell in your kitchen!

This bread makes great toast and sandwiches. It's a little rough in texture and has lots of oatmeal, so you better like oats if you make this bread.

This simple loaf is my entry to Susan's Yeastspotting event on her great blog Wild Yeast.

Twice the Oatmeal Bread
Makes two (2) loaves

1 cup cooked steel cut oats (not quick cooking) – I used Irish steel cut to honor the season!
1 cup whole wheat sourdough starter ( or 1 pk active dry yeast proofed in ½ cup warm water with
pinch of sugar)
1 tsp salt
1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
3 – 3/12 cups all-purpose flour

Cook oats per instructions, remove from heat and allow to cool completely and absorb any excess water. You want a big "glob" of oats.

If not using sourdough starter:
Proof yeast in lukewarm water and pinch of sugar. Allow to sit for 5 - 10 minutes until foamy.

In bowl for stand mixer or large bowl, break up cooled oatmeal into medium chunks, and using the dough hook (if using stand mixer), stir in sourdough starter or proofed yeast, salt, and oatmeal until cooked oatmeal is completely broken up.

Add in about a cup of flour and stir until wet dough formed. Add in 1 1/2 cups AP flour until shaggy dough ball is formed. Add in remaining flour 1/2 cup a time until soft dough ball that cleans bowl if formed. Allow dough to rest for 10 minutes to absorb excess flour. If using stand mixer, hand knead for 5 or 10 quick turns.

Dough should be soft and very slightly tacky. If clumps of dough stick to hand, knead in additional AP flour on palmful at time.

Place dough in greased bowl, cover and let rise until double (about 2 - 2 1/2 hours). Punch down, form 2 loaves, place in 8 1/2 x 5 greased loaf pans, lightly grease top of loaves, loosely cover, and allow to rise until dough is about 1/4" above edge of loaf pans.

Slash top of loaves down center if desired.

Place loaves in preheated 375 degree F. oven and bake 30 - 35 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 190 degrees.

Allow to cool completely before slicing.

March 11, 2009

Refrigerator Rolls - Ready When You Are

Imagine coming home from work, pulling some dough from the fridge, shaping it quickly into pan rolls (10 or 12 round lumps of this dough placed side by side in a greased cake pan is the easiest ...very easy), then baking them 20 minutes later while you fix the rest of the meal. Your home has the wonderful smell of fresh baked bread, your taste buds can't wait to bite into that roll, perhaps after it has been slathered with some butter. Doesn't that grab you?

It might seem and impossible dream, but not so. With this recipe, which you can put together on the weekend, you will have rolls ready and on the table in about 45 minutes, with very little effort that day. It helps if you know how much dough to use for each roll. The photo above gives an idea of the truth...I didn't.

When I made these as cloverleaf rolls, the were yummy, but I had not judged the amount of dough needed for each roll, so they were petite clover leaf rolls. I shared them at a luncheon I was invited to today. Here are the flowers on the table...very lovely.

Refrigerator Rolls are the magic dough that makes this possible and these rolls have been made for a long time. We have busy lives these days, but our grandmothers, stay at home though they were, had even more work to do than we do and they cherished recipes that made life easier, too.

Refrigerator Rolls
From The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham

1 cup milk, warmed
2 packages dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

Stir the warm milk and yeast together in a large mixing bowl and let stand for a couple of minutes to dissolve. Add the sugar, salt, butter, egg, and 2 cups of the flour. Beat to mix well, then add enough more flour to make a manageable dough. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, knead for about 2 minutes, then let rest for 10 minutes.

Resume kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, sprinkling on just enough additional flour to keep it from being too sticky. Place in a large greased bowl, cover, and let rise until double in bulk.

Punch down the dough, and place it in a greased bowl or a large plastic food-storage bag. Cover the bowl tightly, and refrigerate. If you use the plastic bag, seal it loosely around the dough to allow room for the dough to expand. Come back sometime within 3 – 4 hours and punch the chilled dough down – until it is thoroughly cold, it will rise as usual. Check the dough once a day from then on, and if it has begun to rise, punch it down.

To make rolls, simply pull off as much of the dough as you think you’ll need, and shape in into rolls, such as crescent, Parker House, cloverleaf or fantan shapes. Let rise for about 20 minutes while the oven preheats to 400 degrees F. Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from the pans and cool on a rack.

This recipe makes about 30 rolls, depending on size. Can be stored in the fridge for about a week, ready to use whenever you need it. Just cut off enough for a few rolls, shape and bake as described above.

I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting. If you haven't visited, you will be thrilled with all of the recipes made with yeast or, if you don't make bread, with bread that someone else baked. This will be the first appearance of the Bread Baker's Dog on Yeastspotting.

March 06, 2009

A Sourdough Rye Boule

For the initial post in this blog devoted to baking I thought I'd tell about a nice sourdough rye bread that a baked a while ago. Not sure why I never posted about it on my other blog, Feeding My Enthusiasms, but it never happened.

So you may be wondering why I don't post it there now. Why is another blog needed? Well, I kept getting comments that I should rename my blog Feeding My Bread Enthusiasms and that I was doing a lot of bread posts, so it seemed like a good idea.

I'll still post to Feeding My Enthusiasms, but will concentrate on baking here, especially bread baking.

Last fall I created a local wild yeast sourdough starter using the yeast collected on the skins of some grapes grown down the hill where I live here in Northern California.

Some more yeasts from the air were collected as the starter became more and more sour over time. It is a very specific, local, delicious starter. At some point I used some of the original starter which I named Sukey, to start a whole wheat starter called Polly. They are both still going strong months later and have opened up a whole new world for me of freshly baked bread.

Becoming familiar with different flours has been part of the fun. Rye has a distinctive and fairly strong taste, especially if you use dark rye flour as I did for this bread.

For some reason, the cool, rainy weather inspired me to make some rye bread. A slice with a steamy bowl of soup is so comforting. I started by looking at recipes online and by spreading out at least half a dozen cookbooks that had rye bread recipes so that I could explore the world of rye breads.

I wanted to try making a bread with a sponge and since rye goes so well with a sour taste, this seemed like the one to try a sponge with. I guessed on the proportions…no actual recipe to credit here, but I had looked at about a dozen different rye bread recipes before starting…amazing how different they are, too. Some had more salt, some had more rye flour, some had cocoa or molasses, some had a larger proportion of bread flour, some had oil, butter, and/or milk added.

The Swedish versions had orange zest, too. Obviously rye bread is a delightful canvas for creativity. The sourdough starter added it’s own flavor. It also kept it fresh longer. If you don’t have a starter, make it anyway…the recipe has directions for making it with dry yeast from the store. You’ll still get a nice, sour rye flavor from the sponge.

This bread benefits from a number of risings. The sour flavor becomes stronger and the crumb becomes fine. If you like caraway seeds in your rye bread, by all means knead some in during the shaping, or sprinkle some on the egg wash. If you are still undecided about making rye bread, be assured that this one makes excellent toast, too. Isn’t that reason enough?

Rye and Whole Wheat Round

½ cup each: rye flour, whole wheat flour and unbleached bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup sourdough starter (I used Polly)
1 cup spring water or filtered water, not tap water

1 tablespoon barley malt syrup (molasses can be used instead)
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup each: rye flour, whole wheat flour and unbleached bread flour
additional bread flour, by tablespoon, if needed, to make dough firm
and some for flouring the kneading surface

Sponge: In a large bowl, combine the flours and salt. Add the sourdough starter and the water and stir to completely combine. (If not sourdough starter is available, sprinkle 2 teaspoons active dry yeast over ½ cup warm (100 – 110 degrees F) water. Stir and let sit 10 minutes, then add to the flours. Adjust the water to an additional 1 ½ cups.) Cover with plastic wrap, leaving a vent, and set in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.

Dough: In a stand mixer bowl (KA with dough hook if possible), put the sponge. Add the barley malt. Mix the three flours together with the salt, then add to the mixer. Mix on low or medium low speed until combined. If mixer has dough hook, continue to knead with mixer until smooth and elastic. If no dough hook, turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 – 10 minutes.

Place kneaded dough into an oiled bowl that is large enough to hold twice the amount. Turn dough over to coat both sides with oil. Place plastic wrap over dough, leaving a vent, and set in a warm place to rise until double in bulk, about another 2 hours.

Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few minutes to release any large gas bubbles. Shape into a ball, pulling dough under as you shape. Place on parchment paper, smooth side up, cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and let rise until double in bulk, about an hour.

With a single edge razor or very sharp knife, cut a few slashed in the loaf. Paint loaf with a mixture of one egg yolk and 1 tablespoon milk.

Place in preheated 350 degree F. oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and paint again with the egg wash. Return to the oven and bake another 25 to 30 minutes, or until crust is deep golden brown and loaf sound hollow when tapped.

Let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing…longer is better if you can resist the wonderful aroma of fresh bread.

Makes one large loaf.