Potatoes and Cheddar and Chives — Oh, My!

Having recently baked one really good (Vienna), two so-so (Pain de Mie and Whole Wheat), and one yuck (Tuscan) breads in the past few weeks, I had high hopes for the 42nd and next-to-last recipe in the BBA Challenge, Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes. In fact, I will admit to expecting a lot out of the last two recipes in the book. After months of baking, with mostly great results and only a few duds, I really hope to go out with a bang here. And if this bread is any indication, PR will not disappoint.

One of the interesting things about this bread is that it uses both sourdough starter and yeast to leaven the bread. The sourdough starter (which PR incorrectly refers to as a “barm”) is built from the Mother Starter. The recipe requires 10.5 ounces of starter. The starter recipe, on the other hand, yields 39 ounces. Time for baker’s math again. By using 1.9 ounces of starter and 4.3 ounces each of flour and water, I ended up with exactly 10.5 ounces of 100% hydration starter for the recipe.

I prepared my starter the evening before I planned to bake and let it sit out at room temperature overnight. The next day, I chopped and boiled Yukon gold potatoes, then let the potatoes and potato water cool to room temperature. I decided to use Yukon gold, as I thought they would give the crumb a nice color. While the potatoes and water were cooling, I chopped the chives and assembled my mise en place.

I bought the chives in a small package at the grocery store. When I got them home and started chopping them, I realized that my $2.59 got me only 2/3 ounce of chives. And by the time I culled out the bad ones, I had about 1/2 ounce left! It killed me to realize that within a few months I’ll have chives coming out my ears in the garden. In fact, the chives often poke out through the snow early in the Spring.

OK, enough of my chive rant, back to the bread. I mixed 1/2 of the flour, 1/2 cup of the potato water, the potatoes, yeast, and starter just until the flour was hydrated. I allowed this “shag” to sit for about half an hour.

Then I added the rest of the flour, the salt, and just under 1/2  cup of potato water and kneaded the dough for about six minutes with my Kitchen Aid. I added the chives and mixed another two minutes. The dough was very tacky, bordering on sticky. I put it in an oiled bowl and turned it to coat the dough with oil.

After a 90-minute ferment, the dough had more than doubled in size.

I dumped the dough out onto my Roul’Pat, divided it in half, and patted one half into a rectangle. I layed out half of the cheddar cheese on the dough, leaving the edges uncovered.

I rolled the dough into a batard, sealed the edges, then tapered the ends to make a torpedo shape. Then I repeated this with the second loaf.

I misted the torpedoes with spray oil, covered them with a towel, and allowed them to rest for one hour. About 15 minutes into the proofing period, I began preheating my oven to 500 dF with a steam pan on the bottom shelf.

Just before loading the bread into the oven, I boiled some water and slashed the loaves, being sure to cut down to the first layer of cheese.

I was a little nervous about this part. I’m a pretty good slasher, but I have never worried too much about the depth of my cuts. I was afraid they would be too shallow and require a second or third slash to get down to the cheese. I needn’t have worried. As you can see, one slash was all it took, and they were ready to bake.

I loaded the loaves into the oven, poured a cup of boiling water into the steam pan, closed the oven door, and reduced the temperature to 450 dF. I don’t bother with spraying the oven walls at 30-second intervals, as I can’t discern any difference in the loaves one way or the other. I think the steam pan works fine for creating the proper amount of steam in the oven.

I baked the loaves for about 20 minutes and rotated them 180 degrees. I inserted a probe thermometer into one of the loaves, and was surprised to find that it was already over 200 degrees in the center. The recipe said the torpedoes would take 35 to 40 minutes to bake, but mine were done after 20 minutes.

The loaves looked and smelled amazing. The cheddar bubbling out through the slashes was especially striking.

I honestly wasn’t sure if I could wait 45 minutes before slicing into this bread. But wait I did. When I sliced the first torpedo, the crumb, with its spiral of sharp cheddar cheese, was as beautiful and enticing as the loaf had been coming out of the oven.

And the flavor? Well, let’s just say that I finished half the loaf standing in the kitchen before I thought to offer any to the rest of the family. I had more this afternoon toasted. It was like eating the best grilled cheese sandwich you’ve ever tasted right out of the toaster.

This was easily my favorite bread in the past few months of the BBA Challenge. In fact, it ranks up there with Casatiello as one of the top breads in the book!

Up next: Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche, the final bread in the Challenge.

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Wordless Wednesday — Aaaaahhhh

BBA Whole Wheat Bread — In a Word, Meh

I promised myself I wouldn’t let the weekend pass without writing my blog post for BBA Challenge bread #41, Whole Wheat Bread. I think I’ve been putting it off because I found this bread just so-so. It’s easier to write about a recipe when you have strong feelings about it — good or bad. This bread wasn’t bad; but it wasn’t great either.

The problem with most 100% whole grain breads for me is that they tend to be really heavy, and they don’t rise very well. This bread was no exception. The flavor was OK. But the bread was dense and too chewy.

Here are pictures of the baking process. You’ll note that I wasn’t inspired enough by the final product to take pictures of the finished loaves.

The recipe starts with an overnight soaker, for which I used whole wheat flour and wheat germ.

The dough begins with a whole wheat poolish.

The dough is placed in an oiled bowl and allowed to ferment for 2 hours.

After fermenting, the dough is divided and shaped.

The dough is shaped into loaves and placed in oiled loaf pans. After a 90-minute rise, the loaves are baked at 350 for about 45 minutes.

So, that’s whole wheat bread in a nutshell. Onto Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes, which are getting rave reviews from those who have baked them: Paul at Yumarama; Oggi at I Can Do That.

Bavarian Cream Cheese King Cake {Recipe}

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange oil or extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil or extract 
  • 1 pecan half, uncooked dried bean or King Cake Baby

Bavarian Cream Cheese Filling:

Glaze:

  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange oil or extract 
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Purple, green and gold sugar crystals

Directions

Combine the yeast, flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, and lemon rind in mixer bowl and add water, warm milk, butter,  egg yolks, and orange and lemon oils. Beat with dough hook on speed 1 for 2 minutes until smooth. Increase speed to 2 and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (6-8 minutes). Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top.

Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into three pieces of equal weight, and preshape each piece into a batard. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. 

Roll each batard into a rope, about 30 inches long. If the dough springs back too much, allow it to rest for 5 minutes and continue rolling. Lay the ropes vertically side-by-side with one end near the edge and the other toward the back of the counter. Numbering the ropes 1-3 from left to right, lift the end of rope 3 closest to you and lay it over the center of rope 2. Do the same with rope 1, lifting it and placing over center of rope 3, which is now in the center. Continue braiding, alternating between the right and left sides, until you reach the end. Press the ends together, then rotate the dough 180 degrees, so the unbraided sides are again facing you. Braid as above, this time moving the outside pieces under the center, until all the dough is braided. Press the ends together.

Place the braided dough on a buttered baking sheet. Shape into an oval, pinching ends together to seal. Press the King Cake Baby, pecan half or dried bean into the dough from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough.

Prepare filling ingredients by beating cream cheese on high speed until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, mix on low until combined, then on high for 2 minutes. Spoon filling into piping bag fitted with large tip. Fill King Cake by piping Bavarian cream into crevices in braid.

Cover with a floured towel or plastic wrap sprayed with pan oil, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the cake to a rack and allow to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. To assemble, drizzle cake with the glaze. Sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors.

Be sure to check out my classic King Cake recipe, too.

Wordless Wednesday — Alpaca Lunch

Pain de Mie (A Fancy Name for White Bread)

As fate would have it, as we near the end of our Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge journey, in which we have baked everything from French and Italian breads to celebration breads to breads filled with meat and cheese, for the fortieth bread in the Challenge, we hit on a very simple (some might argue too simple) white bread. The French call it pain de mie, which translates to “bread of the crumb” but is really just a fancy way of saying everyday sandwich bread.

I wasn’t as ambivalent about this bread as some BBAers, like Paul from Yumarama. In fact, I really liked it toasted with homemade jam. But I can see his point. It’s not what you expect this late in the game. This is more of a first-loaf, getting-your-feet-wet kind of bread. I know the recipes are in alphabetical order. Still, it felt like a bit of an anticlimax to be making such a basic loaf the 40th time out.

I baked this bread twice: once using variation #1 and a second time using the sponge in variation #3. I used my Pullman pan both times, although the second time I didn’t put on the lid. Here’s how the first version came out:

Note that the Pullman pan gives you a perfectly rectangular loaf, and nice, square slices of bread. Perfect for sandwiches, but not so artisanal looking.

Version #3 starts with a quick sponge. Unlike the typical preferment, the sponge is only allowed to ferment for about an hour before it is mixed into the dough. Otherwise, it is a fairly standard enriched dough. It kneaded beautifully and had a nice texture.

I didn’t divide the dough after it fermented, as the Pullman pan requires almost 3 1/2 pounds of dough per loaf.

When I made version #1, I allowed the dough to rise until it was about 1/4-inch from the lip of the pan, then I sprayed the lid with cooking oil and slid it on the pan. I began preheating the oven at that point, and baked the loaf with the lid on for about 20 minutes. I removed the lid and allowed the loaf to finish baking.

With version #3, however, I decided to use a Dutch crunch topping, which meant I couldn’t use the lid, as I was afraid the topping would all stick to the lid and probably burn. For the Dutch crunch, I used cornmeal, flour, yeast, salt, oil, and water. I brushed it on after the bread had proofed in the pan, shortly before I put the loaf in the oven.

Pain de Mie - Proofed, before Dutch Crumb

Pain de Mie with Dutch Crumb

 I baked the loaf at 350 dF for 20 minutes, turned it 180 degrees, inserted a probe thermometer, and continued baking until the internal temperature reached 187 dF.

Check out that crazy oven spring! The top of the loaf was about 1/8-inch below the top rack. And it baked over the sides of the pan quite a bit, too.

As far as taste goes, version #1 was a decent, but not remarkable, loaf of white bread. Fine for sandwiches or eating toasted with jam. Version #3 was still not an out-of-the-ballpark bread, but it was much tastier than the first version. I’m not sure whether it was the sponge, Dutch crunch, or a combination of both. I suspect they both played a role in the flavor of this bread. Again, it was a good sandwich bread and great for eating toasted with homemade jam. And it was tasty enough to eat toasted with just butter.

I will make this bread again, as I enjoy making pain de mie to use for sandwiches and toast. I’ll definitely use version #3 again. And probably Dutch crunch, too. I might try using the crunch with the lid on just to see what happens.

Wordless Wednesday — King of the World

Baker’s Math in Action

You’re about to make Vienna bread from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, when you notice something strange: the pâte fermentée recipe on page 105 nets 16 to 17 ounces; but the Vienna bread recipe only calls for 13 ounces. So, what do you do? Make the full pâte fermentée recipe and throw out the excess? Cut the recipe in half and make do with 8 or so ounces of pâte fermentée?

Neither. You use baker’s math to scale the recipe to 13 ounces. You’ve no doubt noticed the Baker’s Percentage Formula sidebars in Peter Reinhart’s recipes. You may even have read his explanation of the use of baker’s math. But have you ever wondered how to actually go about using baker’s math to scale a recipe?

It’s easier than you think.

Let’s take the pâte fermentée recipe as an example. In baker’s percentages, the recipe is as follows:

  • Bread flour:  100% (remember that the flour will always equal 100%)
  • Salt:  1.9%
  • Instant yeast:  0.55%
  • Water:  65%
  • Total:  167.5% (I know, I know. A total exceeding 100% is maddening; but I didn’t invent baker’s math. I just use it.)

Let’s start with the flour. To figure out how much flour to use, first divide the flour percentage by the total percentage of the recipe:

  • 100/167.5=0.5970

Next, multiply the result by the total amount you want to make, in our case, 13 ounces:

  • 0.5970*13=7.761

The recipe calls for equal amounts of all-purpose and bread flours, so as a final step, divide this amount in half to get 3.88 ounces. (As a final, final step, I rounded this amount to 4 ounces each of all-purpose and bread flours.)

Repeat this process for the remaining ingredients:

  • Salt:  1.9/167.5=0.0113*13=~0.15 ounce
  • Water:  65/167.5=0.3881*13=~5 ounces

And the yeast? To my mind, 0.055 ounce is too small an amount to bother scaling down, so I just used a scant 1/2 teaspoon.

To recap, as long as you know the baker’s percentages, you can scale any recipe to size by dividing the percentage of each ingredient by the total percentage in the recipe, then multiplying by the total amount of dough you want to make.

So, there you have it. Baker’s math in action. Please, try to contain your enthusiasm.

BBA Challenge #39: Vienna Bread with Dutch Crumb Topping

The next bread in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is Vienna Bread, an enriched European bread that is often topped with a slightly sweet Dutch crunch topping. This bread was delicious, especially after the nearly tasteless Tuscan bread. In fact, I enjoyed this bread so much that I made it twice in two weeks.

Reinhart’s Vienna bread recipe, like many of his recipes, begins with a preferment, in this case pâte fermentée. The recipe calls for 13 ounces of preferment; but the pâte fermentée recipe in the book makes 16 to 17 ounces of dough. Time to break out the baker’s math! Since the recipe gives baker’s percentages, it was a fairly simple matter to scale it to the amount I needed.

I ended up using 4 ounces each of all-purpose and bread flours, 0.15 ounce salt, a scant 1/2 teaspoon yeast, and 5 ounces water. The result was just over 13 ounces of dough, which I allowed to ferment for a little over an hour before refrigerating it overnight.

The next day, I removed the pâte fermentée from the fridge, cut it into pieces, and allowed the pieces to come to room temperature.

The pieces were then mixed into the dough, which included sugar, butter, egg, and barley malt powder.

After fermenting the dough for about 2 hours, I divided it in half and shaped each portion into a boule.

I allowed the boules to rest for 20 minutes, then shaped them into batards.

The loaves were covered and left to proof for about 90 minutes. While the loaves were proofing, I mixed the Dutch crunch topping, made from semolina flour, yeast, oil, sugar, salt, and enough water to make a thick, spreadable paste. When the loaves were ready to bake, I brushed them with Dutch crunch paste and slashed the loaves lengthwise.

Because Vienna bread contains malt powder, it browns more quickly than other doughs. For this reason, the loaves are baked at a lower temperature than many hearth breads — 450 dF.

I baked the loaves for about 30 minutes, until the internal temperature reached 200 dF.

As noted above, this was a delicious bread, one worth making again and again. And I really liked the look, texture, and taste of the Dutch crunch topping. I’ve never used Dutch crunch paste before, but I think I will find myself adding it to other recipes.

So that’s Vienna bread. Up next: the Big Four-Oh — Pain de Mie.

Check out Paul’s write up at Yumarama.

Wordless Wednesday — Summer Dreamin’