Marbled Chocolate Brioche Loaf {ModBak}

The second recipe in the third section of The Modern Baker is another brioche loaf. The basic recipe is similar to Quick Brioche, with the addition of rum and lemon zest. After making the brioche dough, it is divided into three pieces, and one of the pieces is then enriched with bittersweet chocolate and cinnamon.

I patted one of the plain pieces of dough into a five-inch square and set it aside. I did the same with the chocolate dough, then stacked it on top of the plain dough. Finally, I patted out the last piece of plain dough and added it to the stack.

After pressing the dough together, I cut it into three pieces.

Then I cut each strip into about 10 pieces, which I put into a bowl and tossed together.

I added a teaspoon of water, squished the dough into a ball, then pressed it into a loaf pan.

I allowed the dough to rise for two hours. Even though it hadn’t crested the top of the pan, it was ready to bake.

I baked the bread in a 350° oven for 40 minutes. The loaf smelled so good baking, with the chocolate, rum, and butter begging to be tasted.

I cooled the loaf on its side to keep it from deflating.

I sliced into the loaf and liked what I saw. It had a nice even crumb and the marbling looked like the picture in the book.

This was a really delicious bread. The chocolate gave it a wonderful flavor without being cloying sweet. It was good plain, toasted, and with a little marmalade. And after a few days, it made great chocolate bread pudding.

Irish Soda Bread Muffins {ModBak}

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about the Quick Breads section of The Modern Baker is that the breads really are quick. For example, in the 15 minutes it took to bake the ginger scones, I mixed up the butterscotch scones and had them ready to go into the oven as soon as the ginger scones came out.

So even though I usually save my baking for the weekends, the other night after work I decided to throw together Irish soda bread muffins. I got back from walking the dog at 7:30 was relaxing in my chair by 7:50, having mixed up the muffins and cleaned the kitchen. Yes, kids, when Nick Malgieri says “quick”, he means it!

This simple recipe consists of flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, caraway seeds, unsalted butter, sugar, egg, buttermilk (I substituted buttermilk powder and half-and-half), and currants. After assembling the ingredients, I lined the muffin tin with paper liners and preheated the oven to 350° F.

Next, I mixed the dry ingredients (other than the sugar) in a bowl, then whisked the butter and sugar in a separate bowl. I mixed in the egg, then half the cream, half the flour mxture, then the rest of the cream. I tossed the currants with a little flour, added them to the batter, then folded in the rest of the flour.

I found that an ice cream scoop was the perfect size to fill the muffin tins. I baked the muffins for 30 minutes, then cooled them in the pan.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, this was another wonderful recipe. The muffins were delicious — slightly sweet and very flavorful. I especially enjoyed them with a little butter and fig preserves.

Salt All Your Offerings (Except Tuscan Bread)

Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings. ~ Leviticus 2:13 (NIV)

“What makes Tuscan bread unique in the bread lexicon is that it is salt free….” So begins Peter Reinhart’s description of the 38th recipe in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. If ever there was a way to get me excited about trying a new bread, well, this wasn’t it. 

As we have learned throughout the Challenge, the four basic components of bread are flour, water, yeast (wild or commercial), and salt. You can adjust the quantities of these components, or add other ingredients. But you don’t leave out any of the four basic ingredients. So I was fairly suspicious of this bread from the beginning. I mean, wouldn’t salt-free bread be as bland as, well, salt-free food? Ah, well, it was next on the list, so I would press on.

Other than not using any salt, this bread is unique in that it calls for a flour paste, which is made by mixing flour and boiling water. This mixture is allowed to sit out overnight (or up to 2 days). The mixture does not ferment, as there is no yeast added to it, but the boiling water causes the starches in the flour to gelatinize, which (theoretically) adds flavor to the finished bread.

In addition to the flour paste, the dough consists of flour, yeast, oil, and water, all of which is combined and kneaded by hand or mixed in a stand mixer.

The dough had a really nice feel to it, about the texture of French bread dough. After mixing, the dough is placed in an oiled bowl and allowed to ferment for about 2 hours.

Another function of salt in bread, besides the obvious one of taste, is that it tempers the action of the yeast. So it didn’t surprise me that this dough, sans salt, rose really fast. In fact, I had to knead it down about halfway through the fermentation stage to keep it from rising too much.

After the dough had fermented, I shaped it into two boules, which I covered with plastic wrap and set aside to proof.

Again, the dough rose like crazy, and within about 60 minutes, the loaves were ready to bake.

In another departure from prior BBA recipes, instead of adding a cup of water to a steam pan when the loaves are loaded into the oven, the oven is preheated to 500 degrees with 2 cups of water already in the steam pan. The loaves are baked for 20-30 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees.

The bread looked great and smelled fantastic. And when I cut into a loaf, it had a nice, tight crumb.

But, the big question was, how would it taste? Could a salt-free bread really stand up to the other amazing breads that have come out of the BBA Challenge? Would the flour paste make such a huge flavor difference that, as PR suggests, I might decide to incorporate it into other bread recipes?

In a word — meh.

The bread was every bit as bland as I feared it would be. It tasted, quite frankly, like a loaf of bread from which the salt had been omitted. I tried it plain, with salted butter, with butter and a sprinkling of sea salt, with marmalade, jam, and jelly — all to no avail. This bread was for the birds, both figuratively and literally. (On the plus side, the birds didn’t seem to mind the lack of salt.)

Oh, well, it was worth a shot. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I guess at the end of the day, I have to agree with the poet George Herbert, who said, “Of all smells, bread; of all tastes, salt.” I’m sure he never considered eating salt-free bread.

I’m pretty sure I won’t consider it agian, either.

Swedish Limpa – Bork, Bork!

Thees veek in Phyl’s keetchee, ve-a mede-a zee Svedeesh Leempa.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this bread. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big fan of rye. And I have so far enjoyed the BBA recipes that called for citrus oils and spices. I just didn’t know how it would be to combine them all into one bread. I’m glad to report that I was pleasantly surprised.

One of the things that makes this bread different from some of the other BBA breads is that you make it using a sponge. To make the sponge, I boiled water, molasses, orange oil, and ground aniseed, cardamom, and fennel seeds. This mixture smelled so good when it heated up. It had a strong citrus scent, and the spices gave it an exotic aroma that reminded me of my favorite Indian restaurant.

After it came to a boil, I removed the spice mixture from the stove and let it cool to room temperature. Then I mixed it with sourdough starter and rye flour.

I let the sponge ferment for about 5 hours, then refrigerated it overnight. The next day, I brought the sponge to room temperature, then mixed it with bread flour, yeast, and olive oil to make the dough. The recipe said to add up to 4 ounces of water to get the correct consistency, but I ended up using less than an ounce of water.

The dough smelled great and had a nice feel to it. It rose beautifully, too. After fermenting the dough for 2 hours, I shaped it into a loaf and put it in a 9×5 pan. I scored the loaf, misted it with spray oil, and let it proof for about an hour and a half.  I baked the loaf at 350 dF for about 45 minutes, until the internal temperature reached 190 degrees.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t sure how well I would like this bread. But I needn’t have worried: it was amazing. It’s a really interesting take on rye bread. The spices give it a lot more flavor and complexity, but it doesn’t taste like panettone or a spiced quick bread, which is what I was worried about. This is a great sandwich bread, and is also really good toasted with marmalade or jelly.

So, what are you waiting for? 

Gu beke-a sume-a Leempa!

Weekend Warrior, BBA Style

 

A number of people have noted that, now that we are about halfway through the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, they have hit a wall. It’s not that they want to quit the Challenge; they just don’t want to bake for a while. Just the opposite happened to me this week. I got my baking and canning mojo on big time. I had a long weekend, and from Saturday to Monday, I managed to make and can apple cider jelly, apple butter and 4-citrus marmalade, and to bake pumpkin gingerbread, pain a l’ancienne, pain de compagne and struan.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This was not a typical weekend for me. In fact, I have never even come close to being this productive in the kitchen before. I don’t know what came over me: I just felt like baking and cooking.

On Saturday morning, I made pumpkin gingerbread, which was the October BOM (bread of the month) for the Facebook Artisan Bread Bakers group. And it was, indeed, the bomb. Check out the recipe if you want to try it for yourself.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Crumb

In the afternoon on Saturday, we went to a local farm market and came home with lots of goodies, including apple cider. I made apple cider jelly in the evening. I think it will be really good as a glaze for tarts or grilled chicken.

While the jelly was cooking, I also baked a half recipe of BBA pain a l’ancienne. This is a rustic bread, crusty, full of holes and definitely homemade looking. I especially enjoy what I consider to be real artisan breads (sourdoughs and those breads containing flour, water, salt, yeast, and little else), so I was looking forward to this recipe. It was a very slack dough, due to the high hydration.

Pain a l'Ancienne shaped

This made it somewhat challenging to work with. But the loaves came out looking really nice.

Pain a l'Ancienne

And the crumb was beautiful.

Pain a l'Ancienne Crumb

And the taste? That’s where the letdown came for me. I didn’t exactly dislike it. But I wasn’t crazy about it, either. It was sort of bland and lifeless. Ah, well. Maybe next time (which wouldn’t be a very long wait for me this weekend).

Sunday morning saw the continuation of the canning craze, as I made my first-ever batch of apple butter. Here are a few pictures: before cooking, after cooking, and after straining.

Apples for Apple Butter

Apple Butter Cooked

Apple Butter - Strained

I went kind of light on the cinnamon and nutmeg, and was really pleased with the results. Several people at work said they don’t normally like apple butter, but they liked this.

While the apples were cooking down, I started on my next BBA bread: pain de compagne. This was a fun bread to make, as it lends itself to all kinds of creative shaping. I opted to try my hand at an auvergnat (cap), couronne (crown), and epi (wheat sheaf). As you can see, I had somewhat mixed results. I liked the couronne and epi. But the auvergnat looked a bit like a stick figure head wearing a graduation cap.

Pain de Compagne shaped

Pain de Compagne proofed

Pain de Compagne

These were really flavorful loaves. My 5-year-old and I kept tearing the nubbins off the epi and eating them. And the auvergnat tasted much better than it looked.

On Sunday evening, I started the 4-citrus marmalade. I began with my citrus marmalade recipe, which I altered by reducing the lemon to 1 and adding 2 limes and about 3/4 of a grapefruit. The citrus marmalade has a great flavor — tangy and sweet — and I thought the addition of lime and grapefruit would enhance the flavor and add a lot to the visual appeal as well.

4 Citruses

After boiling the citrus, I added the sugar, covered the pan and let it sit overnight. By Monday morning, there was a lot more liquid.

4 Citrus Marmalade in the Morning

I cooked it down for several hours, then canned it.

4 Citrus Marmalade Boiled

I will have to write up this recipe, as it was all I had hoped it would be. I can’t wait to give it away for Christmas.

For those of you keeping score, I had one more bread to go. The end of my baking adventure was struan. I used Peter Reinhart’s multigrain bread extraordinaire recipe in BBA, but I doubled it since one loaf just wasn’t enough the last time.

After I had baked my first batch of straun for the BBA Challenge, I realized I had King Arthur 12-grain flour in the freezer, which seemed like a natural addition for this bread. So this time, I replaced about 1/3 of the bread flour in the recipe with the multigrain flour.

And I added more (and different) rice. I had to go to the store to buy rice, so I picked up three bags — brown, red and forbidden (black). I cooked them all together using Nicole’s foolproof method. It is, of course, impossible to cook a few ounces of rice, and I didn’t even try. Instead, I used 1/3 cup (dry) of each rice to make a nice-sized batch. After I measured out the rice for my struan, I wrapped the remaining rice mixture in 2-ounce packages (about 8 in all) and froze them for later use.

And I will use them. I love this bread. In fact, it may be my favorite BBA Challenge bread so far. It has incredible depth of flavor. With polenta, bran, oats, rice, etc., how could it not? And it’s great plain, as toast or for sandwiches. I think the next time I make struan, I will try baking it in my pain de mie pan for a true sandwich loaf.

Thus ended my crazy canning and baking weekend. Even though I had a lot of fun making so many things, I was kind of glad when Tuesday came and I had to go back to work: after all, I needed to catch up on my rest.

Recipe: Citrus Marmalade

A friend of mine asked if I could make some orange marmalade for him. I recalled a recipe from Ina Garten that I had been wanting to try, and this seemed like a good excuse. I looked up Ina’s recipe on the Food Network and read it and the comments section. The general consensus seemed to be that it was a great recipe but called for too much sugar. Now, I’m not afraid of sugar (as my triglycerides can attest). But I wanted to make sure it was edible and not overly sweet. So I cut back the sugar just a bit. And, as my experience in jam-making has taught me, I added a bit of butter to keep the marmalade from foaming up when it is boiled.

The ingredients, with my alterations, are as follows:

  • 4 large navel oranges (or 6 to 8 blood oranges)
  • 2 lemons
  • 8 cups water
  • 6 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon butter

I wanted to make blood orange marmalade, because I thought the color would be stunning. Unfortunately, the grocery didn’t have blood oranges. So I used navel oranges. I washed the lemons and oranges, cut the ends off them, and cut them in half crosswise. Starting with the lemons, I cut the fruit into half-moons with the thinnest blade on my mandoline slicer. I began with the lemons, so I could pick out the seeds as I went. I put the slicer over the top of my pot, so the slices went right into the pan. That way, I avoided the mess of juice all over the counter, and I didn’t lose any juice.

Oranges and Lemons

Once the oranges and lemons were all sliced into the pot, I added the water.

Adding Water to Marmalade

I brought the water and citrus to the boil over medium-high heat, stirring often.

Cooking Oranges and Lemons

Once the mixture reached a full rolling boil,

Marmalade - First Boil

I added the sugar and stirred until the sugar all dissolved.

Sugar is Good for You

Marmalade with Sugar - After Frist Boil

Then I covered the mixture and let it sit on the counter overnight. By morning, the fruit had given up a lot of juice; there was a good inch or two of liquid floating on the top of the pot.

Marmalade in the Morning

I added the butter to the pot,

Little Pat of Butter

and brought the mixture to a boil. I lowered the heat to a simmer, and simmered the marmalade for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Simmering Marmalade

Then I turned the heat up to medium, and brought the mixture to a boil.

Boiling Down

I boiled the marmalade until it reached 220 degrees on a candy thermometer. Meanwhile, I got my canning jars and lids ready, and put the pot on for the water bath.

Boiling to 220 dF

I canned the marmalade in 8 ounce jars and processed it in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Marmalade Water Bath

Then I set the jars on a kitchen towel to cool. I heard the pinging sound of the lids sealing, and within a few hours, the marmalade was set.

Citrus Marmalade

While the marmalade was simmering, I started making marbled rye bread. So by the time the marmalade was cool, I had fresh bread to sample it with.

Marbled Rye and Marmalade

Both the bread and the marmalade are delicious! I can see why Ina used 8 cups of sugar in her recipe; mine is a bit tart. But to me that’s how marmalade is supposed to taste. Some might want it sweeter. But it’s perfect as far as I’m concerned.