Ginger-Scented Panettone {ModBak}

My second assigned blog post for the Yeast-Risen Specialties section of the Modern Baker Challenge is Ginger-Scented Panettone. I’m not sure why I picked this recipe, as I don’t have much experience with panettone. In fact, until I made Peter Reinhart’s Panettone recipe for the BBA Challenge, I had never even tasted panettone. But I really liked PR’s recipe, and since we would be baking from this section during the holiday season, Ginger-Scented Panettone seemed like a festive choice.

In the introduction to this recipe, Nick Malgieri notes that in Italy panettone is generally made with sourdough starter, although his recipe calls for a yeast-based sponge. One advantage to using sourdough is that the bread stays fresh longer and won’t get moldy as quickly. Since I keep two sourdough starters in the refrigerator and it was time to get them out to feed them anyway, I decided to make my panettone with a mixed method, using sourdough starter and some yeast.

Using baker’s math, I calculated the hydration of the sponge and fed my sourdough starter accordingly. I let the sponge ferment for about eight hours, until it was nice and bubbly. Rather than using yeast in the sponge, I added it to the dough. Since I was using instant yeast instead of active dry yeast, I added the yeast along with the flour.

After the sponge was ready, I gathered my ingredients. I was feeling a bit lazy, so I cheated on the minced ginger.

As you might guess from the name, I picked this jar of ginger up at an Indian grocery. I really like this stuff and use it just about anytime a recipe calls for freshly-grated ginger. It comes in a two-pound jar, so it lasts forever, and it stays fresh in the fridge. And speaking of ginger, I found this candied ginger at World Market. It’s fresh and chewy, not all hard and dried out like the stuff you get in the grocery store. And it’s a lot less expensive, too.

I mixed up the dough, which, in addition to the ginger, is flavored with lemon zest and vanilla. Unlike a traditional panettone, this dough isn’t loaded with fruit, containing only golden raisins and no candied fruit or peel. After the dough was mixed up, I put it into a buttered bowl and let it ferment.

The dough rose for about two hours, until it had doubled in volume.

By using a combination of sourdough starter and commercial yeast, I got the advantages of each. The starter enabled me to achieve a longer lasting, more flavorful dough, while the commercial yeast made the dough rise on a more predictable schedule.

After the dough had fermented, I put it in my panettone mold. Based on my previous panettone misadventure, I decided to put the dough into two molds. However, as soon as I had shaped and panned the dough, I could tell that two molds were too many, so I took the dough from one mold and plopped it on top of the dough in the other mold.

I was a bit concerned that the dough might outgrow the paper mold, but I decided to try it anyway, as I didn’t want squat little boules like I had the first time I made panettone. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried, as the dough didn’t quite fill the mold when it proofed, and it baked up perfectly.

Before I baked the loaf, I brushed the top with a little egg wash and sprinkled it with finishing sugar. I liked the way it looked, and it gave the bread just a hint of extra sweetness, along with a nice crunch.

This was a really nice bread. The ginger flavor was definitely in the forefront, but it wasn’t overwhelming. And I liked the fact that it had the golden raisins in it but wasn’t overloaded with candied citrus peel or unnaturally-colored fruit.

Anyone who grew up eating panettone during the holiday season will probably find this a nice diversion from the standard loaf. And if you’ve never been a panettone fan, or perhaps have never even tried it, this would be a nice introduction to this Italian holiday tradition.

Buon Natale!

Neglected Sourdough Starter

A lot of people have written to tell me that my foolproof sourdough starter has worked for them. Many of them had tried numerous times to create their own starter, only to give up at some point in the process. Following my tutorial, though, they’ve found what others have discovered: anyone can create a successful sourdough starter.

Once they have their starters going, the question I get most often from people is, “How do I keep it alive, especially if I don’t bake that often?” Or, more often, the question goes something like this: “I forgot about/didn’t use/neglected my starter for several weeks. It’s all greyish and nasty looking. Did I kill it?”

The good news is, it’s almost impossible to kill a healthy starter. They can take a lot of abuse and neglect and still bounce back. And believe me, I know this from experience.

As noted in my tutorial, I keep my starter in the refrigerator, since I don’t bake with it all the time. When I was first learning to bake sourdough bread, I baked with my starter every week, keeping it in the fridge between bakings. Since I was baking weekly, my starter was being fed at least once each week.

When I ventured into other types of baking, I found I wasn’t using my starter as often. I still fed it weekly, but eventually that became every few weeks, and sometimes even longer.

A few weeks ago, I realized I hadn’t even seen my starter for about three or four weeks, so I dug it out of the fridge to feed it. This is what I found:

The greyish liquid floating on top of the starter is called “hooch”. It’s basically just dead yeast cells. When my starter has a little hooch on the top, I stir it back in before feeding the starter. In this case, I poured it off.

If you read the starter tutorial, you’ll note that I generally feed my starter at a 1:1:1 (starter:water:flour) ratio. If I know I won’t be using it for a while, I might feed it at a higher ratio, sometimes as much as 1:3:3, to give the yeast more fresh food to work on while it sits in the fridge. In this case, I wanted to ease the starter back to an active state, so I stuck with a 1:1:1 feeding.

Within 12 hours, my severely neglected starter had come back to life and was bubbling away happily on the counter.

Since I had neglected it for so long, I gave it two more 12-hour feedings before returning it to the fridge. I haven’t baked with it since I fed it, so I got it out today to feed it up again. Because it was well-fed and active the last time I got it out, this time it didn’t look so bad.

So don’t worry if your starter has been sitting, neglected in the back of the fridge. Chances are, if you take it out and give it a few feedings, it will spring right back to life and be as good as new.

Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche — BBA, The Final Chapter

The final bread in the BBA Challenge is a whopper. In fact, if you make the whole recipe, you’ll end up with almost 6 pounds of dough. Which is why I made a half recipe, which still made one huge miche.

This is a 3-day bread. On the first day, I fed Edwina (my second sourdough starter) and made a sponge. I also roasted the onion in the oven.

When you start weighing your onions, you may have been baking too much

 

The onions smelled so good roasting, I wasn’t sure I could wait 2 days to eat them. Once they cooled, I put them in the refrigerator. My sponge was developing slowly, so I left it out on the counter overnight.

The next day, I mixed the dough, which consisted of flour, yeast, water, salt, the sponge, olive oil, chives, cheese, and scallions. The half-recipe calls for 8 ounces of Asiago cheese, half of which goes into the dough. I used a mix of 4 different cheeses: Asiago, Parmesan, Pecorino Romano, and Parmesano Reggiano. Between the cheeses, chives, and other ingredients, this was easily the most expensive bread in the BBA Challenge. I think I sunk over $20 in ingredients into this dough.

By cutting the recipe in half, I was able to mix it in my Kitchen Aid. It still made a lot of dough.

The dough fermented for about 3 hours, until it had doubled in size.

I formed the loaf into a miche, placed it on a sheet pan, then put it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I took the dough out of the refrigerator and let it rest for about 2 hours. This allowed the dough to come close to room temperature and to rise a bit more. At the end of the proofing period, I brushed the dough with olive oil and dimpled it with my fingers, then sprinkled on the rest of the cheese and the roasted onions.

I baked the loaves with steam in a reducing oven until the internal temperature reached 195 dF. The onions roasted a bit too dark for my taste. The next time I make this bread, I’ll cover it with foil after about 10 to 15 minutes of baking.

This bread was delicious. The cheese and onions gave it a distinct flavor. This was not a timid bread, content to play second fiddle to a main dish. This is a bread that craves, no demands, the spotlight. It would be good with vegetable soup or another sidekick kind of dish. But it really shines on its own.

My wife pronounced it one of her favorite BBA breads. I would have to agree.

Life after the BBA Challenge

The question on a lot of minds is, so, now what? Paul at Yumarama is forming a Mellow Bakers Group; one in which people will bake together at a relaxed pace. First up is Hot Cross Buns. Check out Paul’s blog for details.

As for me, I’m setting off on another long baking journey. I’ll be working my way through Nick Malgieri’s The Modern Baker, a collection of about 150 recipe covering quick breads, yeast breads, tarts, pies, and cakes.

The Modern Baker Challenge will kick off around the beginning of April. If you’re interested, pick up a copy of Nick’s book, start reading the introductory sections, and check out the ModBak blog for details.

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.

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.

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.

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!

Sunflower Seed Rye – The End of an Era

Sunflower Seed Rye, the 35th bread (out of 43) in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, is also the last in a series of sourdough breads featured in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. If you have read my blog before, you know I am a big fan of sourdough, often adding it to yeast bread recipes and having gone so far as to make a sourdough starter tutorial. Needless to say, I loved this bread. And my wife, who is a sunflower seed fanatic, was pretty fond of it, too.

This bread starts with a soaker of pumpernickel grind rye flour and water. In a departure from many of Peter Reinhart‘s other sourdough recipes, this recipe calls for instant yeast, in addition to the firm starter.

I made the soaker and firm starter the day before making the dough.  The dough was supple, soft and just a tad on the tacky side. Although I’ve had mixed results stirring in fruit, nuts, etc. with the Kitchen Aid dough hook, the sunflower seeds folded in easily and didn’t change the consistency of the dough.

After a 90-minute fermentation, I divided the dough in half and shaped each piece into a couronne, or crown. This is done by making a boule, poking a hole in the middle, stretching it into a giant bagel shape, and finally pressing a dowel (or in my case, the handle of a wooden spoon) into four sides of the dough. I dusted the creases with flour to help keep them from growing shut as the bread proofed.

I proofed the dough for about 90 minutes, until it grew to about 1 1/2 times its original size.

While the dough was proofing, I got the oven ready by putting a roasting pan on the bottom shelf and preheating the oven to 500 dF. I proofed the bread on parchment paper that I had placed on a baking sheet, and when the dough was ready, I put the baking sheet in the oven and poured a cup of boiling water into the roasting pan.

I lowered the heat to 450 and baked the loaves for about 25 minutes, rotating them after 10 minutes. The loaves looked pretty nice when they came out, even though the holes baked closed.

The bread was delicious, with a nice tang from the sourdough, a sweet saltiness from the sunflower seeds, and a robust flavor from the rye — definitely a bread worth making again.

BBA Blitzkrieg – 12 Breads, 1 Post

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I made one resolution about 25 years ago that I’ve never broken:  that I’d never make another New Year’s resolution. There’s just something about starting the new year by setting yourself up to fail that doesn’t sit well with me.

That said, as I sit here on January 2nd with a loaf of Stollen in the oven, it seems like a good time to catch up on my Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge posts and start the new year up-to-date in at least one area. As far as the Challenge itself goes, I think I’m ahead of most other bakers. At least I don’t recall seeing any posts on Stollen yet. But as for blogging about my progress? Well, let’s just say it has been a while.

So, to catch up, I decided to hit 12 breads in one post, which will almost catch me up to where I am baking-wise. I’ll hit the highlights here of pane siciliano through pumpernickel, then I’ll start posting as I go again with sunflower seed rye. So, here goes nothing.

Pane Siciliano

My favorite thing about this bread was the cool “S” shape. The other distinguishing factor about pane siciliano is the fact that it uses about 40% semolina flour. I actually wasn’t crazy about the semolina. I found it hard to work with and I didn’t care for the gritty feel of the dough. Nonetheless, the shaped loaves looked nice and rose beautifully.

I was pleased with the finished loaves, both from the standpoint of appearance and flavor.

The crumb was flavorful (and not at all gritty). However, I doubt if I will make this bread again anytime soon. It wasn’t bad; just not one of my favorites so far.

Panettone

As I sit here waiting for my Stollen to bake, I am harkening back to Panettone, another fruit-studded celebration bread. I had never eaten, let alone baked, Panettone, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The dough was beautiful and surprisingly supple, even with all the fruit and flavorings it contained.

One issue I had with this bread had to do with the size. I ended up with approximately 4 pounds of dough, as the recipe indicated. The issue was with the Panettone moulds I bought from King Arthur Flour. The instructions that came with the moulds said each would hold up to 1 pound of dough, so I divided the dough between 4 moulds.

Unfortunately, the moulds seemed to be larger than reported, and the dough never came close to rising to the top. I ended up with small, boule-like loaves, rather than the tall, majestic Panettones I was expecting.

Even though the loaves were smaller than I was hoping for, the finished product was nevertheless wonderful. Some other posters noted that their loaves came out rather dry and tasteless. I didn’t have this issue: my Pannetone was moist and flavorful. The fruit was sweet and tangy without overpowering the bread.

I really enjoyed this bread and will definitely make it again, although next time I think I’ll fit it all into 2 Panettone moulds.

Pizza Napoletana

As I suspected it might, this dough quickly became one of my family’s favorites. In fact, we have instituted Homemade Pizza Night, usually on Sunday nights. We start with PR’s dough, which I often make ahead and freeze, and add whatever toppings tickle our fancy.

If you’ve never tried making your own pizza, or even if you have your own favorite crust recipe, you should definitely give this one a try. You won’t believe how easy and delicious homemade crust can be!

Poolish Baguettes

These baguettes were good. Not earth-shattering. Just good. Actually, I didn’t find them to be much different, or any better, than PR’s French Bread baguettes, which is my go-to French Bread recipe. And the one I’ll stick with for now.

Portuguese Sweet Bread

I love this bread! So much that I made it the November BOM ( bread of the month) for the Facebook Artisan Bread Bakers group.

Although I do have a confession to make. PR’s recipe isn’t my favorite. I like it well enough. And if I’d never tried another recipe, I would be perfectly happy with it. But having made Mark Sinclair’s recipe, I don’t know that I’ll ever like another as much.

If you tried PR’s recipe and liked it, give Mark’s recipe a try. You won’t believe your taste buds!

Potato Rosemary Bread

This bread is as good as it sounds. Mashed potatoes and fresh rosemary in bread. As Ina Garten says, how bad could that be?

The potatoes give it a nice consistency and keep the bread quite moist. And the rosemary gives it an intoxicating aroma. Definitely one to put on the make again list.

Pugliese

This was another one of those take-it-or-leave-it breads for me. It looked nice and tasted fine; it just didn’t rock my world. I wasn’t crazy about working with durum wheat (too much like semolina, I guess). And despite the relatively high hydration level (85%), mine lacked the big holes shown in PR’s version.

Basic Sourdough Bread

I have made this bread more than just about any other kind. When I first started toying with sourdough and starters (over a year ago), I baked this bread every week for several months. It really helped me appreciate baking with sourdough and the intricacies of this recipe in particular.

After baking this bread for months, I started playing around with the recipe, making slight alterations here and there to compare it with the original recipe. My favorite variation was a struan-type bread, Five-Grain Seeded Sourdough Bread, which I bake fairly regularly.

In fact, I’m in the process of baking a few loaves of it right now. I started with Bob’s 10-Grain Cereal this time, and added some red, brown and black rice that I had left over from when I made straun, which, I guess, makes it 13-grain seeded sourdough this go ’round.

New York Deli Rye

I always enjoy a good rye bread, and I often substitute a bit of rye for the bread flour in bread recipes. This was a delicious deli rye, great for sandwiches or just eating slathered with butter.

100% Sourdough Rye Bread

Again, an enjoyable rye bread; although it didn’t rise as well as I had hoped. My starter was freshly fed and active, but my kitchen was fairly cool. And of course, I had to bake it in the evening, so I tried to rush it a bit.

Poilane-style Miche

This bread will make a baker out of you. It’s almost impossible to bake a 4+-pound loaf of bread without feeling like you’ve accomplished something incredible. And you have. How many people do you know who know what a miche is, let alone have ever baked one?

This is a bread for sharing. A show-stopper for a casual dinner. It is a dense, flavorful sourdough wheat bread that you’ll want to bake (and show off) again and again.

Pumpernickel Bread

This is another rye-based bread that I really like. Pumpernickel bagels are my favorite, especially schmeared with salmon cream cheese. This bread tasted just like a pumpernickel should – rich and hearty with a lingering finish.

However, it didn’t rise much. I baked it in my pain de mie pan, and it barely came halfway up the sides of the pan. And it was dense. Really, really dense. Texture and tastewise, it was more like a cocktail pumpernickel than a sandwich bread. Still quite tasty. But not what I was shooting for.

So, there you have it. A quick tour of the breads I’ve been baking lately for the BBA Challenge. Again, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. But I am going to try to keep up on my blogging for the remaining breads in the Challenge.

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