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!

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Quick Brioche Braid {ModBak}

The first recipe in the third section of The Modern Baker is a bread with which I am quite familiar, having baked three versions from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and one from Dorie Greenspan’s new book, Around My French Table. What differentiates Nick Malgeri‘s brioche recipe from others I’ve made is that it comes together very quickly, is shaped immediately after mixing, and rises only once.

I made this bread twice. The first time I departed from the recipe in two ways. First, I mixed the dough in the stand mixer instead of the food processor.

As you can see, the dough was very wet. After mixing it, I put the dough in bread pans (the second departure from the recipe, which calls for braiding the dough).

Even though it remained slack, the dough baked up nicely, and I was pleased with the look of the resulting brioche.

As far as the taste goes, I would have to say it wasn’t my favorite of the brioches I’ve made. It tasted fine, but wasn’t exceptional. I made Dorie’s brioche at the same time and liked it better.

I made the first batch of brioche before we actually go to this section of the book, and I decided to remake it, this time following the recipe. So, I mixed the dough in the food processor instead of the mixer. I’m still having the issue of liquids leaking out of the food pro when I use it to make dough, but I’m starting to think it’s either something with my Cuisinart or user error, as others don’t seem to have this problem.

After mixing the dough, I shaped the loaf. The dough was much less slack than the first time I made the recipe and was easy to handle. First, I divided the dough into three pieces, rolled each piece into a rope, and then braided the ropes.

I allowed the bread to proof for about two hours, until it doubled in size.

After brushing the loaf with beaten egg, I baked it in a 350° oven for about 40 minutes, until it was well-risen and golden brown.

The bread smelled amazing. And it looked really nice when I sliced it. The big question, of course, was how it would taste.

Although I didn’t have another brioche to compare this one to, this loaf would stack up well against any of the other recipes I have tried. In fact, given how easy this one is to prepare, it may just become my go-to recipe for brioche.

Brioches — Bubble-Top and Loaves {AMFT}

French Fridays with Dorie, the new cooking group dedicated to making weekly recipes from Dorie Greenspan‘s latest book, Around My French Table, doesn’t officially launch until October. The first months’ recipes, chosen for us by Dorie herself, look really great and should be a nice introduction to the book for most people. I, of course, couldn’t wait for the launch of FFwD, so I set out to make a few recipes from AMFT on my own.

The first recipe I tried, Eggplant Caviar, was a hit and had me ready to try more. For my second recipe, I decided to make something I already know and love, Brioche. Having made all three brioche recipes from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, I had an idea what to expect from the dough and resulting bread.

Dorie’s recipe differs from Peter Reinhart’s recipes in that, instead of a sponge, it uses overnight fermentation to develop flavor. As far as butter content, it seems to be somewhere between PR’s Poor Man’s and Middle-Class Brioches.

The dough mixed up fairly quickly in the Kitchen Aid, and after resting for an hour on the counter, it was ready to chill overnight. The next day it looked like this:

There are two shaping options given in the recipe — bubble-top brioches and brioche loaves — and I decided to try them both. The bubble-top brioches are individual brioches made by dropping three small dough balls into brioche molds or cupcake tins.

The loaf is shaped by dividing the dough into four pieces, shaping each into a log, and arranging the logs in the pan.

The loaves proofed for about an hour-and-a-half, until the dough filled the pans.

The bubble-top brioches baked for about 20 minutes; the loaf for about 30, until they were golden brown and well-risen.

The brioches were delicious — buttery and light. They compared quite favorably to PR’s Middle-Class Brioche, my favorite of the three. In fact, I would have to try Dorie’s and PR’s loaves side by side to choose a favorite.

This is definitely a recipe to make again, and another winner from Dorie’s French table.

Prosciutto/Lebanon Bologna Bread {ModBak}

The next recipe I tackled in the Breads section of the Modern Baker Challenge was Prosciutto Bread. I have committed myself to baking all the recipe in the book, so there was no escaping this one, but it did present a dilemma. I don’t eat pork products, so I was left with the choice between making a bread I couldn’t eat or finding a substitution for the prosciutto. Faced with a similar problem during the BBA Challenge when baking Casatiello, I used Lebanon bologna in place of salami with great results. So I decided to do the same thing here, substituting Seltzer’s Beef Lebanon Bologna for the prosciutto.

If you’ve never had Lebanon bologna, it is similar to trail bologna — smoky and slightly sweet. But unlike trail bologna, it is the size of regular bologna and is usually sliced thin for sandwiches. One of my family’s favorite ways to eat Lebanon bologna is to fry the slices briefly in a skillet then eat them on a sandwich.

Other than the addition of meat to the dough, this is a fairly straightforward enriched bread that consists of flour, salt, sugar, ground black pepper, yeast, water, and olive oil. I recalled that when Kayte baked this recipe, she observed that the bread was too salty. Lebanon bologna isn’t as heavily salted as prosciutto, but it is still fairly salty, so I cut the salt in the recipe back from 1 1/2 teaspoons to a scant teaspoon. The amount of pepper — 1 tablespoon — seemed like a lot to me, but I went with it, grinding pepper into a tablespoon measure before adding it to the rest of the dry ingredients.

The main thing that distinguished this bread from Casatiello was that the Prosciutto Bread doesn’t have any cheese in it. I was a bit leery of this, as the gooey cheesiness was one of the things that made the Casatiello one of my favorite recipes in the BBA Challenge. But I wanted to stay as true to the recipe as I could, so I made it without cheese.

After mixing the dry ingredients, I combined the water, yeast, and oil in a measuring cup, then added them to the dry ingredients and mixed until the dough was evenly moistened. I then folded in the Lebanon bologna. After a brief autolyse, I folded the dough in the bowl with a bench scraper about 20 times. Then I put the dough in an oiled bowl to ferment.

The dough took about an hour and a half to double. The recipe suggests shaping the dough into batards but also gives the option of making braided loaves. I decided to do one of each. I shaped half the dough into a batard, then divided the remaining dough into two pieces and did a two-strand braid.

The dough proofed for almost two hours, until it doubled. Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 400° F.

I baked the loaves for 30 minutes — the recipe says 40 — at which time the internal temperature was 195° F and the crust was golden brown. The bread smelled amazing while it baked: there is nothing like the smell of Lebanon bologna while it cooks. It reminded me of Casatiello, and I was really excited to try it.

I let the loaves cool for a few minutes before slicing into the braid. The crumb was soft and studded with bits of meat.

I eagerly grabbed a slice of bread, slathered it with lightly salted cultured butter, and took a bite. It was good. A bit too peppery, but otherwise really good. I ate about five slices for dinner and was perfectly satisfied.

But it did seem like there was something missing. Then it occurred to me — it needed a slice of cheese. So in the end, it was almost as good as Casatiello and might have been just as good if, like the BBA bread, it had cheese added to it.

Moral of the story:  if you’re going to add meat to bread, you might as well add cheese, too.

Seven Grain & Seed Bread {ModBak}

I’ve been fascinated with multigrain bread since I read Peter Reinhart’s Bread Upon the Waters, in which he analogizes the bread baking process to his spiritual journey, and carries that metaphor through the book using his recipe for struan. Whether it’s called grain and seed bread, multigrain bread, or struan, this is one of my favorite breads to bake and eat.

In fact, Peter’s Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire was one of my favorite recipes in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and I went on to create my own sourdough grain and seed bread recipe. So it should come as no surprise that of the recipes in the Breads section of The Modern Baker, this is the one I was most excited to try.

Because this recipe has a lot of ingredients, I felt it was important to use mise en place. This was all the more true since I upped the ante by making this an 11 grain and seed bread. Nick suggests adding black sesame seeds and brown rice to the recipe, which I decided to do. And since I keep two-ounce packages of mixed red, brown, and black rice in the freezer for making struan, I ended up adding four additional ingredients.

I began by making a soaker with the oats and rice, which I mixed with boiling water.

While many recipes require an overnight soaker, Nick’s recipe calls for using the soaker as soon as it cools. Although he doesn’t say what temperature to cool it to, I figured I would bring it to around 110° F, the same temperature as the water called for in the recipe.

After the soaker had cooled, I measured the water. The recipe said to add the yeast to the water, but I accidentally put it into the soaker.

Oh, well. No harm done, since both the soaker and the water were added to the mixed flours.

The ingredients were mixed briefly, then allowed to autolyse for 20 minutes.

After four more minutes of mixing, I put the dough in an oiled bowl to ferment.

The dough doubled in just over an hour.

After the bulk ferment, I pressed the dough out into a rough rectangle, which I then divided into two pieces. As has been the case with most of the recipes in this section, this dough was quite slack, so shaping was a challenge. And it didn’t help that I found the shaping instructions in the book a bit confusing. The results of my first attempt (on the left) weren’t pretty. I caught on by the second loaf, which came out looking a little better.

I allowed the dough to proof for about an hour, by which time it had crested well above the tops of the pans.

I baked the loaves for about 30 minutes, until they were golden brown and reached an internal temperature of 185° F.

So, did these loaves live up to my expectations? In a word, yes. The crust and crumb were soft and chewy, the texture of a good sandwich bread. And the taste was amazing — complex, nutty, slightly sweet. It was great plain, with cultured butter, and as a base for sandwiches.

This is definitely my favorite bread in this section of the book (so far) and one that I will make again.

French Bread for Baguettes & Other Loaves {ModBak}

As part of the Breads section in the Modern Baker Challenge, I decided to take on French bread. Unlike some recipes that I decide to do because I have never made that particular kind of bread, I chose French bread specifically because I have made French bread before. Lots and lots of French bread.

I’ve been baking French bread since I was about 10 years old and have in recent years really developed a passion for great baguettes. It started with a French bread class I took at the Western Reserve School of Cooking and has continued with my experience on The Fresh Loaf and baking from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and other artisan bread books and, most recently, Artisan Breads Every Day.

In baking French bread, there are always a few things at odds with each other. First, you want to develop flavor, which takes time. The more time, the better. On the other hand, if you’re like me, you enjoy baking bread but don’t want to be tied down all day making it. That’s why I’ve really taken to some of the new recipes that employ long, slow fermentation in the refrigerator, which develops flavor without much input from the baker. In fact, a lot of the recipes also require very little mixing or kneading, using time to develop gluten, too.

Nick Malgieri’s recipe in The Modern Baker combines new and old methods. There is minimal mixing; time and lots of resting of the dough are used to develop the gluten structure and flavor. Consequently, this recipe takes a long time to make. It is made all in one day and takes about seven hours start to finish. So, on a recent Saturday when I had plenty of time, I decided to try my hand at yet another French bread recipe.

I began by mixing two doughs. The first dough used a true autolyse, as it contained only flour and water, which were minimally mixed and then set aside for an hour to fully hydrate and begin to develop flavor.

The second dough was comprised of flour, salt, water, and yeast. It, too, was mixed just until evenly moistened, then set aside to develop on its own.

After an hour, there was no visible change to the first dough, but the second had smoothed out and begun to rise.

I then combined to two doughs, mixed briefly, let the combined dough rest for 15 minutes, then mixed again for a few minutes. I then set the dough aside to rest for two hours, until it had more than doubled in bulk.

The recipe says to turn the dough out onto the work surface and give it several folds. I left the dough in the bowl and folded it over itself about 20 times with a bench scraper, turning the bowl a quarter turn after each fold. The dough rested for another hour, then I shaped it. I formed two baguettes and a boule. The boule shape is from the next recipe in the book, Pain de Campagne, which I decided to make using the French bread dough.

At this point, the recipe calls for proofing the dough for one to two hours, until it doubles in bulk. I checked my loaves after an hour, and they were more than doubled, so I got them ready to bake by slashing the baguettes and scoring the Pain de Campagne loaf.

Now I had a decision to make. The recipe says to bake the loaves at 425° F for a total of 25-30 minutes. I knew from my baguette-baking experience that the oven temperature was too cool and the loaves wouldn’t achieve the caramelization that I’ve come to expect from my French bread. But I usually try to follow a new recipe as written the first time I bake it, so I set the oven to 425° and hoped for the best.

I pushed the loaves to the 30-minute mark, until I knew the crumb was fully baked and would begin to toughen if I left the bread in the oven much longer. However, the loaves never caramelized like I wanted. They didn’t look bad, as you can see from these photos.

But when compared to the baguettes and Pain de Campagne boule I baked the same day from Artisan Breads Every Day, the lack of caramelization becomes readily apparent.

Modern Baker loaves, left and bottom, compared to ABED loaves

 Although they lacked the crust color and crunch of the Reinhart loaves, the baguettes had beautiful crumb, chewy and full of holes.

My wife liked this bread better than the Reinhart loaves. For me, the crust didn’t quite match up, but the long, slow fermentation and proofing gave the crumb a delicious taste and great texture.

If I bake these loaves again, I will increase the oven temperature to 500° F and probably use steam, too. But otherwise I wouldn’t change the recipe.

A Big Day for Peter Reinhart

When I was at Notre Dame Law School, I visited the office of Professor Charlie Rice. Among his many travels, Prof. Rice had been to Rome, and he had a picture of himself with the Pope hanging on his wall. When I commented on the photo, Prof. Rice said, “Oh, yes. It was a very big day for His Holiness.”

I would like to think that last Monday, June 21, was similarly a big day for Peter Reinhart. He came to the Western Reserve School of Cooking in Hudson, Ohio, to teach three classes from his new book, Artisan Breads Every Day. I was fortunate to be able to attend the first class on Monday evening.

Peter signed books and talked with participants before and after the class and was very engaged throughout the evening. He had three assistants, two ovens baking, and countless hearth breads, sticky buns, babkas, rolls, challahs, and crumb cakes going into and out of the ovens the whole time, yet he never lost focus or seemed the slightest bit distracted.

As I mentioned above, Peter was demonstrating recipes and techniques from his new book. Among these techniques is the use of minimal dough handling (i.e., no long kneading sessions) and retarding, or holding the dough in the refrigerator to develop flavor and allow you to bake on your own schedule.

In the picture above, Peter is demonstrating a stretch-and-fold, which is where, rather than kneading the dough, you stretch it out and fold it over itself several times at timed intervals. This works surprisingly well at mixing the ingredients and developing gluten.

We sampled three different kinds of sticky buns:  Philadelphia sticky buns, honey almond sticky buns, and creamy caramel buns with dried cranberries and pecans. Having grown up in Eastern Pennsylvania, I know a thing or two about sticky buns. All three recipes were fantastic. The Philadelphia buns tasted just like what we used to get in Lancaster County. The caramel buns were delicious, especially with the crunch of pecans and slightly tart sweetness of cranberries. But I think my favorite were the honey almond buns.

 

I don’t recall ever having had babka before this class. Peter’s ingredients were great — how can you go wrong with chocolate and cinnamon? But it was the technique that really impressed me. He pressed out the dough, spread it with the filling, and rolled it up, like you might with cinnamon-swirl bread. Then, using what is known as the kranz shaping method, he cut the loaf lengthwise, turned each half so that the cut side was facing up, and twisted the two pieces together. The effect was beautiful.

He also demonstrated two-, three-, four-, five-, and six-strand challah braids. Here is the two-strand:

As you can probably tell, I had a great time meeting and learning from Peter Reinhart. He is a world-class baker, a natural teacher, and a down-to-earth guy.

And he makes a mean sticky bun.

Herringbone — It’s Not Just For Tweed Anymore (or How to Cut a Boule)

So, you’ve been baking artisan breads for some time now, and you’ve finally learned how to consistently shape a nice boule. “Now”, you wonder, “how do I cut it?” Sure, you could just slice it like any other loaf, from one side to the other. But then you’ll end up with small pieces at the ends of the loaf and giant slices from the middle.

If only there was a way to cut nice, evenly-sized slices the whole way through the loaf….

Take heart, home baker, there is! All you need is a herringbone cut. Now, that may sound like some exotic technique only available to master bakers. But I’m here to tell (and show) you that you can do this at home. And you don’t need any special skills or equipment to accomplish beautiful, even slices.

So here is a simple, easy-to-follow picture tutorial that will have you slicing your boules like a pro.

First, cut a slice like you normally would. How easy is that?

Then turn your loaf counterclockwise slightly less than 90° and make another slice. Note how that end of slice #2 overlaps the first slice just slightly.

For the third slice, rotate the loaf clockwise and make the slice where you made slice #1.

Counterclockwise again for slice #4, from where you made slice #2. Back to the beginning position for slice #5, and so on.

And if you’re wondering why it’s called a herringbone cut, here is the partially sliced loaf reassembled:

See how the slices overlap like herringbone?

That’s all there is to it. Pretty cool, huh? Now, go bake a boule so you can try it yourself!

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice — The Challenge Takes Its Toll

Although I had been baking from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice for about a year before beginning the BBA Challenge, my book was still in pretty good shape. In fact, about three months into the Challenge, the book still looked OK, as can be seen in this photo.

By the end of the Challenge, it was a different story. Here’s how the book looks now.

It’s sort of the Velveteen Rabbit of cookbooks. Well worn. Well-used. Well loved.

I wonder what The Modern Baker will look like when I finish baking my way through it.

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.

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