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.

Sauvignon Wine, So Little Time

After my first successful forray into jelly/jam making, I was itching to try another batch or two. I picked up a copy of Linda Amendt’s book, which has tons of great jam and jelly recipes, and decided to try some “drunken” spreads: Cabernet Sauvignon Wine Jelly and Blackberry Cabernet Sauvignon Jam (recipe to follow). 

After reading the author’s admonitions about not doubling or otherwise changing the amounts in the recipes, I figured I’d make a half batch of the cab jelly. That way I could make the jam and jelly with one 750-ml bottle of Cabernet with just a little wine left over. But what to do with the rest…?

An open bottle is an empty bottle

An open bottle is an empty bottle

 I had planned on preparing both recipes on the same day, but I ended up making the cab jelly a day or so before I got around to the blackberry cab jam. The jam recipe called for the following ingredients:

  • 3 3/4 cups (about 1 1/2 lbs) crushed blackberries — I used frozen
  • 1 pkg powdered fruit pectin
  • 6 1/3 cups (yikes!) sugar
  • 1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon wine
  • 1/2 tsp. unsalted butter (optional)

I crushed the thawed blackberries one layer at a time in a flat container.

Mashing Berries

Then I put the berries, juice and all, into a pot with the pectin, which I had mixed with 1/4 cup sugar, and the butter. The butter is optional, but I like to use it, as it helps keep the jam from foaming as it cooks.

Blackberries

I brought this mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Then I gradually stirred in the remaining sugar, brought the mixture back to a rolling boil, and stirred and boiled it for 1 minute. I then took it off the heat, stirred in the wine, and let it rest for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, while I got the jars and lids ready.

Cooked Jam

I filled the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top, wiped the rims and threads, placed the lids on the jars, and screwed on the bands. The recipe said it would make 7 or 8 eight-ounce jars; I ended up with 7 eight-ounce and 4 four-ounce jars. I put the jars in the water bath, brought it to a gentle, steady boil, and processed the jars for 10 minutes.

Processing Jam

I took the jars out of the water bath, put them on a dish towel on the counter, and waited for the thocking sound of the lids sealing. All of the lids sealed, and I kept checking the jam throughout the rest of the evening to see if the jam was setting up. It stayed liquidy until bedtime, but by morning it was set and beautiful.

Blackberry Cabernet Jam

I had a little bit of jam left over when I filled the jars, which I put in a custard cup in the fridge. I ate it on toast for breakfast. And a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. Then more toast. And another sandwich. It is absolutely delicious. The berries are so fresh and bold tasting, and the wine gives it an added bit of richness.

When I was ladeling the jam into the jars and realized how much I was going to end up with, I started wondering what I would do with all of it. Now I’m wondering how soon I will have to make more.