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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Crack(er)ing the Mystery of Lavash

A few months ago, I made crackers; or, rather, I tried to make crackers. What I made was a crumbly mess. I didn’t even bother trying to bake them.  So, when it came time to make the Lavash Crackers for the BBA Challenge, I was a little nervous. All the more so because my cracker fail was with a different Peter Reinhart recipe.

Although I guess I must not have been too nervous, as I decided to make two batches of crackers — one with yeast and the other sourdough. I figured I’d mix the dough according to the recipe in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and then try my hand at sourdough crackers. That way, I’d have an idea what the dough should look and feel like.

I gathered my ingredients and started mixing.

Lavash Cracker Ingredients

If you make these crackers, you’ll notice that the recipe calls for honey and oil (in that order). If you weigh your ingredients (and you should), I recommend that you to measure your oil first, then use the same bowl to measure the honey. The oil remaining in the bowl with keep the honey from sticking.

PR points out that this is a very stiff dough, somewhere between French bread and bagel dough, and he recommends kneading it by hand. I took him at his word, and kneaded the dough for 10 minutes.

Kneading Lavash Crackers

As you can see, it was a rather small lump of dough, so even though it was pretty stiff, it wasn’t much of a chore to knead. I had added all but about an ounce of the water called for in the recipe to get the dough to come together, and I found I had to add a bit of flour to get the it to the correct consistency — stiff, supple and not at all tacky. I got a nice window pane at the end of 10 minutes of kneading, and set the dough aside to ferment.

After about 90 minutes, I rolled out the dough. I found that I didn’t have to stop and rest it, as PR said I might. Rather, the dough rolled out beautifully with almost no pull-back. I had decided to bake the crackers on my Silpat, so I rolled the dough out to the edges, which made it somewhat larger than the recipe called for. But I figured, the thinner the better for crackers.

Rolling Lavash Crackers

I topped the dough with alternating rows of sesame and poppy seeds, and sprinkled Diamond Crystal kosher salt over the whole thing.

Lavash Crackers with poppy & sesame

Then I cut the edges into a nice rectangle, and cut the crackers into diamonds.

Lavash Crackers Cut

While the Lavash dough was fermenting, I mixed up the dough for my sourdough crackers. I had just fed Adrian the night before, and I measured out 5 ounces into my mixing bowl. Since I keep my starter at 100% hydration, I cut back the flour and water in the recipe by 2 1/2 ounces each. And of course I omitted the yeast. I had to use almost all of the water to get the dough to come together, and again added quite a bit of flour during kneading. And I had to knead a few extra minutes to achieve a window pane.

The sourdough didn’t rise much during the bulk ferment, and I let them go a bit longer than the straight dough. But the dough still rolled out nicely and easily stretched to cover my Silpat.

I decided to top the sourdough crackers with pumpkin and sunflower seeds  and Maldon smoked sea salt. (Aside: if you haven’t tried smoked sea salt yet, do yourself a favor and sneak a box into your shopping bag or your next King Arthur order.)

Sourdough Lavash with pumpkin & sunflower

PR notes that you can cut the dough into crackers before you bake it or bake it whole and break it into pieces for a more rustic look. I decided not to cut the sourdough crackers. I don’t know if it was the difference in the dough or if I had underfermented the sourdough and so ended up with monster oven spring, but whatever the cause, my sourdough crackers blew up like a giant pita.

Baked Lavash Crackers

Both batches were delicious and have helped me overcome my fear of homemade crackers. The sourdough version may not be much to look at, but I think the combination of the seeds, sourdough and smoked salt gave these crackers the clear edge in the taste department.

Chalk up another great recipe for Peter Reinhart. And another baking challenge for me.