Coupétade (French-Toast Pudding) {AMFT} {FFwD}

Anyone who knows me knows that I love bread pudding. And those who know me well know I also love French toast, especially baked French toast. In fact, I prefer the baked version to the “real thing”. I’m not much of a morning person, so I like the idea of mixing up the French toast the night before, popping in the oven while I have my first cup of coffee, and having breakfast ready by the time everyone else is up and around.

So, when I found a recipe in Around My French Table that combines both of these into one recipe, I couldn’t wait to try it. I had just made Dorie Greenspan’s brioche and had a loaf left over, just waiting to be made into coupétade.

I began by mixing up the French toast ingredients, which consisted of eggs, milk, and sugar. After soaking the brioche, I cooked it on the griddle in plenty of butter.

After the French toast was finished, I cut each slice in half diagonally, and arranged the pieces in the pan. Then I mixed up the custard ingredients — eggs, sugar, vanilla, and milk. I poured this over the French toast and allowed it soak for a few minutes, so the bread would absorb some of the custard. The recipe called for dried fruit, which I put on half of the pan, as I knew my girls would like it better plain.

I baked the pudding in a water bath for about an hour and a half, until the custard was set. The house smelled amazing while the pudding was baking, and I was excited to try it once it cooled.

So, how did it taste? It was quite good. But not nearly as good as my N’awlins Bread Pudding. In fact, it tasted like one of my baked French toast recipes, which is fine, but not what I was expecting from bread pudding. It seemed more like a breakfast bake than a dessert. And unlike my typical baked French toast, I had gone to the effort of frying the French toast first and so was expecting something more.

So,while I enjoyed it, and we ate most of it over the next few days, this isn’t a recipe I’m likely to repeat. But I will definitely use Dorie’s brioche the next time I make baked French toast or bread pudding.

This post participates in French Fridays with Dorie. Check out the website to see what others thought of this recipe.

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.

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.

BBA Whole Wheat Bread — In a Word, Meh

I promised myself I wouldn’t let the weekend pass without writing my blog post for BBA Challenge bread #41, Whole Wheat Bread. I think I’ve been putting it off because I found this bread just so-so. It’s easier to write about a recipe when you have strong feelings about it — good or bad. This bread wasn’t bad; but it wasn’t great either.

The problem with most 100% whole grain breads for me is that they tend to be really heavy, and they don’t rise very well. This bread was no exception. The flavor was OK. But the bread was dense and too chewy.

Here are pictures of the baking process. You’ll note that I wasn’t inspired enough by the final product to take pictures of the finished loaves.

The recipe starts with an overnight soaker, for which I used whole wheat flour and wheat germ.

The dough begins with a whole wheat poolish.

The dough is placed in an oiled bowl and allowed to ferment for 2 hours.

After fermenting, the dough is divided and shaped.

The dough is shaped into loaves and placed in oiled loaf pans. After a 90-minute rise, the loaves are baked at 350 for about 45 minutes.

So, that’s whole wheat bread in a nutshell. Onto Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes, which are getting rave reviews from those who have baked them: Paul at Yumarama; Oggi at I Can Do That.

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.

Struan Upon the Waters — Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire

Here we are, rapidly approaching the halfway mark in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, and I’m still enjoying the ride. Even though I have been baking bread for more years than I care to admit, I continue to learn as I work my way through the recipes in Peter Reinhart‘s excellent book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

I was really excited about this week’s bread, Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire, as it is one of Peter’s signature breads, a version of which has appeared in several of his books. I’m not exactly sure why he renamed it — it was always called Struan before — but it’s basically the same bread, which I have wanted to make since reading Bread Upon the Waters. As the new name implies, this bread is chock full of grains, some of which aren’t generally used in bread baking. Having experimented with my own multigrain bread, Five Grain Seeded Sourdough, I was anxious to try Peter’s recipe.

As with many multigrain breads, including mine, this recipe begins with a soaker. The night before I made the bread, I put the cornmeal, wheat germ and oatmeal in a small bowl, added a little bit of water and covered the bowl with plastic wrap. The recipe called for wheat bran, but all I had on hand was wheat germ. I did an online search to try to determine how different the two really were. I learned that germ is the center of the wheat kernel, whereas bran is the outer husk. Beyond that, the information was confusing and conflicting. Some sites said that the two could be interchanged, while others stated that the difference between them was like that of an egg yolk to the eggshell. Armed with this lack of agreement, I went ahead and used the wheat germ for the recipe.

The next morning, I prepared my rice. Here, again, I had a slight departure from the recipe. I didn’t have any brown rice and didn’t feel like running out for it. So I called a friend of mine who was coming over and asked him to bring me some brown rice. As it turns out, he didn’t have any either. Instead, he brought me red rice. Never having eaten, let alone cooked with red rice, I went back to the ‘net, this time finding that red rice is cooked in the same manner as brown rice.

Now, that created a problem for me, as I have never had any luck cooking brown rice. It either comes out crunchy or as 1 big pasty lump. I did a search for how to correctly cook brown rice and found that our own Nicole, of Pinch My Salt fame, had a blog entry with directions for perfectly cooked brown rice. I knew I needed look no further. If Nicole said it worked, that was good enough for me. I followed her directions, and 40 minutes later, had perfectly cooked red rice.

Red Rice Boiling

Red, Red Rice

After the rice cooled, I mixed the dough. I began by putting the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl. Then I added the soaker and rice.

Mixing Straun

I began mixing the dough, which was quite sticky. It did not clear the bowl at all, and I knew it would need more flour. I added a few small scoops of flour. As they mixed in, I liked the look of the red rice in the dough but felt like it could use more. I had another ounce or so of rice left (about what I had put in to begin with), and I went ahead and added it all. Then I continued to add more flour until the bread had the right feel — tacky but not sticky. After about 10 minutes of mixing in the Kitchen Aid, I took the dough out of the bowl and kneaded it for a few minutes on the counter.

Straun Dough

I put the dough in a bowl to ferment, and about 75 minutes later, it had doubled and was ready for shaping.

Straun Doubled

I patted the dough out into an oval.

Patting out Straun

Then rolled it into a loaf and panned it.

Rolled Straun    Panned Straun

I then misted the dough with water and sprinkled it with poppy seeds.

Sprinkling on Poppy Seeds

I let the loaf proof for about 90 minutes, then baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until it registered 185 degrees on my instant read thermometer. I took the loaf out of the pan to cool on a rack.

It smelled amazing — warm, yeasty, and a bit like molasses. In fact, I would say the smell reminded me quite a lot of Anadama Bread, the first BBA Challenge bread. Even though the Struan loaf had honey and brown sugar in it, I hadn’t really anticipated that it might have a sweet taste to it. Smelling it, I couldn’t imagine what the flavor would be like.

 Straun

One interminable hour later, I sliced the loaf. The crumb was beautiful – soft and light. And the taste really did remind me of Anadama bread. A bit milder, but really delicious. This would make an excellent sandwich bread and would also be great for morning toast and tea.

Straun Crumb

This is certainly a bread to make again. The only changes I might make next time would be to omit the poppy seeds on the top of the loaf — there’s nothing wrong with them, they just don’t seem to add anything to the bread. And I would make a double batch next time. This bread is just too good to only have one loaf at a time.

Baking and Cooking Glossary

One of the things I like about blogging is sharing some of the things I’ve learned about cooking and baking, including terms that can sometimes be confusing. I decided to start this glossary to collect some of these words and terms. I’ll add things here as I mention them in my blog and include links to this glossary from the blog entries, and vice versa.

There are a lot of food glossaries out there, and I have no intention of trying to make this one a complete compendium of cooking or baking terms. Rather, I want to use it to collect terms that come up in my blog posts. That said, if there are cooking terms that confuse you, drop me a line. I’ll try to add a definition.

baker’s percentages (or baker’s math) — in professional and artisan bread baking, recipes are conceived in ratios whereby the total flour in the recipe, by weight, is always 100%, and the rest of the ingredients are presented in relation to the flour weight. So, for example, if you are using 1000 grams of flour, and the yeast is given as 3%, then the recipe would require 30 grams of yeast.

fiori di sicilia — literally, “flower of Sicily”, is a flavoring extract with essences of citrus and vanilla. It can be used in place of vanilla and adds a wonderfully subtle flavor to sweet doughs.

full rolling boil — often use in jam and jelly making, the term “full rolling boil” means a boil that doesn’t subside when you stir the mixture.

herringbone cut — a method for cutting a boule that results in even-sized slices. (Click on link to see a pictoral demonstration.)

hooch — the greyish, brownish liquid that forms on the top of sourdough starter when the starter needs to be fed. Hooch is a result of alcohol production in the starter fermentation process. It can be poured off or stirred back into the starter. If it is poured off, the starter may require slightly more liquid when fed.

mise en placemise en place (pronounced MEES ahn plahs), literally “put in place” but more commonly translated “everything in place”, is a French cooking term, which simply refers to assembling all of your ingredients and equipment before you begin cooking. You read through your recipe, get out all your ingredients, measure, wash, chop, toast, bring to room temperature, etc., and get all of your pots, pans, bowls, utensils, and other equipment ready.

100% hydration — this term, used with sourdough starters, refers to the amount of water in a starter in relation to the amount of flour, both measured by weight. In baker’s percentages (see entry above), the flour is always 100%, and all other ingredients are measured in reference to the flour. So 100% hydration means that the weight of the water in the starter is equal to the weight of the flour. So, for example, if you feed your starter 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water, the starter would be 100% hydration.

pain de mie — is a fancy-sounding name for an everyday sandwich bread. Literally, it translates to “bread of crumb”; but most online French-to-English translators will return “sandwich bread” or simply “bread”. Pain de mie can be made with whole grain, but it is usually just a simple, white sandwich bread, often enriched with milk, butter, and sugar. It can be baked in a loaf pan or a Pullman pan (see below).

proofing box — a proofing box (sometimes also called a “proof box”) is sealed space where a baker can control the temperature and humidity in order to proof dough under controlled conditions. Generally, the temperature of a proofing box is kept around 100 degrees F, and the humidity at about 85%. (See how I simulate a proofing box in my microwave oven.)

Pullman pan — so named because it resembles the shape of a Pullman train car, this lidded, rectangular pan bakes a perfect pain de mie loaf (see above). Pullman pans come in many sizes, but a “standard” pan is about 13x4x4 inches and holds about 3 1/2 pounds (42 ounces) of dough.

soaker— in making a soaker, course-ground grains (e.g., cracked wheat, course-ground cornmeal, oats, etc.) are soaked in a small amount of water or milk overnight. This serves to soften and activate the enzymes in the grains, which improves the flavor of bread dramatically.

tacky vs. sticky (dough) — in bread baking, the recipe will often say that the dough should be either tacky or sticky. The easiest way to test this is to press your hand onto the dough and then lift it up. If the dough pulls up with your hand and then releases (so your hand comes away clean), the dough is tacky. If you end up with dough stuck to your hand, it’s sticky.