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!

Advertisements

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

King Cake {Recipe}

King Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 5 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 cup warm milk (105 to 115 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup room temperature unsalted butter
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange oil or extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil or extract 
  • 1 pecan half, uncooked dried bean or King Cake Baby

Glaze:

  • 2 cups sifted powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange oil or extract 
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Purple, green and gold sugar crystals

Directions

Combine the yeast, flour, sugar, salt, nutmeg, lemon rind in mixer bowl and add water, warm milk, butter,  egg yolks, and orange and lemon oils. Beat with dough hook on speed 1 for 2 minutes until smooth. Increase speed to 2 and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic (6-8 minutes). Place the dough in a well-greased bowl. Turn once so greased surface is on top.

Cover the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours). Deflate the dough and place on a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a cylinder, about 30 inches long. Place the cylinder on a buttered baking sheet. Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased 2-pound coffee can or shortening can in the center of the ring to maintain shape during baking. Press the King Cake Baby, pecan half or dried bean into the ring from the bottom so that it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover the ring with a towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the coffee can immediately. Allow the cake to cool. For the glaze: Combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. To assemble, drizzle cake with the glaze. Sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors.

Whoever gets the baby is the Mardi Gras King or Queen and has to bring the King Cake next year.

Check out my Bavarian Cream Cheese King Cake recipe, too.