#43 at 45

Roasted Onion & Asiago Miche - Out of the oven

I won’t take a long time to write about it right now (I will later, and I have plenty of things to write about the other breads between the last post and this), but I thought I’d let you all know that this afternoon I baked bread #43 of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge: Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche.

Yep, the last bread in the challenge.

And it’s a divine bread, with an airy, focaccia-like interior, subtle oniony and cheesy flavors, and a crisp and crackly crust.

Roasted Onion & Asiago Miche - Crumb

I’m alone with this giant loaf right now and in danger of eating half of it all by myself.

As birthday cakes go, this might be one of my favorites.

Potato Rosemary Bread – BBA Challenge bread 28

Potato Rosemary Bread Collage

I was feeling a bit disheartened after the last few breads. I enjoyed the Pizza Napoletana, but it had been since Pane Siciliana and Pain a l’Ancienne that I had made a bread we really adored and I was beginning to wonder if I’d make a transcendent loaf again.

Thank goodness for Potato Rosemary Bread!

This is an easy-to-make, two-day bread that you will adore. It has the light airy crumb of a bread like the Portuguese Sweet Bread, a crispy and crackly olive oil crust like Focaccia, and the fragrant addition of chopped rosemary. The mashed potatoes give it moisture and tenderness. The biga gives the flavor depth a boost. What’s not to like?

Like the previous two-day breads, this recipe starts out with mixing up a biga pre-ferment the night before baking day. I won’t go into details about that here, because I’ve written about it before, but it’s a simple process of mixing a small amount of dough, allowing it to ferment for a few hours, and then refrigerating it. 15 minutes of work. Also the night before, I whipped up a batch of mashed potatoes. I needed 1 cup for this recipe, so I made enough for dinner and set aside a cup for the next day. The recipe doesn’t indicate how or if you should doctor the mashed potatoes, so I just made my usual version, with yukon gold potatoes, some butter, milk, and coarse salt.

The next day, I chopped some fresh rosemary, and then mixed the dough by combining flour, salt, coarsely ground black pepper, yeast, mashed potatoes, olive oil, chopped rosemary, and water. I then transferred the dough to a floured counter and kneaded it for about 10 minutes. The resulting dough was smooth and quite workable, with flecks of rosemary scattered evenly throughout. Then, into an oiled bowl for a two-hour fermentation before shaping into two boules, proofing until doubled, brushing with olive oil, and then baking.

See step-by-step pictures of this bread here.

Oh! The aromas that came out of the oven that afternoon! We couldn’t wait to taste it. When it came out of the oven, the crust was so crisp we could hear it crackle as it cooled, fine lined cracks appearing all over the crust’s surface. When we finally cut into it, the crust was crispy and light in exactly the same was as the Focaccia’s crust (due to the olive oil, I assume), and the interior was light, spongy, and tender, with an even, open crumb.

The recipe optionally calls for the inclusion of roasted garlic in the dough. Instead, I roasted a head of our own garlic in the oven, and we crushed whole roasted cloves on each thick slice. These loaves didn’t last long. I’m having a hard time even writing about this bread without longing for a slice. I have a feeling I know what bread I’m making in my spare time very soon.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is a group of home bakers, scattered across the planet, focused on one goal: completing every recipe in Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, in order, and writing about our experience. Want to join us? Buy or borrow a copy of the book, a big bag of flour, and plunge in!

Portuguese Sweet Bread – BBA Challenge bread 27

Portuguese Sweet Bread Collage

I’ll admit right now that it’s all my fault that this bread didn’t turn out to be anything interesting.

The pictures in the book look tantalizingly attractive: a dark, matte crust, with a fluffy, white interior. It looked like a bread we all could love. But when I read the recipe and saw lemon and orange extracts (in addition to vanilla), plus sugar, in the ingredient list, I began to have my doubts. Those of us in the family who like hearty breads, might not be so interested in a fluffy, sweet bread. Those of us who love fluffy white breads, definitely would have no interest in lemon and orange flavors.

What to do?

I tried to split the difference by omitting the fruit extracts and keeping the vanilla.  The result was a fairly boring bread. It had a wonderful aroma, and a soft crust (made golden brown by the addition of an egg wash just before baking), and the crumb was fluffy and soft. But none of us liked it. It was neither fish nor fowl to us. Even if I had added the fruit extracts, I don’t know that we would have loved it, but I probably did the bread a real disservice by omitting them.

Either way, this bread is not on my re-do list. Not with so many other wonderful breads to try.

See step-by-step pictures of this bread here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is a group of home bakers, scattered across the planet, focused on one goal: completing every recipe in Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, in order, and writing about our experience. Want to join us? Buy or borrow a copy of the book, a big bag of flour, and plunge in!

Poolish Baguettes – BBA Challenge bread 26

Poolish Baguettes Collage

In his introduction to this recipe, Peter Reinhart writes, “…the poolish baguette made at the original Ganachaud Boulangerie was the second best baguette I ever had (the first being the pain a l’ancienne of Philippe Gossellin”).” I feel the same is true of these baguette recipes in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

What I appreciate most about the Poolish Baguette recipe is how easy it is to handle and score the dough. In fact, it’s a really beautiful, silky dough. It was so much fun to knead, I had trouble putting it down. And when it came time to shape and score it, the resilient dough stood up well to handling and still resulted in a respectable baguette crumb. In comparison, the l’Ancienne dough is one you simply can’t handle; it’s far too wet and fragile, and the kneading, as such, is best left to the mixer. As a result of the dough texture, the Poolish Baguette recipe makes a baguette that looks (in my hands, at any rate) more like a classic baguette than the l’Ancienne version.

But the difference in flavor between the two seems, to me, dramatic. Both use different methods to achieve depth of flavor. In l’Ancienne, the entire dough is given a long, slow, cold fermentation, overnight in the refrigerator. In the poolish baguettes, the poolish made the night before is used to provide the slowly developed fermented flavor to the rest of the dough that’s mixed the following day. In addition, the poolish baguette recipe incorporates sifted whole-wheat flour, which provides some heartiness of flavor without the coarseness of the bran.

See step-by-step pictures of this bread here.

We made the poolish baguettes during Thanksgiving weekend, and treated ourselves to some homemade butter. We didn’t wait for the baguettes to cool for too long before we sliced into it. The crust was crisp, the interior crumb was springy and full of holes, and the butter melted sweetly into the holes. We had no complaints at all. But given a choice between l’Ancienne and the poolish baguettes, l’Ancienne still gets my vote.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is a group of home bakers, scattered across the planet, focused on one goal: completing every recipe in Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, in order, and writing about our experience. Want to join us? Buy or borrow a copy of the book, a big bag of flour, and plunge in!

Pizza Napoletana – BBA Challenge bread 25

Pizza Napoletana Collage

It seems like I’m on a perpetual quest for the perfect pizza dough. My idea of a perfect pizza is a thin, crisp crust (not necessarily brittle and crunchy all the way through, though I like that style at times), with a delicate layer of sauce and just a few toppings. I’m not into the thick crust, overloaded “thanksgiving lovers” pizza, though I can understand and respect the folks who are.

The trick for making the type of pizza I like is a dough that has sufficiently developed flavor so that it tastes like something even if it’s thin. It also has to be the type of dough that takes to rolling thinly. I once found a recipe for the perfect pizza dough. If I remember correctly, it incorporated semolina (or was it durum?) along with all-purpose flour, and a little olive oil. And it took little time to make. I could whip it up the afternoon of the evening I wanted pizza for dinner.

I made it several times and it rolled out beautifully and stayed even and flat during baking. It was a gem of a recipe. And I lost it. I can’t even remember where it came from. One of my cookbooks? I’ve looked and come up empty handed. A web site? I’ve searched and found some that sound similar, but not the same.

Oh well.

I was excited to try the BBA Pizza Napoletana recipe because I know Peter Reinhart is a pizza aficionado and, since he knows bread, I figured he’d have some helpful ideas about getting that perfect crust. And he does. At least in some respects, this is a really good crust recipe. In particular, the flavor development is excellent, and this is at least partly due to the slow, cool, overnight fermentation of the dough in the refrigerator.

Making the dough is a simple affair of mixing (chilled) flour, salt, yeast, and ice water. Keeping all the ingredients chilled helps delay the onset of fermentation. If you’re using high-gluten or bread flour, the recipe suggests adding 1/4 cup of olive oil to the dough to help tenderize the dough (olive oil is not a traditional ingredient for Neapolitan pizza dough), but the all-purpose flour version is fine without it.

This is an extremely sticky, wet dough, so either knead it in the mixer (the dough will clear the sides of the bowl, but will stick to the bottom), or knead by hand in a bowl by using a stretch-and-fold kneading technique. For either method, knead for 5 to 7 minutes, then turn out onto the floured counter, divide the dough into pieces (one for each pizza you plan to make), and roll each piece into a ball, flouring the outside well to keep it from sticking. The whole process of mixing up the dough is quite fast (only about 20 minutes total).

You can now put the dough balls in the refrigerator to ferment overnight for baking the next day. If you want to prepare the dough for a later day (which is what we did), you can lightly oil the dough balls and put each in a separate freezer-safe bag and put in the freezer. When you’re in the mood for pizza in the next three months, all you have to do is transfer the frozen dough balls to the refrigerator the day before you want to make pizza and then follow the regular recipe from there.

On baking day, remove the dough balls you want to use from the refrigerator, allow them to warm up for a couple of hours, then stretch the dough flat, add your toppings, and bake. Since I like a crisp crust, rather than putting the toppings on and baking it all at once, I pre-baked each crust for about four minutes, then added the toppings, and finished the baking for another few minutes.

See step-by-step photos for this bread here.

We froze our dough and saved it for a weekend when we had some friends of our daughter over for a sleepover. The kids made their own pizzas (one all cheese with no sauce, one mostly sauce with little cheese, and one with fairly equal amounts of each), and Michael and made ours: duck confit, homemade chutney from a friend, and chevre. It was a wonderful pizza.

Pizza Napoletana dough is not the pizza dough of my dreams, but it’s so simple to make and store, and the flavor is great, so this recipe will stay on my list to make again. At least I know that I won’t be able to lose this one!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is a group of home bakers, scattered across the planet, focused on one goal: completing every recipe in Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, in order, and writing about our experience. Want to join us? Buy or borrow a copy of the book, open a big bag of flour, and plunge in!

Panettone – BBA Challenge bread 24

Panettone Collage

Regular readers may remember an earlier post where I expressed some trepidation about the BBA Panettone recipe. I’m not enamored of fruit and nut laden breads, and less so of fruit soaked in booze.

But I forged ahead because it was the next recipe in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice and I’m here to bake the book, after all.

The Panettone recipe differs from previous celebration breads in the book in that the included fruit (golden raisins and candied fruit, or dried fruits of your choice) is soaked overnight in brandy, rum, or whiskey. It also incorporates a wild-yeast sponge, which is (I believe) the first use of a sourdough starter in the book.

So, dutifully and skeptically, the day before I was to make the bread, I mixed the sponge up out of sourdough starter, milk, and unbleached all-purpose flour, and set it aside to ferment for four hours before putting it to bed in the refrigerator. At the same time, I mixed up the dried fruit, poured  1/2 cup of run over it, and added lemon extract and Fiori di Sicilia. I had the Fiori di Sicilia on hand already after using it to make the King Arthur Flour Almond Cloud Cookie recipe and had fallen in love with its slightly flowery, slightly sweet flavor, and was happy to have another excuse to use it.

The next day, after removing the sponge from the refrigerator and allowing it to warm for an hour, I mixed the dough by combining all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, yeast, one egg and one yolk, and water. After those ingredients were incorporated, I rested the dough for 20 minutes and then proceeded to add a half a cup of butter and the soaked fruit mixture. Incorporating the butter and fruit took took several minutes, but eventually the dough was smooth and the fruit was distributed fairly evenly.

I turned the loaded dough out on the counter and began to knead it. After a few minutes, I began to incorporate slivered almonds, as the recipe instructed. The dough was bristling with additions, and I was doubtful that it would hold together, but with minimal additions of flour, it began to turn into a supple, smooth dough that was easy too knead.

After transferring the dough to an oiled bowl, I let it ferment for a couple of hours. When the dough had risen to about 1 1/2 times its original size, I divided the dough into two pieces, shaped each into a boule, and placed each into a paper pans. (I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but I live not 15 minutes away from the King Arthur Flour store in Norwich, VT. This is a huge convenience/temptation for me. And a huge danger to my bank account.)

I let the dough rise again, for about two hours, until the loaves had doubled in size, and then I baked them for about an hour-and-a-half.

See step-by-step photos of this bread here.

I let then cool overnight, then sliced into one and had a taste. You know? It wasn’t half bad. I didn’t fall in love with it, but I could see how people might love it. Friends and family who tasted it said it was fine, but wasn’t at all like the Panettone they were used to, which I gather has a more brioche-like consistency and less going on in terms of numbers of additions.

Since I made this before Christmas, we put half in the freezer, intending to pull it out for the holidays, but that never happened. Now there’s a half a loaf of Panettone lurking in the freezer. I wonder how long it’s good for?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is a group of home bakers, scattered across the planet, focused on one goal: completing every recipe in Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, in order, and writing about our experience. Want to join us? Buy or borrow a copy of the book, open a big bag of flour, and plunge in!

BBA Challenge update

For those of you playing along, here are the stats:

  • I’ve blogged up through bread #23 (Pane Siciliano).
  • This week, I’m revisiting bread #20 (Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire).
  • Also this week, I’m also baking bread #41 (Whole-Wheat Bread).
  • A friend recently gave me some fresh duck eggs, which make the best Challah, so I might be making a loaf of (non BBA) Challah this week.
  • We reorganized the kitchen so that we have a bigger bread drawer. The freezer is filling. Help!
  • After Whole-Wheat bread, I’ll have only two breads left in the challenge. Inconceivable!

Pane Siciliano – BBA Challenge bread 23

Pane Siciliano Collage

I was immediately attracted to this bread for its shape. Those elegant S-curves looked beautiful in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice picture, and the view of the bread slices reminded me one of my favorite breads as a teenager: the Italian “Scali bread” I found in Boston area grocery stores. I don’t know if Scali bread is an authentic Italian bread or pure invention of a Boston marketing maven, but it was one of the first types of “artisan” loaves I ever tasted and I loved it from the start. An enriched, fluffy loaf, loaded with sesame seeds, that was almost as good plain as it was with a smear of butter.

So I was anxious to try Pane Siciliano to see how close it came to the Italian bread of my youth.

Pretty darn close.

This recipe is slightly daunting because it’s one of the rare three-day recipes in the book, but, really, when you’ve come this far in the book, you know that the first step of making the pâte fermentée is no big deal. You quickly mix together a quick dough, knead it for a few minutes, and then let it ferment on the counter for a few hours before putting it in the refrigerator. You’ve done this twenty times. You can do it while making dinner. No big deal.

On the second day, you mix the dough (pâte fermentée, unbleached bread flour, semolina flour, salt, yeast, olive oil, honey, and water), knead it, ferment it for two hours. At shaping time, you divide the dough into three equal pieces, make a rope of each, and then twist each into the beautiful S-curls. It might look tricky, but you just go for it and it happens. Mist the loaves, sprinkle with sesame seeds (I used black sesame seeds, since that’s what I had on hand). And then?

Here’s the neat part. It’s shaped, but instead of proofing and baking it, into the refrigerator it goes to proof slowly overnight, developing flavor slowly and gently, and puffing up beautifully in an even and controlled manner.

The next day, pull those loaves out and, if necessary, let them finish proofing at room temperature until a dent you make in the dough with your finger stays.

Then bake it.

Then wait impatiently for it to cool. The only reason you really need wait is so that you can get a good crumb shot for the BBA Challenge Flickr page, so here’s the trick: you made two loaves (you clever baker). Rip into one while it’s still hot. Let the other one cool for an hour, then slice on the diagonal and take your photos. If you must.

See step-by-step pictures of this bread here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is a group of home bakers, scattered across the planet, focused on one goal: completing every recipe in Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, in order, and writing about our experience. Want to join us? Buy or borrow a copy of the book, open a big bag of flour, and plunge in!

Pain de Campagne – BBA Challenge bread 22

Pain de Campagne Collage

I found Pain de Campagne an unremarkable, but pleasant country-style loaf. It uses a very large amount of pre-ferment, and a small amount of whole grain flour (I used whole wheat, but rye flour is also acceptable).

The method is straightforward and familiar: mix the pâte fermentée the night before, allow to ferment, and then refrigerate overnight; then mix the dough the next morning using the pâte fermentée, unbleached bread flour, whole-wheat flour, salt, yeast, and water; knead, ferment, shape, proof, and hearth bake.

Pain de Campagne dough is supple and easy to work with, which lends itself to shaping it in a variety of ways. It must have been a busy week for me, because I skipped all the interesting shapes and made a standard boule with cross-hatch scoring. It came out of the oven a lovely golden brown. Its crumb was respectable, but lacking the large holes of other country breads. This was probably due to my mishandling it during shaping.

I suppose I found this bread a bit of a disappointment after two outstanding breads in a row (l’Ancienne and Multigrain Bread Extraordinare). Still, it was tasty and easy to eat. I’d like to try it again. It seems particularly suited to making dinner rolls, so that’s what I’ll try the next time I make this recipe.

See step-by-step pictures of this bread here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge is a group of home bakers, scattered across the planet, focused on one goal: completing every recipe in Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, in order, and writing about our experience. Want to join us? Buy or borrow a copy of the book, open a big bag of flour, and plunge in!