Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sexy Bread

Okay, the bread looks charred but it isn't. I ama horrible slasher (obviously) and the oven spring on this was HUGE so it almost blew its top- literally! I bet it tastes gooooooood.

No, I am not trying out a new recipe. As I was manipulating dough for a loaf of sourdough this morning it occurred to me that there is something sensual about a smooth soft ball of dough. One can tell by the way the dough feels under one's fingers whether or not it is going to be a successful loaf of bread. This morning at 6am I stirred up the dough using a formula I committed to memory. Why so early? I was up at five, unable to go back to sleep, so what better way to fill the time than make bread? Plus, I noticed last night that the house was breadless- well, except for the pretzel rolls that I baked last night- more on that, later. I refuse to buy bread any more since it is so much cheaper ( and much more staisfying) to make my own. This morning I decided to use the stretch and fold method rather than kneading the dough in the KA ( KitchenAid) since I had been having problems with my sourdough getting flaccid as it did its final rise. Flaccid and sensual in reference to bread? Hmmm, maybe I do need to get out more... It is an amazing transformation when the dough begins to come together- it goes from a shaggy messy-looking ball of yuck into a smooth, shiny, obedient thing that promises to behave once it gets into the oven. I love the way the little bubbles of gas appear under the suface as the dough does its thing. I have found that on any given day I can use the same recipe, the same timing, the same temperatures, and I will get totally different results. Sometimes the dough just refuses to open up- it remains tight-grained, which is acceptable but not preferable. Other times it almost leaps up in the oven, rising and spreading perfectly, opening up at the slashes, and showing the gluten strans and tinny blisters on the outside. I love it. I know I will never be a master bread maker but that is what makes it so fun- I love a challenge and as soon as I feel I have conquered the challenge I become bored and I move on. Unfortunately I sometimes forget to write down a recipe and I never go back to it. That is one purpose for this blog- to remind me what I have and haven't done. I was searching through my pictures on the computer this morning and came across a dessert that I had loved but I had forgotten about- so here it is! Well, there it is up there ( my first attempt at uploading a picture to my blog!) I even forget about equipment that I have. I made this bread baker from flower pots and it works wonderfully- I had just forgotten that I had it since it is too large to hang around in the kitchen and was lurking in my garage...It isn't pretty but it works and I will use it to make the loaf of bread that is now working its magic on the counter. I will try to remember to take a picture when it is done so you can see how good the clay pot works. Still haven't found the damn camera but I can take a picture with my phone. Ciao for now.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Bagels and Kaisers All in One Day?

I am easily distracted by recipes. Perhaps it is adult ADD but I start out on one website and end up 180 degrees from where I started. I can't even remember what I was looking for (something pertaining to bread, of course) but something jogged my memory about bagels. Bagels! I hadn't made them in over a year and as I remembered they were easy and the results were yummy. So last night I got the crazy idea to bake bagels for my co-workers breakfasts this morning. Since it was a new recipe I decided to make only half a recipe and got out my trusty scales and started measuring. I pride myself on my math skills but somehow I forgot to half the water in the recipe and ended up with soup rather than the 'thick pancake batter' consistency to the poolish. Hmmmm. After an hour of waiting for it to bubble and froth it dinged on me what I had done. D'oh! Start over. By the time I had remade the poolish the hour was late so I left it overnight instead of the two hours that the recipe stated. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and the only loss would be a bit of flour, water, yeast, and frustration. I got up at 6 a.m. and made the dough with my happy poolish. Nice dough! I shaped the little balls of dough into 16 rather lopsided bagelish shapes, loaded my bag with the rest of the ingredients I would need and headd to work- 2 half-sheet pans of precious cargo riding shotgun beside me. I have carried stranger food-cargo, trust me. I have often wondered what a policeman would think if I got pulled over while carting tubs of dough to work. People wandered into the kitchen and were fascinated by the process of boiling the bagels. It is pretty cool, I must admit. It seems counter-intuitive that you can take a delicate ball of risen dough, dunk it into boiling water, and come out with anything edible- or bakable, but it works! Again, to me it is alchemy. The bagels responded well to their bath in boiling soda water and they baked up beautifully! They had barely hit the serving platter when they began to disappear. The spread I made was a delicious combination of cream cheese, butter (I know!), chopped raisins, walnuts, chopped chocolate, and honey. Oh baby, it was good! I didn't taste the bagels and cught just a glimpse of the crumb, but I did actually get a smidge of the spread. Just spread it on your butt, honey, because that is where it will end up tomorrow...Next! Since I had a slow afternoon at work I had time to troll for recipes. I have been wanting to try to make pretzel rolls, something I have never tasted and only was made aware of their existence from watching "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives." Don't ask me why, but I began to mentally concoct stuffed pretzel rolls- something akin to a steamed Chinese filled bun, but baked instead of steamed. I have an idea to fill the dough with a combination of corned beef, Jarlsburg cheese, a bit of sauerkraut, and a smidge of Thousand Island dressing- voila! a reuben roll. Or something like that. That led me to the kaiser rolls. I know, I know...Wanting to be a bit more adventurous with my sourdough starter I found a great website with a sourdoug kaiser roll recipe. As soon as I walked through my door at the end of a long long work day I gathered the ingredients and bagain the odyssey. And I do mean odyssey. It is now 1 a.m. and I am still waiting for the shaped rolls to get a last rise before I call it a night. All I can say is that they better damn well be good or this will be one unhappy bleary-eyed bitchy woman tomorrow. I will let you know the results. And yes, I am still looking for the camera. I promise.
6:28 a.m.- the buns are in the oven! Instead of letting them slumber in the refrigerator as the recipe suggested I left them in a cool room, enclosed in plastic bags, sealed against drying out. It worked well since the temperature of the room was in the 50's lst night (yay Autumn!). I had let them rise upside down since the recipe suggested this would prevent the cuts in the dough from sealing up as they rose. Hmm, not so sure about that because as I flipped them right side up the pattern was not very distinct any more. Next time I will let them rise right side up so I don't have to disturb them by flipping them over before putting them into the oven. Strike that- I jsut gave the oven a second spritzing to add steam and after only a few minutes of baking they have risen and 'bloomed' nicely. The only thing I see so far taht I don't like is that next time I will smoosh them out a little flatter before I use the stamp on them. I prefer my sandwich buns a little broader and not so tall, if that makes sense. Other than that I am pleased with the way they rose, since I have had mixed results with a straight sourdough dough- one time it will behave as expected and the next time it will give me only a half-hearted rise. Sounds like a man, right? Maybe I should name my starter "Mike" or "Eddy"?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Topsy-turvy roll thingies...

I am a great foodie-surfer. I have a penchant for flaky airy things to eat. I recently tried my hands (at last!) at apple strudel after reading every strudel recipe in my cookbooks (and there were several), looking at videos on YouTube, and finally settling on the recipe from The Daring Bakers Apple Strudel Challenge from May. The dough was amazingly easy to work with and my first try at pulling it to tissue-thinness was a success. Always wanting to push a little further I tried my own savory strudel- as Rachel would say, "yummo!" (Recipe later!) In my googling I ran across something called "povitica," which is an Eastern European nutroll of sorts. The filling sounded a bit too gooey sticky cloying to me so I adapted ( well, actually made up something that probably is light-years from povitica) a recipe for the dough that I use for cinnamon rolls and foraged in the freezer and pantry for ideas for fillings. I found a bag of leftover filling for rugelach that included chopped walnuts, raisins, and chocolate. From making a skillet apple cake this weekend I had boiled cider, and I had a bit of my home-made butter. Voila! I won't say that this first experiment went smoothly. I had in mind that I would roll the dough out into a strip 3" wide and who knows how long. My dough was too sticky but I finally wrangled it into submission and brushed it with a bit of butter, avoiding the edges so they could be pinched around the filling to seal the roll of dough once it was filled. I drizzled just a thin line of the boiled cider on top of the butter, then sparingly laid the rugelach filling down the center of the dough. I had divided the dough into thirds and as each long strip was pinched and sealed I coiled it into a round deep-dish pizza pan which had been sprayed with non-stick spray. It looks, shall we say, interesting. It is enjoying its final rise as I type. Now, if I can find my camera I will share the results with you. The ingredients in themselves are great- the sum total and the methodology- who can say? My daughter came into the kitchen and said it looked good, but then again she is easily amused....IF this works I shall have to name the concoction. More later...
Okay, it is later. Two hours later and my, my, my the experiment was a success! With a bit of tweaking and fine-tuning it will be over-the-top good and I will share the recipe. My daughter The Critic declared it danish pastry-like and cut into it before I had a chance to stop her. Not that I minded, but I do like to stand and admire my work before it is decimated. Cooking is funny that way, eh? We labor to make it perfect only to intentionally have it taken apart and consumed.
The taste is sweet but not overwhelmingly so and it has a subtle almost lemony tang that comes from the boiled cider. I know, I know, what a strange combination of ingredients, but trust me, it works! I know there isn't much satisfaction from reading about a recipe without visual aids, so I promise to make a diligent search for my camera.
All in all a good baking day.
Now to start some sourdough bread to take to my hairdresser tomorrow. This is one of those cases where you need to bear gifts on bended knee if necessary- I am returning to her after trying to find another hairdresser that could better fit into my crazy schedule. Big tomorrow I am taking her a gift of bread from the heart. Hopefully she will work her magic again and forget my transgressions.,.
More later....

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday Bread

Today happens to be a great day to bake bread, so I have two loaves of semolina bread in the oven (thanks to this recipe) and two loaves of sourdough doing their final rise. Semolina bread is one of my favorite breads and after I FINALLY found a local source for the flour I bake it on a regular basis. I make it into sandwich loaves and it makes primo toast. The crust is tender and the crumb has a beautiful pale yellow color, thanks to the flour. Our local Walmart now carries semolina flour in 20# bags ( Golden Temple brand) and the price is 30-plus bucks. I get the same thing at a small Indian market for around 20 bucks. I stumbled across the market one day when my car was almost on empty and I was in an unfamiliar part of town. I stopped at a quick-stop and once inside I noticed Indian groceries on the shelves. Eureka!! I had been searching online for semolina flour (this is NOT the same thing as the bags of "semolina" that one finds in health-food stores, etc.). As I plunked my bag of flour on the counter the Indian proprietor quizzed me as to my intentions with that much atta flour. No, I am not making chappattis- I am making yeast bread. I don't suppose he gets too many 6' blondes shopping in his market. Now I am a familair face... The same thing happened when I began shopping in a local Oriental market- Hong Son's- chock full of exotic ( to me) ingredients. I like to "window shop," picking up jars, cans, and packages of unfamiliar items and wondering 'what in the heck?' Again, I am usually the only Caucasian lady in the store, towering over both the men and the women. I haven't had the courage to try the durian yet, and I bet I never do...
So the semolina bread is out of the oven and I have cranked up the temperature to 450 and loaded 6 unglazed quarry tiles onto the bottom rack. The sourdough is still not perfected but thanks to starter that I bought from
King Arthur Flour I am getting there. I have learned that sourdough bread has a mind of its own- on any given day it either will submit to rising or it won't. You cannot rush it- it has its own timetable. I am used to yeast baking- I know when and how it will be ready to bake, sort of. Time to slash the tops and slide in onto the tiles and see what happens! More later....