I’ve been participating in and posting about my baking experiences with Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers for just over a year now and it has been a fantastic experience. Rose’s Bread Bible is so rich with instruction, recipes, and inspiration. My fellow bakers are a true group of bread aficionados and I learn a little something extra as I read their monthly posts. As I continue this bread making journey, I am surprised by the number of recipes in the book that I had never tried, but have become favorites as a result of this journey.
Our July selection is a good example of this. In browsing through the book over the years, I never had a serious interest in baking this one because based on the title I thought it seemed strange. The secret ingredient for this bread is a poorly kept one as it is listed in the title. Frankly, my pre-conceived notions about the results that ingredient would yield, despite what Rose says in the introduction caused me to miss out on this fantastic bread for no good reason. Perhaps I would have tried it sooner if the name had simply been “Feather Loaf.”
While this isn’t the quickest recipe to make due to the sponge and multiple rises, the results are delicious with a subtle sweetness from a combination of honey and banana. In addition to acting as a sweetener, the banana when coupled with a touch of butter keeps the bread moist. The full name for this wonderful bread is Banana Feather Loaf. I must warn you, the recipe produces a result that is nothing like the photo below. Now there is nothing wrong with a traditional banana nut bread, I do bake and enjoy them, but when thinking about this recipe you have to get this image out of your head. By the way, the texture of this bread reminded me of our June project which I’ll link to here.
Before we continue further, I wanted to share an article I found which details 16 Surprising Facts About Bananas. Here are three of the 16 facts I found particularly surprising:
Bananas were first introduced to American consumers in 1876 at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.
Americans consume over 28 pounds of bananas each year, with over 96 percent of households purchasing bananas at least once each month.
A small banana provides 27 mg magnesium, which may help boost mood. Men and women need 420 mg and 320 mg of magnesium per day, respectively. Low levels of this mineral are linked to depression, anxiety, irritability and other mood disorders. Since many of us don’t get enough magnesium in our diets, consider a banana as your chill pill.
Putting this bread together is a breeze if you have experience with Rose’s recipes and techniques. I had a couple of concerns which as I’ll explain were unfounded. Because I was short on time, I let my starter ripen for about four hours before mixing. Additional time would of course further develop the flavor, and there is no concern about the banana taking over since it is not added until you go to mix the dough.
Although I’m in that 96% of households that typically purchase bananas monthly, I did not have any fresh bananas on hand. I regularly visit the little area in the back of the produce department when I grocery shop to look for overly ripe bananas which have been marked down. This enables me to save a bit on the purchase (although according to the article cited above banana prices have been on a steady decline) and then I prepare them for freezing. I typically peel the banana, slice it and wrap it in wax paper before placing in a ziplock freezer bag. I normally use these frozen bananas for smoothies, but I decided to use one for this recipe. It works fine, however, when thawed, the banana will have a bit of extra moisture which I recommend pouring out before mashing. Also. the banana does brown a bit as it thaws, but the little bit of browning that occurs doesn’t seem to discolor the finished dough.
Preparing the dough was simple and straight forward, although I did feel there was a little less dough than normal for my loaf pan, and that it was a bit slow to rise. Once the dough went in the oven it was necessary to reset the timer and change the temperature several times. This bread really does brown quite a bit, and I fought the urge to tent it with foil as Rose did indicate that it browns quickly which is why the multiple temperature changes are needed. When I took it out of the oven I was a bit concerned about the color and whether it would taste burnt — the color of the crust did not seem to impact the deliciousness of this bread in the least.
If you have an overly ripe banana lying around your kitchen, this is a great recipe to use it for as the other ingredients are likely to already be in your pantry. By the way, if you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know that one of the tests that I put my loaves to is whether it makes a good sandwich. This bread was the foundation for a fantastic grilled ham and cheese sandwich and a really tasty smoked turkey sandwich. It was also nice toasted so it’s a versatile, all around winner that deserves a spot in your baking rotation.
I recently attended two classes that I signed up for this summer to improve my ability to bake pies from scratch, and I made my very first lattice pie. I think as a result that I’m on track to achieve my #piegoals this year. You can read more about the start of my 2017 pie making journey here.
Cut my pie into four pieces, I don’t think I could eat eight.
– Yogi Berra
I’ve baked four pies at home over the last month to reinforce what I’ve learned from those two classes. Let me first tell you about those experiences. I have taken a number of classes over the years at Sur La Table and was really excited last fall when a new, more convenient location opened in Westwood Village. I also had the opportunity to take my first class at The Gourmandise School in Santa Monica, CA. Both of these classes were taught by professional pastry chefs, and these experiences have really helped me grow my skills this summer.
The Easy as Pie class at Sur La Table featured a Lattice Top Strawberry Rhubarb pie and a Dark Chocolate Ganache and Salted Caramel Tartlet. These were two very different fillings and used very different techniques so there was a definite broadening of my skills here. Specifically around tempering chocolate, making a ganache, and making caramel. This is a little embarrassing, but I will admit that I had never had a pie with baked strawberries, let alone one with strawberries and rhubarb so it introduced me to a whole new universe of strawberry pie making. The only type of strawberry pie I experienced growing up here in Southern California was like those served at Marie Callender’s restaurants. These are more like a fresh strawberry tart with a glaze and whipped cream on top. I suspect there are regional customs at work here. If anyone can enlighten me further on this I’d love to understand more.
The class at Gourmandise was titled (most appropriately I might add) 4th of July Pies and had us preparing two fresh fruit pies — one with apples, and a second with peaches. In addition to making the pie crust entirely by hand, we also made a crumble topping by hand for the peach pies. I had lots of left-over pie dough after class to play with so I made a fresh cherry pie (pictured at the start of this post) for my family 4th of July gathering. More on that later.
I learned a lot from the two classes and walked away with loads of tips from each. In some ways, the instructors contradicted each other just a bit. For example, at Sur La Table we were encouraged to start with a disc of dough if we wanted a round piece of dough when we finished rolling, or a square if you wanted a square piece when finished. To me, this made a lot of sense. At Gourmandise, we started with somewhat triangular wedges (we cut each disc into quarters to begin rolling) which to me made things a bit more difficult. In both classes, however, we got great tips which enabled us to roll out the dough in such a way that it remained flaky and baked up nicely. Other differences I think were based on the preferences and experience of the instructor and I just needed to decide for myself. One example is cutting your butter into cubes instead of starting with whole sticks. I don’t think you can skip cutting the butter into the cubes if you are using a machine. A second difference is using an egg wash versus milk. Either wash will work and provide good results as confirmed in Art of the Pie by Kate McDermott, but I think I have a preference for the nice shine you get from an egg wash.
One of the things I loved about the Sur La Table class is that we were able to get hands-on experience with four different methods of preparing dough — strictly by hand, by hand with a pastry cutter, with a food processor, and with a stand mixer. Before attending class, I was a food processor method aficionado. Now, I prefer the mixer approach with my KitchenAid stand mixer. It is nice and neat (unlike the hand methods) and I get an even flakier result that I was getting with the food processor. We also got to make a sweet tart dough which was delicious with the ganache and caramel tarts.
Overall I was also very pleased with the Gourmandise experience. For me, they are a great local resource but in my opinion, one of the greatest testaments to the quality of their culinary program is the fact that we had a number of attendees traveling 60+ miles by car to attend, and one attendee who flew in from Austin, TX. The in-class discussions about different types of flours, fats, and pie pans were really helpful. We were encouraged to be confident when working with our dough (I was a bit timid) as it can smell fear a mile away .
After attending any class or lesson I believe that you need to put your newly gained knowledge to work. In this case, it meant making more pies at home. Following the Sur La Table class, I decided to make a Strawberry Rhubarb pie at home using their recipe. Although it worked, I had way too much liquid in the pie filling after baking so that was a disappointment. If I were to make this one again, I would need to use more thickener as the amount in the recipe clearly wasn’t enough.
I still had a bit of pie dough leftover and decided to use it for a small blueberry pie. Since I had a small amount of dough, I used a small oval baking dish and just under a pint of berries. After the watery filling with the Strawberry Rhubarb pie, I decided to try tapioca flour as the thickener with the blueberries and it worked but I still had juices overflowing. I didn’t really follow a recipe, rather I improvised from a recipe in The Art of the Pie using 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of tapioca flour, a few drops of lemon juice, a pinch of nutmeg and about a teaspoon of Grand Marnier. This was delicious although the filling bubbled up over the decorative flowers I made as I was short on dough. Definitely, needs more dough — overlapping flowers would have helped reduce or elminate the overflow..
Small Blueberry Pie Ready to Bake
After the class at Gourmandise, I made the cherry pie pictured here and at the top of this post. I used leftover dough from class and followed the recipe linked to above from Art of the Pie. This pie was a real crowd pleaser with very positive critical feedback from my uncle. His feedback was that the dough needed more salt (I agreed). I took some more of the remaining dough, rolled it out after sprinkling with freshly ground sea salt and used it for a mini pie with a bit of leftover cherry filling and it was fantastic! By the way, for this lattice pie I rolled my dough into a square before cutting the strips which worked really well. Notice that this pie did not have juices running over. I bought a pie bird to help with this problem, but I forgot to use it. Fortunately it wasn’t really necessary this time around.
By the way, the book Art of the Pie has been a great resource for me. I think a hands-on class like one of the two I took is really helpful and provides supervised hands-on experience. The book, however in my mind really shines when it comes to the recipes. I wasn’t really blown away by any of the fruit pie recipes from the classes, but when I’ve followed Kate’s recipes at home I’ve had great results (like that fresh cherry pie following this recipe or the fresh apple pie you can read about in the post about my 2017 #piegoals). This fresh cherry pie was my latest, and tastiest fruit pie ever. I did not experience any overflow from the juices so it was neat and tidy unlike the two prior baked-at-home pies.
Whew, it has been a busy pie baking summer. I have plans for a savory summer pie as well as a review of some of my favorite pie making tools that I will share soon. Be sure to follow the blog or you can follow me on social media to stay up to date. In the meantime, enjoy the remainder of summer and take advantage of the season’s bounty. Enjoy life, eat more pie!
“Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread. Without it, it’s flat.”
Crispy on the outside with a soft moist interior. Wow, our assignment this month was a big winner! Our June Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers assignment was for a fantastic Potato Buttermilk Bread. It was similar to the Olive bread we made a few months back in that it uses a biga or starter so you’ll want to allow plenty of fermentation time for full flavor development. The addition of buttermilk and potato flour gave this loaf a nuanced, but lovely flavor and tenderness. Rose warns in her introduction to the recipe that the potato flour promotes a very brown crust, and it certainly does. Watch this one carefully while it’s in the oven.
As with the Olive bread mentioned above, I used the King Arthur Flour Artisan Bread Flour with outstanding results as usual. I also tried their dried buttermilk powder for the first time which worked well, and I believe I will buy more once I use this up as it is much more convenient than having to go to the store for buttermilk since it isn’t a staple in my refrigerator. For the potato flour, I picked up a bag from Bob’s Red Mill at my local Whole Foods.
Since I had not baked this bread before, followed all of the directions to the letter until it was time to bake the bread. I always love using the La Cloche for the artisan-type free form breads. For some reason, I forgot to put the bread on the La Cloche base, and placed it directly on the hot baking stone that I had preheated with the dome. As a result, I did have a bit of scorching on the bottom of the loaf, but it still turned out fantastic. I baked the loaf under the dome for 25 minutes after lowering the temperature, and had I left it any longer I believe it really would have burned.
By the way, this bread used a good bit of vital wheat gluten which I suspect is essential. My doughs typically rise in far less than the suggested time. If a recipe says allow 1-1/2 hours, mine is often ready in 45 to 60 minutes. Not so with the first rise on this one. It took the full recommended time for the first rise, but the second rise did happen a little more quickly.
If you follow my bread posts, you’ll know that any bread I make is likely to end up in a sandwich, and this one was no exception. In addition to the ham sandwich shown, it made a fantastic grilled cheese. Rose says that this bread does not freeze well and is best eaten within a day. I recently got a new bread keeper from King Arthur, and it has done a stellar job keeping this bread fresh for two days so far. I’m confident that this tasty bread will be gobbled up before it has a chance to go bad.
If you’re interested in trying the recipe, you can find it here. You won’t be disappointed. Let me know if you try it.
Reader note: I liked this bread so much that I decided to try it again and experiment a bit further with the ingredients. The results were fantastic, and I’ll append the post below with the details. This bread should be added to your baking to-do list. There is a saying they have in Singapore — “die die must try”. This is that bread.
If you’ve followed along on the blog, you might recall a recent post about my go-to bread — Sheryl’s Harvest Grains Loaf. I find this to be a reliable recipe for when time is short and I want a healthful whole grain bread. You can find the recipe here. Last week I thought I would take a look at the King Arthur website for additional recipes that I could try which use the harvest grains blend.
I happened across this recipe for A Simple, Rustic Loaf (it’s a winner with a five-star rating) and thought I’d give it a try. This recipe baked up as a huge crispy crusted loaf with a delicate interior — this bread is very different from my go-to loaf in a few very important ways.
First, this loaf needs much more time as it uses the sponge method. I prepared the sponge and let it sit at room temperature overnight which enabled fantastic flavor development. The small amount of rye flour also contributes to the flavor. In addition to the fermentation time, this bread needs extra time for a second rise.
Second, this bread uses a smaller amount of the harvest grains mixture relative to the flour, and there is no whole wheat flour so the texture is much lighter.
Finally, this bread has no sweetener or oil added.
I followed the recipe as written with three changes. First, I add vital wheat gluten whenever my recipe uses whole grains or a seed mixture like the harvest grains blend. For this recipe, I added 2 tablespoons. Second, I did not have pumpernickel flour and used rye flour instead. Finally, I baked the recipe using my La Cloche baker which you can read more about here. The La Cloche ensures a fantastic crisp crust. To use this recipe with the La Cloche, you will want to pre-heat the oven with the dome inside at 450° for an hour before baking. If your oven is like mine, you will want to remove the upper rack before you begin the pre-heating and create more space to accommodate the La Cloche. I also pre-heated my baking stone on the rack where I will place the baker. When you’re ready, pop the bread in the oven (the bottom of the baker goes on top of the hot stone) and carefully put the very hot dome on top. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 400° for 15 minutes. Finally, remove the dome and bake for 5 more minutes for a total baking time of 35 minutes. By the way, there is no need with the La Cloche to spray the bread with water or use a pan of ice cubes to create steam. As you can see below, I had great oven spring and ended up with a loaf that was so big, I couldn’t fit it into my bread keeper without cutting it in half.
This was a really happy experiment, and I’m sure this big beautiful bread will become a regular in my repertoire. Don’t fret if you don’t have the Harvest Grains blend. As much as I love it, I know how it is when you are out of an ingredient and need to substitute. There are plenty of ideas for how to improvise if you look through the reviews on the recipe page. Let me know if you try this one, I think you’ll really enjoy it.
As mentioned above, I made this bread a second time. This time I decided to make a change to the amount of all-purpose flour used in the dough. Instead of 9-1/2 ounces, I used 7 and then added 2-1/2 ounces of King Arthur’s Ancient Grains blend. This whole grain flour is a blend that includes 30% each amaranth, millet, and sorghum flours and 10% quinoa flour. I honestly had not gotten a lot of use out of this flour and needed to try and use it up which led to this experiment. The resulting bread had a slightly earthy but complex flavor that was indescribably delicious. Be sure to add the vital wheat gluten as I describe above. This dough rose really quickly creating another BBB — the first rise only took 50 minutes.
This is the actively bubbling starter after about 8 hours at room temperature
Slashed, this big beauty is ready for the oven
The interior isn’t quite as airy and the crust is a tiny bit softer but the flavor is fantastic
Here is a bit of trivia for you. Our April baking project was for an Alsatian Onion Pizza. If you’re not familiar with this charming region in the North East corner of France, it sits near the intersection of France, Switzerland, and Germany. The region is historic in that it is home to the greatest number of feudal castles in Europe — 400 of these castles in various states of ruin have been discovered. The area also has a very rich wine heritage which includes Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Muscat. The local wines are enchanting, and that view is supported by famed fashion designer Christian Dior.
“A small glass of Alsace wine is like a summer dress or a spring flower; it’s a ray of sunshine that makes life brighter.”
The area also has a rich gastronomic legacy which includes of all things Munster cheese. While I’ve not visited Alsace, I considered this recipe as a virtual afternoon trip to the region. Note that as I searched a bit on the internet for similar recipes, most included bacon, which would honestly make a great addition. Rose uses black olives instead in her recipe which you can find here along with her other variations.
The foundation of any pizza is, of course, the crust. Rose offers up the recipe for her Perfect Pizza Dough along with an assortment of topping recipes and combinations. While this one would not have likely been my first pick as I scanned through the choices, it was certainly enjoyable. It also provided me with inspiration for a breakfast pizza. I’ll be sure to update this post once I have the chance to test out that idea.
Rose recommends using King Arthur’s Italian Style flour which I just happened to have on hand. I had not baked with this flour before, and don’t yet have an opinion on this one. Here’s why. The first recommendation that Rose makes is that you prepare the dough in advance and allow it to mature over a period of eight to 24-hours. I had been busy with another loaf of my fave hearth bread and did not start the dough until just a few hours ahead of time. In addition, I mixed the olive oil into the dough in error instead of just putting it inside the container with the dough while it was fermenting. I’ll admit I was distracted by the loaf of bread that I had in process.
Another important timing note for this recipe is that the onions take a really long time to cook. You start by smothering them over low heat for 45 minutes. Then you crank up the heat to caramelize and dry them out. I did not time this, but it took a little while. I’d also note that to thinly slice three large onions, you really want to use a food processor I started with my mandoline, but after slicing about 3/4 of an onion I moved on to the food processor.
Bless her heart, Rose gives us permission to be experimental and somewhat liberal with the amounts of topping ingredients since everybody wants to maximize their favorite ingredients. For me, this meant extra gruyére cheese and olives.
This recipe was a great opportunity to give my new baking stone a workout. My old stone had cracked into three big pieces after many years of loyal service, so I ended up with this hot red number from Emile Henry. I loved baking with this stone for a few reasons. First, it has a glazed surface which is much easier to keep clean than the unglazed stone I had before. Second, it is rectangular instead of square so it works better (at least I think it does) on a rectangular oven rack. Third, and perhaps most important is safety. This stone has handles built into the sides so I can move it safely, even while it’s hot. I, unfortunately, have a tendency to have the stone on the wrong rack and need to move it when the oven is already hot.
In terms of baking technique, you’re directed to pre-bake or blind bake the crust for 5 minutes. The intent is to prevent the crust from becoming soggy, but honestly, that did not work so well. I thought I had gotten all of the excess liquid out of the onion topping so when I make my breakfast pizza I will need to adjust the pre-bake and the topping to keep the crust crisp.
The Alsatian onion topping is delicious, however, I would suggest leaving out the added sugar. I suspect it would be plenty sweet without it. Despite the problems of my own making that I’ve noted, I will give this pizza dough another chance with extra care to follow the directions as written. I have historically used a pizza dough recipe from Joanne Weir with good results, so I’m not sure that I would replace that with this one. I’ve been craving a nice crispy, airy crust like the one I had here at Rays and Stark Bar here in LA. I haven’t found a dupe for that one yet, but if you have any suggestions, I’m open to them. I’m sure one change I will need to make is to bake directly on the stone. I expect that to be much easier with my new stone.
Are you baking your own pizzas at home? Of course I’d love to hear your favorites since I love pizza. One of my favorites is a Turkish Lamb pizza from Joanne Weir that I learned in one of her classes. I’ll link to it here.
“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…”
M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating
Our Bread Bible Bakers project for the month of March was originally Walnut Fougasse. I honestly did bake the recipe in March but must admit that I was really very disappointed in the outcome and delayed writing the post for a full month. I was really lacking in enthusiasm about this one, and waited another month to edit the post — definitely not like me. I had never had a fougasse before, so as a result of my profound disappointment in this recipe I sought out another fougasse recipe which I baked for comparison. I had intended to try this one again but just never got up enough enthusiasm to try it again until tonight.
So what was wrong with this bread recipe the first time around? I found the dough to be very tough or dense and very difficult to work with. In fact, the dough was so tough that the whole process of kneading in the walnuts by hand was a challenge, and kneading in additional oil after the dough had risen was a mess. This was so bad that I found myself checking Rose’s website for possible errata to explain this. The only unusual ingredient was the scalded milk which should not have caused a problem. I just don’t know what happened here, the flavor of the bread was OK, but the texture and appearance really weren’t very good.
The next day I did a bit of research on fougasse and found a number of recipes. None of them used as much oil, and none had you knead it in during the rising process. None of them used milk as the liquid either. I ended up with a very delightful bread based on this Fougasse recipe with olives and herbs from Saveur magazine. I was a bit jaded from my experience with the Walnut Fougasse so I cut the recipe by 2/3 to make a single loaf just in case it didn’t turn out well, but as I said it was delightful.
Fast forward to today, as I finally sat down to write this post. I decided to give this one another try as I wanted to just double check the measurements. Once I measured the flour I decided to go ahead and bake this one again. I typically use my kitchen scale for measuring ingredients like flour, and the first time around I measured 1 imperial pound as the recipe called for. This time I measured using the dip and sweep method, as well as using both imperial and metric measurements with my scale to check accuracy. I got the same result with all three methods which as Martha Stewart would say is a good thing.
Next, I scalded some milk since it needed time to cool. I even went to the trouble of looking for advice on scalding milk which I found here on allrecipes.com. Nothing earth shattering here, although they specifically advised to let the milk cool to 110°. I dutifully did so using my instant read thermometer (it was actually down to 95° by the time I was ready to mix). I did not check the temperature the last time so don’t know if this was a factor or not.
Shaped loaf ready to bake
This second batch of dough was still dense, but after letting it rest for 15 minutes I did manage to knead in the walnuts by hand. Although my walnuts were pre-chopped I did chop them even more based on my experience last time. I do think having them chopped pretty small is key to kneading them in successfully. Kneading in the first tablespoon of oil was OK, but I found myself having the same fundamental concerns about this recipe as I did the first time. It is really hard to get a nice smooth dough with this recipe and approach. Although the finished texture the second time seemed to be a little better, this recipe is still a no go in my book. It is such a no go, that I was pretty unmotivated on photos for this post as well as the writing. This is the first and only failure I’ve experienced with The Bread Bible. After baking this one twice, I’d say to this recipe “hey, it’s not me, it’s you.”
I’d love to hear from others who have made this recipe with success or who have tips that might help.
If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that I do love to bake bread (I like to eat it too!). As much as I love freshly baked bread some recipes take more time and effort than others. Since I don’t have unlimited time for baking, I’ve had to search for a bread recipe which meets the following criteria:
Quick to make with only one rise
Improved nutritional value from whole grains without being dense or bitter
Additional taste, texture, and nutrition from seeds and grains
Freezes well so I can have some on hand without having to bake
The recipe that I am sharing in this post meets all of these requirements and has become my go-to quick and easy loaf. This one is great for sandwiches (grilled ham and cheese anyone?) or toast. In addition to baking it for my personal consumption, I often like to take along a baked offering when visiting friends or family. One of my uncles raves about this bread, so I try to make it whenever I know I’ll see him.
I originally found the recipe for Michelle’s Harvest Grains Loaf a couple of years ago. The recipe was originally written for a bread machine, so I have adapted the technique for my KitchenAid stand mixer and made a couple of tweaks based on my learnings from baking with Rose’s Bread Bible over the years. I’ve also made a few modifications to the ingredients. The most significant one is the addition of vital wheat gluten which enables me to achieve the light texture I wanted even though the recipe uses whole grains and seeds. I use the Bob’s Red Mill product because it does the job and is readily available at my local supermarket or at Whole Foods.
The hero ingredient in this recipe is the harvest grains blend. I haven’t seen anything like this anywhere else. It is super tasty and filled with goodies like poppy seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, and oats. I was absolutely heartbroken last year when I accidentally ended up with almost a whole two-pound bag worth of the mix on my kitchen floor. Apparently, the lid on the canister wasn’t on securely, I didn’t have a firm grip, and the rest is history. I had to turn around and immediately reorder, but fortunately, there was a reduced price shipping deal at the time. The grain blend is really important to the success of this recipe so I recommend ordering it just for this recipe, although there are several other recipes on the King Arthur site you can try in order to get more use out of the product. One other recipe I’ve used it in with good success is for Harvest Grain Buns (dinner rolls) which were a hit on our Thanksgiving table.
1 cup King Arthur Premium Whole Wheat Flour or White Whole Wheat (I normally use the white whole wheat, but the regular works fine too)
2 teaspoons instant yeast — I use the SAF Red Instant from King Arthur
2 tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten
In the workbowl of your electric stand mixer, i.e. a KitchenAid combine all of the dry ingredients, except the salt by hand to distribute the ingredients. With the machine on low speed, pour in the water, oil, and sweetener until a rough dough forms.
Cover the workbowl with a towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
After the dough has rested, add the salt and knead the dough by machine on medium-high for 7 minutes. You should now have a smooth supple dough like the image below.
Lightly grease an 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ bread pan.
Shape the dough into a log and place it in the pan.
Allow the loaf to rise, covered, until it’s crowned about 1″ over the rim of the pan. In my experience, with the yeast specified above, I typically am ready to bake within 45 minutes. I forgot to set my timer, so the results shown here were after a 60-minute rise.
While the bread is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake for 35 minutes, or until the bread’s interior temperature registers 190°F on an instant-read thermometer.
Remove the bread from the oven, remove it from the pan, and cool it on a wire rack.
Store, well-wrapped, for 5 days at room temperature, or freeze for up to 3 months.
This month our baking group is cooking up a healthy Flaxseed Loaf, which in my opinion makes a great everyday sandwich type bread. If you’re looking for a bread that incorporates whole grains, is rich in antioxidants as well as healthful Omega 3 fatty acids this bread may be just what you’re looking for. Here is an interesting tidbit from the World’s Healthiest Foods website:
Interestingly, bread enriched with ground flaxseed has also been shown to have a greater antioxidant capacity and a much lower glycemic index value (of approximately 51) than the same bread without the ground flaxseed addition. These research findings are great news for anyone who wants to include flaxseeds in baked dishes, in either whole or ground form.
This bread is one that I’ve made in the past – in fact I had notated some changes that I’d made to the recipe back in 2008. I pretty much stuck with those very minor changes this time around and will describe them for you below. One of the things that I loved about this bread is that it is relatively quick and easy to make, has a mellow flavor, and it bakes up with a really nice crust.
I can’t copy the recipe here, and it is not one that Rose has published anywhere other than the book, or if she has, I can’t find it. If you’re interested, however, see my “duh” moment below for a way to borrow the book if you want to try it out. I can assure you that you will learn so much about baking bread and enjoy so many of the recipes that you’ll not be disappointed if you buy the book. Whether you borrow or buy, this book is really helpful when it comes to baking bread.
The recipe calls for a combination of three flours – all-purpose, whole wheat, and pumpernickel. In many recipes which call for whole wheat flour, I substitute an equivalent amount of King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat flour. If you look back at prior posts, you’ll see that I have used this flour in a number of recipes – Irish Soda Bread, Everyday Whole-grain Bread, and Pumpkin, Oat, and Date Muffins are three examples I’ve written about on the blog. You’ll get all of the benefits of whole wheat, but with a milder taste and texture so you’re able to sneak it into baked goods if you’re looking to up the whole-grain content.
I really have to be careful about how much flour and other dry goods that I buy and keep on hand. If I overdo it and don’t use it up quickly enough I end up with a variety of pantry pests. Keeping my dry goods in the freezer isn’t an option due to space limitations. I’ve invested in a fairly large selection of airtight Oxo POP containers, use traps faithfully, and can still end up with problems. For that reason, I did not want to invest in a bag of pumpernickel flour which is a more coarsely ground flour than the rye we used in our December recipe, Levy’s Real Jewish Rye. Therefore I replaced the pumpernickel flour with the Arrowhead Mills rye I had on-hand which made for a lighter, but equally tasty bread.
By the way, the one change I did not make this time around, but it is an option is to add one ounce of wheat germ and increase the water by one ounce. The idea here was to further increase the whole grain content, but since I didn’t have any wheat germ on hand I skipped over that. If you happen to have some on hand, however, it is a good addition.
The required flaxseeds can be easily cracked or ground in a spice grinder (I have an old Cuisinart that is just large enough) or now I run them through my Vitamix using the Dry Grains Container. This container is great for making your own flour – think about the oat or chickpea flours, or superfine sugar that you can produce at home as you need it — saving your valuable time and preventing waste. The container is a pricey item (it has a special blade built into it) so you’ll want to shop around for the best price.
The remaining dough ingredients are pretty typical – yeast, water, honey, and salt. The honey provides a nice subtle sweetness and helps to enrich the color of the finished bread. I decided to experiment with a specialty pink salt that I picked up on a recent visit to Sur La Table. I must admit that I’m a neophyte when it comes to salt and didn’t have enough appreciation for this humble but essential ingredient. Although I know it is important to how our food tastes, I can’t say that I’ve ever done a taste test to compare different varieties, of which there are many. I read a very interesting article which includes an interview with Mark Bitterman, author of the book titled Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral (a James Beard award winner by the way). I’m now intrigued and looking to get my hands on the book as I rethink my use of kosher salt and begin exploring other types of salt to use in my cooking.
Beginning the shaped rise, you can see the dough is about an inch below the top of the pan
After the rise it’s well above the top of the pan
Slashed and ready to bake
If you’ve read and used enough of Rose’s yeast bread recipe’s you will be familiar with her basic techniques. The highlights for this recipe are a pretty rapid first rise – mine took less than an hour to double, followed by a beatdown and shaped second rise which also took less than an hour. I then popped it in the oven for 40 minutes at 375°.
On a closing note, I had a “duh” moment this weekend so I want to share that bit of learning with you. I finally realized that in addition to checking out physical books from my local library, I can also borrow e-books for free. Our Los Angeles library system (and many others as I understand it) enable you to borrow Kindle books which you can read on any Kindle-compatible device. If you don’t already have a copy of Rose’s book and want to take it for a free test drive, check to see if you can get it through your local library’s e-book lending service.
Are you finding ways to get more whole grains and healthful ingredients into your baked goods? How are you doing it, and how is it working for you?
Our January Bread Bible Bakers project is one that had me happy, yet annoyed at the same time. The olive bread recipe this month is one of my favorites, but I was annoyed by having to wait to slice into it until I managed to get a decent photograph of it. I was experimenting with a new camera lens and couldn’t get the focus right. I was impatient like the Cookie Monster in the Apple commercial last year and ended up taking some of the shots with my iPhone instead of my DSLR. ICYMI, you can watch the commercial here, I’m sure you’ll be able to relate LOL.
I’ve been baking this recipe for years, and the only thing I do differently from the recipe has to do with the preparation of the olives. I’d say that nine times out of ten I use pitted kalamata olives that I usually have on hand in my refrigerator at all times. When I prepare the biga, I also take a moment to measure out my olives in a small bowl. I will usually add some sort of herbs or spices, for example, fresh rosemary or oregano. Depending on my mood, I may also add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes, a bit of lemon zest, or perhaps a clove of garlic and a bit of olive oil. When I’m ready to chop the olives and add them to the dough, I make sure to add a bit of extra flour, perhaps double what Rose recommends to ensure the olives and added oil don’t make the dough soggy. For this version I used a Turkish pepper spice mix along with a clove of garlic which I had sliced.
For those who don’t have the book, but are curious about the recipe, Rose published an article 20 years ago where she discusses a sourdough version which I believe was her original inspiration for this bread. Now that I’ve discovered the sourdough version, I can’t wait to try it. You can find that version here.
This recipe is really simple to make, and I’m able to get consistently good results. I use my handy La Cloche baker which has been such a good investment for me over the years. For more about this clay baker click here. When entertaining, I will double the recipe because this bread is so good that everybody will want more. A loaf of this bread isn’t that large and will go very quickly. Serve this bread warm with some good olive oil and balsamic on the side. I splurged a few months ago and bought what to me was a hideously expensive bottle of 12-year old balsamic from Sur la Table. This stuff is absolutely heavenly and deserves your best olive oil to go with it. I also used some of this bread for a smoked turkey sandwich which was another delicious use of this bread.
I recently shared a blog post about making individual-size fruit crisps as a diet friendly and quick alternative to making a whole pie. As part of that post, I mentioned that one of my goals is to up my pie-making game and that to start the process I had purchased the book Art of the Pieby@KateMcDermott. I had originally intended to make an apple pie as part of my Christmas brunch menu but ran out of prep time — I had to cut and run with my other deserts. I had already prepared a chocolate pound cake recipe and homemade cinnamon ice cream so those would just have to do.
Once I got past the holiday, I was able to resume work on the apple pie I had originally planned. This ended up being my second pie recipe from Art of the Pie. I wanted to share the results of this effort, and talk about some of the actions I plan to take to increase my pie making skills this year. Note that most of my emphasis will be on the aesthetic aspects rather than how to prepare the dough and filling as I’m already getting good results in those areas. Any advice or suggestions you may have for me as I begin this journey will be greatly appreciated!
For this pie I decided to use McDermott’s traditional crust which is prepared with a combination of butter and shortening. The dough recipe recommends that you roll and use it on the same day that you make it. The directions are written for manual preparation, however I used my normal food processor technique. I also ended up rolling this pie crust four days after making it. The crust was nice and flaky once baked, but I did find that the dough softened up very quickly when I took it out of the refrigerator. This put pressure on me to work quickly which is a bit at odds with my focus on aesthetics.
I decided to focus my attention on decorating the top of the pie using a small tear drop shaped cutter that I recently purchased as part of a set from Sur La Table. When I looked these up on the website I read that these were intended for cutting aspect, but they were just fine for cutting pie dough. My idea was to create a design in the middle of the top and to use the cut outs as a replacement for simple knife slashes to permit venting . To do this I had to roll the top crust out and guesstimate where I thought the center would be and use the cutter to make the cut outs. I then needed to carefully transport the top by loosely wrapping it around my rolling pin and hope to place the top in the correct position. I think I got pretty close on that. Although I managed to place the top, I didn’t have enough crust around the edges of the top and bottom to create a nice fluted edge all the way around so I tucked the edges into the side of the pan as neatly as I could. I also developed a tear in the crust that I had to struggle to repair. I’ll need to practice this stuff a bit more in my future attempts. The final step relative to the crust was to place my tear drops around the top of the crust and apply an egg wash.
For the apple filling I used McDermott’s recipe for The Quintessential Apple Pie. I had it in my head that I would need to peel the apples before baking, and I was thrilled to skip this step per the recipe directions. One of the recommendations is to use two apple varieties for depth of flavor. I am not a great apple connoisseur but I used a combination of organic Jonagold and Opal apples. As I tasted the apples before baking, I found that I really liked the flavor of the Opal apples. I did a bit of research as I wasn’t familiar with this cultivar — I discovered the likely reason for the lack of familiarity. According to the website, this is an apple which is available during a limited season, from December to March. In the U.S. they are grown exclusively at Broetje Orchards in Prescott, WA. This cultivar is relatively new having been discovered in Europe in 1999, and they are a cross between a Golden Delicous and a Topaz. These apples were introduced to the U.S. market in 2010, and what really has me sold on these is that they do not brown when cut. Another unique characteristic is that they are organic, Non-GMO Project verified. I purchased these at my local Whole Foods Market, and look forward to experimenting further with them. If you would like to try them, take a peek at the website for a grocer near you.
While drafting this post, I mentioned these non-GMO apples to a friend who innocently asked what GMO really meant. I explained to her my understanding which was basically correct, but I found a lot of additional info on the topic. I will provide links to a couple of interesting articles here, but the important point to remember is that with GMO or genetically modified organisms (AKA genetically engineered) we do not fully understand the potential negative impact of these foods hence the risk of the unknown. What is a GMO, and how are GMOs different from hybridized foods, for example pluots which are a cross between a plum and an apricot? According to the GMO Awareness website,
“Genetic modification is the process of forcing genes from one species into another entirely unrelated species. Unlike cross breeding or hybridization—both of which involve two related species and have been done without ill effects for centuries—genetic engineering forcefully breaches the naturally-occuring barriers between species.”
Here are real GMO examples from GMO Awareness:
“Other examples of GMOs include strawberries and tomatoes injected with fish genes to protect the fruit from freezing, goats injected with spider genes to produce milk with proteins stronger than kevlar for use in industrial products, salmon that are genetically engineered with a growth hormone that allow them to keep growing larger, dairy cows injected with the genetically engineered hormone rBGH (also known as rBST) to increase milk production, and rice injected with human genes to produce pharmaceuticals.”
According to The World’s Healthiest Foods website:
“GE foods by definition contain novel proteins that were not present in the food prior to its genetic modification. Since proteins are often the basis for an allergic food reaction (our immune system will sometimes make antibodies to help neutralize proteins that are interpreted as being potentially dangerous to our health), many scientists have speculated that novel proteins in GE foods may cause these foods to trigger allergic reactions more frequently than their non-GE counterparts.”
The net is that while there is no scientific evidence proving these GE foods are bad, there isn’t proof that they are good either. By the way, my understanding is that organic foods (if truly organic) by definition are non-GMO, but non-GMO foods are not necessarily organic.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming after what my Mom would call a bird walk — the pie filling. The one other thing I’d like to point out about the filling recipe is that Calvados was an optional ingredient. That is not something that I had on hand, however I had just received my holiday order from King Arthur Flour. One of the items I purchased this time was boiled apple cider. This was a first time purchase for me — I decided to give it a try as my #piegoals were top of mind. This stuff really helps to enrich the flavor of the apples and it seemed to combine well with my Bragg’s apple cider vinegar.
So, how did the completed pie turn out, and what did I learn from the experience? The first thing I would mention is that somewhere in the book I read that with a fruit pie you can end up with a gap between the underside of the top crust and the top of the filling. The solution if you don’t want the gap is to partially pre-cook your filling. Now you could reasonably deduce that since I was happy to not peel the apples that I didn’t really want to pre-cook the filling. Your deductive reasoning would be absolutely correct as I was pressed for time. I didn’t think that the gap would bother me, but not having the gap really would make it easier to have nice looking slices. The aesthetics of the slices were challenging with the combination of the teardrop cutouts and the gap between the crust and the filling. My learning here is that there is a good reason for “minding the gap” as they say in London.
Second, while not peeling the apples first is a great time saver, my suspicion is that some skins when cooked will not provide the most pleasing flavor. There was an occasional bite with a mild aftertaste that I couldn’t place. My suspicion is that it came from the skins of the Opal apples. While it wasn’t “bad” I’d rather do without it. My thought is to bake a whole Opal apple to test my theory. The lesson here is to know your apple varieties and the taste of the baked skin before making a decision “to peel or not to peel.” While this lesson is specific to apple pie, the concept may apply to other fruits so it is worth thinking about.
While apple pie is great on its own, I thought it would be even better to serve it up with some home made cinnamon ice cream. I found a recipe on allrecipes.com which I made as directed with one exception. Once I prepared and cooled the custard, I put it in the refrigerator to chill overnight with the thought that it would provide additional time for the flavors to mingle. This ice cream was approved by kids and adults alike, and I would definitely recommend it.
To top things off, I splurged on a jar of gourmet caramel sauce from Williams-Sonoma. The taste of this sauce is absolutely fantastic, however it does not drizzle easily. I think you need to warm it up somehow (stovetop or microwave) to get the consistency just right. You can find the sauce here.
Overall the pie was a success from a taste perspective, and I gained more experience with the decorative aspects of pie making. The apple flavor of the bubbling juices as the pie came out of the oven was definitely enhanced by the boiled cider. As I think about how to further develop my pie goals and a plan to achieve them, clearly practice will be essential. One idea is to look for a bake-along similar to Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers. Other ideas include my own “self-study” program, attending a class at Sur La Table or another local cooking school, and looking for pie specific blogs. A trip to Kate McDermott’s pie camp would provide an intensive learning opportunity. Any other ideas? And for you pie experts, how did you do it? I want to know! In the meantime I will update you on my progress via the blog and on Instagram using the hashtag piegoals.