Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers: January 2017

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.

 

Monthly Blog Post: Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers December 2016

This is our final Bread Bible project for 2016, and I must say that being a part of Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers has been a real treat.  In addition to baking and eating some great breads, being part of a fantastic bread baking community, and continuing my growth as a baker, I’ve also had the opportunity to broaden my bread comfort zone if you will.  I do want to give a special shout-out and thank you to the members of our bread baking community.  We are a fantastic international group of bakers, and if you want to join the remainder of our journey just click on the link here.  I’ve posted below a photographic summary of our activity since May.  Although I’ve been baking from this book for several years, through this bake-along I’ve tried several recipes for breads that initially did not appeal to me, but will now become part of my repertoire.  Our December bread is a great example.

I have never been a fan of rye bread — I suspect my dislike perhaps came from a bad childhood experience.  I have a vague recollection of something my mother said was rye bread that I didn’t like, and I never tried it again.  I actually thought about taking a pass on this one, but I am so glad that I didn’t.  I type this as I finish eating a slice adorned with butter only, having had a tasty smoked turkey sandwich with my homemade cranberry chutney earlier in the day.

img_0140“Levy’s” Real Jewish Rye was a real treat with a nice crispy crust and moist golden brown interior.  By the way, I think the secret to the beautiful color of this bread is from using barley malt syrup which I buy from King Arthur Flour. The taste of rye flour is very subtle in this bread as there is roughly 20% rye flour with the remainder being white bread flour.  I used my beloved Artisan Bread Flour from KAF and Organic Rye Flour from Arrowhead Mills.  I will confess that I forgot to pick up the caraway seeds so that was the one change to the recipe as I didn’t want to go back out in the rain for them — and yes, thankfully it does rain in Southern California.

The recipe directs you to leave the sponge and flour mixture for four hours before mixing.  I was delayed returning home, so mine sat at room temperature for approximately six hours.  When I mixed the dough, I did find it a bit wetter than usual so I had to add a good bit more bread flour.  I suspect it was a result of our cool, damp weather and the excess time at room temperature.  My dough rose quite rapidly which is one of the benefits I find of using the SAF Red Instant Yeast.  If you haven’t tried it, I love that you don’t need to proof it, it’s very economical, and it usually gets results at the faster end of the time range given in your recipes.  I often find myself baking at night so I can bake and get to sleep sooner which is a plus.

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This bread was a real winner, and I’ll look forward to baking it again in the future.  It is definitely proof that our childhood perceptions can be wrong.  I am looking forward to baking our remaining bake-along recipes in the New Year ahead as well as working on my #piegoals.  You’ll be hearing about them soon on the blog.  In the meantime, let me know your baking goals for the New Year.  I wish you the only best in all of your endeavors.

P.S. — I’m so excited and ready to break into my happy dance!  Our January recipe is one of my long-time favorites.  Yipee!

Monthly Blog Post: Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers October 2016

soda-bread-portrait-imgOur recipe this month was for Rose’s Royal Irish Soda Bread.   Since I had never had soda bread, I took it upon myself to do a bit of research on the topic. My first finding is that this bread would not be considered to be an authentic Irish Soda Bread in the mind of a purist. In fact, I learned through an article in Epicurious (AKA Bon Appétit) that soda bread purists will tell you that this is not the real thing. Indeed, there is a society dedicated to the preservation of Irish Soda Bread – who knew?

According to an article published in the Tampa Bay Times (which includes this recipe) Irish Soda Breads, as Rodney Dangerfield would say just don’t get no respect. These are humble breads –prepared with the most basic set of ingredients: flour, salt, buttermilk, and baking soda. Any additions like butter or raisins are not true to the original recipe. These were considered to be luxury add-on items. As stated by Irish chef Rory O’Connell in the Epicurious article, when modified with these luxe items it should be considered as “_____ [you fill in the blank] bread on a soda bread base”.

I would consider this to be the simplest bread we have made thus far as there is no yeast, therefore no need to allow the bread time to rise. The finished product has some similarities with the scones we made back in June. You can find that post here.

plain-soda-breadAs usual, Rose provides solid techniques and at least one variation. If you’ve followed my Bread Bible posts, you know that I always like to try the variations, and I actually baked this recipe twice. My first time around, I omitted the raisins as I wanted a more authentic bread as described in the Epicurious article. I also used a blend of 50% all purpose flour and 50% whole wheat flour. Rose provided a whole wheat blend as an option, and for this bread, I used King Arthur’s white whole wheat due to its milder taste. This bread became a lovely golden brown throughout. It reminded me of cornbread perhaps because of its texture and the buttermilk and baking soda combo.

raisin-soda-loafThe second time around I stuck close to the original recipe. I used King Arthur’s all purpose flour and instead of soaking the raisins in Irish whiskey, which I didn’t have, I used dark rum. I figured that nobody would really know the difference, as the flavor from the alcohol is subtle. I still ended up with a very golden bread, I suppose because although the raisins were drained there was a tiny bit of brown fluid to color the dough.

I will note two products that I used which I had not had experience with before. For both loaves I used an organic “cream top” buttermilk from Kalona Farms. kalonaAccording to their website, they use sweet cream to produce their buttermilk which they say “…allows us to not only improve the health benefits of our product but it is also more sustainable. We now can use every drop of sweet cream buttermilk that is created when we produce butter. “ I am not a buttermilk connoisseur and would never drink the stuff, but it did have a nice smell and produced a very tender result. Kalona has an interesting story. They are based in Iowa and source their raw materials from a community that is largely comprised of Amish and Mennonite farmers. Here in Southern California we typically have a single brand of buttermilk, in our grocery stores. It is typically sold in one-quart cartons, it is mass produced, and it is not organic. The Kalona product caught my eye because it was the exact opposite –it’s available in a pint size bottle, it’s not mass produced, and it is organic.  I plan to purchase this again for future baking projects.

Both versions were moist and delicious due to the addition of butter, and this is another area where I did a bit of experimentation. For the loaf without raisins, I used Trader Joe’s unsalted butter. When shopping for ingredients my intention was to try the Kerrygold brand as I had not used it before. When I got home I realized that I had accidentally picked up their garlic and herb butter instead of plain unsalted butter. I ended up using the garlic butter on the freshly baked loaf and it tasted really good.

I went back to the store before baking the second loaf and bought the unsalted Kerrygold for that loaf. I believe the butter and buttermilk combined in the second loaf to create a very moist loaf with a nice sweet buttery flavor. I plan to use the Kerrygold in some additional baking projects so that I can continue to compare the results. I did research butter taste tests, and the one test I read ranked Kerrygold third or slightly ahead of my regular Land o’Lakes butter. I’ll also plan to seek out Plurga and Presidént butters for further experimentation during the holiday season. If you have any opinions on these I’d love to hear them.

The final point I’d like to share is that I am a strong believer in using modern tools in my cooking and baking projects. With our busy modern lifestyles, we need to boost our productivity in the kitchen wherever possible. For this soda bread, I used my Breville Sous Chef that I purchased this summer. I used the same technique as described in my June post on making scones. The key with this approach is to use the plastic blade (not the steel blade) and to pulse the ingredients very briefly so that you still have buttery bits. These are necessary for the proper texture so don’t over process it. You want to add the liquid through the feed tube quickly and not over mix. It is okay to use a little flour when shaping the dough (a few spoonfuls) but you don’t want to add too much and toughen the dough up.

Once the dough has been shaped, slash the top and pop it into your pre-heated oven quickly. I did find that I needed a few extra minutes (less than five) in the oven so that a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.

There you have it – an easy but delicious bread.   By the way, I did find an interesting recipe for a seeded version from Noreen Kinney that I look forward to trying. You can find that recipe here. Let me know your thoughts and whether you have tried soda bread. I want to hear all about it!