Monthly Blog Post: Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers May 2017

 

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Photo of Strasbourg, Alsace regional capital, and capital of the European Union

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.”

Christian Dior

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.

1827_07_10_2012__17_13_40_700This 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.

Monthly Blog Post: Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers February 2017

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.

 

Dry ingredients, including the flaxseed ready for mixing

 

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.

Flaxseeds after a quick go round in the Vitamix

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 dough after mixing

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.

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°.

 

The finished Flaxseed Loaf…time for a sandwich

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?

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!

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

I’ve been baking bread from Rose’s Bread Bible for many years, and over the years a number of her recipes have become staples for me. One of my staples was our first recipe from the bake-along for blueberry muffins. You can find the review of that recipe here.

main_variation_default_view_1_425x425Another go-to recipe of Rose’s is one that I bake every year during the holiday season for gift giving. It is a sure-fire crowd pleaser. Rose’s Cranberry-Banana-Walnut Quick Bread is as quick and easy to make as the name implies. I typically double the recipe and bake it in small (6” X 2.5”) disposable loaf pans that I buy at Sur La Table. You can buy these individually for $.75 US each. A double recipe will make five loaves (filling the pans almost to the top) and you may have a bit left for a muffin or two.  When baking, I place the filled loaf pans on a cookie sheet so they are well supported and I can easily transport them to and from the oven.  I bake these loaves for approximately 45 minutes at 350°.  Muffins will take approximately 20 minutes.  Naturally, they will bake a little more quickly if you bake using convection mode.

The flavor of this bread is a nice juxtaposition of sweet bananas and tart cranberries, and while the flavor combo is a bit more complex, it is no more difficult to make than your typical banana nut bread.  One important note is that Rose recommends that you cut your cranberries in half before adding them to the batter.  Being the lazy girl that I am, I just put them in the food processor and pulse for a moment.  This normally works well, but this time around I used previously frozen and thawed berries.  After thawing and pulsing, I had a bit of liquid in the bowl.  Although I drained the berries, I still ended up with a bit of discoloration in the finished bread.  For this reason, I would not recommend using thawed cranberries.  Use fresh berries, or pulse them and fold into the batter while they are still frozen.

By the way, I failed to mention that the baked mini-loaves freeze very well.  I typically bake these (and a favorite pound cake recipe) early in the month and then I put them in ziplock bags and freeze them.  As I am making my holiday rounds and know that I will see a recipient I pull one out of the freezer.

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While Rose has never published the recipe outside of the book, there is a version of the recipe on food.com that is close.  If you are looking for a giftable recipe, this may be the one for you.  I have often given these packaged in a gift bag along with a Christmas card and Starbucks gift card.  That way the recipient can get a hot beverage to accompany their sweet treat.  Don’t be surprised if the feedback you receive is that it was so good the recipient ate it all in one sitting.

If you try this recipe, I’m eager to hear about your results.  Also, if you have other baked “gift-ables”that you make, I’d love to hear about them!

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

I am going to keep this post very net and to the point since our recipe this month was for ginger scones. If you have been following the blog for a while, you may recall that our June recipe was for flaky scones which I prepared with cheese and chives. Click here for the complete review of that recipe. Also Rose’s recipe for the ginger scones has previously been published and you can find it recipe at this link (see variation at the end).

The key difference with this recipe is that it uses lightly whipped heavy cream which creates a lighter scone. I decided to make this recipe as a contribution to the Thanksgiving dinner at my brother’s house.

These scones were sweet and spicy due to the combination of powdered and crystallized ginger, and they were a big hit with my uncle. My aunt had taken a few home– my uncle ate them all and had her text me to let me know that he really liked them and he wanted more. The combination of heavy cream and turbinado made a nice crunchy, sparkling crust. Instead of cutting them into wedges I used a biscuit cutter. 

I expect that I will be making more of these for Christmas.

P.S. — I forgot to add the lemon zest but these were great without it