Friday, May 29, 2009

BBA Challenge #3: Bagels

Having lived in Brooklyn, I guess I am supposed to know what a true NY bagel is. However, I encountered all sorts of bagels there. I used to get a coffee and a bagel with cream cheese from one of those seemingly self contained street carts. The coffee was served with a heavy hand with the sugar, and the bagels were filled with the most sour cream cheese ever. However, these bagels were not chewy and were more like rolls sprinkled with sesame seeds and with a hole in the middle. I did go to H&H bagels, but they left me unimpressed.

Perhaps it was because my first introduction to Bagels was a Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Bagel from Goldstein's in Old Town Pasadena. Or because my second introduction was the quite amazing Baguel Gourmet in Providence. By then, I had a wide range of bagel types that the NY ones just seemed to lack something. New York did have great knishes though. Yum.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached making Bagels for the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. Bagels are hard to find here in Berlin, and there are a few places with good bagels that tend to charge about 3€ per bagel, so I have learned to live without. Plus, the last time I made Bagels they were a dismal failure. All thick and gross.

This time, however, I came prepared. I had high-gluten flour, procured from my last visit to the Mehlstübchen, a specialty flour store a five minute bike ride away. Yes, I said a specialty flour store. They apparently have more than 100 types of flour, but I have only spotted about thirty or so. I usually get Type 812 and Type 1050 flour here, but I asked if they had any high-gluten flour, and this is what I got:

I prepared the poolish on Wednesday, just after my order of a Lochblech came in. The Lochblech is like a sheet pan with hundreds of little holes in it. I thought it would help air circulation, but I don't know how effective it really is.

Yes, that is a brotpisker, procured from the King Arthur Flour Catalogue more than 11 years ago! Which means I have been making bread for at least 13 years now. Off and on, though more off than on in the last eight.

Oh, wait a minute. I had forgotten that I had two batches of bread going on from Monday!

The red bowl has the Bagel Poolish, the big orange one in the middle has Pain a l'ancienne (my favorite bread from the book) and the one on the bottom has Pâte fermentée for a batch of French Bread. The Bagel Poolish is marked with the time it was prepared, and the bottom one is marked with the time the other two came out of the fridge. I'm a huge fan of marking my plastic wrap to keep track of things.

Here's the poolish after two hours. I will spare you the torturous details about the work on the French Bread.he

Being a homebrewer, I just happened to have some Malt Extract on hand. Though the bag actually looks small in the picture, it is a 3L bag half full with Light Dried Malt Extract, weighing about a 1,2KG. From this bag, I took 10 grams.

The malt reminded me that I have some homebrew in the fridge. Unfortunately, only a 75cL bottle which I normally share.

The glass is the last one I have left from a Crate and Barrel purchase. I only brought one over, foolishly thinking I could get good pints anywhere.

The beer is a British Bitter, with very light carbonation to mimic Cask Ale. It is delicious beyond belief except that it is a bit too bitter, the hops getting in the way of the malt balance. It's also too dark, but at 4,5%, it is too weak to be an Extra Special Bitter. I guess Best Bitter would be a better description of the style.

I put the malt, salt, yeast and the rest of the flour into the DLX. After about 10 minutes, it formed The Fabled DLX Donut. Which means the dough formed a ring inside the machine.

Unfortunately, even after 20 minutes in the machine on medium the thing refused to windowpane. I even kneaded it for 5 minutes by hand, but it was a no go.

The dough was sliced into rolls weighing approximately 128 grams each.

I did not take any pictures of the bagel forming, as I was trying to get the french bread into the oven. The Pain a l'ancienne was put back into the fridge for another day (today early morning). I ended up going to bed at 1 in the morning.

Because the bagels were taking up two whole shelves of our fridge, I woke up early. I fired up the ol' stove and filled the brewing kettle with about a gallon of water. This kettle is the only thing in my kitchen with only imperial measurements. It holds a maximum of 20 quarts of fluid, but is usually full with only 12 quarts of wort at any one time.

Despite the pot being big enough to boil five bagels at any one time, I ended up doing them in batches of three, as flipping over a bagel and trying not to disturb the other four was nearly impossible.

I baked them in two batches because the oven is pretty small and I wanted good results. So, after the first batch went into the oven, the second one came out of the fridge and was boiled.

The results were superb.

I made six plain, three poppy seed, and three with sesame seeds. The reason being that I totally forgot about the toppings until after the first batch was in the oven.

I immediately had a half spread with Sirop de Liège. Here's a cut away to show off the crumb as well as the sirop.

Although the crust was chewy, the inside was soft, so they were not my ideal bagels. Also, because the bagels drove me crazy and pushed the limits of both my patience and my small kitchen, I decided I wasn't going to give them away like I normally would. I got a bunch of freezer bags and put them into one of the freezer drawers for later.

Up next is Brioche. And I already have the pans for it!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

BBA Challenge #2: Artos/Christopsomos

Last week I pulled out Fred, my sourdough starter for the second recipe from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I fed him and then fed him again for a whopping 1440g of starter. I ended up using very little for the Christopsomos, and made a loaf of plain sourdough from the leftover starter minus the bit I put back in the fridge.

Because the DLX works by harnessing the awesome power of friction, you have to add the water and all applicable liquids in first, and then slowly add enough flour so that the dough pulls away from the bowl, wraps itself around the roller and squashes itself between the moving bowl and the aforementioned roller.

One of the secrets of successful mixing with the Electrolux DLX is to watch the dough as the gluten strands form. You have to resist adding more flour, as eventually you will definitely add too much. But at some point, the whole thing just comes together and it looks awesome.

So I added cranberries, golden raisins and freshly toasted walnuts to the mix a bit before I switched off the machine, and then tossed the dough into a bowl while I scraped out the stainless steel bowl of the DLX. Of course, I should have let it rise in the glass bowl, but I love peeking under the dishtowel and seeing the dough rise in the steel bowl of the machine.

Here it is after the first rise:

Because the oven that came with the apartment is one of those small size apartment ovens, I could only bake one loaf at a time. I actually made a batch and a half, so I ended up with a huge loaf and a half loaf.

The huge loaf was baked on a Blaustahl pan, normally used for pizza, and the small one on the bottom of a Springform pan from Dr. Oeteker. I used an egg wash for both of them instead of the sticky sugar glaze from the book as it seemed many others in the group complained about it.

For some reason, the top of the oven gets much hotter than the bottom, so I have a problem with overbrowning. I am constantly making foil tents for my breads, and even though I score my loaves, the top gelatinizes first, and the bread explodes Alien-style from the bottom. I am trying to find a Baking Stone in order to maintain better temperature for the top and the bottom of the oven, but it is very difficult to find one here that will fit the oven.

Nevertheless, the bread came out tasty. The larger loaf was donated to a First Communion Party, where it was a huge hit. Half of the small loaf was eaten as soon as it was cool, and the other half was enjoyed with fellow hikers who could not believe I had made the bread.

It still amazes me how others are surprised by homemade bread. I have been baking on and off (mostly off) for the past twelve years, and about two months ago, I had never made a baguette or anything other than my standard two-loaf batch: six cups flour two cups water, tablespoon each of salt and yeast.

I am looking forward to the rest of the book, and actually plan on skipping ahead and trying some of the other recipes beforehand. However, I still plan on baking with the rest of the group and keeping pace as we go through these recipes in order. Next up, Bagels!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Andama Bread

As many readers will be aware, I am participating in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge set up by pinchmysalt

On 8-10 May, I completed the first recipe in Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. It was Andama Bread.

I made the cornmeal soaker on Friday, and this is what it looked like:

I made the dough on Saturday night and stuck it in the fridge for Sunday morning. I woke up at 6:30, took the loaves out of the fridge and put them on the counter to warm. Although the book said to let them warm up for 4 hours, after three they were ready to go.

Unfortunately, the oven is quite wacky when it comes to temperature, and even though I have an oven thermometer, I can't really control the temperature.

In any case, I set the timer for 20 minutes, turned the loaves around, and then set the timer for an additional 20. After 15, though, I checked the bread and it was overbrowned, but done, so I took them out to cool.

Here's the finished product: