Wednesday, July 29, 2009

BBA Challenge #11: Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread


I don't really feel like writing anything even though this bread was one of my favorites so far. Call it "Saturday two weeks after making the bread blues." In any case, this is the eleventh(!) bread in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge.

So we'll just skip to the bread. Here goes nothing.

So, the first thing I do when I make a recipe is convert all of the weight measurements to metric. I know they're in ounces, and my scale can even measure in ounces, but somehow having 255g of something has become second nature to me even though I grew up measuring in ounces. Also, 5,4g tells me how much something weighs, as opposed to 0,19 oz. which means absolutely nothing to me in my brain.

I actually hid the flavor vials in the picture because I was a bit ashamed to not have enough extract for the recipe. I had one of almond extract and one of lemon, though I really really wanted to use orange extract as a foil to the cranberries. I have a recipe for cranberry walnut bread from a book that is nearly a hundred years old, and it uses a bit of orange juice, which makes a huge difference.

Since I seem to be the only participant in the challenge with an Electrolux DLX/N26/AKM4110W, I thought I would show off a bit. Here's the machine mixing about 300mL of liquid at 33% power.

And at 100% power. I never have it on this setting because the bowl spins so fast it is a bit frightening.

Actually, the numbers are a bit misleading because this is the liquid at the lowest setting, which is excellent for mixing, but is certainly not zero. Maybe I'll tape a pice of paper to the bowl and count how many revolutions it makes.

Here's the bread mixture with all the dough ingredients.

Which turns into this, and gets kneaded by the roller and pulled apart by the scraper counteracting the roller.

Normally, I would knead the cranberries into the dough by hand, but in this case I decided to live dangerously.

Did the same with the walnuts, but, because they were drier than the cranberries, they required my attention. I had to move the arm back and forth in order to incorporate them, as they were not cooperating.

The dough fully mixed.

I absolutely love breads with fruits and nuts in them. When I lived in Brooklyn, one of my guilty pleasures was buying parbaked raisin pecan loaves shaped as a batard. Throw in some Chaumes and a nice St. Bernardus Abt 12, and all was golden.

I remembered from the long Challah braids fiasco to follow the instructions to the letter. The strands had to be fatter in the middle and tapered towards the ends.

I sort of got confused about how to braid because I thought I had it down, but when I turned the braided half around, I had no idea and improvised. In any case, I thought they looked awesome.

Cheryl of A Tiger In The Kitchen tweeted that the loaves looked "like an alien with its baby strapped on its back". I totally agree, though the only thing I was thinking when I took this picture was "Oh, this is totally going to topple".

After the egg wash, the loaves looked beautifully glossy. I actually had to re-read the part where Peter Reinhart says NOT to cover the bread for the second rise. It was written so that it didn't seem like a misprint.

I came back about a half hour later and the top loaf was creeping over. I just put some more egg was over the parts which were exposed and let it take its natural form.

The loaf finally fell over completely, and despite my prodding, I could not safely unstick it from the parchment paper and decided to just leave it.

Of course, during this time I was making a loaf of 1050 Bread. Normally I make it with sourdough, but I had to make it for a picnic and had to rush. I replaced half the milk with buttermilk, but thought it tasted a bit odd.

The thing about baking is that it relaxes me, and I can't just make one loaf at a time. I like making two or so. This one above is part of my standard experimentation with 1050 flour, which is the darkest just below whole wheat flour. I once made a boule as above with 1050 flour using the pain a l'ancienne method from the book and it was a raging success at work.

Despite the odd form going into the oven, I was completely taken aback by the finished bread. Meine Gute! This bread looked like some sort of creature that crawled out of the ovens of Yum City.

I loved the complex detail of the dough stretching as the top loaf slowly fell off.

Plus, I used the entire egg wash, so it was particularly shiny.

Even the bottom of the loaf was perfectly browned.

I also loved taking pictures of the bread. Even though it was odd looking, it was gorgeous. All shine and cranberries.

I ripped it open to take a picture of the crumb and promptly ate a big piece.

Actually, if I'm going to be honest, I ate a huge part of this bread myself. Although it was not as drool-worthy as the Casatiello, I have a weakness for Cranberries as well as for fruit and nut breads, so I kept sneaking slices whenever I could. Delicious!

The weekend after this bread I took a break and only made two small loaves of normal bread. I actually thought I had broken the oven, but the English Muffins this weekend proved to me that the oven had snapped back. It seems that all of my kitchen devices have become a bit temperamental since I actually started using them!

Monday, July 27, 2009

BBA Challenge #10: Corn Bread

Corn Bread!

Sweet, sweet corn bread.

This. This is one of my favorite things of all time. Corn Bread. Whenever I make corn bread I have a tried and true recipe from the New Joy of Cooking. Now, I'm not going to go and say it is the best cookbook ever, but it is one of my go-to cookbooks, and one of the few I brought over with me. The reason? It simply has everything in it. Plus I love the lentil soup recipe in it. I love the hummus recipe in it. Plus, I use it as a reference every Thanksgiving in order to make a turkey I will never taste.

I've been vegetarian for a bunch of years now, but I'm not averse to cooking meat, nor am I averse to roasting a bird for friends. But when I do it, I worry that, because I won't taste it, it will not be yummy enough. I also worry that it will have too much salt, or not enough. I also tend to wash my hands a lot. To the elbow, just in case. For me, cooking meat is like making something out of papier mache. I don't mind doing it, and it looks pretty in the end.

However, corn bread is something I make every Thanksgiving plus on special occasions, so I was going to have some no matter what.

Which means leave out the bacon.

Which means tell no one the recipe called for bacon.

Then hope it still makes corn bread as awesome as the New Joy of Cooking recipe.

Did it?

Ladies and Germs, we begin our humble journey with a corn meal soaker (not pictured) with milk instead of Buttermilch. The buttermilk in the fridge did not look so good, so I had to toss it out. I know this may be shocking to many of you, but the buttermilk here is sold in 250g (yes, grams) containers that usually hold yoghurt (also not pictured).

The day of the baking started with what I will call all-purpose flour. Type 550, which is pretty white, but not as bad for you as Type 405, which is pretty much 100% starch from the center of the wheat.

Here's the flour before I added any of the dry ingredients. Unfortunately, I was measuring out a tablespoon and a half of baking soda before I realized it was baking SODA and not baking POWDER! Quickly, but carefully, I scooped up that section of flour and re-measured.

Oh, yeah, I use Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, bought for nearly five times its normal price. I actually have a fear of German Natron, but only because no recipes use baking soda over here, and because I have never tried it.

Here's the actual Backpulver. Literally. It means "baking powder". You can buy these packets at every supermarket. Unfortunately no gram measurement is listed for the package, but each packet is enough for 500grams of flour. Uh, yeah. For what kind of recipe? All of them?

The recipe called for both brown and white sugars. Brown Sugar, the kind made with molasses, is virtually unknown in Germany. They have brauner Zucker, which is basically raw sugar. I usually to go to an Asia Laden (asian market) to get this type of sugar. Oddly enough, the sugar is actually made in England.

Butter is another thing that is strange in this country. This is ein stück Butter, a piece of butter, literally. This is roughly a half-pound, or two sticks of butter. All butter is sold this way. Oddly enough, there are many brands of butter, but Markenbutter is the standard butter, hovering around 0,79 € per stück.

Because I wanted this corn bread to be special, I brought out the big guns. This is Tannenhonig, fir tree honey.

Here's the soaker from the night before. I got a late start.

What I find utterly hilarious is this: I take pictures of all the ingredients, yet fail to even take one single mise en place picture. So what you get is the picture of everything already mixed together.

I have to interrupt myself here and say that I do not like corn. Okay, I will eat the occasional corn tortilla, but I will not even have corn flakes in the house. Maybe it's part of my upbringing, or maybe it's something else.

If there's corn in something. Say, like in corn bread. I will eat it, but adding these kernels to the mix made me an unhappy camper. I know, I know, I could have left them out, but I was already skipping the bacon, so I thought I might as well throw them in.

Through some weird foresight or something, I only bought a small can of corn, so I only had half of the necessary corn. Oh, well, I thought.

Now, before you all start in on how I should have used a 10-inch cast iron pan, let me interject. I left my awesome Lodge cast iron pans behind when I came over, and cast-iron pans here are either made in France or Sweden and cost a small fortune, so I had to improvise and use this Dr. Oetker springform pan. Oh, by the way, all cake pans here are springform pans. Okay, not the silicone ones, but they are super cheap.

The corn bread took forever. Almost 45 minutes until it barely passed the toothpick test. And because the bread was promised at a pot luck for which I was going to be late, I was really sweating it. But, in the end, I made it.

Sunlight really does do wonders for food photography, as evidenced by this photo.

At the pot luck, people thought that it was a cake, and wanted me to put it with the other cakes. I kept re-iterating, no this is corn bread. Corn bread.

I sliced it up into wedges and took the first one.


There was even an American kid running around screaming "Corn Bread! Corn Bread!" as though he had not had it in years.

I didn't even mind the corn bits, but I think maybe next time I'll omit them completely. The texture was crumbly but moist in a way I had never known. Of course it was on the sweet side, but I love sweet corn bread as much as I love savory.

I know everyone has bacon on theirs, but it was amazing even without. Maybe, just maybe, I'll make the bacon variation for my friends on Thanksgiving. But I'll have to make a little one without, as well.

Just for me.

Friday, July 24, 2009

BBA Challenge #7: Ciabatta Redux


I had already deemed the Ciabatta a failure in the post about it, and it was only after the fact that I realized that I had not even bothered to take pictures of the crumb.

I wasn't going to do it again, but the bakery across the street has beautiful Ciabatta and with olives, and I was determined to make it this time.

So the night before, I started the biga. It was a no biga deal, but I decided not to take pictures. Actually, it wasn't until the next morning that I actually set up the light stand and the flash.

I do know that I'm supposed to use sunlight, but that would require bringing everything into the living room. And even though the sun sets at some crazy hour like 21:30, I don't really use sunlight. The reason being that the flash allows me to obtain an aperture of f4.0, for the depth of field that I really want.

We begin on the day of baking with the biga. I cut it up into several small pieces to bring it up to temperature. Okay, I lie. I actually left it on the counter in the bowl for an hour before referring back to the book and realizing I was supposed to cut it up into pieces.

Here it is after the first rise, all puffed up in its silky high-hydration glory.

The last time I had made a couche I actually put a double batch on it and it didn't come out so good. This time I made sure each ciabatta had room enough to expand.

Rising in the traditional folded over letter-style.

The first loaf I baked (and yes, I did them one at a time, as my baking stone is only 30x30 cm square) stuck a bit to the couche, so the backside of it came out a bit long from being stretched.

Still, the loaves came out quite beautiful. All dusted and rustic. I would have actually liked them darker, but wanted to go by the book so as not to fudge up anything.

I brought this loaf to a 19km hike the next day. Everyone had a piece, but I actually had a raisin nut loaf as well, so that bread proved much more popular.

This one was actually my fave. I brought it along to our Book Club, and everyone except the children loved it. I think it was because of the lower salt content, or the two tablespoons of olive oil I added in for flavor.

The underside was also a bit pale.

I even remembered to take a crumb shot and even got some decent holes.

Of course the loaf you see here in these last two pictures was devoured an hour after coming out of the oven in an egg, cheese, tomato and soy slice sandwich.

I am actually glad I re-did this recipe, as the bread was much softer than last time, and had a nice moist crumb. Last time, the bread dried out immediately and was tooth-breakingly chewy the next day that I had to throw it out.

I'm actually thinking of making the mushroom ciabatta version pretty soon, so I'll post when I do.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

BBA Challenge #9: Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Somehow, when you start baking bread, you end up having to give most of it away to keep yourself sane and/or thin. However, once you start to do that, people's eyes get all wide and they want more.

I made this bread on 4 July, just before a company picnic, so I was under a bit of time pressure, so I decided to skip the cinnamon swirl on the loaf. Oh, by the way, this post is brought to you by the letters, B, B and A from The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge.

For some reason, Germans prefer their shortening in 1kg bars. They're huge and look like a stick of butter for giants. Fortunately, I found this "small" cube weighing in at 250g. I now realize that Kokosfett, which is Coconut fat, might not match the profile of shortening, but it's in the same section, and behaves the same way. In any case, the package says "Reines Pflanzenfett ungehartet" which means "Pure plant fat, unhardened" which is close enough!

I actually wasn't really into this bread, plus I was under time pressure, so I think I might have rushed through it. Okay, okay, I definitely rushed through it. I did a dry ingredients plus wet ingredients mixture as I would with a cake or quick bread. Here are the dry ingredients.

And the wet ones on the left. All I did was mix them together.

Into the DLX they went.

One of the niftiest functions of the Electrolux Assistent AKM4110W/N26/DLX is that it has a built-in timer. Here, I set the timer for six minutes and 33% power. I very rarely go above 50% power, but it's not because the machine can't handle it. Believe you me, the machine can beat around dough at 100% power, no problem. The thing is, at 100% the bowl is spinning so fast it's actually quite frightening.

I used 25% dried cranberries in the recipe and 75% raisins. Unfortunately, the raisins overpowered the whole loaf and the cranberries were nowhere to be found.

Into the mixer they go. When adding dried fruit, the DLX usually takes about 2 minutes at 33% power to mix everything in, and an additional minute to mix everything in evenly. However, whenever I put walnuts in, the dough gets stuck, and I have to move the arm back and forth and back and forth in order to get them to even enter the dough.

I usually let dough rise in the DLX bowl. I take off the scraper and roller and then cover with a moist kitchen towel. Here is the bread after the rise.

And the bread after the shaping. Because I give away most of the bread, I try to make two of them. In this case, the loaf on the left was for Amy's colleagues, and the rolls on the right were for Amy and myself. I don't remember if I didn't feel like doing the cinnamon swirl in the middle or if I just decided to omit it for no reason.

Forgive me, I totally forgot about brushing the butter on the warm bread as it came out. I did love the way the loaf looked, all gnarled up.

Here's a peek at the bottom. Even though the loaf wasn't brown or anything, it was still pretty dark. Maybe because I used Type 1050 flour, the darkest before going to Whole Wheat.

And here are the rolls. Many people in the Challenge actually make rolls out of the breads, so I decided to give it a shot.

Because the loaf was a gift, I could only get a shot of the crumb from the rolls.

Still, the bread smelled divine coming out of the oven. On the weekends, I occasionally forget to eat because I don't have the structure of a workday. On this day, I was going to a BBQ after baking, so I was saving my hunger. However, the smell of the bread got to me and I was unable to resist. As soon as the rolls came out of the oven. Correction- as soon as the rolls came out of the oven and had been phorographed, I tore one off and shoved it into my mouth.

I suppose I'm just used to raisin bread being sweeter, but I was not so impressed by this one. Perhaps it's because we did Cinnamon Rolls the week before that I skipped the cinnamon sugar.

But looking at other people's loaves makes me think it was a huge mistake! I'll probably have to re-do this one "the right way" as soon as I get the chance.

The next post will be a Ciabatta Redux, followed by the Corn( )bread and then the Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread that fell over. See:

Until soon!