Saturday, July 31, 2010

BBA Challenge #39: Vienna Bread

I've never been to Vienna. But I've been to many other European capitals since arriving here in this crazy country they call Deutschland. Aside from the obvious Berlin, Brussels was my first capital- We visited over my birthday weekend in 2007, to attend a Beer festival taking place that weekend in Sint-Niklaas.

At the end of the trip, as we were leaving, my friends pulled off an exit and the first thing I saw was The Atomium, which I had said was the only thing I wanted to see, and then promptly forgot about. I had a sore throat the entire weekend, and lost my voice on the car trip there, and regained it only on the way back. It didn't stop me from drinking lots of beer, though.

Stockholm was next, all cold and wet with everyone wearing the brightest colors in anticipation of Spring.

Prague was a day-trip with me wearing a neck brace during the car ride, walking around a city I could barely understand, trying to pack as much as we could before we had to drive back to Berlin.

And then there was Paris, this last year. All bright and shiny and beautiful and inspiring.

But though I've never been to Vienna, I've always wondered about it. The first beguiling thing is that, in German, it's called Wien. Which makes you wonder, since you have Berliner for Berlin. Wiener for Wien. So, all that Vienna sausage you ate as a child on that bus trip through the Sonoran desert? They're actually wieners. And that beloved hot dog chain that you always wanted to go to, but never did because it just seemed a bit foreign? Wienerschnitzel is actually named after Wiener Schnitzel, thinly pounded breaded veal.

So, where does this lead us to? Vienna Bread.

Now, I'm not one to say that the bread wasn't good. It was definitely good. But I wasn't overly convinced. Oh, by the by, this bread is #39 of 43 in the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. As I write this, I only have this bread and two more to be all caught up on posts for this Challenge.

The mise en place is the usual, but with almost every possible addition you can think of. In addition to the usual flour and water, we have butter at the top right. I went with butter instead of shortening because butter tastes awesome in things, even though I don't really like it on bread. An egg on the right side, and on the bottom row: yeast, salt, malt powder, and pure-as-sucrose sugar.

So, because this bread was also baked way back in the recesses of March, I don't have an excuse for not having more pictures of the baking process. Nor do I remember what was going on in this photo other than it looks like I had turned the dough out and was probably ready to shape it.

And, where normally I break out the linen couche to allow the breads to rest for their final rise, I decided to use parchment paper instead, and let them rise directly on the peel so that I could just slide them onto the hot baking stone when the time came.

I liberally brushed them with the Dutch Crunch topping and slid them into the oven.

And, despite my scoring, the bread still managed to tear in several places. The Dutch Crunch topping was interesting. It was a mix of rice flour, vegetable oil, water, wheat flour, sugar, salt and yeast. It was definitely crunchy, but, as is the case with me, I thought not sweet enough.

We ate one loaf compulsively, and the second came along with us on our Wanderurlaub.

In Germany, like in most countries in Europe, you get six weeks vacation, standard. Well, I think the legal minimum is 20 days, but almost everyone gets 30 days. If you have any days left over, you carry them onto the next calendar year, but you have to take them by the end of March, otherwise you lose them. In my case, I had 7 holidays days left from 2009, so we took the last week of March off, and booked a three day to Ahrenshoop on the Ostsee to go hiking. Of course, the last day was spent at drinking at one of my favorite breweries in Stralsund, so any good that the hiking might have done us, was deliciously drunk away.

And what culinary delights awaited us on our Wanderurlaub? Sandwiches on home-baked bread.

And the best one: Waffle On A Stick.

Other Viennese Bakers include:

Phyl from Of Cabbages and King Cakes

Cathy at Bread Experience

Sally from Bewitching Kitchen

Abby from Stir it! Scrape it! Mix it! Bake it!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

BBA Challenge #38: Tuscan Bread

I guess this is the moment when it all went sensationally wrong, way back when.

Somehow, intentionally making a salt-free bread seems to have wronged the delicate balance of the bread universe, so it had to strike back somehow. This is the bread that made me realize something was wrong with the oven.

When I first started baking, I would religiously measure six cups of flour. Oh, wait. is that four or five? Hold on, I have to pour everything back into the bag of flour. One. Two. Three. Four. Whenever my concentration would waver, I would measure out the cups of flour into different parts of the bowl in order to have a visible mark of having the complete six cups of flour.

I would then pour in one tablespoon of yeast, because I couldn't be bothered to measure out 2 1/2 teaspoons. I thought- what's an extra half teaspoon of yeast? Then, two cups of warm water between 105F and 115F. I'd knead the bread by hand, let it rise exactly an hour and a half, punch it down and let it rise another 45 minutes before baking it for 15 minutes at 400F and an addition 25 at 250F.

And there you have it. The bread recipe that I baked quite seldom, and never intentionally. That is, when I would take a bite of the bread, it tasted like water. Lifeless. Beautiful loaves with no flavor. Which, if you're paying attention, would mean I had forgotten the salt. I know, I know, in the confusion of measuring out six, and exactly six, cups of flour, I had somehow forgotten the salt.

The recipe above, with the inclusion of a tablespoon of salt, that is, was the recipe I baked from for about nine years before joining the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. And since then, I have never baked a loaf of bread without the salt. Until now.

Note the absence of salt, the inclusion of an absurd amount of olive oil as well as- um- cooked flour paste, the kind that you used to get in kindergarten, but made with a darker flour.

Into the machine it goes. Note the general lack of counter space. Fruit is in the heart-shaped bowls we picked up second-hand in Belgium, and a stray cake pan is sitting atop the basket we use for potatoes.

So here's where it all starts going awry. Well, not to say that the paste wasn't awry enough. After a very fast bulk rise, I pack the entire thing into an undersized brotform, and forget about it for an hour. Okay, or two. Without the salt, the monster grew quite fast, and expanded to look like a dough-brain.

I flipped it onto the peel, and, not wanting to chance the bread collapsing when sliding it into the oven, I took the easy way out and used parchment paper, which I rarely do, even for pizza.

And what happened? The bread collapsed. Sort of. I noticed that it wasn't baking properly on the bottom, so I attempted to flip it, and stuck half of my mitt into the bottom of the loaf. That's why the picture at the top has that raw, sunken-in look.

So when it came out, it was already mauled. As for the flavor? Well, I would have said inedible. Many others who baked this bread found it tasteless, or tasting like flour paste (but in a good way).

I wasn't too convinced. After all, this bread with no salt. No one intentionally makes bread without salt.

The bread did have this nice sweetness, though, from the flour paste and the flavor of the olive oil. In fact, with this bread, good olive oil is a must, since, without salt, it is one of the prominent flavors.

Oddly enough, Amy said it was the best bread I had ever baked. Which I found strange, but not strange enough to stop me from making sandwiches on the bread. The flavor was complementary to whatever was put on it- mustard and cheese- but, in the end, I know I won't be making this one again.

Other Tuscan bakers include:

Anne Marie of Rosemary and Garlic

Chris from Eating Is The Hard Part

Phyl from Of Cabbages and King Cakes

Oggi from I can do that!