Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sourdough Seed Bread

This is another seeded bread, another sourdough bread. As such, it doesn't seem all that different than some of the other breads we made in this challenge. Yet this recipe produced a spectacular loaf. This may have been due, in part, to my overcooking it a bit. At least, I cooked it until it was somewhat darker than I usually cook bread. And this loaf was clearly much better for it. In the future, I'll be looking to cook my loaves to a darker color. A great loaf, a loaf worth repeating!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Five-Grain Levain

Once again, I find myself jumping ahead of the challenge. Last time around, I made the fougasse with olives. As it happened, I was only ahead for a couple of days. That was the first on the list of the next set of recipes. With only a few recipes remaining, that may well happen again.

This loaf was extremely similar to the last loaf I baked, the Five-Grain Sourdough with Rye Sourdough. This time around, I used rye flakes rather than cracked rye. Otherwise, the I followed the recipe as given.

This produced another lovely loaf, quite similar to the last. I may have a slight preference for the earlier loaf, but would be happy with either. Another great loaf.

Five-Grain Sourdough with Rye Sourdough

The title refers to this as having a rye sourdough. Actually, this starter is prepared from a standard sourdough culture, not a rye culture. And, as a possible alternative mentioned by Hamelman, I used rye chops rather than the cracked rye called for by the recipe. Apart for that, I prepared the loaf as described in the book.

The results were excellent. This produced a lovely loaf that is now one of my favorites.

Golden Raisin Walnut Bread

This is truly a lovely bread. The combination of golden raisin and walnuts works very well together. The loaf has a small amount of whole-wheat flour (20%) that give the loaf just enough of a whole-wheat taste to keep it from being a "white" bread.

There was nothing unusual about this loaf. I followed the directions as given and had no surprises. The loaf was a bit wrinkled looking, something I've encountered with several of Hamelman's loaves, but this certainly didn't affect the taste. Overall, this recipe is topnotch and one of my favorites.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fougasse with Olives

Generally, the next months breads are posted a few days before the start of the month. That wasn't the case for November, so I went ahead and picked out one of the few remaining loaves and made it. My choice was the olive fougasse.

The home recipe makes two, so I divided the dough just before the addition of the olives and made one fougasse with olives and another without. I substituted a half-dozen chopped kalamata olives for the two tablespoons of niçoise olives. It was the only olive I had on hand and they worked well.

I would recommend care when rolling out the dough. In my case the I got the dough a little too thin giving an almost cracker texture. The bread was still quite good, but I would have preferred something a bit thicker and chewier. That said, this is another recipe for the winner's column.

Sunflower Seed Bread with Pâte Fermentée

The October breads were rounded out with a sunflower seed bread. I'm partial to sunflower seed breads and this was no disappointment.

The recipe includes rye chops which, early on in the challenge would have been off-putting. But now that I'm soaking the rye berries before tossing them into the food processor, this is no longer the problem it once was. I'm not sure they add a lot to the bread, but I like them now. And they aren't that much additional work.

This recipe produced a light, lovely loaf that I would gladly make a gain. A great loaf. And three winners in one month.

Sesame Bread Sticks

The sesame bread sticks recipe is another one-day recipe. Having previously made the grissini, I wasn't sure how these would be different. While a bit leaner, there really isn't much difference.

In making these, I was much more forceful when rolling out the dough not worrying whether I was deflating them too much or not. This proved to be the right tack to take as I was able to shape these better. I also cooked them longer going for a more crispy bread stick. In general, I prefer the chewy bread sticks, but after making these, I may have to rethink my position. These were very tasty and I really liked them crisp. But, as Hamelman warns, they only keep for around five days (if not eaten before then). A winner!

Berne Brot

The Berne brot is like challah but richer. The water in challah has been replaced with milk and the oil has been replaced with butter.

This is a straight dough that is easily made in one day. Hamelman's recipe for the home baker make three medium to smallish loaves. I made half the recipe and made one loaf and several buns. Otherwise, I followed the recipe as given.

In retrospect, I wish I had made the full recipe. This is a very tasty loaf. When comparing challah with this brot, I definitely prefer the latter.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Whole Wheat with Pecans and Golden Raisins

There isn't a lot to say about this bread. As a straight dough, it only took one day to make this loaf. And, for a lack of a better word, it was a very straightforward loaf to make. I pretty much followed the recipe as written. (I did fudge and soak my raisins in rum rather than water.)

This produce a beautiful and tasty loaf. This is definitely a bread I would make again.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Mixed-Flour Miche

This is quite an impressive loaf. The home recipe is for a single loaf with 3 pounds and 11 ounces of dough. (The professional loaf calls for 5 pounds of dough.) My home loaf, which spread perhaps more than it should, measured over 14 inches in diameter.

The loaf had an 83% hydration and was quite slack. As such, the dough was quite damp and difficult to work with. I used the three folds during the bulk fermentation and still didn't develop enough strength. The recipe calls for a final fermentation of two to two and a half hours (perhaps a bit too long, at least in my case). I used a linen-lined 12-inch skillet and inverted dough onto a large sheet of parchment prior to putting it into the oven. Even so, I had difficult getting the loaf into the oven. (If I were doing it again, I would use two overlapping sheets of parchment.)

Hamelman recommends cooling the loaf in a baker's linen and waiting at least 12 hours before cutting. (In the picture, I'm using the linen to hide the slightly misshaped edge.)

The loaf had a mildly sour taste and an open crumb. It had an excellent flavor and is a loaf that I hope to make again soon.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Whole-Rye and Whole-Wheat Bread

This loaf is 50% high-gluten flour, 25% rye, and 25% whole-wheat. As such, the rye flavor is very weak and the dough is very easy to work with. This is my kind of rye bread, a loaf without much rye.

I use a newly acquire brotform to for the final proofing. In this case, I didn't get a particularly round loaf, and, clearly I'm still working out how much flour to use when dusting the form and what are the best approaches to scoring. Still, this gave a reasonably attractive loaf.

Overall, this was a pleasant loaf—one well worth making again.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Black Bread

The final bread of the month was black bread. This is a sour dough rye that includes old bread and ground coffee.

Readers of this blog will recall that I'm not a fan of rye bread. This was a 60% rye, so I probably don't need to say anything else. But, just in case, the ground coffee did not improve the bread. While this bread might appeal to some, this was not my favorite bread. Enough said.

Focaccia and Focaccia con Formaggio

The 66th and 67th breads in this challenge are also loaves that I'll pair and discuss together. The 66th bread is focaccia and the 67th is focaccia with formaggio (focaccia with cheese). Both use Hamelman's ciabatta dough as a starting point.

With the former, the dough is divided into one pound pieces and placed in round pans, is covered with toppings, and is baked. In my case, I topped one with caramelized onions, blue cheese, and walnuts, one of my favorite combinations for focaccia. The other I topped with olive oil and chopped fresh rosemary. Any number of other toppings could be used. Hamelman provides a short list of other possibilities.

The focaccia with cheese is a bit different. It uses one and a half pounds of dough divided into two pieces. The pieces are rolled out. One is covered with ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, and fennel seeds. (I omitted the fennel seeds.) The second piece of dough in placed on top and crimped to the lower piece. Brush with oil, sprinkle on salt, add a few slits, and bake.

As you can see from the photos, I had a hard time waiting. I just barely got the photos. Both were excellent.

Oatmeal Bread & Oatmeal Bread with Cinnamon and Raisins

The 64th and 65th breads in the Hamelman Challenge are Oatmeal Bread and Oatmeal Bread with Cinnamon and Raisins. I'll describe both of these breads in this post.

These are extraordinarily similar loaves. With the addition of cinnamon, more yeast is needed. But only if added directly to the dough. If the dough is flattened, the cinnamon is sprinkled on top, and the dough is then rolled up, the cinnamon will have very little affect on the yeast and no additional yeast is needed. Then the only difference is the addition of cinnamon and raisins.

This is the approach I took in making these breads the first time. I prepared the dough, divided it into two pieces, and then rolled the cinnamon and raisins (previously soaked in brandy) into one of the pieces. This allowed me to make both breads as once. And I prefer the cinnamon concentrated so that it has a strong presence at times rather than being a background flavor.

As you can see, the loaves turned out reasonably well. The bread was a bit dense, but was acceptable.

A week or so later I repeated the cinnamon loaf. This time around I replaced the raisins with dried blue berries (also soaked in brandy), and distributed the cinnamon throughout the dough increasing the yeast accordingly. I also use the overnight retard that Hamelman mentioned as a possibility. This time I made a boule rather than loaves and used a recently purchased brotform. This produce another nice but heavy loaf.

Overall, this is a good recipe. Based on my experience, I would increase the yeast a bit. I got heavy loaves both times I made the bread, even with extended fermentation and proofing. The overnight retard didn't seem to make much difference in flavor, at least to me. I like the taste better with rolled cinnamon rather than cinnamon as a background flavor, and the blueberries worked well. Based on my experience, you should feel free to experiment with different dried fruits. Either dried cranberries or cherries would probably work well.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sourdough Rye with Raisins and Walnuts

The third and final bread of the month was a 35% rye bread with raisins and walnuts. Between the relatively low rye content and the added raisins and walnuts, this did not come across as a rye bread. And since I don't particularly like rye breads, I consider this a strong point!

Whenever I cook breads with raisins (or olives if you just read the last post), I try to be careful to avoid exposed fruit that will char in the oven. Apart from this, the loaf is straightforward and easy to make. I used a hashed scoring that didn't really work well for this loaf in that it exposed some of the raisins and I didn't have as much oven spring as I would have liked. (Perhaps I should have allowed it to rise a bit longer?)

While a bit dense, this was still an excellent loaf and well worth making again.

Olive Levain

This is another terrific bread! I think the key to a good olive bread is good olives. If you wouldn't eat the olives out of the jar, why would you want to eat them in a piece of bread? For this recipe, I use Mezzetta Pitted Kalamata Olives that, according to the label, had been marinated with herbs in Napa Valley Cabernet. I really love these olives, and they worked well in this bread.

There were no problems with the recipe. The dough was a bit slack, but not enough to cause problems. As is my habit, I baked the bread in a cloche. A really great bread! I wish I had some left.

Potato Bread with Roasted Onions

What great bread! I love roasted root vegetables, and I particularly like roasted onions and potatoes. So I'm all for adding them to bread (and making a little extra to snack on)!

Since Hamelman notes that we can form the loaves several ways, I decided to make sandwich loaves. Although not on Hamelman's list of possibilities, these worked out nicely.

The bottom line, I really like this bread. A winner!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Vollkornbrot and Vollkornbrot with Flaxseeds

It's payback time. After two great breads, it couldn't last. Another rye. If you have been following this blog, you'll know I'm not enamored with rye breads and that hasn't changed.

Actually, I'd have to describe these two loaves a failures. While the blame may rest squarely on me, I simply didn't see enough in these two breads to make is work the effort to figure out what went wrong.

Rather than make two humongous loaves, I cut each recipe in half and baked the breads in the same pullman pan. The times and temperatures were the same, and there was very little difference between the loaves.

The dough was sticky and wet and difficult to work with. The results were heavy, stodgy; certainly not something that I would want to make again. Both loaves molded quickly and had to be discarded.

While I started out largely indifferent to rye breads, as this challenge go on, I'm liking them less and less. Two abysmal loaves!

Semolina Bread

This is one of four semolina breads in the book, the levain or sourdough version. It is somewhat unfortunate that we aren't making the others at the same time so we could compare them. However, some might have found that a bit overwhelming.

In general, I'm quite fond of semolina breads and this one didn't disappoint. I made the recipe twice. While the recipe specifies durham flour, the first time I used Bob's Red Mill Semolina Flour. The second time I used King Arthur's Durham Flour. According to Kastel's Artisan Breads the only real difference between the two flours is the grind; semolina has a coarser grind. While I could see a difference in the two flours, it wasn't that much of a difference. The second loaf is shown. I use the shaping technique described in The Bread Baker's Apprentice

Overall, this is a terrific loaf. I can't justify a preference between the two loaves, but slightly preferred the latter. A great loaf.

Pain Rustique

There really isn't a lot to say about this bread. It is very straightforward to make. Apart from a simple poolish that must be made the day before, it is relatively quick to make. It has a somewhat high hydration and is very similar to a ciabatta in many ways. The results are a light, airy rustic bread that is simply spectacular. It is an instant favorite!

Monday, May 23, 2011


Rounding out the recipes for may is a pissaladieère, a French pizza. This is something I made before and am quite fond of. The crust is quite thin, so it has both an initial crispiness, but is also chewy around the edges or cornicione.

Hamelman's recipe works quite well. He doesn't give cooking times, perhaps because he recommends setting ovens as high as they will go and that introduces too much variability. I cooked mine at 550 degrees for about 8 minutes. But I didn't stretch my dough out as much as he recommended. Rather than 12 x 16 my pies were closer to 10 x 15.

Anchovies I can take or leave, but I generally prefer to leave them.
So for this recipe, I diced my anchovies rather than leaving them whole (and left them off part of the pie altogether). Dicing is in the spirit of things but keeps you from getting too much of an anchovy at once.

Finally, I found that the recipe really only made enough caramelized onions for one pie, not two. I would definitely make more next time.

Traditionally, this is made with caramelized onions, olives, and anchovies, just as Hamelman's recipe calls for. However, like pizza, it can be made with other toppings. For my second pie, I used a recipe for a tomato topping from Anissa Helou's Savory Baking from the Mediterranean. Another good choice would be caramelized onions, blue cheese and walnuts.

Bottom line, this is a great crust recipe and well worth going back to.

Roasted Hazelnut and Prune Bread

As I recently said, I'm not a fan of hazelnuts in bread. Pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, yes. Hazelnuts not. And to this list of likes and dislikes, I need to add prunes to the dislike column. Sot this puts the loaf at a considerable disadvantage.

Still the bread itself was quite, quite good, as long as you avoided the nuts and fruit. This would certainly be a loaf worth revisiting if made with pecans and dried cherries.

A loaf with an unrealized potential.

Five-Grain Bread with Pâte Fermentée

For the challenge, this is the second loaf of a five-grain breads. There are four different loaves to found in Hamelman. The previous loaf was a straight-dough. To compare the loaves, I remade the original as I made the new loaf. The new loaf is the one on the left. The original is the one on the right. (Yes, I'm starting to play with decorations. It is unclear whether this will be a formal part of the challenge, but I don't want to let it slip by.)

As a lighter (less whole grains) bread, I preferred the new loaf to the original. But both were quite pleasant loaves and breads that I'd be willing to make again.
Still, the new loaf will be my first choice.

Hazelnut and Fig Bread with Fennel Seeds and Rosemary

This is one of a couple fruit and nut breads found in Hamelman. It is a pleasant enough bread but I'm not really taken with hazelnut in bread. I love hazelnuts in other things including ice cream, jut not bread. For the fruit, you could probably substitute any number of things. I was actually out of figs, so I used dates. I realize this is a bit of a stretch, but dates seemed to work fine.

There really isn't much to say about it other than it was an okay bread.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Flaxseed Bread

In the interest of full disclosure, this bread had two strikes against it before I even began. First, it is a rye bread. If you have been reading my previous postings, you will know that I don't generally care for rye breads. Worst yet, it has flax seed. I realize that flax is wonderfully healthy, but it always seems to have a grassy taste that I don't care for. It is true that baking considerably lessens this problems, but it rarely eliminates it. Still, it was one of the recipes in the book, so I made it, ... but not with a great deal of enthusiasm.

Wwhen all is said and done, it really isn't a bad loaf. Not great, but not bad. But not something I'll be in a hurry to make again. Recipe completed. Time to move on.

Pain au Levain

Next in the Hamelman Challenge were there Pain au Levains or sourdough breads: Pain au Levain, Pain au Levain with Whole-Wheat Flour, and Pain au Levain with Mixed Sourdough Starters. The first is a straight forward sourdough bread with a stiff preferment (60% hydration). The second adds 20% whole-wheat and 5% rye flour but is otherwise quite similar. The latter used two starters, a liquid levain (125% hydration) and a stiffer rye flour starter. (The final hydration is about the same for all the breads.)

In each case I followed the recipe closely except that I used cloche rather than a steam pan, baked at a slightly lower temperature for slightly less time, and proofed the loaves slightly longer. These are all pretty standard adaptations I'm making with most of Hamelman's recipes these days.

Overall, all three breads were quite similar. They are shown above (in reverse order in both pictures). All were quite good and well worth making again. Of the three I had a slight preference for the first, but I doubt I could tell the difference if I weren't tasting them side-by-side. Another set of winners.

Aloo Paratha

Aloo paratha is an unlevened whole-wheat flat bread (paratha) with a potato filling (aloo). This bread was of particular interest to me because I like Indian food and have made several Indian breads before including Julie Sahni's version of paratha (found in Classic Indian Cooking). Paratha is a bread that can be made in a relatively short amount of time, and there are a variety of fillings than can be used. Or it can be made without a filling.

For the bread part of the recipe, a blend of whole-wheat and bread flours, salt, and water, are kneaded together. Then the dough rests for a half hour or so, is shaped, and is then cooked on a griddle. For the filled bread, you can prepare the filling while the dough rests. Filling the dough is simply a matter of putting some of the filling in the middle of a rolled out disk of dough, then sealing the disk, and then rolling it out into another disk. The dough may, as shown above, puff up while grilling. The dough is basted with oil or ghee when done. If unfilled, you may want to brush the top before cooking, and fold it over on itself to form layers brushing between layers.

Shown here is a round of aloo paratha cut in half along side a serving of hard cooked eggs marsala.

If you turn to Indian cookbooks, you'll discover that there are many other fillings that can be used. In The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi, there are a half-dozen or so additional recipes for fillings along with directions for a plan paratha and a version of paratha made with chickpea flour. For the plan paratha, Devi has the cook fold and spread ghee over the bread. Filling may be made from peas, cauliflower. radishes, etc. In the third picture, the triangular pieces are plan paratha while the round is mooli paratha, a paratha that has a filling made with shredded radishes. (You'll just have to take my word on the fillings.)

Initially I followed Hamelman's recipe. For this last batch, I tried a straight whole-wheat flour. These, quite heavy and dense, were not nearly as good as Hamelman. Neither of the filling I tried overwhelmed me, but both were acceptable. Overall, this is a pleasant but not outstanding recipe. But in the future, I'll probably stick with naan.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sunflower Seed Bread with Rye Sourdough

This is definitely one of my new favorites. Yes, I remember I'm the guy who doesn't really like rye breads. But I really like sunflower seed breads and the rye, while definitely understated, does seem to add something to the bread.

The bread includes rye chops. I have made these in the past by running rye berries through the food processor. While working with this bread, I've found it better to get out a chef's knife and have at the rye berries. You usually don't need that many, it seems to go just as fast, isn't as noisy, and actually produces a better product. You don't get the rye flour that the food processor seems to produce while bouncing the berries around.

For me, this is a bread that benefits from a slightly longer rise that Hamelman suggests and from the use of a cloche. (I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that most breads benefit form a cloche, but that's a topic for another post.)

As I said, the bread benefits from the rye---at least for a few day.
I know this sounds a bit cryptic. Let me explain.
The rock-hard chops are soaked before making the bread and are reasonably tender after soaking.
But as the bread ages, they seem to loose moisture back to the bread.
After a couple of days the chops seem to go back to their original, rock-hard state. The good news: the bread is so tasty, there isn't likely to be much of it left after a couple of days, so this isn't much a problem. Just be warned, this is a great loaf but you should eat it quickly. Life can be demanding at times!

Two Whole-Wheat Breads

Yes, it has been over two months. So much for good intentions. I've done all the baking, but I just haven't done the blogging. So now I'm faced with the question of how much I can remember of what I did two months ago.

Recipes 45 and 46 in the challenge are for Whole-Wheat Levain and Whole-Wheat Multigrain. For the multigrain, I used a seed mix from King Arthur's Flour that I had in the freezer.

In addition to fendus and hamburger size buns, as can be seen in the pictures, I made several boules.

All where very straightforward to make and worked nicely. I slightly prefer the multigrain, but both were good. These are solid recipes. But it is getting difficult to compare one loaf with another. So many of Hamelman's recipes seem to be minor variations of other loaves. Without tasting them side-by-side, it is hard to draw comparisons among similar loaves, particularly when separated by a number of months and many, many other loaves. (And when you are thinking back of two months for even the latest loaf in the comparison.) Still, these are two recommended recipes.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Three Whole-Wheat Breads with Yeasted Pre-Ferments

As part of the Feburary Challenge, three whole-wheat breads made with yeasted pre-ferments were included: Whole-Wheat Bread, Whole-Wheat Bread with Hazelnuts and Currants, and Whole-Wheat Bread with a Multigrain Soaker. I made each of these recipes once making both loaves and rolls. For the straight whole-wheat and for the hazelnut and raisin bread, I made fendus; for the multigrain, a made a oval loaf.

The first picture is the straight whole-wheat, a fendu. The second shows the hazelnut and raisin loaf sliced. The third are some of the rolls I made with the multigrain loaf.

I made two substitutions in the loaves. For the hazelnut and raisin loaf, I substituted dried cranberries for the raisins. This is a substitution I often make and have never run into any problems doing this. And this was again true with this whole-wheat loaf. In the multigrain loaf, the recipe calls for a soaker using cornmeal, millet, oats, and cracked wheat. I was out of cracked wheat so I substituted bulger wheat. I realize this is a bit of a stretch, but seem to be in the spirit of things. And it worked out very nicely. The recipe calls for at least a four-hour soak. I soaked the grains overnight, about 12 hours. A little extra water was need (20 grams), perhaps because of the longer soak.

Each of the loaves was straighforward to make. All baked a little quicker than the recipe indicated. All were solid if unexciting recipes. Of the three, I liked the multigrain best, but I tend to prefer mutigrain breads so this wasn't a surprise. The hazelnuts were an interesting addition. I think I toasted them a bit too long (although I used the shorted time for the range specified by Hamelman). This wasn't a major problem, but something to remember for the future.

All were good loaves, but none are loaves that I'm likely to repeat soon.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Oven Tests

Even with just a casual reading of this blog, it could hardly go unnoticed that I am consistently cooking the loaves for less time than Hamelman calls for. Why is this?

One obvious answer is that my oven is simply too hot. There are several simple ways for the home cook to determine if an oven is running hot or cold without calling in a professional to have the oven recalibrated. The simplest approach is to use an oven thermometer. Based on recommendations from Cook's Illustrated, I've used a top rated thermometer to check the temperature of my oven. In fact, the thermometer showed my oven to be running about 30 degrees too low, just the opposite of what I would expect. Of course, the thermometer could be wrong.

Thermometers can be check by placing them in an ice slurry for 32 degrees (be sure the slurry is at equilibrium) or boiling water 212 degrees (minus 0.9 degree for every 500 feet above sea level). While a great test for your Thermapen, neither of these are very useful for an oven thermometer.

Fortunately, there's another simple test that is reliable if done carefully. Sugar is known to melt at 367 degrees. This simple observation can be used to confirm that behavior of an oven. Simply preheat the oven to say 365 degrees and then place a small bowl of sugar in the oven and leave it for a while (at least 30 minutes). It shouldn't melt although it may discolor. Note, it is extremely important to let the oven stabilize before you put the sugar into the oven since most ovens will initially oscillate around the target temperature. The oven coils should not be glowing, and you should put the sugar into the oven quickly keeping the door open for as short a time as possible.

Next remove the sugar, reset the oven to 370 degrees. After the oven has stabilized, you can return the sugar to the oven. After a bit it should melt. Be patient, this can take a half-hour or more.

If your oven is running hot, then it will melt at a lower temperature. If your oven is running cold, you will need a higher setting before the sugar

Using this approach I found the sugar would not melt in my oven when set at 380 degrees but would melt at 385 degrees. Thus, my oven is running about 15 degrees lower that where it is set. This isn't quite as bad as the thermometer indicated, but I trust the sugar more. (This method is describe in Cooking for Geeks, a interesting but very, very uneven book.)

Temperature only give a part of the picture. Items in an oven heat by several mechanism (induction, convection, and induction). If there is better air circulation, then an item will heat more quickly than the temperature would indicate (as in a convection oven).

Cook's Illustrated (January 2008) has another test that can give an idea about this. The idea is to allow the oven to stabilize at 350 degrees (I used 365). Take a two cup Pyrex measuring cup with one cup of water at exactly 70 degrees. Quickly put the measuring cup into the oven and leave it there for 15 minutes. For a normal, correctly calibrated oven, the temperature should rise to 150 degree over that time. In my oven, it went to 148 degrees, pretty close.

(There is one other test from Cook's Illustrated that is used to test broiler evenness. The idea is to put in a sheet pan and toast it. This will show hot spots. While I was at it, I ran this test as well.)

So, oven temperature doesn't seem to be the problem. There are several possibilities, but I have no definite answer at this time. Perhaps the dough has risen quite enough. Perhaps, it is too warm to begin with. Or perhaps there are some issues with Hamelman's recipe. I'll continue looking for a solution, but this really isn't a big issue with me. Basically, I'll just keep using my Thermapen to check the bread removing it when it is done. In the meantime, I'll keep setting the oven to the temperature specified by Hamelman without making any corrections in my oven. This is what I've been doing in the past, and it would only create confusion to change now.

Normandy Apple Bread

This bread was a very pleasant surprise. Frankly, I didn't have very high expectations for this. But I was definitely surprised.

The loaf is straightforward to make. You start with a simple levain the night before. If you are following the recipe closely, you need to plan time to dry the apples. I made one loaf with dried apples per Hamelman's instructions and a second loaf where I used "Sun Maid", a commercially dried apples. For the home dried apples, I peeled and thinly sliced Jonagold apples, put them on a wire rack above a sheet pan, and baked them at 250 degrees for about an hour. If drying your own apples, be sure to plan ahead. The recipe calls for cider but doesn't explicitly specify fresh or hard cider. (The reference to cider that has gone slightly off seems to imply fresh.) I used fresh in both loaves, but it would be interesting to repeat the process with hard cider.

The baking loaves had a lovely apple aroma while baking. Again, it was necessary to shorten the cooking time. Hamelman calls for 40 minutes at 450 degrees followed by another 15 minutes at 420 degrees. My loaves were at 205 degrees after 35 minutes. In both loaves there were voids around the apples. This is clearly shown in the second picture.

This is a great bread with the apple adding a nice tartness. While I slightly prefer the home dried apples, if all I had were commercially dried apples, I wouldn't let this keep me from making the bread. This really isn't a sandwich bread or a sweet bread. But I find it very pleasant to slice and eat out of hand. I think it would make a nice toast served with apple butter. Another great bread.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Toast Bread

Note: It had been my intention to try to make each loaf at least twice. At this point, I'm inclined to cut back. I still plan to make each recipe at least once, but I'm inclined to limit myself to a single run for many of the recipes repeating recipes only when there is something significantly different to try. Recipes like Toast Bread are too similar to other recipes to make it worthwhile to play around with the recipe.

Toast Bread seems to be a minor variation of the Pullman Loaf that was made last month. It is slightly less rich and has a small amount of malt powder. Without comparing the two loaves side-by-side, it is difficult to see much difference. If memory serves me correctly, (a big "if"), I prefer the Pullman Loaf. But frankly, there really isn't that big a difference.

the recipe was very straightforward with no surprises. Using 2 lbs., 3 ozs., the loaf didn't quite fill the pan, but a slightly longer final fermentation would certainly correct this. As always, I needed to shorten the cooking time a bit. The home recipe gives enough dough for a pullman loaf and a second smaller loaf. In the future, I would probably scale back the recipe to make just the pullman loaf.

This is not a bad loaf, but I'm not sure that this really add that much. Perhaps I should bake the loaves back to back so I can compare more closely.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Golden Raisin Bread

To be frank, this recipe wasn't one of my favorites. It isn't a bad recipe, but I generally prefer a richer "bread" in a raisin bread. The inclusion of fruit adds something that makes a bread special. The problem with this loaf, for me at least, was it really wasn't a special bread. Ignoring the raisins, it was a good solid levain loaf. Indeed, it was a pleasant enough loaf on its own. It is just that it is not the right bread for a raisin bread. I also thought that the amount of fruit seems a bit low.

Perhaps the real problem with this loaf is my expectations. Perhaps the recipe isn't flawed in any way, I'm just expecting something quite different. But enough said, the best thing might be to move onto other loaves have discovered something more about my preferences.

This was a loaf well worth trying, but for me, one not to repeat. However, since I inadvertently deleted the picture, I went back and made it again. This time, I used craisin rather than raisin. And I also added some dried cherries, half as much again. (Walnuts would have been another good addition.) I also used white whole-wheat flour this time. This loaf is shown above.

Actually, I liked the second loaf. The tartness improved the loaf.

Two hints when baking this: Watch the loaf closely. Hamelman't times were too long for my tastes. Second, pull off any exposed fruit. Otherwise, it will burn as the loaf bakes.