Sunday, 11 February 2018

The Bread Bible: a tale of two sweet breads and a number of woes

You'd be forgiven for thinking that I took this photo as I drove past these banana muffins at high speed. 

Instead it was taken in haste with my ancient phone camera because my iPad battery had died (as in completely dead, not run down). They also might have looked better if I hadn't had to microwave them. Yes, you heard, I said microwave. I realised my oven had died as I waited in vain for the muffins to cook. And that was my back-up convection microwave oven. My actual oven has not worked for some time. 

I think I can safely recommend these, although mine were a little spongy from the microwaving, they were very tasty and easy to make. My only comment on the recipe would be that it makes 5 (admittedly large) muffins which doesn't seem worth getting the bowls out, for so I'd recommend doubling it.

Not one to be deterred from sweet goods by the mere lack of an oven, and having bought all the ingredients and promised my colleagues a Nutella Cake for World Nutella Day, I toddled off to retrieve my toaster oven out of storage. And since I had the oven and all the ingredients for Angel Light Biscuits, I thought I'd knock them off my Bread Bible Bakers 'to-do' list as well.

All the way through making these Angel Light Biscuits I was thinking (grumpily) that the efforts the baker has to go to in this recipe for what are essentially scones (or biscuits in US parlance) is a bit over the top. Then I ate one, and then another one, and pretty soon I was thinking about when I could make some more. They do defy categorisation, to my mind, but their soft texture and yeasty flavour made me think of traditional Northern English or Irish yeast breads. Or even brioche, at a stretch.

One of the interesting things about this recipe is that it includes yeast as well as quite a lot of baking powder. I thought they'd burst out of the oven with all that rising agent but they were fine.

Plus there's the very curious addition of hard boiled egg yolks strained into little worms and mixed into the flour. I've only ever done that kind of thing for a savoury salsa or dressing. You don't notice the egg yolks at all in the finished product, so there's no danger of coming across lumps of egg yolk in your scone.

The dough starts off very wet before it is left to rise, refrigerated, then shaped and risen again. I was particularly annoyed by this lengthy part of the recipe, but I think the key is not to make them when you're feeling hungry. I may have cut a few corners during this process and suspect I could have got more height in my scones if I'd been more patient.

I used all buttermilk in my scones, rather than the cream option, and I guess that contributed to the very soft texture and lovely flavour. Because the butter is rubbed into the flour like traditional scones, they also had the light, layered texture of scones. I recommend the optional sprinkling of sugar on the tops, to make a sweet crust.

Keep on eye on the other Bread Bible Bakers' progress over here.


The Bread Bible - Potato Buttermilk Bread

I'm putting this up for posterity only because I remember almost nothing about making this bread at the end of last year. I also only have photos of the finished product so there are no clues there either. 

What I do remember was that my loaf wasn't potato flavoured in the way I expected it to be. There is a very small amount of potato flour in proportion to the bread flour in the recipe. I haven't researched potato flour in the US but perhaps it's different to the flour in Australia. I've made a pastry using mashed potato mix (the old Deb variety of school camp nightmares) for a Scandinavian savoury Christmas pie from this book which was absolutely delicious and potato-ey so perhaps that was what I was expecting.

Anyway it made quite a nice looking loaf. I'm still in catch up mode for the Bread Bible Bakers and I've temporarily skipped a couple of things I've made previously but I'll come back to them (because who could resist another excuse to make the delightful Banana Feather Loaf?).

Check out how the other Bread Bible Bakers went with their baking over here.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

The Bread Bible - Carrot Bread

Where's the cream cheese icing? the ingrates at work whinged. 

It's Carrot BREAD, I retorted, NOT cake, so NO icing.

Well they're my rules anyway and I'm sticking to them. Rose does mention the possibility of icing in the recipe but really it doesn't need it. Even my workmates had to concede this is a highly moist and delicious bread

This quick bread has a lot of carrot in it which is my only complaint. Not the carrot itself (which I love) but the grating, which I did manually. Until you try it you don't realise how much carrot flings itself around when you grate it. I had it stuck to everything including the laptop - which makes a change from the usual liberal dusting of flour (the screen now has a very grainy feel to it). Not to mention the film of grease over the iPad screen from oil spray drift.

This recipe is definitely quick and easy. Basically you mix the wet and dry ingredients separately and then in together, then add the carrot and sultanas. I didn't have turbinado sugar (I never have turbinado) so I substituted light brown sugar. Then I didn't have enough of that so I substituted dark brown sugar as well. So you can see my cake is a bit darker than it might otherwise have been. 

I tried a piece at home with butter, because that's how you're meant to eat sweet quick breads, people. I took the rest to work because we were celebrating International Talk Like a Pirate Day*. Arrrrr

*I might not have taken it at all if I'd know those scurvy sea dogs were going to complain.

I've skipped the Potato Bread which is on the Bread Bible Bakers schedule (possibly for sometime back in July) but I'll be back to that in the next post.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

The Bread Bible - Alsatian Onion Pizza

The next offering for the Bread Bible Bakers (yes, I am behind schedule still) is the Alsatian Onion Pizza. Alsatian brings to mind the dog breed but I can assure you there are definitely no dogs in this pizza. 

In the recipe Rose states that the pizza dough recipe makes enough for two people. I don't know if she's feeding pigeon-sized people but I beg to differ on this point. Maybe I just know a lot of greedy, greedy people. Anyway the point is I suggest you double if not quadruple the dough recipe if you want to satisfy family and friends, and/or are shamelessly greedy yourself.

I doubled the dough recipe but not the topping. The onion* and gruyere cheese topping is quite sophisticated as pizzas go. While I do love the old favourite pizza toppings (hello ham and pineapple) it's perhaps good to have another topping up your sleeve to serve to your more discerning friends and family (if you have any). I felt positively cosmopolitan scarfing down multiple pieces standing over the kitchen bench.

*Still mulling over the Alsatian part of the pizza, am wondering if onions are particularly grown in that region? Although it's more likely the gruyere cheese? There's nothing like a blog to expose your ignorance.

The dough is very simple to make. If you're a bread baker you might describe it as quick, although I'm not sure a random street poll would agree. Having cooked through one of Rose's books I find my judgement on designations such as 'quick' and 'easy' is slightly skewed. The dough takes a bit of time because of the proving phases but really the initial mixing couldn't be simpler. You mix a few basic ingredients roughly together and leave it in the bowl in a good amount of olive oil for an hour, or overnight in the fridge. When you next see the dough it's more beautiful swan than the ugly duckling you left in the bowl and it's very easy to to shape and prove a couple of times until it's ready for baking.

The topping involves slowly cooking some onions down until they're caramelised. It thought it was a little bit (more) involved (than I have patience for) for caramelised onions but the result was lovely. The thyme and garlic added towards the end, nicely offset the sweetness of the onions.

Once I had my pizza bases and toppings lined up, I got out my miracle pizza cooker (not its official name). It was a present from my older brother and sister-in-law (thanks again J & M) and, like a lot of cooking equipment, is both a blessing and a curse (take the bench top deep fryer, for example, just how easy do you want it to be to deep fry something at a moments notice?). The 'blessing' part of the pizza maker is the high heat it can generate and the pizza stone base which cooks bases to perfection in double-quick time (my favourite type of time).

Rose has us cook the dough base for a short while before putting the toppings on and baking again. This worked well, particularly with the pizza maker, because I could cook the base on the tray and then once it was par-cooked I could finish it directly on the stone base of the pizza maker, with the toppings. The pizza was exactly how I like it - a thinnish, crispy and chewy base with just enough topping to flavour the base without drowning it.

Even though I doubled the dough but not the onion mixture, I found there was plenty to cover the two 25cm-ish pizzas. The sweetish onion mixture and the nutty gruyere cheese is a great combination.

This pizza is way too easy to make. It's a public holiday here in the Northern Territory as I write* and I'm very tempted to mix up some dough and treat myself. Perhaps a tomato sauce base this time.

The next recipe on the Bread Bible Baker schedule is Potato Buttermilk Bread.

*Actually by the time I got around to pressing the publish button on this blog post the holiday was long gone. But I did make some more pizzas that weekend and they were just as, if not more, delicious than my first attempt. 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

The Bread Bible - Walnut Fougasse

I tried to make Walnut Fougasse and instead I modelled the face of a seven-eyed alien - potentially the next Dr Who nemesis (Evil Dr Fougasse, perhaps?). Apt since I wasn't overly taken with this bread. I'm not sure if I did something wrong but the dough had an odd texture when I first mixed it. It improved upon proving but the process was finicky and then I found the end result too rich and greasy for my taste. So, unfortunately not a success for me, which was a shame because it looked and sounded so exotic.

I ate some with pea and ham soup I had in the freezer (the soup was in the freezer because I wasn't overly taken with it when I made it...). While not the best meal I've ever had I did achieve that virtuous feeling you get when eating two homemade things you're not that fussed about.

I'm way behind the Bread Bakers schedule but I think I'm up to pizza next. Yay!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Bread Bible - Flaxseed Loaf

I spent absolutely aaaages searching on the internet for the pumpernickel flour which you need for this recipe. In the terrible, time-wasting way that the internet seems to inspire, I kept searching long after I had made the decision not to order it from overseas (which seemed to be my only option for true pumpernickel flour, although it's possible I could have sourced a freezer-busting 5 kg bag of dark rye within Australia). In the end I used the ordinary rye flour I had in the freezer from another Bread Bible project. 

The difference between the ryes, I seem to remember from my web travels, is that the rye is toasted or cooked in some way to make the pumpernickel which is what makes it the darkest, densest rye flour. Anyhow, after all the floury hoohaa, my loaf turned out really well and was particularly delicious toasted, as Rose points out in the recipe. It has a really lovely nutty flavour and is satisfyingly robust.

The flaxseed, which I don't remember having seen up close before, is a pretty, glossy brown seed. It wasn't immediately obvious in the recipe but it needs to be cracked before use for this loaf.

How many food processor attachments does it take to crack flaxseed? Hint: it's harder than it looks. The small food processing bowl didn't even make a dent on the flaxseed. The little grinding attachment was more successful.

There's also plain white bread flour and wholemeal flour in this, so this is another loaf which gives you that smug, healthy feeling. This was a very easy and quick loaf to make. I was too lazy to get the loaf tin out of the overstuffed drawer, so I made a boule shape which turned out very well. Another loaf to be (quietly) proud of. 

Next up is the Walnut Fougasse which is apparently a bit like focaccia with walnuts.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Bread Bible - Olive Bread

I can't remember many of the details of making the olive bread, it was so long ago. I think it was pretty delicious from memory but not my most successful loaf. Not much oven spring and it looks a bit spongy in the photo below. Maybe the oven wasn't hot enough. I should try it again, and if I did I would double the dough because it makes a very small loaf.

I don't know what this photo was about - maybe the texture of the dough? It looks silky smooth.

A makeshift banneton using a tea towel.

The olive bread is the last of my catch-up posts. I have Flaxseed bread cooling on the bench right now so hopefully I'll post about that this week. Or at least within three months :)