Friday, February 16, 2018

And the Crown goes to... The BBB - Happy 10th Anniversary!

Our challenge this month, Royal Crown Tortano bread, celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Bread Baking Babes.  They began as a group of twelve women from around the world who came together to bake bread every month, inspired by the Daring Bakers, but a smaller, more intimate group.  This happens to be their very first challenge bread!  For me, this is the second anniversary of my officially joining as a member of the BBB, but I have been baking as a buddy often since January 2010, just a month before their own second anniversary.  Over the years, the roster has changed a bit, but always there is a love of baking and sharing.  There is something wonderful about being challenged to make things you wouldn't have thought of or necessarily chosen yourself, or possibly ever have heard of without such a diverse group of bakers.

This was an interesting, if soupy bread dough!  Last month I despaired of my bread soup dough, this month it was the desired result.  It takes a lot of kneading to get the gluten lined up in this wet dough, about 20 minutes for me.  I also used part spelt and a small portion of freshly ground sprouted kamut, which has wonderful flavor and color.  The dough expands during the fermentation and folding, but stays fairly flat while proofing.  It just kind of spread for me, but did pop in the oven a bit.  I had hoped for more, but that's why it calls for bread flour, the stronger gluten is helpful for a vertical rise in a dough this wet.  I did add a little more flour, which I should not have done.  Resist the temptation!  The dough will come together on a fast knead, then flow back down once the mixer is stopped.  It's fun to watch.  It actually reminds me very much of the Rewena Paraoa bread I made as a buddy back in 2011.  Very slack dough, potato, longer times, lots of flavor, shiny, moist crumb with big holes.  I mean, look at the shine on that crumb!  Absolutely delicious with a smear of butter.  This recipe is slightly different and has more salt, which I prefer, I remember thinking the rewena could have used more.  But altogether very similar.

We would love to have you celebrate with us and try out this delicious bread!  While it is a very wet dough, there is not a lot of hands on time and it is surprisingly forgiving.  You don't have to have a blog to participate, a picture will do.  Just send a picture or your post of your finished bread to the host kitchen by the 29th of this month.  You will receive a Bread Baking Buddy graphic to keep or add to your post, and be included in our Buddy round up at the end of the month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th.  Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

Planning for this bread, it's a two day recipe:

The Night Before Baking: Make the starter and optionally, the mashed potato.

The Next Morning: Mix the dough and let it ferment for about 4 hours. Shape it, proof it for about 1 1/2 hours, and then bake the bread for about 45 minutes.

Royal Crown Tortano
Makes one large round ring loaf
recipe from Artisan Baking

The Evening Before Baking: Making the Pre-Ferment:

Pre-Ferment Ingredients
1 g (¼ tsp) instant yeast
240g (1 cup) water 105 - 115 degrees F
100g (2/3 cup) unbleached bread flour
85g (1 small) potato

Stir the yeast into the water and let it stand for 5-10 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of this yeasted water (discard the rest) to the flour and beat this very sticky starter until it is well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let it ferment until it is full of huge bubbles and sharp tasting, about 12 hours. If your kitchen is very warm and the starter is fermenting very quickly, place it in the refrigerator after 3 hours of fermenting. In the morning, remove it and allow to come to room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour before beginning the final dough.

Preparing the Potato: For the sake of efficiency, you may want to prepare the potato the night before. Quarter and boil it in water until it can be easily pierced with a knife tip, about 20 minutes. Drain; if desired, reserve the water for the dough. Potato water is an excellent dough enhancer.  Press the potato through a ricer or sieve to puree it and remove the skin. Store it in a covered container in the refrigerator. You will need only ¼ cup puree for the dough.

Bake Day: Mixing the Dough

Final Dough Ingredients
575g (3¾ cups) unbleached bread flour (I used 100g light spelt, 50g sifted, freshly ground sprouted kamut, and 425g all purpose flour)
420g (1¾ cups plus 3 Tbsp) Use the potato water if desired, lukewarm
All of the pre-ferment
11g (2 tsp) honey
60g (¼ cup packed) Potato puree
15g (scant 1 Tbsp) salt

Using a stand mixer: With your hands or a wooden spoon, mix the flour and water into a rough, very wet dough in the work bowl of your mixer.  Cover the dough and let it rest (autolyse) for 10 - 20 minutes.

Fit the mixer with the dough hook.  Add the pre-ferment, honey, potato and salt and the mix the dough on medium speed for 15 - 20 minutes, or until it becomes very silky and wraps around the hook and cleans the bowl before splattering back around the bowl.  This dough is almost slack enough to pour.

Fermenting and Turning the Dough:

With floured hands, shape the dough into a ball and roll it in flour.  Place it in a container at least 3 times its size and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let it ferment until doubled in bulk and filled with large air bubbles, about 4 hours.  During the first part of this time, using plenty of dusting flour, turn the dough 4 times in 20 minute intervals, that is, after 20, 40, 60, and 80 minutes of fermenting, the leave the dough undisturbed for the remaining time.  Do not allow this dough to over-ferment or ferment to the point of collapse, or the flavor and structure of your bread will suffer.

Shaping and Proofing the Dough:

Turn the fermented dough out onto a well floured work surface, round it and let it rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle a couche or wooden board generously with flour. Slip a baking sheet under the couche if you are using one for support.

Sprinkle a generous amount of flour over the center of the ball. Push your fingers into the center to make a hole, the rotate your hand around the hole to widen it, making a large 4 inch opening. The bread should reach about 12 inches in diameter.

Place the dough smooth side down on the floured couche or board and dust the surface with more flour. Drape it with plastic wrap and let it proof until it is light and slowly springs back when lightly pressed, about 1½ hours.

Preheating the Oven:

Immediately after shaping the bread, arrange a rack on the oven's second to top shelf and place a baking stone on it. Clear away all the racks above the one being used. Preheat the oven to 450ºF (230ºC)  (I saw immediately that my stone was not large enough for my round, so I placed a baking sheet on top of it, hoping it would act like a baking steel.)

Baking the Bread:

Unwrap the bread and flip it onto a floured peel or a sheet of parchment paper.  (Or both!)  Do not worry about damaging the bread as you handle it; it will recover in the oven as long as it is not over-proofed. (I think mine was a few minutes over-proofed, the kitchen got warm because I had been baking other things.)  Slash it with 4 radial cuts in the shape of a cross. Slide the loaf onto the hot baking stone and bake until it is very dark brown, 40 -50 minutes, rotating it halfway into the bake.  (I did add steam the first 5 minutes.)  Let the bread cool on a rack.

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes:

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tartine Polenta Bread - A Real Challenge Bread with the BBB

I think this is one of the first BBB challenge breads that has proven especially difficult for me!  I do remember getting a brand new food processor to make Sprouted Yeast Bread work as a buddy, but that was a matter of proper equipment.  I think there may have been one or two other recipes I made twice from not being satisfied with the original results.  This really is a recipe you have to make by feel and not necessarily follow what's written exactly.  Especially when using alternate ingredients, like millet polenta instead of corn, and a portion of sprouted einkorn flour with notoriously delicate gluten.  My first attempt ended up as an over-hydrated dough akin to the infamous croc loaf.  It was practically dough porridge!  Nearly impossible to build any structure, though I did try with many extra folds.  The hydration was high in the original dough, the addition of the soupy millet polenta really did make dough soup.  The bread did cook up with great flavor, but like a porridge loaf, with a super moist crumb.  It toasted wonderfully.  I must say, toasted, popped pepitas were a tasty revelation.  My second attempt used the same ratios, but different flours, and a much more dry polenta that I rinsed and drained after a few minutes.  (Millet absorbs water much faster and to a higher degree than corn.)  That gave me a very nice dough that held its shape well.  Unfortunately, it was still slightly under-developed, and definitely under-proofed.  The "proof" of which was the bubble under the top crust, an indicator of poor structure development and/or under-proofing.  Plus I was now out of rosemary and pepitas.  Sent hubby to store to get more flour, rosemary, and pepitas if he could find them.  Begged rosemary plant to grow faster at home.  Decided to reduce hydration in the original dough somewhat to account for added hydration from the polenta.  Also decided to really develop structure in original dough as well with stronger flour.  Considered increasing the levain, but was afraid it would affect the hydration too much.  Really have to be careful on the proof time.  I hear proofing sourdough to 70% rather than doubling, gives better results and helps avoid over-risen dough.

Third try, I held back 50g of the original water and hydrated all the flours, (autolyse), while the levain worked, maybe two hours. Then I really developed the gluten of the dough + levain before adding in the polenta, rosemary and pepitas.  I did not stretch and fold this time, I used the mixer and kneaded for 7-10 minutes until it was much more elastic.  Still sticky, more so than before kneading, but significantly smoothed out.   I used 100g cracked millet and 225g water, boiled it for a minute, let it sit for 5 minutes, then rinsed it. I ended up with 211g of soaked polenta, which means I got rid of around 115g water by rinsing. I ended up using 16g of the reserved water to hydrate the salt with the polenta. It's a sticky dough, but with lots of structure.  And it looks right this time.  I know that's not very quantitative, but when the dough feels and looks right, it just does.  Aaaaannnnnnd, we have another fail.  This is driving me crazy, I know it should be taking much longer to proof but it is failing the poke test!  I think the dough is just too slack to use that test.  I should have listened to my instincts.

I have successfully made porridge bread, I have successfully made polenta bread, (look at how firm that millet polenta turned out!), I have made dozens of sourdough loaves.  I made three this week with the same starter as the challenge bread!  See, my starter is perfectly happy, these are 100% sourdough risen:

I just don't know what the deal is with me and this challenge bread!  The starch from the polenta should have helped speed up the little yeastie beasties.  But this recipe delighted in vexing me.  I still have one to put in the oven.  It has taken over seven hours to proof.  I am scared to bake it now.  I'll add a picture later if it turns out.  I made it in a standard loaf pan so I could be darned sure it had risen properly and not just spread out.  It's a half batch which makes a small 8x4" loaf.

It's out now and I am much happier with it.  It is small, but sounds light and hollow when tapped, not dense.  And it had a little bit of oven spring to it.  Nice, light little loaf and smells wonderful!  I will not cut it until it is cool so picture will come later.  This loaf was baked as I would a sourdough sandwich loaf, 15 minutes steam, 10 minutes no steam, 15 minutes out of pan, directly on rack to finish browning.  The crumb is shiny and moist, but completely done and light.
Take that, you loaf, you!  I can now sleep.

Well this is a true challenge bread, recommended for advanced bakers or particularly daring beginning bakers.  We'd be super impressed if you would give it a try and share your results with us!  You don't have to have a blog to participate, a picture will do.  Just send a picture or your post of your finished bread to the host kitchen by the 29th of this month.  You will receive a Bread Baking Buddy graphic to keep or add to your post, and be included in our Buddy round up at the end of the month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th.  Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

Tartine Polenta Bread
makes one round loaf

dessert spoonful of bubbling wheat starter from the fridge
75 g whole wheat flour
75 g water at body temperature

Polenta mixture:
70 g raw dried pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
61 g grains for polenta (medium grind) (I used coarse grind millet)
150 g boiling water
pinch salt
21 g sunflower oil (oops, forgot every single time)
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

100 g floating leavener (stir the rest into the jar in the fridge)
375 g bread flour
125 g whole wheat flour, sifted (reserve the bran - approximately 4 g) (I threw it out)
4 g wheat germ (I used oat bran on the bottom instead)
150-200 g water, at body temperature (add more if needed)
(optional: ½ tsp instant yeast, if you’re uncertain about your leavener) (Wish I had done this.)

Adding the salt :
all of the dough mixture
10 g salt
25 g water at body temperature (Nope, nope, nope.)

Have ready before baking: rice flour, brot-form (or bowl), reserved bran from sifting whole wheat flour
For baking: parchment paper, cast iron frying pan, large stainless steel mixing bowl or pot that will fit over the pan.

Leavener and refreshing the starter: On the evening before baking the bread, put the ingredients for the leavener into a medium bowl. Mix the leavener ingredients until all the flour is incorporated. Leave 100 g in the bowl. Mix the extra into the jar in the fridge. Cover the bowl containing the 100 g with a plate and leave in the oven with only the light turned on overnight - until it becomes bubbly and frothy like mousse.

For the polenta mixture:
Spread pumpkin seeds evenly in one layer into a dry cast-iron frying pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the seeds begin to pop, this takes about 5-10 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes.

Before toasting...
After toasting - they really pop and plump up!
Listen to them crackle as they cool!

Put the cornmeal grains into a pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally until they are turning gold and smell toasty (not more than 5 minutes). Add the water and a pinch of salt. Turn up the heat, stir and bring the mixture to a rapid boil. Turn the heat down to very low, cover the pot and allow the grains to simmer for about 15 minutes. Avoid the temptation to lift the lid. When the water has absorbed, remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Way too soupy the first time, and too starchy to drain.
Chose a coarse grind for the remaining times.

Rinsed and drained after 5 minutes - perfect.

 Add oil, rosemary and pumpkin seeds.

For the dough: When a small spoonful of the leavener floats in a small bowl of room temperature water, you can go ahead and mix the dough. (If the leavener does not float, stir in a little more whole wheat flour and water - even amounts by weight - cover with a plate and leave for about 30 minutes more. Chances are that it will now float.) Put all the dough ingredients into a large mixing bowl along with the now bubbling leavener.  (I pre-hydrated my flours with the water while the levain was working.)  Mix as well as you can with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter to rest for about 40 minutes. Do not skip the resting period. Working with the nature of the dough, the resting period allows the protein and starch in the flour to absorb the water, swell, and then relax into a cohesive mass.

Adding the salt: Pour the 25 g water over-top of the mass of dough. Sprinkle on the salt, making sure that it goes onto the water. (Alternatively, you could stir the salt into the water in a little bowl and pour in the salty water.)

(I skipped this procedure and the water it used, and added the salt with the polenta.)

Kneading: Use one of your hands to squish the salt and water into the dough; use the other hand to steady the bowl - this way you always have a clean hand. At first the dough might be a bit messy. But persevere. Knead with a dough hook in a stand mixer, until relatively smooth. Cover with a plate and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.

Stretch and fold (part 1): About 30 minutes after adding the salt, run your dough-working hand under water. Reach down along the side of the bowl and lift and stretch the dough straight up and almost out of the bowl. Fold it over itself to the other side of the bowl. Turn the bowl and repeat until it's a little difficult to stretch the dough up any more. You'll notice that the dough feels significantly smoother. Cover with a plate and leave on the counter for about 30 minutes.
Repeat the above step twice.

Adding the polenta mixture: Add the polenta mixture to the dough. Run your dough-working hand under water and use it to squish the polenta, pepitas and rosemary into the dough. Allow to rest for 30 minutes. If the dough is too wet, add flour and knead it in. It should end up being a slightly wet dough, but one you can just shape. The stretching and folding after this step will give more body to the dough.

Stretch and fold (part 2): Repeat the stretching and folding step 1 or 2 more times (even 4 times when the dough needs more). A well-developed dough is more cohesive and releases from the sides of the bowl when you do the turns. The ridges left by the turn will hold their shape for a few minutes. You will see a 20 to 30 percent increase in volume. More air bubbles will form along the sides of the container. These are all signs that the dough is ready to be shaped.

Prepare the brot-form: Put rice flour into a brotform and distribute it as evenly as possible. (If you don't have a brot-form, you can line a bowl, basket or colander/sieve with parchment paper. You can also use a liberally rice floured tea towel. If you do not have rice flour, you can use wheat flour. However, it makes it significantly more difficult for the bread to be released from the basket.... (This is so true!  I never knew to use rice flour and it made a huge difference.  No sticking this time. I misted my brotform with water to help the rice flour stick evenly.)
Shaping: Scatter a dusting of wheat flour on the board and gently place the dough on the flour. Using wet hands, stretch the dough into a longish rectangle, then fold it like a letter, gently patting off any extra flour that might be there. Continue folding until the dough is shaped in a ball. Place it seam side up in the well floured brot-form. Take care to make as tight a gluten cloak as you can, without tearing the dough.  Evenly spread the reserved bran on and around the seam. Loosely wrap the basket and bread with a clean tea towel and enclose the whole thing inside a plastic bag and leave it in a warm spot for 2 or 3 hours (until it has about doubled).

Looks promising...

NOT ready.
Baking: To know when it's time to bake, run your index finger under water and gently but firmly press it on the side of the bread. If the dough springs back immediately, recover the bread with the plastic bag and leave it in the oven with only the light turned on. If the dough gradually returns back after being pressed, put the cast-iron frying pan and its lid into the oven and preheat all to 220ºC (425ºF). (Totally did not work for me.)

Such a crying shame, it was under proofed.
Dense, heavy crumb, and hole under top crust = not proofed correctly.

About fifteen minutes later, put a square of parchment paper on the counter (the paper should be large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the frying pan). Overturn the shaped bread onto the parchment paper. Using a lame (or scissors, or serrated knife), score the bread. Take the pan and bowl out of the oven (wear oven mitts!!) and place the frying pan on the stove. Transfer the bread to the middle of the frying pan and immediately put the lid on. Put everything into the oven and immediately turn it down to 200ºC (400ºF). Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for a further 30 minutes or so, until the crust is a nice dark brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. (You will likely need to pull out the oven rack part way in order to remove the lid without banging the loaf within.)

Cooling: When the bread is done, remove it from the pan and allow it to cool on a footed rack before slicing and eating; the bread is still baking internally when first removed from the oven! If you wish to serve warm bread (of course you do), reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 200ºC (400ºF) for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will refresh the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.

*leavener The leavener is a 100% hydration, liquid levain. It takes about 5 days to create. (Please see the host kitchen's take on Jane Mason's Natural Starter made with Wheat Flour.)
If you're afraid (or don't have time) to take five days to make a natural starter and still want to bake this by using commercial yeast, Elizabeth recommends creating a poolish - say 50gm water, 50gm flour and a few grains (not more than 1/8 tsp) yeast stirred together, covered, and left overnight. And then proceed as written. I confess I haven't tried it but don't see why it won't work. If you're really worried, you could probably add few more grains of yeast into the dough itself as well) (This is what Karen of Bake My Day did and her loaves turned out gorgeously phenomenal.)

(based on the recipe for 'Polenta Bread' in "Tartine Bread" by Chad Robertson)

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes:

Friday, January 5, 2018

Creamy Avocado and Chicken Soup

This is the soup that taught my kids to love avocados.  At least when warm.  They love avocado in soup, maybe not cold and cubed yet.  I remember not being able to eat sliced avocado as a kid, and I did give it a good try.  It was a textural thing.  So glad I grew out of that, I love them now.  And this simple soup is a great way to use up avocados that are pushing the limits of ripeness.  Plus you can whip it up fairly quick with rotisserie or leftover chicken.  The oven fried tortilla strips are not to be missed either, so tasty!  I use our locally available spelt tortillas and they are delicious, but any brand will work.  This is one of a number of recipes that come from a Soup magazine that I loved so much I ordered another copy in desperation after losing it somewhere in the house.  Now I happily have two copies.  I have already shared my version of a chili from it, as well as a delicious Thai chicken soup, another of our favorites.
We love the smokiness of the cumin paired with the creamy avocado in this soup.  And I love that it uses an in-pan roux method instead of having you make a separate béchamel.  It's the method I always use for soups if I can make it work.  Why dirty two pans if you don't have to?  At any rate, we highly recommend this easy, weeknight soup for your dinner roster!

Creamy Avocado Chicken Soup
serves 4

2 ripe avocados, seeded, peel, and diced
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp butter
¾ cup finely chopped yellow bell pepper (1 medium)
2 tbsp flour
1½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups milk
2 cups chicken broth (or 1 can)
2 cups shredded, roasted chicken
1 recipe Spicy Tortilla Strips

In a bowl, mash the avocados and lime juice until smooth and creamy, using a fork or potato masher.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add bell pepper and cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Stir in the flour, cumin, garlic, and salt.  Slowly stir in the milk and broth.  Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbling.  Then cook for another minute.  Stir in the reserved avocado mixture and the chicken.  Heat through and serve, topping each portion with Spicy Tortilla strips.

Spicy Tortilla Strips:

2 small flour or 6" corn tortillas
chili powder

Preheat oven to 350ºF.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.  Cut the tortillas into narrow strips, ½-¾" wide.  Place in a gallon ziploc bag.  Drizzle with a little olive or sunflower oil, season to taste with a bit of salt and a light sprinkle of chili powder.  Spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 7-10 minutes or until crisp.  Flour tortillas will be done sooner than corn tortillas.  Serve over soup.

(You can alternately coat the strips with cooking spray and season them on the baking sheet.  I just prefer the bag method for even coverage.)

Approximate nutrition for a full bowl of soup with flour tortilla strips:

(We usually have one bowl left over for our family of four, so the amount eaten for us is typically less than what is calculated for a full ¼ recipe.)

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Festive Champagne Babas with the BBB

It's almost the end of 2017, and what better way to ring in the New Year or celebrate the Holidays, than with champagne?  Or whatever bubbly you prefer of course!  Join the BBB in making Champagne Babas:  These delightful yeast cakes are a spin off the traditional Rum Baba.  So of course you may choose another liquor or dessert wine or even flavor with a light colored fruit juice (like pineapple juice) for an alcohol free option.  These can be made as one large Baba, (think panettone mold size), or as 12 individual sized Babas.  In my case I made six due to the pans I had available, but truly, you have to split one of that size with someone else, so if you don't want to share, try for the twelve!  I did have a cast iron popover pan that would probably have been the perfect size, but it only baked six and I had never used it before, so I opted for the more familiar mini bundt pan to use when baking mine.  I also suspect that a popover pan might be slightly narrower at the bottom than a Baba mold.  But as you can see, the cakes will nicely fill whatever mold you may have so long as they aren't filled more than halfway, as the dough rises quite a bit!

Bread flour is recommended for this dough because it is very batter like and needs to be worked well to activate the gluten properly.  That said, I used King Arthur all purpose and they turned out lovely.  I believe that American all purpose flours generally have a higher protein content than European all purpose, so they may be closer to bread flour in practical use.  So I would say a strong flour, or a well worked all purpose flour will do.  And as we said, you may choose champagne or another sparkling wine, spirit, or juice for the syrup.  It does not call for that much, only around half a cup volume, 120g, split between 12 Babas equates to ~two teaspoons alcohol per Baba.  And if you simmer the syrup, the alcohol content is reduced.  (Alcohol is reduced to 85% if simply added to boiling syrup and removed from heat, and reduced to 40% if simmered 15 minutes, though that will thicken the syrup and water would need to be added.)  I used half Prosecco and half Limoncello and the flavor was amazing!  Don't be afraid of the amount of syrup you are adding to the cakes, they soak it up without getting soggy, and since the dough is not a sweet dough, the final level of sweetness is appropriate for a cake.

This is an easy, yet impressive recipe, I highly recommend trying it out! My kids thought these were fabulous.  We'd love for you to bake some Babas and share your results with us!  You don't have to have a blog to participate, a picture will do.  Just send a picture or your post of your finished bread to the host kitchen (notitievanlien (at) gmail (dot) com) by the 29th of this month.  You will receive a Bread Baking Buddy graphic to keep or add to your post, and be included in our Buddy round up at the end of the month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th.  Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

Champagne Babas
makes one large Baba, 6 mini, or 12 individual Babas
100g water
1 tsp instant dry yeast
1 Tbsp sugar
100g bread flour

180g bread flour
½ tsp fine salt
¼ tsp instant dry yeast
1½ tsp vanilla sugar
3 large eggs
90g melted butter, slightly cooled

soaking syrup:
150g sugar
150g water
120g champagne (or Asti Spumante or fruit juice)

200g apricot jam (or use a sugar glaze)

Mix all the sponge ingredients together in a large bowl (the same bowl you will be using to knead the dough).  Sprinkle the 180g bread flour for the dough over the sponge so that it is fully covered and leave it to rest for about an hour.

After an hour add the salt, ¼ tsp dry yeast, vanilla sugar and eggs.  (This time is flexible, I got distracted and it was close to 105 minutes for me!)  Start to mix the dough.  Use the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer.  When the dough comes together after a few minutes, add the cooled, melted butter and keep working it.  This dough is somewhat batter-like, but be sure to get some gluten developed to ensure a good rise.

For one large Baba:

Place dough in the mold.  You can use a loaf tin or a tall, round baking form like a paper Panettone mold (13.4cm x 9.5cm), filled about half way up.  Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise until 2-3 cm below the rim of the mold. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180ºC (350-360ºF).

Bake for about 45-55 minutes until golden brown on top.  If the bread browns too soon, cover the top with a sheet of foil.  To check the bread for doneness with a thermometer, it should read about 93ºC (~200ºF) in the center.

Take out of the oven and remove from tin.  Place on a deep dish and poke the bread with a long wooden skewer all over from top to bottom. Brush the syrup all over it, getting as much as possible inside the bread.  This will take some time. Collect the syrup from the plate and keep pouring and brushing it, until it has all been absorbed in the bread.  If the bread is not completely soaked, you can make some extra syrup to brush on when serving.

For 6 or 12 small babas:

Grease a tray with 6 medium to 12 small cavities (containing about 75ml for small or 150ml for medium) and divide the dough among them. The dough should not be filling more than half of the mold.  Cover with plastic and allow to rise until almost to the rim.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180ºC (350-360ºF).

Place in the oven and bake for about 15-18 minutes.  The babas should be nicely golden on top. Check  the bread with a thermometer, it should be about 93ºC (~200ºF) when done.

Take the babas out of the oven and remove from their molds.  Place them in a wide shallow dish in one layer.  Pour the champagne syrup over the babas.  Continue turning the babas one by one on all sides, including top and bottom, until the syrup is completely absorbed. You can also brush over the tops with a pastry brush.  I did poke my medium sized babas with a small metal skewer.

Topping and serving:

Heat the apricot jam in a small pan and bring to a light boil, adding a little water if it is too thick. Brush or pour over the top of the baba(s).  You can also opt for a simple sugar glaze. This topping will help keep the moisture in.  If you eat the babas on the baking day, you can skip the topping.  (But it tastes fabulous, so I recommend it!)

To serve as for a traditional rum baba, and for an extra festive feel, garnish with whipped cream and fresh fruit or jam.  The baba is best eaten on the day that it’s baked but may be kept in the fridge in a tightly sealed container for a few days.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

I added a little extra jam in the center of my baba since there was a well in the mini bundt.

Enjoy these rich and scrumptious dessert breads with friends!

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes:

Approximate nutrition for one half mini bundt or one single Baba:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Bake with Us - English Muffins for Breakfast with the BBB

Nooks and crannies!  That is what most people who love English muffins are really after.  The English muffin is a craggy, toasted, crunchy bite that holds plenty of butter or topping, or egg, whatever you choose to put on or into it.  They look somewhat like crumpets, but were called "toaster crumpets" because they were meant to be split and toasted.  And while they are called "English" muffins, it is mostly to differentiate them from traditional cupcake shaped muffins.  They were supposedly created in the United States by an English immigrant named Samuel Thomas.  He opened a bakery in New York in 1880 and sold the muffins, pre-cut or "fork-split," to give a rougher surface for toasting.  They have remained a popular alternative to toast ever since.  I can't wait to try out one for Eggs Benedict!

These were tender enough to just finger split them, but you can see it dented in the sides a bit.  So I went and fork started the rest of them.  They are still barely hanging together, but will separate nicely when I want to toast them, while still retaining that nice rough surface.  Never split an English muffin with a knife.  Totally defeats their whole reason for being.

I found that my griddle ranged from 285-355ºF while it was set to 325-335ºF.  I tested with an infrared thermometer laser and it makes sense given the cycling of the heating elements.  At that setting, the 8 minutes per side timing worked out perfectly.  Next time, I would be more careful to end up with 12 muffins instead of the 9 the I ended up with.  It is harder to get larger muffins done in the middle without over-browning the tops and bottoms.  Remember, they still have to be toasted.  I must try a sourdough version as I have made the sourdough English muffins from WildYeast and they were fabulous as well.

This is a totally easy bake with very little hands on time.  Pop them in the fridge and they are ready to grill up in the morning.  There is some planning ahead as they need a few hours for the first rise, then the overnight refrigerator rest.  We'd love for you to try it out and share your results with us!  You don't have to have a blog to participate, a picture will do.  Just send a picture or your post of your finished bread to the host kitchen by the 29th of this month.  You will receive a Bread Baking Buddy graphic to keep or add to your post, and be included in our Buddy round up at the end of the month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th.  Check out our Facebook group to see the participants' baking results during that time.

English Muffins
from Serious Eats, Stella Parks
Makes twelve 3½-inch muffins
Active Time:20 minutes - Total Time:16 to 30 hours

 10 oz. bread flour (2 cups; 285g) I used all-purpose
 5 oz. whole wheat flour (1 cup; 140g) I used 70 sprouted einkorn and 80g light spelt
 2¾ teaspoons (11g) kosher salt; for table salt, use the same weight or half as much by volume
 1¼ teaspoons (4g) instant dry yeast (not rapid-rise)
 12 oz. cold milk (1½ cups; 340g), high hydration for lots of nooks and crannies I used ~325g to account for different hydration of spelt and einkorn
 3½ oz. honey (1/4 cup; 100g)  I used ~90g and would cut it in half next time
 1 large egg white, cold
 5 ounces fine cornmeal (1 cup; 145g) this is necessary to prevent sticking and over-browning during cooking.  I used millet meal that I ground in a coffee maker
· Roughly 1 oz. bacon fat, unsalted butter, non-dairy margarine, or oil (2 tablespoons; 30g), for griddling  I found that I needed only a wipe with a greased napkin on my non-stick griddle.

For the dough:
In a large bowl, mix flours, salt, and yeast together.  Add milk, honey, and egg white, and stir with a rubber spatula until smooth, about 5 minutes.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until spongy, light, and more than doubled.  This will take around 4 to 5 hours at 70°F. (Timing is flexible depending on your schedule.) I started mine two nights before, stuck it in the fridge, then let it rise the next day, formed and chilled again overnight.

Spread a thick layer of cornmeal or semolina over a rimmed baking sheet.  With a large spoon, scoop out twelve 2-2/3 oz. (75g) portions of dough; it's okay to do this by eye, just try to get twelve and not less.  You can pinch the blobs here and there to tidy their shape. Sprinkle with additional cornmeal, cover with plastic, and refrigerate at least 12 and up to 42 hours.  I got the shape rounded and then flipped them over to coat evenly.

Preheat an electric grill to 325°F or warm a 12-inch cast iron skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. When evenly hot, add half the butter and melt; griddle muffins in batches until their bottoms are golden brown, about 8 minutes. Flip with a spatula and cook as before. Transfer to a wire rack until cool enough to handle, then split the muffins by working your thumbs around the edges to pull them open a little at a time, or start the edges with a fork. Toast before serving, top with butter and jam or honey, or make Eggs Benedict or Florentine, or a breakfast muffin.  Store leftovers in an airtight container up to 1 week at room temperature (or 1 month in the fridge).

My first test muffins, perhaps a bit dark on the top.

Enjoy homemade English muffins with us!  Share your results!


The rest of the Bread Baking Babes:
Approximate nutrition for one muffin:

Monday, October 16, 2017

Seasonal Pumpkin Cornmeal Bread with the BBB

This month we have a nice seasonal bread for fall: Pumpkin Cornmeal Bread!  It's not super pumpkin flavored, just enough to give it some lovely color and a nice soft crumb that still holds up to spreading semi-firm butter.  It would actually make great sandwiches and I think fabulous french toast.  But we have been enjoying it fresh with butter.  Next, butter and jam.

I went with volumes instead of weights this time because I was pressed for time and also used more squash (I used butternut instead of pumpkin because it needed to be used up), and millet flour instead of corn, because of our corn allergy.  But check out the other babes' posts and you will see weight conversions if you prefer that method.  I also used maple syrup instead of molasses, because it seemed appropriate to pair with pumpkin and fall.  I used less though since maple is quite sweet.  Oh and I also happily found that heating up the water in my hot water dispenser to boiling, then adding to cold from the fridge buttermilk, gave me a perfect 109ºF mixture.  I divided the dough in half and then made 6 rolls and one mini loaf out of one half, and tried out the other half in my clay baker.

This is a really delightful bread which my girls are quickly demolishing.  We'd love for you to try it out and share your results with us!  You don't have to have a blog to participate, a picture will do.  Just send a picture or your post of your finished bread to the host kitchen by the 29th of this month.  You will receive a Bread Baking Buddy graphic to keep or add to your post, and be included in our Buddy round up at the end of the month.  New recipes are posted every month on the 16th.  Check out our Facebook group to see most of the Babes' baking results during that time.

Pumpkin Cornmeal Bread
Yield:  2 or 3 loaves or 24 dinner rolls

 tablespoons active dry yeast (1½ packets) I used 1 tbsp + ¾ tsp instant yeast
Pinch of sugar left this out
1 cup warm water (105˚ to 115˚F)
1 cup warm buttermilk (105˚ to 115˚F)
5 tablespoons melted butter or oil
1/3 cup light molasses I used ¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup pumpkin purée (either canned or homemade) I used butternut purée
1 tablespoon salt I scanted this measurement
1 cup fine- or medium-grind yellow cornmeal I substituted millet flour
1 cup medium rye flour light rye
4 ½ to 4 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour 1 cup first clear flour, 3 ¾ cups all purpose

In a large bowl, combine warm water, sugar, buttermilk, melted butter/oil, molasses, yeast, and pumpkin purée.  Add in salt, cornmeal, and rye flour, and beat for a few minutes until smooth.
Add the all-purpose flour or bread flour ½ cup at a time, until a soft dough is achieved.  Knead until dough is smooth and slightly tacky, either by hand or with a dough hook.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until double, about 1½ to 2 hours, depending on your kitchen temperature.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 2 or 3 equal round portions.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel.  Let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 45 minutes.
To make dinner rolls, divide the dough into 24 equal portions and shape as desired.
Place on a parchment-lined baking pan or baking dish, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 20 minutes.  You can also place in refrigerator for 2 hours to overnight.
Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375˚While the oven is heating, brush the tops with melted butter.  (I brushed my mini loaf and rolls with a mixture of egg yolk, ½ egg white, and milk).
Bake on the center rack of the oven until golden brown:  40-45 minutes for larger loaves or 15 to 18 minutes for rolls and mini loaves.  Remove from oven and let cool on rack until completely cool before slicing.
(adapted from Bread for All Seasons by Beth Hensperger)

The rest of the Bread Baking Babes:

Approximate nutrition for 1 roll :

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Crockpot Picnic Beans

I have had this recipe so long, I can't remember where it came from, but I love that it is so easy!  I just have it penned on a notepad sheet with no title or directions.  Probably adapted it to suit my needs.  Just throw it all together and plug it in.  Summer is technically over, picnic season is about done, but we're still having little heat waves here and there and doing baked beans in a crock pot means I don't have to heat up the kitchen with my oven or waste a burner.  The longer it cooks, the better they get - just stir every 30 minutes to an hour until it gets where you want it.  I started mine in the morning and let it go on low until we got close to dinner time, then turned it up to make sure they were ready, then back down to hold.  Wait, that sounds confusing.  Well, it just means the recipe will work, whatever timing you need it to.  Need them faster, cook on high for an hour or so.  Able to wait, cook on low for four hours or more.  Bacon is optional if you want them vegetarian.

The beans you can choose are flexible, if you don't like butter beans, try something else.  I prefer baby butter beans when I can find them, but used the big ones this time.  (Butter beans are actually the same as lima, shhhhh, don't tell.  Just get the creamy colored, canned ones.)  I use pinto beans for my other can, and you can also find cans of mixed tricolor or calico beans, which I have also used before.  Anything you would use in a baked bean recipe would work.

The most difficult thing for us is finding a good tasting BBQ sauce that does not have corn syrup or corn starch in it.  I actually found one this time and it was fabulous!  Lillie's Q Barbeque Sauce in Smoky Memphis Style Sweet.  See if you can find it locally, I found it at Haggen's in the Pacific Northwest.  Hubby is hard to please when it comes to BBQ, having lived in the South for quite a few years.  This one more than passed muster.

The recipe can be halved, just go for four cans of beans.  I used the slow cooker function of my instant pot, which was already out, rather than go get the crock pot out.

Crockpot Picnic Baked Beans
Serves 10 (can be doubled)

2 cans (15oz each) Great Northern Beans, rinsed and drained
2 cans (15 oz each) Black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz) Baby Butter beans (or just Butter beans), rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz) Pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1½ cups BBQ sauce
1½ cups salsa (I used picante sauce, medium)
½ cup brown sugar
½ tsp hot pepper sauce
8 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled

Add all ingredients to slow cooker.  Stir gently to combine.  Cover and cook on low for 2-4 hours, or on high for 1-2 hours.  Cook until heated through and flavors are combined, or until desired consistency is reached.  The longer the beans cook, the more sauce they will absorb and the beans will start to break down and get creamy.  It's up to you how much you want to let this happen.


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