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.)