Wheat Sandwich Loaf

February 14, 2016

For over 5 years I have been baking my son’s sandwich bread, adjusting and adapting to my changing kitchen and lunch needs. Today’s recipe re-ingrates whole-wheat flavor back into the loaf. I looked at this old wheat sandwich bread, recipe from Chris Kimball; but reduced the wheat germ by 50% to soften the over-powering flavor of wheat germ (a flavor my kids don’t enjoy). Also, I adapted the recipe to skip the 24-hour timeline; this recipe finishes in about 2 hours. 4-1/2 stars; still working on getting seeds to stick to the top.

Wonderful wheat flavor

Wonderful wheat flavor

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $1.30.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time 6:00 PM. Dinner time 8:10 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared them today are given below:

Wet Ingredients:
1/2 cup water (4 ounces)
1-1/4 cup milk (10 ounces)
2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 tablespoons sugar (or honey)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons wheat germ

Dry Ingredients:
4 cups bread flour (1 lb)
4-ounce whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons table salt
1/4 to 3/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid; fruit fresh or other powdered Vitamin C. (Alternatively mix 1 teaspoon white vinegar)
Seeds for top; e.g. toasted and chopped pepitas

  1. Adjust an oven rack to low-middle position, and pre-heat oven to 200-degrees, then immediately turn it off. You will use the residual heat of the oven to speed the first rise in a cool kitchen.
  2. Add water and milk to a Pyrex measuring cup (at least 2 cup capacity); heat in microwave for 1m until mixture reaches 105-degrees. Mix in yeast, sugar, wheat germ, and olive oil; allow to hydrate for 5 minutes.
  3. While the yeast hydrates, add the dry ingredients to the bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook.
  4. Turn on standing mixer to lowest speed and slowly add liquid; use a rubber spatula to scrape out anything left at the bottom of the measuring cup. After the dough has come together, increase speed to 4 on KitchenAid mixer (medium-low on other models). Continue mixing for 10 minutes. The dough will become smooth, add a little more flour or water if necessary.
  5. Spray bowl with non-spick cooking spray, put dough in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in warm, but turned off, oven for 30 to 40 minutes. The dough will double in size. (Never allow dough to rise into a turned on oven)
  6. Spray your loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. (I nearly ruined my first beautiful loaf by forgetting).
  7. Gently turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured work surface. Gently press the dough into a rectangle so that it corresponds to the length of your loaf pan. Spray top of dough with tap water and roll up into a tight log. Move dough into pan and softly press so that it touches all four sides of the pan. Spray top with dough with non-stick cooking spray to prevent the dough from deflating in Step 10.
  8. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (realizing that the loaf will grow above the top of the pan). Place it in a warm spot in your kitchen for between 25 minutes to 35 minutes; until the dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when you poke it with your finger.
  9. About 20 minutes prior to baking, begin pre-heating your oven to 425-degrees.
  10. Carefully remove plastic wrap, spray the loaf three times with tap water from a spray bottle, and place loaf pan in 425-degree oven. Set kitchen timer for 25 minutes corresponding to the total cooking time. After 8 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 375-degrees and turn loaf 180-degrees. Bake uncovered for 9 additional minutes until the top crust reaches your desired color. Tent with aluminum foil to keep the loaf top from over browning; baking for remaining 8 to 10 minutes.
  11. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf will reads 205-degrees when the loaf is done. Carefully remove bread from pan, and allow to cool on a wire rack for 3 hour before slicing (ensure that loaf is no warmer than 80-degrees).
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American Sandwich Bread (medium-sized loaf) in 2-Hours

October 17, 2015

With my two sons back in school, I’ve dusted off my various Sandwich Breads recipe and I’ve updated it to reflect my ever-changing bread requirements. Happily, I now have new standing mixer, which lets me build gluten the old-fashioned way (by kneading). Kneading speeds the process of gluten development so much, that I can comfortable make a sturdy loaf in just 2 hours. Also, I replaced by broken kitchen scale with this cheap $12 scale. While I loved the functionality of my old $50 Oxo kitchen scale, I decided not to replace it because of it’s apparent fragility (it broke after a very small fall).

Hand-cut slices; I like to slice them a little thick

After many years of making sandwich bread, I have come love the process of baking bread. The smell of bread in the oven and the warmth of the kitchen are irresistible as the autumn temperatures begin to fall.  I have made and perfected many variations of this recipe, each year varying the recipe based upon my changing needs. The prior versions are:
Small 2-hour loaf without standing mixer,
Small 12-hour loaf without standing mixer.
Large 12-hour loaf with standing mixer.

The special equipment and supplies needed are best bought online. Here is what I’ve found:

  1. Bread Bags.  ($18 per 1,000 bags at Sam’s Club, but I got mine here (they have since raised price to $34), or $25 here)
  2. Laminated Twist Ties. ($3 per 2,000 here)
  3. Granulated Lecithin. ($14 per pound)
  4. Fruit Fresh. ($3 in Walmart)
  5. Bulk Instant (Rapid Rise) Yeast. ($3/lb here). Enough for 72 loaves of sandwich bread.

Comments:

  1. Bread made without any preservatives goes stale relatively fast. I make this bread sans preservatives and is still good after 3 days; mostly my bread only needs to last 3 days. If you want it to last all week; e.g. to bake this bread on Sunday and have it stay fresh through Friday’s lunch. I found a list of natural preservatives that can use in sandwich bread. I sometimes use granulated lecithin (which I bought online).
  2. The keys to making bread without preservatives are: (1) Do not overcook. Bake only until the loaf reaches an internal temperature of 200-to-205-degrees. (2) Allow loaf to fully cool prior to slicing, or you will allow moisture to escape and give your loaf a head-start on becoming stale. (3) Use some olive oil to keep the loaf from being too dry.
  3. Do not cut your loaf before it has cooled to room temperature (about 80-degrees). I recommend a full 3 hours of cooling time. I have sliced my bread after 2 hour, and the next morning woke to see condensation in the bag. If you ever see moister in the bag; put it into a new bag to prevent mold.
  4. Starting to bake the loaf at higher temperatures during the first 7 minutes (in Step 8) gives great “oven spring” so you don’t get a dense loaf.  But reducing the temperature after 7 minutes you will also ensure that the crust doesn’t get too dark by the time the loaf reached an internal temperature of 200-to-205-degrees.
  5. The use of milk in this recipe keeps the final crumb relatively tight.

My Quasimodo loaf:

I made two loaves this week because my Monday loaf turned out so lopsided; which my kids and I have dubbed Quasimodo. The loaf started out fine, but because the weather has been cold I let the loaf rise on my stove-top (while the oven pre-heated to 425-degrees).  Unfortunately, half the loaf was too close to the oven vent and the loaf rose unevenly. It didn’t look too bad, until the oven spring kicked in and ended up extremely lopsided (in person the loaf looked even more lopsided than the photo).

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: 60-cents
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time: 6:00 PM. Finish time: 7:30 PM. (But don’t slice for another 3 hours)

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared and baked the bread are given below:

Wet Ingredients:
1/2 cup water (4 ounces)
1-1/4 cup milk (10 ounces)
2 teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
1-1/2 tablespoons sugar (or honey)
1 tablespoon granulated lecithin
3 tablespoons olive oil

Dry Ingredients:
4 cups bread flour (1-1/4 lb)
2 teaspoons table salt
1/4 to 3/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid; fruit fresh or other powdered Vitamin C. (Alternatively mix 1 teaspoon white vinegar)

  1. Adjust an oven rack to low-middle position. and pre-heat oven to 200-degrees, then immediately turn it off. You will use the residual heat of the oven to speed the first rise in a cool kitchen.
  2. Add water and milk to a Pyrex measuring cup (at least 2 cup capacity); heat in microwave for 1m until mixture reaches 105-degrees. Mix in yeast, sugar, granulated lecithin and olive oil; allow to hydrate for 5 minutes.
  3. While the yeast hydrates, add the dry ingredients to the bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook.
  4. Turn on standing mixer to lowest speed and slowly add liquid; use a rubber spatula to scrape out anything left at the bottom of the measuring cup. After the dough has come together, increase speed to 4 on KitchenAid mixer (medium-low on other models). Continue mixing for 10 minutes. The dough will become smooth, add a little more flour or water if necessary.
  5. Spray bowl with non-spick cooking spray, put dough in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in warm, but turned off, oven for 20 to 30 minutes. The dough will double in size. (Never allow dough to rise into a turned on oven)
  6. Spray your loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  7. Gently turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured work surface. Gently press the dough into a rectangle so that it corresponds to the length of your loaf pan. Spray top of dough with tap water and roll up into a tight log. Move dough into pan and softly press so that it touches all four sides of the pan. Spray top with dough with non-stick cooking spray to prevent the dough from deflating in Step 10.
  8. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (realizing that the loaf will grow above the top of the pan). Place it in a warm spot in your kitchen for between 20 minutes to 30 minutes; until the dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when you poke it with your finger.
  9. About 20 minutes prior to baking, begin pre-heating your oven to 425-degrees.
  10. Carefully remove plastic wrap, spray the loaf three times with tap water from a spray bottle, and place loaf pan in 425-degree oven. Set kitchen timer for 23 minutes corresponding to the total cooking time. After 7 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 375-degrees and turn loaf 180-degrees. Bake uncovered for 8 additional minutes until the top crust reaches your desired color. Tent with aluminum foil to keep the loaf top from over browning; baking for remaining 8 to 10 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf will reads 205-degrees when the loaf is done. Carefully remove bread from pan, and allow to cool on a wire rack for 3 hour before slicing (ensure that loaf is no warmer than 80-degrees).

 


Ultimate Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits

September 20, 2015

While necessity has dictated that I make them on occasion, I have never loved biscuits. My heart lies with the wonderful flavor of yeasted rolls. Of course, chemical leaveners such as baking soda/baking powder have an advantage over yeast in that they are quick. But today’s biscuits take two full hours from start-to-finish; an hour of which is related to chilling the butter/dough to allow for the nice definition of the layers. As biscuits go; these are better than most. The flaky layers lighten the crumb, and they have nice buttery flavor. But biscuits are inherently dry, and they would have been better if I served them with a main course with gravy. 4-1/2 stars for the recipe; ignoring the flaws in my execution.

A few of my errors reduced their flakiness

A few of my errors reduced their flakiness

I have made these biscuits on two different occasions (the pictures are from the second time that I made them). Because it was the second time, I wasn’t reading the recipe as closely and made to errors in execution that affected their flakiness and made them denser than the first time I made them. Still, even at their best they cannot compete with the texture produced by yeast.

Issues/Comments:

  1. While the recipe calls for King Arthur’s flour; which has a slightly higher protein content along it’s entire line of flour; I used whatever flour I had on-hand. I did substitute one of the cups of flour for bread flour; but the biscuits will come out fine with 100% regular all-purpose flour.
  2. In Step 4, I forgot to grate the butter directly into the flour. Actually I made this recipe twice, and only forgot the second time. The results were not as flaky.
  3. In Step 8, After the fifth turn, I accidentally rolled it out into a 9×12″ rectangle again, so I ended up having to give it 6 turns. It resulted in layers being a little too thin (and not as well defined).
  4. In Step 10, when I trimmed the biscuits, I only trimmed them to make them edges uniform; not a full and uniform 1/4″. The results: where I trimmed away less than 1/4″, those edges did not properly rise and show their flakiness.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $2.50.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Ready at 6:00 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for is here. My descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2-sticks unsalted butter (16 tablespoons)
1-1/4 cups buttermilk, chilled

  1. Freeze butter for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. After the butter is partially frozen, dip sticks of butter in flour mixture. Hold the box grater directly over the flour mixture and grate 7 tablespoons from each stick on large holes. The grated butter will fall directly into the flour; which will keep each grate as an individual piece. Gently toss to combine. Set aside remaining 2 tablespoons butter.
  5. Add buttermilk to flour mixture and fold with spatula until just combined (dough will look dry).
  6. Liberally flour a clean work surface, and turn out dough. Dust the surface of dough with flour, and use your floured hands to press dough into a 7″ square.
  7. Flour a rolling pin and roll into 9″x12″ rectangle (with the short side parallel to the edge of the counter). Use a bench scraper or metal spatula to fold the dough into thirds like a business letter. Press down firmly on the top of the dough to seal the folds.
  8. Turn dough 90-degrees and repeat Step 7 four more times (for a total of 5 folds). After the fifth fold, roll into an 8-1/2″ square (about 1″-thick). NOTE: Here is where I accidentally rolled it out and was forced into an extra turn.
  9. Move dough into the prepared sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap, and move to refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, adjust a rack to the upper-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 400-degrees. I set my 2 tablespoons of butter (that you set aside in Step 4) in a pan over the oven vent to gently melt the butter in preparation for Step 11.
  10. After 30 minutes, set dough on a lightly floured cutting board (not your counter-top) Use a floured chef’s knife to trim away 1/4″ of dough from each side of square; discard (or form into an extra, mis-shappen biscuit). Cut the dough into 9 squares, flouring the knife after each cut.
  11. Arrange biscuits at least 1 inch apart on the same parchment-line sheet pan. Brush the tops of biscuits with melted butter.
  12. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, rotating biscuits halfway through baking, until the tops are golden brown. Allow the biscuits to cool for 15 minutes on a wire rack before serving.

Authentic Baguettes at Home

January 4, 2015

People travel for different reasons. I usually travels with two main goals. (1) Appreciate the local culture by trying to meet and interact with regular people (i.e. those outside the main-stream tourist industry). And (2), eat as much of the local food as possible. While my first goal is nearly impossible in well-trodden Paris, my second goal is always the Parisian-equivilent of a home run. Paris is perhaps the worlds great culinary city (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).

Crusty, open texture

Crusty, open texture

I am not alone when I say that one of my favorite simple pleasures about Paris are the deliciously ubiquitous baguettes. Always warm and fresh; a Parisian treasure for just €1. Here in the US the baguettes are usually lacking in flavor or crusty texture, but if you are lucky they can sometimes be found. When this recipe first came out, I balked at the length, complexity and additional kitchen gadgets the recipe required (couche, flipping board, diastatic malt powder, and special lame). In the end, I didn’t buy any of the gadgets, but made the delicious baguettes over two-to-three days. They turned out amazing. 5-stars for flavor and texture.

On a side note: the second great city for bread is my home town of San Francisco, which has the best sour dough bread in the world. As is the case for many things in life, it wasn’t until I moved away that I came to appreciate San Francisco’s uniqueness in the world of bread (for a few details see harvesting wild yeast for sourdough). A few years ago, I bought a loaf of Sour Dough from Panera in New Jersey, but the loaf was soundly rejected by my boys.

Comments:

  1. The recipe calls for a flipping board, but Chris Kimball explains that you can just table a double layer of cardboard.
  2. The first 5 minutes of baking call for two inverted disposable pans. Because I didn’t have one long enough to cover the loaves, I cut the ends off both pans which allowed it to slide like an accordion.
  3. The optional diastatic malt powder called for in this recipe allows the crust to brown and become crispier.

Rating: 5-stars.
Cost: $2.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start: At least 2 days before baking. End time: 5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour (1-1/3 ounces)
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour (15 ounces)
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (optional)
1-1/2 cups water (12 ounces)
2 disposable aluminum roasting pans (16″x12″)

Day 1: Mix the dough, allow to rise and refrigerate. (2h15m)

  1. Add whole wheat flour to a fine-mesh strainer and sift into the bowl of a standing mixer; discarding the bran. Add the all-purpose flour, salt, instant yeast and malt powder too. With the standing mixer on low-speed, use the dough hook, add the water and mix for 5 to 7 minutes until dough forms. Empty dough into a large bowl that has been lightly sprayed with non-stick vegetable spray. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Fold the dough over onto itself; pick up the edge of the dough with your fingertips and gently lift it towards the center of the bowl; turn bowl 45 degrees and fold again; repeating a total of 8 folds. Again, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  3. Repeat folding and rising 3 more times. Immediately after the fourth set of folds, cover the dough and refrigerate for a minimum of 24 hours, but up to 72 hours.

Day 2: Shape and Bake the loaves in two batches ( per batch)

  1. Lightly flour a counter and empty dough without deflating. Carefully pat into 8″-square, and cut in half. Refrigerate the other half of the dough which can be shaped and baked anytime within the 72-hour time frame.
  2. Cut dough in half again, leaving you with two 2″x2″ squares. Move to a lightly floured rimmed baking sheet and loosely cover with plastic wrap; allowing to rise for 45 minutes.
  3. Roll out each of the two pieces of dough into a 3″x4″-long cylinder. Return to the floured baking sheet, cover again with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
  4. On a second baking sheet, lightly spray with water the underside of a couche or piece of parchment. Dust the top with flour.
  5. Return the dough to a lightly floured counter and gently press one of the pieces into a 6″x4″ rectangle. Fold 1-inch over to form a 6″x3″ rectangle, then fold the other 1-inch edge over to form a 6″x2″ rectangle, and gently stretch into an 8″x2″ rectangle.
  6. Fold dough in half again, lengthwise, and use your thumb to form a crease along the center of the dough, as you work your way folding over the length of the loaf, using the heel of your hand to reinforce the seal (without pressing down on the loaf).
  7. Cup your hands gently over the center of the dough and roll it gently to tighten the dough (t should form a doggy-bone shape, i.e. wider at the ends).  Continue to gently work the dough, beginning in the center, rolling and stretching, and working towards the ends, until the dough measures 15″ long and about 1-1/2″ wide. Roll the ends between the palms of your hands to form sharp points.
  8. Move loaf with the seam-side upwards onto the couche or parchment prepared in Step 4. Pleat the couche on both sides of the loaf which will gently help the loaf maintain its shape. Loosely cover with large, unscented plastic garbage bag.
  9. Repeat Steps 5 though 8 with the second piece of dough, then move the loaves inside the large trash bag and fold top over onto itself to close. Allow to rise for 45 to 60 minutes, until it has doubled in size. You should be able to gently poke and the dough will slightly spring back.
  10. Meanwhile, set a rack to the middle of your oven, put a baking stone or overturned sheet pan, and begin pre-heating to 500-degrees. Also line a pizza peel with 16″x12″ piece of parchment paper, so that the long edge is perpendicular to handle.
  11. Remove and dough from bag and pull the ends of the couche to flatten (ie, removing the pleats). Use a flipping board to roll so that it is seem side down, and tilt/flip the loaf on top of the flipping board. Move to parchment lines pizza peal with the seem-side down; about 2″ from the edge of parchment. You can use the flipping board to straighten the loaf. Repeat with the second loaf, leaving at least 3″ between the two loaves.
  12. Use the lame to make a series of three 4″-long, 1/2″-deep slashed at a 30-degree angle across the length of the loaf. The slashes should slightly overlap. Repeat the slashing on the second loaf.
  13. Use Pizza peel to move loaves and parchment onto baking stone. Use the inverted disposable pans to cover loaves and bake for 5 minutes. Then carefully remove the plans a continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes longer; rotating the loaves/parchment half way through baking. The loaves will be done when they are evenly browned.
  14. Allow to cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes, but be sure to consume within 4 hours. I was able to extend their freshness by a few hours by putting them in a plastic bag after 2 hours of cooling.

No-Knead Artisan Dinner Rolls

December 4, 2014

I wanted to make delicious dinner rolls for Thanksgiving, but wanted a recipe that would work within the tight oven schedule of Thanksgiving day. So for this special dinner I combined recipes and techniques from a few different breads that I have made in the past (see here, here and here). I included a biga for great depth of flavor; which I started on Monday night. On Tuesday night, I made a wet dough so that I wouldn’t have to knead it by hand, since my KitchenAid mixer broke a few years ago (see “Autolyse”). After a few hours rising, I refrigerated the dough to stop the yeast from rising. When dealing with a wet doughs they are much easier to handle when chilled. Because dinner rolls take a bit of handling, the 36-hours in the refrigerator made the shaping process easy. Overall, the rolls were delicious. However, the subtitles added by the biga are largely overpowered by the small amount of rye and wheat flour. 4-stars.

Delicious dinner rolls without kneading

Delicious dinner rolls without kneading

Because I was pulling this recipe from a lot of different places, I tested out the recipe a week prior to Thanksgiving. But the rolls were too small; perhaps because of beer, which I have noticed tends to retard rising. I abandon that recipe, and came up the this recipe to solve the problems that I had encountered.

Comment:

  1. Yay! I finally ordered a new KitchenAid standing mixer. It had gone on sale for $225 at Target.com. The difference between their Professional and Artisan series is the steel gears of the professional series are more durable when making a lot of dough.
  2. My test batch of dinner rolls from last week also reminded me how quickly they became hard; within just a few hours. Unless you are going to eat them right away, you must keep them wrapped in plastic.
  3. If using a separate container for rising, do not attempt to do the mixing and rising directly in the same container. It is impossible to properly mix the dough anyplace other than a regular bowl.
  4. The recipe yielded too much dough, so next time I will cut down on the recipe by about 15%.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $1.25 for 16 rolls.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Started: 10:30AM pm Ready:  12:00.

The recipes from which I developed today’s bread are here, here and here. The final descriptions of how I prepared the bread are given below:

Biga Ingredients:
1 cup all-purpose flour (5 ounces)
1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1/2 cup water (4 ounces)

  1. Make the biga the night before baking the bread; combine flour, yeast, and water in medium bowl. Use a wooden spoon to stir for 1 minute until the mix appears uniform.
  2. Use plastic wrap to cover and allow to stand overnight at room temperature. If you kitchen is much below 70-degrees, then you can use a slightly warmed oven (but turned off) which will ensure there is sufficient warmth.

Dough Ingredients:
2-cups water, preferably non-chlorinated spring water.
1 tablespoon granulated yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1-ounce rye flour
1-ounce whole wheat flour
3-1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  1. Preheat 2-cups water to 100-degrees; about 45 seconds in the microwave. Add yeast and kosher salt to warm water, allowing it to hydrate while measuring out the flours.
  2. Add biga to a large bowl. Place bowl on a kitchen scale and zero out; you want to add a total of 22-3/4 ounces of flour. Add rye and whole wheat flour. Add all-purpose for a total of 22-3/4 ounces. Mix until combined, but without kneading. Empty the dough into a 4-quart container and let sit at room temperature until it has almost doubled in size; between 2 to 4 hours. Put container in refrigerator until ready to use. The dough is very wet, so allowing it to cool completely will make it easier to work with.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle evenly with a very thin coat of flour.
  4. Carefully remove dough from bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in half with a bench scrape or chef’s knife and carefully stretch each piece into a 24”-long cylinder. Cut each cylinder into quarters; then cut each piece into two (yielding a total of 16 evenly-sized pieces).
  5. If you slightly squished the cylinder as you made each cut, restore its roundness. Put 8 pieces of dough in each cake pan with the cut-side up; placing one piece of dough in the center and the other seven pieces like the spokes of a wheel.
  6. Set an oven rack to the middle of your oven and pre-heat to 500-degrees. Cover pans with plastic wrap and allow the rolls to rise for about 30 minutes until they have double in size. You can also test it because the dough will spring back if you gently press with your finger.
  7. Discard plastic wrap and lightly spray the rolls with water. Bake for 10 minutes until the rolls are brown. Turn the oven down to 400-degrees. Remove rolls and turn them out onto a rimmed baking sheet. After 5 or 10 minutes the rolls will have cool enough to handle, pull them apart and place on baking sheet. Bake at 400-degrees for 10 to 15 minutes; rotating the pan half-way through baking. They should have a deeply golden crust, and sound hollow if you tap their bottoms.
  8. Allow to cook on a wire rack for 30 minutes to an hour before serving.

Pumpkin Bread

October 25, 2014

At this time of year pumpkin is everywhere. My oldest son is a fanatic for Pumpkin Pie, but I wanted to give him an alternative to his favorite dessert. This bread is a quick bread (i.e. uses making powder/soda instead of yeast), and has all the traditional seasoning for a pumpkin pie. While the ingredient list is long, I had everything in my kitchen already. The recipe makes a wonderful seasonal alternative to banana bread. Surprisingly, my pumpkin-fanatical son only had two slices. Hmmm, go figure. Overall the recipe yields great pumpkin-pie-flavor, a moist interior with a perfect hint of sweetness on top. 4-stars.

Moist loaf of Pumpkin Bread

Moist loaf of Pumpkin Bread

IMPORTANT HALLOWEEN TIP. How to prevent squirrels from eating your pumpkins.

Comments:

  1. Chris Kimball recommends two 8-1/2″ by 4-1/2″, but I think most people only have 9″x5″  loaf pans. The resulting loaves will be a bit squatter and will need to be check 2 to 3 minutes earlier.  I could only find 1 of the 2 necessary 9″x5″  loaf pans, so I substituted my Pullman loaf pan (18″x4″), which made one long loaf instead of two shorter ones. The substitution of pans lengthened the baking time by 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. While I recently made homemade pumpkin puree by roasted my own sugar pumpkin, today I used a can of Libby’s. One of the motivations of this recipe was to remove the raw, metallic flavor of canned pumpkin, so I wanted to test the effectiveness of that element of the recipe too. It worked.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $5.50.
How much work? Medium.
How big of a mess?  Medium.
Start time: 2:00 PM. Ready at: 5:00 PM.

The Cook’s Illustrated original recipe is here.  The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

Topping Ingredients:
5 tablespoons packed light brown sugar (2 1/4 ounces)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

Bread Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour (10 ounces)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
15-oz can unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces)
1 cup packed light brown sugar (7 ounces)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4-oz cream cheese
4 large eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup walnuts (4-1/2 oz)

  1. To prepare the topping, add all the ingredients in small bowl. Use your finger to mix until well combined. It should resemble wet sand. Set it aside until Step 7.
  2. Cut your cream cheese into 12 pieces. Toast 1 cup walnuts an a small, dry skillet then chopped fine. Set aside.
  3. Set a rack to middle of your oven and pre-heat to 350-degrees. Grease two 8-1/2″ by 4-1/2″ loaf pans.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
  5. Put a large saucepan over medium burner, add pumpkin puree, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Cook and stir for 6 to 8 minutes until it is reduced to 1-1/2 cups. Remove saucepan from heat and add granulated and brown sugar, 1/2 cup vegetable oil, cream cheese. Stir until combined and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Use a whisk until there is no longer any visible cream cheese. It should appear homogenous.
  6. In another small bowl, whisk together the 4 eggs and 1/4-cup of buttermilk. Add into the saucepan with the pumpkin and whisk until combined. Fold in flour mixture from Step 4 until generally combined, but a few small lumps of flour are alright. Fold the chopped walnuts.
  7. Use a rubber spatula to evenly divide batter into the two prepared pans. Evenly sprinkle the topping from Step 1 over both loaves. Bake in the 350-degrees oven for 45 to 50 minutes until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. If you are using 9″x5″ loaf pans, then you should star checking for doneness 5 minutes earlier.
  8. Allow bread to cool in the pans set on wire rack for 20 minutes, then remove bread from pans and allow to cool for another 1-1/2 hours. The bread can be served either warm or at room temperature.

Adult Sandwich Bread in 2-Hours

April 5, 2014

I love to bake bread. It warms up my kitchen and the fills my house with delicious aromas, improving everyone’s mood. While my kids prefer a spoonful of sugar in their sandwich bread, I often want an adult-friendly loaf. While the best way to achieve my desired results is to make a biga or starter the night before; the fermentation gives great depth and complexity of flavor; today’s recipe is for those instances when I just need to make a quick loaf of sandwich bread. It’s fool-proof and ready in about 2 hours with a total of about 15 minutes of work. I use 6-ounces of beer to make up for the flavor lost by skipping the 12 hours required to make the biga. 4-1/2 stars.

Nearly perfect crumb without any additives

Nearly perfect crumb without any additives

When I make this loaf for my kids, I use 4-ounces of water instead of beer, 10-ounces of milk instead of 8-ounces. I also add 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar or honey (added to wet ingredients while hydrating yeast). Overall I’ve been making my kids homemade sandwich bread for a about 4 years and perfected this large 12-hour sandwich loaf. I also make a small 12-hour version here.

Comments:

  1. Of course, bread made without any preservatives goes stale relatively fast. I make this bread sans preservatives and is still good after 3 days. If you want it to last all week; e.g. to bake this bread on Sunday and have it stay fresh through Friday’s lunch. I found a list of natural preservatives that can use in sandwich bread. I sometimes use granulated lecithin (which I bought online).
  2. The keys to making bread without preservatives are: (1) Do not overcook. Bake only until the loaf reaches an internal temperature of 200-to-205-degrees. (2) Allow loaf to fully cool prior to slicing, or you will allow moisture to escape and give your loaf a head-start on becoming stale. (3) Use some olive oil to keep the loaf from being too dry.
  3. Do not cut your loaf before it has cooled to room temperature. In the past I had tried slicing my bread after 1 hour, placed the slices in large plastic bread bag and immediately saw condensation. 2 hours are minimum, but I recommend 3 hours of cooling time.
  4. Starting to bake the loaf at higher temperatures during the first 7 minutes (in Step 8) gives great “oven spring” so you don’t get a dense loaf.  But reducing the temperature will also ensure that the crust doesn’t get too dark by the time the loaf reached an internal temperature of 200-to-205-degrees.
  5. The use of milk in this recipe keeps the final crumb relatively tight.
  6. Use 1 tablespoon in step 2, then cut down rising time to 1 hour.

Rating: 4-1/2 stars.
Cost: $1
How much work? Low.
How big of a mess?  Low/Medium.
Start time 4:00 PM. Finish time 6:00 PM. (But don’t slice for another 3 hours)

Chris Kimball’s original recipe is here. The descriptions of how I prepared and baked the bread are given below:

Wet Ingredients:
1-1/8 cup milk (8 ounces)
3/4 cup beer or water (6 ounces)
1 tablespoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil

Dry Ingredients:
4 cups bread flour (19-oz ounces)
2 teaspoons table salt

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200-degrees, and immediately turn off once it reaches the desired temperature. You will use the residual heat to cut the rising time down to 45 minutes.
  2. Add milk and beer/water to a Pyrex measuring cup (at least 2 cup capacity); heat in microwave for 1m15s mixture until it reaches about 105-degrees. Whisk in yeast; allowing it to hydrate for 5 minutes. Add in olive oil and stir to combine.
  3. Whisk together flour and salt in large bowl. Add yeast mixtures from step 1. Use a rubber spatula to fold until shaggy ball forms, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl. Kneed dough for 2 minutes. Spray bowl with non-spick cooking spray, put dough in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in warm, but turned off, oven for 40 to 45 minutes. The dough should double in size.
  4. Spray your loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
  5. Gently turn the dough out onto a very lightly-floured work surface. Gently press the dough into a rectangle so that it corresponds to the length of your loaf pan. Spray dough with water and roll up into a tight log. Move dough into pan and softly press so that it touches all four sides of the pan. Spray top with dough with non-stick cooking spray to prevent the dough from deflating in Step 8.
  6. Cover loosely with plastic wrap (realizing that the loaf will grow above the top of the pan). Place it in a warm spot in your kitchen for about 45 minutes; until the dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when you poke it with your finger.
  7. About 20 minutes prior to baking, begin pre-heating your oven to 425-degrees. Adjust an oven rack to middle position; any lower and your bottom crust will be too hard.
  8. Carefully remove plastic wrap, spray the loaf three times with water from a spray bottle, (optionally sprinkle top with a little bit of flour). Carefully place loaf pan in 425-degree oven. Set kitchen timer for 28 minutes corresponding to the total cooking time. After 7 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 375-degrees and turn loaf 180-degrees. Bake uncovered for 8 additional minutes. Tent with aluminum foil to keep the loaf top soft; baking for remaining 13 to 15 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf will reads 200-degrees when the loaf is done. Carefully remove bread from pan, and let cool on a wire rack for 2 to 3 hour before slicing.
Hearty bread; not too fluffy

Hearty bread; not overly fluffy


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