It’s been a year, and I’ve baked 51 breads. I have learned so much, and am realizing that there is still a lot more out there to discover. So, I guess I’ll keep going.
We’ve been in #lockdown for a year now. Folks are starting to get vaccinated and I’m starting to see a little bitty light at the end of what has been a very dark, very long tunnel. And there’s plenty more breads to explore, so I’m going to give it another year. Since I’m still #workingfromhome, it’ll be a great opportunity to delve into the world of sourdough. And might as well start exploring gluten-free baking and milling my own ancient grains.
I’m taking this week off, so there’s no new bread to try, but you should check out the Tips page where I’ve listed all the things I’ve learned over this past year, and also the Library page to see my favorite bread baking books and websites. See you next week, and enjoy this little bit of satire, that somedays I felt could’ve truly been me.
Unless you live in New York (or Montreal, strangely enough), you’re surrounded by people who complain that they can’t get a decent bagel anywhere.* But, it doesn’t matter where you live, because a perfectly satisfying version can made at home! Follow a method that incorporates a.) proofing the dough overnight, b.) boiling them before baking (duh), and c.) using a high protein flour and barley malt, and the end result will be bagels with a shiny, thin, crispy crust and a dense, chewy , slightly tangy interior. The most successful batch I made comes from Zingerman’s Bakehouse, with a few adjustments on my part: I boosted the protien content of the flour, added an overnight proof, and used malt powder rather than syrup.
Bagels originated in Poland, (first written mention of them is in 1610), and were brought to America by Eastern-European and Jewish immigrants in the late 19th century, becoming mainstream in the ’70s. There’s a few theories on the origin of the name, some say it comes from the Yiddish beigen, which means “to bend”, others say it’s from the Hebrew word b’igul meaning “in a circle”.
Below are answers I found to some bagel questions I had while doing research for this week’s bread:
Why the water bath before baking?The starch in the dough gels when the bagels are put in the boiling water, which prevents the water from seeping into the bread. This sets the crust before baking, and prevents them from rising too much — thus the dense and chewy crumb.
Why the baking soda and/or malt extract?The baking soda aids in browning the crust, and the barley malt adds an authentic flavor., and encourages browning as well. You can use either Barley Malt Syrup or Diastatic Malt Powder, which is made from sprouted barley that’s been dried and ground. What you’re after is the active enzyme, amylase.
What’s the best flour to use?Bagels made in professional bakeries use flour with a very high protein/gluten (14.5%) content. You can buy it (King Arthur has a good one), use bread flour (12%), which is a close second, and all purpose (10%) will work in a pinch. Another option is to mix bread flour with vital wheat gluten. I chose this route because I’d rather buy a small bag of vital wheat gluten than a big bag of high protein flour that I might not use very much. The recipe below is for either bread flour, OR bread flour mixed with vital wheat gluten.
What came first? The poles or the holes?The hole!Because the dough is so dense, it’s hard to cook them all the way through.So, the poles came later, as a good way to store these round breads with a hole.
Most recipes are for a dozen bagels. They really are best eaten day of, so I have listed ingredients for just 6. It is also more efficient to be able to boil the six and get them in the oven straight away, so they don’t sit around wating for the other 6 to get boiled. The boiling, timing each side, coating, getting them in the oven quickly is kind of a pain.
It is advisable to knead bagel dough by hand because it has a low hydration level, and not too difficult if you’ve been shying away from kneading without a mixer. You’re not dealing with a sticky mess, so it’s not too tricky. In fact, some sites adivise that it is necessary otherwide you might burn out your mixer! It takes some time, though, so be patient.
Many recipes call for using a baking stone, but don’t let that deter you. A baking sheet worked just fine for me.
Everything bagel topping: 2 Tbsp. each dehydrated onion, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dehydrated garlic, plus 1 Tbsp. coarse salt
Watch the two videos before you begin, but use the ingredients and written method below.
STEP 1: Make the sponge
227g bread flour
OR 218g bread flour + 8g vital wheat gluten
1/4 tsp yeast
128g warm water (110 degrees)
Measure the flour, yeast, and vital wheat gluten (if applicable) in a mixing bowl.
Whisk to combine, then add the water. Mix well, scraping the sides of the bowl and make sure there’s not dry bits.
Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise on counter for 2 hours.
Refrigerate for 4 hours.
Remove from fridge, and let come to room temperature (about 30 minutes). Take it’s temperature; it’s much easier to work the dough when it’s warmed up!
STEP 2: Make the dough
Sponge from the day before, at room temperature
227g bread flour
OR 218g bread flour + 8g vital wheat gluten
1/4 teaspoon yeast
2 tsp diastatic malt powder
Add the yeast to the sponge and stir.
Then add the flour, vital wheat gluten (if applicable), salt and malt powder, and mix with a dough scraper, or one hand, to try to incorporate as much of the flour as you can. You won’t be able to mix it to a dough at this stage
Dump it all on the counter, and knead – about 8 – 10 minutes, until you get a nice dough. Watch the video for his method. You want it to be stretchy (not rip if you pull it), but firm. Another test would be to take it’s temperature, it should be between 77-81 degrees. If you can’t seem to get it to this point, leave it for 10 minutes, and then try again.
Place in a large (it’ll rise), clean bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
STEP 1: Shape Bagels
Let dough come to room temperature
Divide the dough into six pieces.
Form pieces into rounds by first creating a taut undersurface, then turning over, and pressing and rolling with cupped palm against surface in circular motion. (The video above does not do it this way, but the one below does.)
Cover with a damp towel, and letthe dough rounds rest for 20 minutes
Lightly dust a tray, or some of your counterspace with flour so you’ve got place to put them once they’re shaped
Shape into a log and wrap around your hand to join, OR just poke a hole in them. I put corks in the middle because I was afraid they’d close up.
STEP 2: Rest, boil and bake
1 Tbsp baking soda
semolina flour, or corn meal
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Let rise about an hour, but this depends on the temperature of the room. You don’t want them to rise too much, otherwise, they’ll collapse a bit after baking. If you press on them with a fingertip and the indentation springs back, but not all the way, then they are done. If it doesn’t spring back, proof some more, if it springs back all the way, they might be over-proofed. It’s okay, you can still back them, but they might end up a little flat.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Bring a large pot filled with at least 4” of water and 1 Tbsp of baking soda to a boil.
Meanwhile, prep your area for boiling and baking
Dust a baking sheet with semolina flour, or corn meal
Put your toppings next to this sheet, in containers that will hold one bagel
Set your timer for 1 minute – but don’t start it yet!
Prep a baking tray with semolina flour for placing bagels that have been topped
Carefully add bagels and bathe them for 45 seconds per side (30 for less chewy, 60 for more).
Remove, place in a topping, then put face up on the set aside baking sheet.
Repeat with the rest.
Turn oven down to 475 and bake for 14 ~ 16 minutes.
Cool on wire rack at least 30 minutes before slicing.
ITALY: These oven-baked wider-than-grissinis (Italian breadsticks) are inspired by the traditional long and thin Italian sfilatino which is similar to a French baguette. These were so much fun to make; there’s no kneading involved because the dough is so wet. It won’t seem like you can actualy shape the sticks from this wet, airy dough, and lift them onto the baking sheet, but follow along with the video instructions and you’ll see that it does, in fact, work.
This is from The Great British Baking Show Master Class: Season 2, Episode 1, beginning at around 24:21. The ingredients listed below are half of the recipe that’s demonstrated in the video. These don’t really keep well (they lose their crunch pretty much overnight), so it’s best to make as many as you’d consume in a day.
Mix these first, then add the olive oil and olives
Watch the video demonstration all the way through. It’s pretty basic, but it’s good to know ahead of time what comes next.
Water: He measures out 800 ml, so half that would be 400 ml, which is way too much. The written recipe on the BBC site is 400 ml, so half that would be just 200ml. In other words, use 200 ml. Even 250 was too much; I had to start over.
Paul’s “good glug” of olive oil = 1 Tbsp
Add the olives, a few at a time. The video shows them getting all dumped in at once, but mine did not distribute well, so I suggest adding a handful at a time.
You do want to use a rectangular container for the proffing because that’s the shape you want the dough to be for cutting. It’s so wet, you don’t shape/knead it when it’s done proofing, you just cut it in the shape that it lands on the counter.
Their 220 fan is equivalent to 475.
Use a lot of flour to dust, and pay close attention to the video where he shows how to cut the breadsticks, and roll them away.
It seems like they’d be impossible to pick up, but you can. You don’t really need to stretch them, they stretch as you lift them from the counter to the tray.
I didn’t space mine very far apart, but I didn’t want them to touch. So, I had to put 3 on a separate tray.
A healthier version of Week 3: Boule, with an overnight fermentation for added flavor. I like making two small rounds because it’s easier to slice individual pieces, and it’s handy to have one in the freezer, or an extra to give away. This bread is really good toasted, then topped with goat cheese and a drizzle of honey.
ITALY: I made this rosemary bread with potatoes, which is not traditional, but it’s a common loaf in the bakeries around here. In Italy it is often scored with an asterix, and sprinkled with flakey salt – in an effort to recreate a bread that Luciano Pancalde read about that was described as having a rosemary aroma and a golden crust that “sparkled like diamonds”. I didn’t find out about that until after I baked it, but I’ll definitely do that next time!
STEP 1: Boil potatoes
80 ml of water you cooked the potatoes in
Peel and chop potatoes, and place in a small pot.I chop them pretty small so that they cook fast, and so lots of potato starch seeps into the water.
Add 2 cups water and a teaspoon of salt.
Boil potatoes in salted water until tender.
Meanwhile, measure out the dry ingredients
STEP 2: Measure dry ingerdients
300g bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp roughly chopped rosemary
Measure the dry ingredients and rosemary into the bowl of a stand mixer, or a mixing bowl
Whisk to combine.
STEP 3: Make potato mash
2 Tbsp butter
When potatoes are nice and soft, and before you drain them, scoop out about 1/2 cup of the water they’ve been cooking in
Drain, then return potatoes to pot, and over low heat, dry them out. Stir often, so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
Once there’s no more steam coming out of the potatoes, turn off heat.
Add the butter, then mash the potatoes well (no lumps), mixing in the butter until it’s melted and fully incorporated.
80g potato water (reserve extra)
STEP 4: Make dough + first rise
Add the potato mash to the dry ingredients and 80 g of the potato water (reserve any leftover).
Knead on #1 until everything is coming together and there’s no dry bits of dough hanging about at the bottom. If you can’t get those to mix in, add 1 Tbsp (no more) of the potato water to the bowl.
Once there are not dry bits, turn to #2 and knead until it cleans the sides of the bowl and is one ball on the dough hook.
Place dough in a oiled bowl and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size. About an hour, but it depends on the temperature of the room.
STEP 5: Shape loaf + second rise
Heat the oven to 450 (you’re going to turn it down to 425 once you’ve put the bread in for baking).
Knock the dough down, then turn dough out onto a lightly floured countertop and shape into a nice ball, with a tight surface. See the tips page.
Drop the ball into banneton (a flour-dusted cloth lined basket or bowl), smooth side down, seam side up. See No Banettone? video on the Tips page for how to make your own.
Cover and let proof for 30-40 minutes at room temperature to prove until almost doubled in size again.
Bake the bread for 30 minutes.
Let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
DENMARK: This seed and nut loaf is from the KONG HANS KÆLDER restaurant in Copenhagen. According to the Danish newspaper Politiken, the staff came up with this loaf when they decided to go on a Paleo diet — and named it after the Nordic Stone Age, Stendalder. It became Denmark’s most popular recipe, to the point where the natural food stores had a hard time keeping the ingredients in stock. It’s gluten free, naturally high in protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, and only takes 10 minutes to put together. I was so tempted to add raisins, but I wanted to remain true to the original so refrained. I bet it would work just fine if you did; I’m thinking 50g chopped dried fruit, or for a savory twist, sun-dried tomatoes. Another idea could be mini chocolate chips and candied orange peel!
The original recipe calls for unroasted, unsalted nuts, but I decided to go ahead and use roasted, salted, because I prefer those for other uses. I lowered the salt to 1-1/2 tsp because of this.
I also added chia seeds and hemp seeds to boost the nutritional value. You can use any combination of nuts and seeds, as long as they total 700 grams.
You can use all whole nuts, i.e. not chopped almonds or pecans. That makes the loaf look really nice when sliced, but I think the (roughly) chopped nuts make for a better consistency, and also easier to cut.
I used canola oil, but next time I think I’ll use olive oil. Peanut oil might be a good option.
If you want to make this on a regular basis, buy the nuts/seeds in bulk, mix them all up and measure out 700 grams of nuts in individual portions to freeze.
Cut thin slices – a little goes a long way!
Stone Age Bread
100 g pumpkin seeds( I got “acitivated, sprouted” seeds by mistake. They work fine, but aren’t as bright green)
100 g roasted, salted sunflower seeds
100 g chopped tamari almonds
100 g chopped pecans(the original recipe calls for walnuts, either one would do)
100 g flaxseeds
100 g roasted sesame seeds
50 g chia seeds(optional, this is an additional on my part)
50 g hemp seeds(optional, this is an additional on my part)
5 ~ 6 eggs, depending on size.
1/3 cup oil
1-1/2 teaspoon salt (or 2 teaspoons if you use unsalted nuts)
Preheat oven to 325.
In a large bowl, mix the eggs, then add the oil and salt
Measure in the nuts and seeds and stir to combine well.
Line a loaf pan with parchment paper
Add batter to the pan and press down to fill it towards the corners, and to even the top
Bake for 1 hour or until it is firm and just a little browned on the top
SICILY: Lasagna bread! How cool is this?! Made with semolina flour, and filled with layers of tomato sauce, ricotta cheese, onions and sometimes eggplant (depending on the region and season). The outer layer of dough bakes up crispy, like bread, but the inner layers are soft, like pasta. Scaccia (“drive away” in Sicilian) is a local street food favorite, and can also be found in Middletown, CT. Who knew?🤔
STEP 1: Make dough
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp water, warmed to 110 degrees
1-1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. yeast
Mix sugar, yeast and water in a large bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer.
Stir to combine and let sit until foamy, about 5 ~ 10 minutes(this is to test that your yeast is active).
2 Tbsp olive oil
Add the olive oil to the water and stir
2 cups durum wheat semolina flour (364 grams)
1/2 tsp salt
Add flour and salt to the water mixture.
Mix with the paddle attachment (or a wooden spoon handle) until well combined.
Cover, and let rest for 30 minutes. This helps to hydrate the flour.
Mix again, and if it seems too dry/crumbly, add 1 Tbsp (no more!), and mix to combine.
With the dough hook attachment, knead at #2 until it comes away from the sides of the bowl, into one ball stuck on the hook. Or knead by hand.
Cover and let rest one hour. It’ll rise a little, but that’s not really what you’re after. You just want the dough to gain strength.
STEP 3: Roll out
Preheat over to 500 degrees, line a 9 x 5 loaf pan with parchment
Roll out dough to a 26 x 18 rectangle.
I made markings on the countertop so I didn’t have to keep measuring.
It’s best to lightly dust the surface with regular flour
Flatten the dough, and shape it into an oval/rectangle to start
Roll from the center out, so the dough is being stretch in the same direction
When it starts to not hold the stretch, and it springs back, cover with a damp cloth and let rest about 10 minutes
Make sure it’s an even thickness throughout, rolling specifically in the thicker places to get it uniform
Also check that it’s not sticking to the counter; if so, fold over a flap and dust with flour
STEP 5: Fill and fold
I used tomato sauce, roasted eggplant, fresh spinach and Parmesan. I was really trying to stay away from having it taste like pizza, so no pepperoni, mozzarella, etc. I’ll definitely use ricotta next time.
Follow pictures to see how to fill and fold
Preheat oven to 450 degrees, so it’s nice and hot by the time you’re ready to bake
STEP 6: Bake
Place in a 8” x 4” loaf pan. This is a little tricky. I covered it with parchment paper, then put the loaf pan over it to squish it to the right size, then tucked the parchment under the sides so it was easier to lift and drop in. I flipped it, so the bottom is now on the top.
Brush top with oil.
Prick holes all over the top with a fork.
Bake the loaf for 45 minutes, until the top is dark and charred, and the internal temperature has reached 210-213°F. Tent with foil if it’s getting too dark.
Who out there is tired of artisan breads? I sure am, so this week I’m baking up a soft, squishy white bread, perfect for those of us nostalgic for the PB&J, grilled (American) cheese, mayo and tomato, and/or egg salad sandwiches of our youth. Or,be like a millennial and make some avocado toast! 🙂
2-1/2 tsp yeast
1 cup milk, at 110 degrees
360 g AP flour
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp butter, softened
3 Tbsp olive oil
46 g dried potato flakes, OR or 1/2 c mashed potatoes, riced
STEP 1: Make dough
Measure out all ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer.
With the dough hook attachment, knead on #2 for about 5 ~ 7 minutes, until dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl. It doesn’t have to completely clean the bowl and form one ball. If it seems too dry add some milk, but just 1 tablespoon at a time!
STEP 2: First Rise
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until it’s doubled and puffy. This can take between 60 ~ 90 minutes, depending on the temperature of your room.
STEP 3: Shape and second rise
Lightly grease your countertop
Holding the container close to the countertop, turn dough out. Don’t punch it down, i.e. deflate it, but while carefully turning edges under so that a kind of tight “skin” forms on top, shape it into an 8″ rectangular loaf
Place in a lightly greased 8.5″ x 4.5 ” or 9″ x 5″ loaf pan. Slip it into a plastic bag, tented, so it there’s room to rise.
Let rise until the center is about 1″ over the rim of an 9 x 5 pan. or 1-1/4″ above a 8.5 x 4.5 pan. Don’t let it go higher than than, or it might deflate during the baking process. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350°F.
STEP 4: Bake!
Bake the bread for 20 ~ 25 minutes until it’s golden brown, and the internal temperature is 190 degrees. If it starts to brown too early in the process, tent with foil.
Cool on wire rack, and remember — don’t slice it while it’s still warm!
The perfect loaf for when you’ve got to dash out the door before breakfast. Made with museli, dried fruit and nuts, and whole wheat and white flours, it’s as nutricious as it is delicious! Make two, and you can freeze one to always have on hand.
NEW ORLEANS: This is old school king cae — the one I grew up eating in New Orleans. Not too sweet, no cinnamon swirl, no cream cheese filling, and no icing. If you are younger than me, you probably enjoyed those versions, as they are what’s commonly made now. King Arthur Baking Company’s Mardi Gras King Cake is an excellent source for king cakes with fillings and icing.
The ingredients that go into a king cake dough are similar to a brioche, but the end result is more cake-like in texture. King cakes are baked, sold and shared throughout the city — and beyond, beginning on January 6th, and ending on Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), the day before Lent. Whoever finds the little plastic baby in their serving is responsible for providing the next king cake for the group.
If you aren’t up for making one from scratch, Mam Papaul’s Box Mix will do the trick in a quarter of the time! Plus, it comes with the colored sugars and the little plastic baby, which can be difficult to find if you’re not down south.
STEP 1: Prepare dough
1/2 cup milk, warmed to about 110 degrees
2-1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1 packet)
Pour the warm milk into the bowl of a stand mixer. (If you don’t have one, just use a large bowl).
Sitr/whisk in the yeast and let stand for 5 minutes. (This is to make sure your yeast is live.)
2~3 tablespoons sugar (up to you: 2 is barely sweet; 3 is just sweet enough)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened, and cut into rough pieces
3 eggs: Use 2 eggs and 1 yolk for the bread: save the white to brush on top
1 tablespoon orange zest, or 1/2 teaspoon orange extract (zest is better if you have it!)
Add the butter, 2 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk, and the orange extract.Sitr/whisk to combine. (The butter isn’t supposed to thoroughly mix in. It’ll look like loose scrambled eggs.)
450 + 30 grams all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Place bowl on scale, and set to 0 grams.
Add 450 grams flour, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
If using a stand mixer, use the paddle on lowest speed to combine (or stir with the handle of a wooden spoon).
Let dough rest about 10 minutes, to absorb the liquids properly.
Switch to the dough hook and knead on speed 2 for 4-5 minutes , then on 1 for another 4-5 minutes (or knead by hand for about 15). If it seems too wet, and isn’t coming away from the sides, or sticking to the counter, add the extra 30 grams of flour. The dough should be soft and subtle and feel just a tiny bit damp. Not sticky and wet, but not at all dry. You should be able to pull a bit of dough away without it tearing off.
STEP 2: Proof, Shape and Bake
Parchment paper (easier)
Colored sugars * : purple (justice), green (faith), and yellow/gold (power)
Plastic baby, kidney bean, or pecan
Cover, then set aside to proof until doubled, which can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour.Check often; the temperature of the room makes a big difference in how long it takes to double.
Turn out the dough, press it down gently, and weigh it, so you can divide into 3 equal portions.
Roll each piece into long ropes of equal length, and place them on parchment paper.
Braid the ropes together, starting from the middle.
Shape into an oval, or circle** then join the ends by flattening one end and making a cap/cover with it over the other end.
Lift the parchment paper to transfer the crown to a baking sheet.
Place a small ramekin in the center to keep the inside hole open.
If you’re using a bean or pecan, push it up inside from the bottom. The baby goes in after it bakes.
Preheat over to 350 degrees.
Cover, and let rise until it doubles in size, about 20~40 minutes.
Add a tablespoon of water and a pinch of salt (helps to mix it up) to the egg white and mix.
Brush onto the top of the cake, and then sprinkle heavily with the coloured sugars. (This technique removes the necessity of using a white icing once it’s baked to make the sugars stick)
Bake for about 30 minutes, until the inside temperature reaches 200 degrees. It’s a soft dough, so it might not feel/look thoroughly cooked, checking the temperature is the best way to be sure.
After you remove it from the oven, add the baby through the bottom if you didn’t use a bean or nut.
If your braid rose so much that it separated a bit during the bake, you can rub a stick of butter in those bare spots, and sprinkle sugar on them to cover them up.
Place on a wire rack to cool.
* You can use blue and red liquid food colouring to make purple, (which is what I did), but honeslty, it’s worth just buying some purple sugar. So much prettier!
** I prefer a circular shape, because that’s more similar to a crown. The standard in bakeries is an oval, and I wonder if that’s because it’s easier to have a rectangular box rather than a large square box, like a pizza.