Week 68: Rustic Ciabatta

ITALY, by way of NEW ORLEANS: It took me a long time to find a recipe for a ciabatta that was not made with 100% white flour. and that actually worked (whole wheat can be tricky to work with). This is from Bellgarde Bakery in New Orleans, whose mission is to “connect community and ecology through gastronomy”. All of their grains are identity preserved and single origin, and they use olive oil sourced from San Antonio, and salt from Avery Island.

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Week 67: Angel Biscuits

Angel biscuits are made with three leavening agents: baking powder, baking soda and yeast. The unusual addition of yeast creates a texture that is a cross between a biscuit and a soft dinner roll. A perfect foil for Chef David Bull’s Sawmill Gravy.

This dough is very forgiving, and can be stored in the fridge for up to five days, or you can cut the dough into rounds, place them on a cookie sheet to freeze, then pop them in a zip lock and freeze until ready to bake however many you like.

Most recipes use a combination of shortening and butter, but biscuits were originally made with lard, and because of the low water content (compared to butter) it does produce a superior biscuit: fluffy, flakey and airy.* Don’t want to use lard or shortening? These biscuits were made with ghee which makes a really tasty substitute (but not necessarily any healthier*) Here’s a great video showing you how to make it at home.

  • 2-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp yeast (add 1/2 tsp more if you’re planning on freezing the batch to cook later)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

Parmesan Herb Biscuits: Mix in 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, (save 1 Tbsp to sprinkle on top just before baking), 1-1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme and 3/4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary.

Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, yeast, sugar and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl), and whisk to combine.

  • 1/2 c fat: all lard, shortening, butter (or a combination: 1/4 lard or shortening + 1/4c butter) OR 1/2c ghee
  • 1 cup buttermilk at room temperature (make your own: put 1 Tbsp vinegar into a Pyrex measuring cup, then add room temperature milk to the one cup line)
  • Optional: Cream to brush on tops before baking
  1. Add the ghee/lard/butter (whatever combo you’re using) into the flour mixture in pieces.
  2. With the paddle attachment, mix (on low speed) until crumbly. (Or, use your hands to incorporate the butter into small pebbles, until the mixture resembles coarse meal.)
  3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk, and continue mixing until the liquid is incorporated and you’ve got a smooth dough. OR, gently fold the until ingredients are moistened. Don’t overmix!
  4. Cover bowl and let rest 1 hour.
    • At this point, you can store this dough in the fridge for up to five days, to shape and bake at a later time.
  5. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead 3 or 4 times.
  6. Gently press dough out into a circle, fold in half, then fold again. Push sides inward to shape into a circle.
  7. Gently roll to a 1/2″ thickness, then cut with a floured 2” cutter. Don’t twist the cutter when lifting it. Press the scraps together, pat then roll into a circle and continue to cut out biscuits until it’s all used up.
  8. Now you’ve got two options:
    • Bake now: Place rounds with sides touching in a 10-1/2′ cast-iron skillet lined with parchment paper,
    • OR Bake later: Place on a cookie sheet, spaced apart, and freeze. Remove to a zip-lock bag and freeze for up to two months.
  9. Remove biscuits from freezer and preheat the oven to 400.
  10. Brush tops with cream, then bake until golden, 16 to 20 minutes.
  11. Serve warm with Sawmill Gravy

*Why lard bakes a better biscuit:

  • Gluten strands in dough form strong bonds when baked, which makes a tougher crumb. When lard coats the gluten strands it weakens their structure and keeps them from bonding (fluffy),
  • Lard melts more slowly than butter, creating air and steam (flakey), and
  • The fat crystals in lard are larger than butter, so when it melts, tiny, airy holes develop (airy).

You shouldn’t be deterred from that ingredient (unless you’re vegetarian, of course). When Crisco shortening launched in 1911, it very quickly became the favorite with it’s netural taste and long shelf life — and it’s heavy marketing campaign that told consumers it’s healthier than lard. We now know that shortening’s partially hydrogenated fats (trans fats) are associated with higher health risks than the saturated fats (such as lard) they were designed to replace. In addition, lard has 20% less saturated fat than butter, and is higher in monounsaturated fats, which are good for cardiovascular health fat. Just make sure you find a brand that is 100% non-hydronated.

Week 66: Pane Francese

ITALY: Looks like a baguettte, but tastes like a ciabatta – what could be more perfect? This Italian “French bread” has a creamy chewy interior, a dark exterior, and gets its flavor boost from two overnight fermentations, and an addition of milk and olive oil in the dough.

I could only find a few verisons of this bread, and they varied widely. I tested three (all from cookbooks: The Italian Baker, Bread Illustrated, and Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread), then concluded that although they each had some great points, they also came with some tricky and/or non-authentic steps. So, I did a fourth test using what I’d learned from the first three and came up with this method below, which worked out really well.

I found Kingdom Bread’s instructional video to be really useful, and recommend watching it to get an idea of what the process will be (linked below as well). You’ll need a tea towel, and a spray bottle before you get started.

STEP 1: Make the biga (pre-ferment)

  • 300g white flour
  • 1/8 tsp yeast
  • 300g water 
  1. Mix biga ingredients in medium bowl until thoroughly incorporated. I use two chopsticks, then scrape the sides of the bowl down with a dough scraper.
  2. Cover and let rest overnight for 10-13 hours.

STEP 2: Make dough (next day)

  • 450g white flour
  • 50g whole wheat flour
  • 2-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp (heaping) yeast
  • 235g whole milk
  • 70g extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Measure the flour, salt, and yeast into the bowl of a stand mixer.
  2. Pour some of the milk around the sides of the biga, then scrape the sides inward to help release it from the bowl.
  3. Turn the biga out into the stand mixer, using a dough scraper it it doesn’t slide out easily.
  4. Add the olive oil and the rest of the milk.
  5. Mix, with dough hook attachment, for 4 minutes on speed #1, and then for 5~6 minutes on speed #2.

STEP 3: Rock & Roll kneading

  1. Lightly oil work surface and hands.
  2. Slide dough of the dough hook, and then empty dough out onto the lightly oiled work surface
  3. Gently press dough into a rectangular shape, then do 10 “roll and folds” (video instruction below). It might seem tricky at first, but keep going. You will eventually get there!
  4. Tuck in sides with your hands, then place in an oiled bowl, seam side down.
  5. Cover and let rest 1 hour

STEP 4: Envelope kneading & two 1-hour rests

  1. Lightly oil hands, and a rectangular baking pan
  2. Very lightly flour the countertop
  3. Turn dough out onto the countertop, using your dough scraper if neccessary, seam side up
  4. Pick up sides and gently pull out to achieve a rectangul measuring about 12″ x 20″. Pick up the top wide side, stretch it out, then fold it 1/3rd of the way down. Do the same with the bottom third: pick it up, stretch it out, then fold it up over the top. Like an letter for an envelope.
  5. Now fold the sides in. Pick up the left side, stretch it out, and fold it over 1/3rd of the way, then pick up the right side, stretch it out and fold it over.
  6. Cup your hands, around the dough, and rotate dough while tucking the sides under .
  7. Place the dough, seam-side down, in the baking pan, cover with oiled plastic wrap, and let rest 1 hour
  8. Lightly oil countertop and hands
  9. Repeat steps #3 – 8.

STEP 5: Shaping

  1. Line the 9″ x 13″ baking pan with a tea towel that’s been dusted with flour
  2. Lightly dust the work surface and your hands with flour.
  3. Turn the dough out onto the work surface and let it spread, then gently form it into an 8 x 13″ rectangle, by pressing to expand it, and stretching out the sides.
  4. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, each measuring about 2″ x 13″.
  5. Place first log, cut side down, onto the dusted tea towel, tent a portion to form a divider, then place the next one in. Repeat until thtey are all in, cut side down.
  6. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
  7. Place the covered pan in the fridge and chill for at least 12 hours.

STEP 6: Bake! (next day)

  1. Preheat the oven to 550° (it’s okay to just heat it to 500 if that’s as high as your oven goes)
  2. When hot, place a pan on the bottom rack, then add boiling water.
  3. Bring oven back up to 550 degrees and place an inverted baking sheet onto the middle rack
  4. Grab the edges of the tea towel and gently lift the loaves out of the pan.
  5. Spread the towel out flat.
  6. Use a bread board, (or piece of cardboard) gently flip the loaves off the towel onto a bread board (piece of cardboard), then flip onto a bread peel that’s been lined with parchment paper.
  7. Slide the loaves onto the inverted baking sheet.
  8. Lower oven temp to 450.
  9. Bake about 25 minutes until dark golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom
  10. Cool on wire rack – do not cut into them until they’ve cooled!!
  11. Let the bread cool completely before slicing and eating, at least 4 hours but preferably 8 to 24 hours.

Week 65: Ramazan Pidesi

TURKEY: During Ramadan (the 9th month of the Muslim year, when fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset), Turkish bakeries churn out loads of these flatbreads just in time for iftar, the meal eaten after fasting once the sun goes downs. Lines start forming an hour or so before sunset, so that the pide can be purchased fresh from the oven and enjoyed still warm.

It took me awhile to find a video recipe that was in English, and used measurements that I could duplicate at home. Aysenur Altan lives in Istanbul and has one of the first Turkish Recipe channels in Turkey. Follow her here on Instagram!

Notes

  1. The ingredients listed below are for just one loaf (she’s making two). It really does need to be eaten day of, so I didn’t want any leftovers.
  2. Try as I might, I could not find nigella seeds, so I sprinkled some oregano (they taste a little bit like that) and also some everything bagel seasoning because of the black and regular sesame seeds.
  3. I also shaped, then baked it on parchment paper, instead of using semolina flour to dust the surface of the baking sheet.
  4. I used the end of a spoon to make the indentations in the circle.
  5. Mine took 20-25 minutes to bake, but the video says just 10, so check often!
  • 250 ml warm water
  • 1-1/2 tsp yeast
  • 1-1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1-1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Egg wash

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp yoghurt (or milk)

Topping

  • Sesame seeds
  • Nigella seeds

Week 64: Everything Bagel Bread

Want the savory punch of a bagel without the time-consuming process of either baking them yourself or going out to get some? Then this bread is for you – delicious, easy and satisfying. It does require an overnight rest, but after that, you don’t need to spend much time on it at all. The Everything Bagel seasoning is mixed into the dough in addition to being sprinkled on top, making it the perfect foil for some avocado toast. This is one of my favorite breads so far!

I found this on Leite’s Cuisine, one of my top ten food blogs. It’s been around since 1999, and has thousands of tested, well-written recipes, from hundreds of professional contributors. All bread recipes are written in both US and Metric measurements, which is super convenient.

Click here for the recipe. Trader Joe’s makes a good seasoning mix, but if you can’t find it, Leite’s Cuisine’s recipe is below:

  • 2 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp black sesame seeds
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp white sesame seeds
  • 4 tsp dried minced onion
  • 4 tsp dried minced garlic
  • 2 tsp flaked sea salt or coarse salt

If you want to try your hand at bagels, we made them during Week 51. Recipe and lots of tips here.

Week 63: Whole Wheat Burger Buns

Hamburgers originated in Hamburg, Germany, with the meat patty typically served between two slices of toast. The use of a soft bun was popularized by a fry cook named Walter Anderson, who in 1921 founded the White Castle hamburger chain, home of the “slider”.

These soft buns are made with 80% whole wheat flour, enriched with whole milk and butter, and topped with an Everything Bagel seasoning mix. You can make them vegan by using any non-dairy milk, and substituting a plant based oil for the butter. If you’re looking to make an all-white flour version, try the brioche-style Burger Buns from Week 10.

STEP 1: Make dough

  • 240ml warm milk (120°)
  • 2 eggs (1 for dough + 1 to used as an egg wash)
  • 240g whole wheat flour
  • 60g bread flour or all-purpose flour
  • 7g yeast
  • 27g sugar
  • 13g salt
  • 28g softened butter
  • Everything Bagel seasoning
  1. Mix one of the eggs in with the warm milk and whisk to combine
  2. Measure out flours, yeast, sugar, salt into the bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk by hand to combine
  3. Place bowl in stand mixer, and with the paddle attachment, mix on low while slowly addingthe milk/egg until combined
  4. Add the butter in bits and continue to mix on low until combined
  5. Beat on high for 2 minutes
  6. On low speed, add 3 Tbsp bread flour until dough is more sturdy and comes away from the sides of the bowl

STEP 2: Rest dough

  1. Put 1 Tbsp flour on countertop, then empty dough on top.
  2. Gently knead flour into the dough so it is less sticky, using a dough scrapper if it sticks to the counter
  3. Place in oiled bowl, cover, and let rest 30 minutes.

STEP 3: Shape buns

  1. Scrape the flour off the countertop, then lighly coat in oil
  2. Empty dough onto the counter
  3. Cut dough into 8 pieces, about 80 – 90g each
  4. Flatten each piece, pull sides up and over, turn over and shape into a ball with a tight surface. (Check out this video on the Tips page)
  5. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet about a finger width apart
  6. Cover and and let rise about 30-35 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 400

STEP 4: Bake

  1. Just before baking, mix second egg with 1 Tbsp water and brush on top of buns, then sprinkle with the Everything Bagel seasoning
  2. Turn oven down to 375, and bake for 12-15 minutes
  3. Cool on wire rack.
  4. Don’t cut until just before serving!

Week 62: Low-Knead Bread

I don’t know what I enjoy more: eating bread or baking bread. But sometimes, when I set out to make it because I really want to eat it, I run into a problem with timing. Oftentimes, there’s a long stretch of time between starting the process to consuming the bread. Most artisan loaves aren’t ready on the same day as you prepare the dough because they require an overnight rise, and if you don’t get around to starting until late in the day, there’s not enough time for all of the steps.

Last week I tested a work-around that produces a delicious, satisfying, impressive loaf in 5 hours from start to finish. It’s as beautiful as a sourdough, but a lot less complicated, and not as time-consuming. It’s easy like the no-knead method, but incorporates a bit of “stretch & fold” kneading (see #2 Kneading During Proofing video here) to speed up the process of strengthening the gluten, thereby avoiding the overnight soak, i.e. autolyse*.

Back in 2006, the New York Times published Jim Lahey’s No-Knead Bread, which revolutionized bread baking. Two years later, Cook’s Illustrated introduced us to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s version, Almost No-Knead Bread. And just last month, in May of 2021, he gave us No-Knead Bread, Revisited, which is what I’ve based mine on. I didn’t use vinegar, added some honey, substituted whole wheat and rye for some of the white flour, cut the time down by 30 minutes and used a Dutch oven to bake.

Rest times are 1 hour + 1.5 hours + 1 hour, so perfect if you work from home, and doable if you work away from home because you can make it in the evening, pop it in the fridge after the final rise, then bake the next day.

STEP 1: Make dough

  • 300g bread or all-purpose flour (or substitute 50g with whole wheat or rye, or 25g of both)
  • 7g salt
  • 3g yeast
  1. Measure dry ingredients in a bowl and mix (I use a whisk) to combine.
  • 225g warm water
  • 11g honey
  1. Add honey to water and stir to combine
  2. Mix honey water into dry ingredients, using the handle of a wooden spoon, or your hand. Make sure there are no dry bits.
  3. Cover and rest 1 hour

STEP 2: Knead & Proof

  1. Keeping dough in the bowl, do a round of stretch and folds, then cover and let rest 30 minutes. See kneading during proofing, and shaping videos here. (#1 stretch + fold | 30 minutes rest total so far)
  2. Repeat this two more times. Each time you can pull the dough out a little longer, but not too much so that it tears. Only do four stretch and folds each round. (1.5 minute rest so far)
  3. Do one more stretch + fold, then leave to rest for 1 hour.

STEP 3: Final rise

  1. Carefully remove dough to a lightly floured surface, without deflating it.
  2. Pull sides to shape into a tight ball, then turn over, and with cupped hands, tighten surface some more.
  3. Place in lined and floured proofing basket seam side up and cover
  4. Proof 1 hour or until finger test, and preheat oven to 500. It’s better to be under proofed than over proofed, so check often:
    1. Dough is under proofed when you poke a finger in it and is springs back quickly
    2. Dough is proofed when you poke a finger in it and it springs back slowly
    3. Dough is over proofed if you poke a finger in it and it doesn’t spring back.
  5. Cover with parchment, then a cutting board and turn over
  6. Slowly remove basket and score. Score round loaves symetircally and mostly on the top, so they rise up, not out
  7. Bake, covered, at 475 for 25 minutes
  8. Remove cover and bake for 10 minutes.
    1. Put a cookie sheet on the lowest rack to redirect the heat so the bottom doesn’t burn
  9. Let cool completely before slicing

Week 61: Easiest Bread Ever

I’ve spent the last year and a half learning how to bake bread. It’s been fun, not always easy, and to be honest, not always successful. There are so many nuances to it: proper kneading techniques, making sure you don’t over-proof or under-proof the dough, getting the flour-to-water ratios just right, understanding the gluten structure of different types of flour, and having all the right tools — not to mention enough time — for all the steps.

When I came across this method I was very skeptical because it kind of goes against everything I’d learned so far. For one thing, it only takes about 15 minutes to throw together, if that. After a 10-minute rest, a bit of shaping, then a 30-minute rise, it’s ready to bake. You “knead” it in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (!) on high (!!) for just two minutes. It doesn’t compare to an artisan loaf with it’s overnight ferment and beautiful open crumb, but it makes a perfectly acceptable sandwich loaf and best of all, it’s something you can make on the fly.

I’ve listed the ingredients (in grams) so you can make your loaf along with the video instruction linked below. I also made four different versions so you have the option to make either a whole wheat, white, oatmeal raisin or ryre.

  • 300g bread or all pupose flour < OR >
    • Whole wheat: 240g whole wheat flour+ 60g bread or all purpose flour
    • Oatmeal raisin: 300g bread or all purpose flour + 50g oats
    • Rye: 125g rye flour + 175g bread or all purpose flour
  • 7g (2 tsp) yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk (any kind: dairy, oat, almond, soy, etc.) at 120 degrees
  • 2 Tbsp honey < OR >
    • Whole wheat: 2 Tbsp brown sugar
    • Oatmeal raisin: 2 Tbsp maple syrup + 1 tsp cinammon
    • Rye: 1 Tbsp sugar + 2 tsp caraway seeds + 1 tsp dill seeds
  • 1 egg (if you want to omit the egg, use 1 Tbsp oil in its place)
  • 2 Tbsp oil or melted butter (I use butter for the white and oat versions)

Notes:

  1. The video is for the whole wheat version. I translated the cup measurements into grams because it’s so much more accurate. If you don’t have a scale, it’s 1-2/3 cups whole wheat flour + 1/3 cup all-purpose or bread flour.
  2. She uses 1/4 cup of flour once the batter is mixed to stiffen it up a bit. I add it in one tablespoon at a time, because you might not need that much, and if you dump it all in at once, you can’t take it back.
  3. You can use 8 x 4 loaf pan if that’s all you have, but 9 x 5 is better
  4. She doesn’t grease her pan, but I went ahead and greased mine just in case
  5. If you let it rise for too long, and it gets too high, you’ll over-proof it, and it’ll collapse in the oven. So no highter than 1″ for sure. It’s always better to underproof a little than over proof!
  6. Mine definitely got too dark on the top, so do cover with foil

If you want all whole wheat try Week 21: 100% Whole Wheat from Year 2020. It’s a bit more complicated (a lot, really), but well worth the effort for such a healthy, delicious result!

Week 60: Flour Tortillas

MEXICO: This is very different from most of the tortilla recipes I tried, and on first glance might not seem authentic. It was contributed to Serious Eats by Christian Reynoso, the sous chef at Zuni Cafe, and recipe columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle. This is his mother’s family’s method that uses milk instead of water for added richness, a little bit of baking soda to keep them light and airy, and a bit of sugar to balance the savoury lard*. It’s perfect.

Mexican-Style Flour Tortillas | Christian Reynoso, Serious Eats

6 TortillasIngredients12 Tortillas
158g (1-1/4 cups)Flour315g (2-1/2 cups)
4gSalt8g
1 tspBaking Powder 2 tsp
1/2 tspSugar1 tsp
57g (1/4 cup)Lard/Butter/Shortening115g (1/2 cup)
110gMilk220g
22gSpinach*45g

Tips:

  • Lard is actually better for you than butter. It contains no trans fats, and is 60% monounsaturated fat, which is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease. And, it’s better than vegetable shortening as well, unless you’re vegetarian. Easy enough to substitute butter if you prefer; clarified would be better because it removes the milk solids and water.
  • I just used a hand whisk to mix the dry ingredients; didn’t bother with using the stand mixer and whisk attachment.
  • Pay attention to the instructions for rolling out the dough. It really helps to flip it and turn it as you roll it out to the desired size.
  • Don’t use super high heat – they’ll burn before they are cooked all the way
  • You have to mind them the entire time they are cooking, and it only takes a few minutes, so it’s best to just roll one out, then cook it, then roll out the next one. Instead of rolling them all out at once.
  • I store them in a zip lock once they are cooked, instead of under a kitchen towel
  • For spinach tortillas, blend 45g raw spinach leaves with the milk until completely liquefied. Then, use only 110g or 220g milk/spinach liquid – sometimes there a little left over, sometimes none. Depends on the water content of the spinach leaves!

Week 59: French Sourdough

FRANCE: Pain de Campagne is a multi-grain French sourdough, made with white, whole wheat and rye flours. Back in the day, French villagers would bake very large loaves in communal ovens, which could feed the family for weeks. Some say scoring was a way to identify your loaf.

This recipe follows Maura Brickman’s method for Pain de Campagne introduced on King Arthur’s website (see video link below) whereby you can use your starter straight from the fridge. You don’t have to feed it the night before, and you don’t have to create a levain with an active starter. This removes two steps from a very long process.

Continue reading “Week 59: French Sourdough”