Tag Archives: bread

Hybrid/Semi-Leaven Soft Italian Bread Sticks

I didn’t get a chance to go to the bakery to pick up some burger buns this weekend, so I decided to make them myself today. And instead of using a recipe I had already tried, I found a recipe for soft Italian bread sticks that sounded interesting, and used that.

After the major fail of trying to get my new pineapple sourdough starter dough to bulk proof (24 hrs and it didn’t rise much at all), I was going to pitch it but then I decided to keep it going for at least a few weeks and then freeze it until next summer when I have time to play. I had about 1/2 a cup or so of discard starter and threw it into the bread stick dough mixture as a flavour enhancer.

Crumb of one of the twists

I usually bulk proof my dough in the microwave with a 2 cup pyrex cup full of very hot water and check the rise after 40-45 minutes. Today, I decided to let it go the full hour and the dough had started to go over the top of the bowl. Luckily, I had a large sheet of plastic wrap tightly covering the bowl or I would have ended up with a mess.

The recipe makes 24 bread sticks but I divided my 2 pounds of dough in half and made a half dozen burger buns with one half and 6 twisted bread sticks and 5 twists with the other half.

Sourdough Baking … AGAIN

To paraphrase the words of the immortal Sheldon Lee Cooper … “Bread bakers be crazy!

I joined a sourdough baking group on FB … cause I’m a glutton for punishment and not wasting enough time on FB already. As a result I developed a case of baker’s envy and revived my sourdough starter. And, not only did I revive the last of a sample from the freezer, but some of the dried starter from the pantry as well. Which meant I was feeding TWO jars.

Because I had started with a very young starter when I stored it away, it took longer to re-establish than I though it would. As a result, my first bake (a 1-2-3 formula using some ground bulgur flour for texture in place of the spelt, along with all purpose, and found on friend’s blog) was a miserable failure. And I had such high hopes for it too. I ended up tossing the loaf in the garbage in disgust. I weep for that lovely blue cheese and pecans.

Luckily, I had suspected things were NOT going well so I made a batch of hybrid dough (sourdough starter and dry yeast), enriched it with eggs, butter and milk and shaped it into 2 babkas, which I filled with chocolate chips, Nutella (yes, I finally bought a jar) and chopped pecans. I tried two different shaping methods, one of which didn’t turn out as nicely as I had hoped. It was supposed to be a crumb topping but, between using powdered sugar and the warmth of the kitchen, which effectively ended up making a paste of the flour, sugar and butter, the top wasn’t very pretty. So the ugly duckling second method, ended up being the beautiful swan.

Next time, if there IS a next time, I make a babka, I’ll try basting the finished loaf with a honey/sugar syrup as some recipes show. I’ve included a recipe for the syrup in the babka recipe below. I baked my babkas in a large roasting pan which had been buttered generously and separated into two ‘pans’ with a dam of aluminum foil, folded several times for rigidity and buttered.

Hybrid Chocolate, Nutella and Pecan Babka – 2 1/2 lbs dough, makes 2 loaves

Based on a sourdough cinnamon roll recipe I’ve used before but I increased the eggs in this enriched version to two.

Dough

1 cup active starter or discard
1 1/4 tsp dry yeast (1 tsp instant yeast)
3/4 cup warm milk
1/3 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 – 3 3/4 cup AP flour, divided
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

Filling – for each babka

1/2 cup Nutella
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips **

Syrup (optional)

1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1/2 cup (125m) water
1 tbsp honey

Egg wash – 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tsp cold water

** Use chopped chocolate next time as it melts better.

In a small bowl, activate the yeast by dissolving 1 tsp of the sugar in the warm milk, sprinkling in the yeast and waiting for about 5-10 min until the yeast gets foamy.

In a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups of flour, salt, rest of the sugar and mix well.

Make a well in the center, add the yeast mixture, eggs, starter and butter and with a wooden spoon beat together until you get a smooth batter. Gradually stir in about a cup of the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until you get a shaggy dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured working surface and knead, using only as much flour as needed to get a soft but not sticky dough, about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball and cover with your mixing bowl. Let rest covered for 5 minutes. Knead for another 5 minutes, using as little flour as possible.

Sprinkle some flour in a clean area, place the ball of dough on the flour, cover with the mixing bowl and let rest for 30 minutes.

Roll out, fill and shape.

Let rest in two 9″ x 5″ greased loaf pans, in a warm place, for about 45 min to an hour, until doubled. Brush on egg wash.

Shaping version 1

Shaping version 2

While the dough is rising, make the syrup (if using) by bringing the water, sugar, and honey to a boil in a small saucepan. Let boil for 4 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface with a spoon. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F.

After the dough was allowed to rise, the egg wash was brushed on and the crumb topping was applied. The baked result is seen below.

Bake for 55 minutes. After 25 minutes you might want to cover the loaves with a sheet of aluminum foil as the tops will get very dark.

Let cool in loaf pans for about 5-10 minutes then remove from pans and let cool thoroughly on rack. The syrup, if used, may be brushed on after a few minutes of cooling.

Savoury Italian Boule

A couple of days later, I made a hybrid savoury bread based on the babka recipe I used above but with an Italian theme – a mixture of Italian herbs (~1 tsp) , garlic powder (1/2 tsp),  and sun dried tomatoes (1-2 tbsp).

Pictorial Boule Recipe

Boule proofed with the seam side up for 1-2 hrs until doubled then flipped over, with the aid of a baking pan, onto a parchment paper sling for scoring and transfer into the hot dutch oven.

Other changes: Substitute water for the milk used above and 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in place of the butter. No eggs were used in this recipe. I also reduced the amount of sugar to 1 1/2 tsp, just enough to activate/proof the dry yeast. After proofing, the boule was baked in a dutch oven which had been preheated to 450 deg F, 35 minutes with the lid on and 10 minutes with the lid off. I covered the dutch oven lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil because I had concerns about it possibly burning.

It turned out beautifully as well especially the crumb.

PS: I have now tossed the dry sourdough starter cause, really, who kneads the added temptation? (Freudian slip? You judge.) I’ll continue with the current single jar of starter and refrigerate it once it’s well established.

No Knead Ciabatta Bread – Higher and Lower Hydration Levels

I’ve only made ciabatta bread successfully a few times, and that was in the days when I still had a bread machine, but no camera to immortalize my success. Since it died, my sole attempt was a dismal failure. Recently, someone posted pictures and a recipe for a “no knead” ciabatta, which, knowing how difficult that sticky dough is to work with, sounded too good to be true.

Well, it IS and it ISN’T.

No Knead Ciabatta Bread

NOTE: SKIP the next paragraph if you don’t want to be bored with minutia and just admire the pictures

For someone with patience and a  bit more experience, it’s easy enough to manage. My first attempt was equal parts fail and success. It was edible but a bit tasteless without help. (More salt needed in the dough.) The crumb was a bit gummy for my taste. (Bake longer at a lower heat and LET IT COOL, thoroughly.) It was REALLY sticky and hard to manage even compared to the poster’s dough. (Reduce the water used by 1/4 cup on the next attempt.) After 16 hrs, the half batch had I extended the proofing time for (12-18 hrs, or even 24 hrs proofing has been used) had liquid pooled at the bottom of the bowl under the dough. See previous sentence for possible solution.

The pairs of pictures represent the higher and lower hydration levels, respectively

Step 1 – After mixing the dough

Step 2 – 12 hr ‘ferment’ at the higher hydration level and 18 hr ‘ferment’ at the lower hydration level, respectively. I allowed half of the dough, at the higher hydration level, to continue fermenting for 19 hrs and it looked similar to the way it did after 12 hrs.

Step 3 – Dough shaped and allowed to proof for 1-2 hrs

Step 4 – After proofing, 1 and 2 hrs, respectively

Step 5 – Baked at 475 deg F for 22 min, and at 450 deg F for 30 minutes, respectively

Oven Spring – 2 inches tall, and 1 1/2 inches tall, respectively

Crumb – higher and lower hydration, respectively

No Knead Ciabatta – enough for a large loaf or 2 smaller loaves or 8 buns

3 cups (400 gm) all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 US cups (300 gm) cool water

Mix flour, salt, dry yeast, and sugar together in a bowl large enough to allow the contents to at least double in size.

Add the water and mix well with a large spoon. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature (75-80 deg F) for 12 to 18 hrs.

Scrape out the dough onto a floured board. Do an envelope fold and then flip or transfer the dough out onto a baking sheet. You may line the sheet with parchment paper, drizzle it with some corn meal or not as you prefer.

Stretch out the dough a bit so it’s a rough rectangle shape.

Scatter some flour over the top of the dough, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. (The flour will help prevent the dough from sticking to the plastic though you may have to repeat every half hour. Or you could oil the plastic.)

Bake the bread at 425 to 475 degrees Fahrenheit until the top is browned and the bread gives a hollow sound when you knock on the bottom of the loaf with your knuckles. At 425 deg F, it took 35 minutes before the bread was done. At 450 deg F, it was done in 30 minutes.

At 475 deg F, it took about 22 min for the top and bottom to get browned and for the dough to sound hollow, but after cooling for 30 min, I thought the crumb looked a bit moist. It might be a good idea to cover the loaf with a sheet of aluminum foil, after 20 minutes, and let it bake for another 5-10 minutes.

NOTE: I spritzed some water into the oven every 5 minutes for the first 10 minutes as it was supposed to promote oven spring but that was only partially successful … and at the highest temp. It was also the one where the dough had only been allowed to sit (ferment?) for 12 hrs. The dough that had been allowed to sit for 18 hrs didn’t have a lot of oven spring.

In conclusion, I had the best results from the ‘lower’ hydration ciabatta dough. It is called LOWER but at 75% hydration it’s still higher than regular bread levels of hydration. The ‘higher’ hydration was about 90%. That was an estimation based on equivalent conversions since I didn’t weigh the flour and water that I used in the first attempt to make the ciabatta.

Semolina Sourdough Bread

Yes, this is another sourdough recipe.

(WARNING: DO NOT buy or create a sourdough starter. It’s addictive to play with.)

After using up some excess sourdough starter for the hot cross buns, I was left with the remaining jar staring me in the face every time I looked toward the top of the fridge. I’m still searching for the perfect starter only/no commercial yeast recipe but ran across a recipe for a semolina sourdough bread. Semolina is a golden, very high gluten flour used mainly for pasta. The recipe still used commercial yeast but I have had this semolina in my pantry for a couple of years so I decided to use it up.

And it was a much more successful bake than previous ones.

I had a nice rise in the final proof … even if oven spring was so-so. I’d probably try a higher temperature (400-450 deg F) on a future attempt. Even 500 deg F. I was concerned about the baking because I forgot to proof my yeast (the original recipe called for the dough to be made in the bread machine with instant yeast and I wasn’t paying attention when I made it by hand with regular dry yeast granules) and I still found yeast granules in the dough before the first proof. I ended up kneading for a second time after letting the dough rise for one hour in a warm locate and then letting it rise for a second hour. And then I deflated the dough and shaped and proofed for a third time. That probably accounted for my poor oven spring.

I wrote up the recipe as I would do it next time with the yeast proofing instructions. 🙂

Hybrid Semolina Sourdough Bread – makes 1 x 1 1/2 lb loaf

1 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp warm water
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cups #1 semolina flour
3/4 cup sourdough starter

1-2 tsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp cornmeal, to coat proofing bowl
1 1/2 tsp sesame or poppyseeds (optional)

In a medium bowl, add warm water and sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, combine the semolina flour and salt. At the proofed yeast mixture and sourdough starter. Stir well.

Transfer to a working surface and knead for about 5 minutes. Shape into a ball.

Coat a large bowl with a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil, add the ball of dough to the bowl, rotate a bit to coat the dough, cover with saran wrap and place into a warm place for 1-1 1/2 hrs until doubled.

Turn the risen dough onto the working surface, punch down and form into a round shaped loaf. Dust a bread rising basket with the cornmeal and place your loaf into it.

Preheat oven and a pizza baking stone (or a metal baking sheet if you don’t have a baking stone) to 375 degrees F

Cover dough with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place, about 1 hour or until double in size. You can sprinkle the top with sesame seeds, if you wish.

After dough has risen, carefully turn it out onto the hot pizza stone and bake. (I turned it out onto a sheet of parchment paper, scored and then transferred the bread, paper and all, onto the preheated metal baking sheet.)

Bake for about 45 minutes. Check that it’s done by knocking on the bottom of the bread and listening for a hollow sound.

Nice, golden brown bread loaf bottom on the metal baking sheet

Cool on a wire rack before cutting.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns

I like the IDEA of hot cross buns better than the ones I’ve had, even those bought from a bakery. So this year, I decided to try to make my own. I threw in a half cup of sourdough starter because I had it handy.

Generally, my first tries of new recipes have been spot on but that’s not always the case.

This recipe is a work in progress for various reasons ie. I chose to reduce the amount of sugar asked for in the recipe I used. I was too lazy to grate fresh nutmeg when I ran out so I used half the amount called for. It turned out that my jar of allspice was empty so I left it out. I KNEW I shouldn’t use the full tablespoon of ground cinnamon called for (I started with 2 tsp) but decided to compensate for the nutmeg/allspice. Next time … I’m only using 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. 🙂

In the interest of full disclosure, it was a tasty hot cross bun. I’ve paid good money for worse. But it’s not a recipe I’d make again. I’d try something else first.

That said, someone else might really enjoy the sweetness level and cinnamon amount so I’m including the recipe below.

Sourdough Hot Cross Buns – makes 15 buns

3 – 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup active sourdough starter
1/2 cup warmed milk
1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar (use the full amount next time)
2 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 – 4 tbsp butter or margarine, softened
1 – 3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice (didn’t have any)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup raisins and 3/4 cup dried cranberries, soaked overnight in 1/3 cup rum
~1 tsp finely minced candied orange peel.

Soaked fruit and peel

For the flour paste

1/2 cup all purpose flour
4-5 tbsp cold water

For syrup glaze

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking dish or spray with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warmed milk. Sprinkle in the dry yeast and stir. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour and salt. Stir in sourdough starter, activated yeast mixture, eggs, and butter. Beat well with a wooden spoon until you get a thick, smooth batter.

Add spices, drained raisins and cranberries and minced candied orange peel. Stir well.

Stir in the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until it’s too thick to stir then turn out your dough onto a lightly floured working surface. Knead for another 5-10 minutes until your dough is soft but not sticky. The egg yolks will give a golden colour to your dough.

Lightly oil a large bowl, add your dough ball, cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about an hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently deflate the dough. Cut the dough into 15 equal pieces and roll each one into a ball.

Place the rolls in the pan and cover with a clean damp towel and let them rest for another 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Making the flour paste for the cross

Place the flour in a small bowl and add the flour a tablespoon time until you form a smooth, pipeable paste. Stop with the 5 tablespoon and wait a while for the mixture to loosen up before adding another tsp or so. (I added a sixth tablespoon right away and ended up with a mixture that was thinner than I would have liked.) Pour the paste into a small freezer bag. Seal and cut an 1/8th to a 1/4 diameter hole in the bottom. Pipe straight lines horizontally and vertically

Preheat oven to 375 F degrees.

Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Making the sugar syrup

While baking make the syrup by mixing the sugar with the water in a sauce pan and bring to a boil over low heat. Continue boiling for 4-5 minutes or until syrup thickens a bit. Set aside.

When the buns are out of the oven, brush with the sugar syrup.

Hybrid Basil Pesto Couronne (Crown), Asparagus and Broccoli Soup and Sesame Seed Crackers

ETA (06/21/2016) : Sesame Seed Cracker Recipe

When you’re a grown-up, you can’t play with Play-Doh but bread dough is just as much fun. And you get to eat it afterwards. Which is why I made this couronne (crown) or wreath filled with basil pesto. I briefly considered adding sun dried tomatoes to the mixture but then didn’t bother. Maybe next time.

You can make sweet versions too filled with everything from Nutella, chocolate spread or nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts) to dried fruit (apricots, cherries, cranberries, raisins), with or without a glaze.

The ‘crumb’ or inside of the crown

Hybrid Basil Pesto Brioche Couronne (Crown) – makes 1 loaf

3- 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup active sourdough starter
1/2 cup warmed milk
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp dry active yeast
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup basil pesto, home made or purchased
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Garnish with another 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warmed milk. Sprinkle in the dry yeast and stir. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until foamy.

In a large bowl, add 2 cups of flour and salt. Stir in sourdough starter, activated yeast mixture, eggs and butter. Beat well with a wooden spoon until you get a thick, smooth batter.

Stir in the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until it’s too thick to stir then turn out your dough onto a lightly floured working surface. Knead for another 5-10 minutes until your dough is soft but not sticky. The egg yolks will give a golden colour to your dough.

Lightly oil a large bowl, add your dough ball, cover and let rise in a warm place until double, about an hour.

Turn your risen dough out onto a large sheet of parchment paper, flatten and roll out into a 12 x 18 inch rectangle. Spread the pesto over the dough, leaving about 1/2 an inch clear on the top and bottom of the long edge. Roll up, pinch the seam tightly and turn the roll over so it’s seam side down. With a pizza cutter, cut the roll in half. Turn the roll halves, cut side up and braid together, making sure you keep the cut side up. Form your braid into a circle, pinching together the 2 edges.

Preheat the oven to 425 deg. Fahrenheit.

Lightly cover the crown with a sheet of food wrap and let rise for 30-45. If you poke the dough gently, it will spring back up when it’s risen sufficiently. Sprinkle another couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese over the top of the crown.

Bake the crown for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bottom is browned and set. (Check carefully after 10-12 minutes and if the top is getting too browned, cover with a large sheet of aluminum foil.)

I was really pleased with the oven spring I got on the crown.

Serving a wedge of this flavourful bread with a bowl of soup is a perfect pairing. I had a small bundle of fresh asparagus (and some broccoli stems in the freezer) so I made a small pot (3 servings) enriched with half and half. No potatoes and I strained the pureed veggies through a sieve so I ended up with a thin soup. The asparagus tips were blanched and added to my soup for texture.

Asparagus and Broccoli Soup

If you don’t want to make the bread, some home made crackers (sesame seed in this case) are a nice accompaniment to the soup. I’ll post the recipe later.

Sesame Seed Crackers cut into 1 inch squares and baked for 16 minutes.

Crispy Sesame Flatbread/Crackers – makes 12 flatbreads

1 2/3 cup / 200g all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp each of black and white sesame seeds
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup / 120ml water

Pre-heat the oven to 400°F/200°C.

In a bowl add in the dry ingredients, mix and then add in the wet ingredients. Mix and knead with your hand until it’s a smooth dough. You may have to add a bit more water or flour to reach a perfect non-sticky dough like in the photo.

On a lightly floured baking sheet roll out the dough as thin as possible. Make sure it’s evenly thin so it bakes evenly.

Cut around the frizzy corners with a pizza cutter and then divide the dough into separate flatbreads. You can make them bigger, longer or whatever you want!

Bake them in the oven for about 15-20 minutes (until they get crispy and golden spots).

Serve for example with some homemade hummus or with soups. Enjoy!

Storage: Store them in an air-tight jar or zip-lock bag (after letting them cool off completely) to keep them crispy!

More Bread Baking … Pizza and Crusty Rolls

I know it seems like I do a lot of bread baking, but I really don’t. It usually takes me about a year to 14 months to get through a 20kg bag of AP flour between sweet (cakes, pies, cookies) and savoury (breads/buns/rolls, gravies) uses.

I’ve been holding back on the last of the flour from my previous purchase … just in case of emergency. Not that I can really imagine what a ‘flour emergency’ would consist of. Still, after picking up a new bag on Saturday, before going off to donate blood, I’m now flour rich.

So I baked 2 pizzas on Sunday and tried a new recipe for crusty rolls today. I got the recipe from a FB bread baking group.

I wasn’t sure that I wanted to make a dozen rolls so I baked a couple of mini loaves with half of the dough, instead. I’m pretty sure I’ve found my go-to crusty roll recipe.

Of course, I had to taste test the rolls so I made a sammie with one filled with a couple of large chicken fingers/small cutlets and a generous slather of Miracle Whip.

SO good.

Crusty Rolls – you can see the crumb on the top of the roll to the right

I wanted to try a higher baking temp (425 deg F) for the loaves so they got over-proved by the time I got them into the oven and there wasn’t a lot of oven spring left in the yeast. I suspected that would happen when I slashed the loaf.

Natalie D’s Crusty Rolls – makes 1 dozen rolls

1 1/4 cup warm water
2 tsp yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
1 large egg
3 – 3 1/4 cup bread flour (added about 1 cup more flour and kneaded for 10 min)

In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Let sit until foamy, 5-10 minutes.

In a large bowl, add 1 cup of the flour and salt and mix togther well. Add proofed yeast mixture, egg and oil. With a wooden spoon, beat well for a couple of minutes. Stir in the rest of the flour, half a cup at a time, reserving about a half a cup for kneading.

Sprinkle some flour on a working surface and turn out the dough. Knead until you have a soft but not sticky dough.

Transfer dough to a greased bowl and let rise for about an hour or until doubled.

Shape into 12 balls and lay out on a greased baking sheet. Cover lightly with a towel and let rise for about 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 deg F and bake rolls for 12-15 minutes.

Trial 1:
6 rolls, glazed with water, baked at 400 deg F for 20 min
2 mini loaves, glazed with EVOO, baked at 425 deg F for 20 min.

Rolls and Mini Loaves

Hard, Crusty Rolls made with Sourdough Starter

I’ve made soft, fluffy rolls and buns over the years but recently I got a craving for a hard, crusty version. So I went web surfing.

Hard, Crusty Rolls

I adapted this King Arthur Flour “European-Style Hard Roll” recipe by substituting my own home made sourdough starter for the starter called for in the recipe. Based on the weight of the flour, water and yeast in the starter, I used a bit over 8 oz/225 gm of sourdough starter.

After the initial 3 hr deflate and turns called for, I divided the dough in half (14 oz/400 gm each) and refrigerated one portion in a covered bowl until the next day. I divided the rest of the dough into 4 portions and shaped the dough into balls, which I proofed for 1 hr before baking at 425 deg F in a preheated oven. I placed several ice cubes into a metal pie pan which I put into the oven to give me a steamy baking environment.

Because I was too cheap frugal to crack an egg for the egg white glaze, I just threw some all purpose flour over the proofed balls and slashed the tops.

Remarkably, the relatively flat proofed dough balls rose magnificently.

The bottoms of the buns were browned and firm (tapping gave me a solidly hollow sound) but the tops were still pale so I extended the baking time to 30 min (from the 20-25 min called for.)

After waiting impatiently about 20 minutes for the rolls to cool, I sliced one open. The crust was, as desired, very hard and crunchy, the texture was chewy and the taste was good. The crumb was fairly open so I’m guessing the hydration level was about 60%.

The roll was delicious on its own or dipped into extra virgin oil dressed with freshly ground black pepper and coarse sea salt.

The 2nd half of the dough was pulled out of the refrigerator the next day and allowed to come to room temperature … about 2 hrs. At this point, I shaped the dough into 4 rolls and let them proof for 2 hrs before baking. This time, in hopes of a nicer coloured external crust, I DID use an egg white glaze.

The crust wasn’t nearly as crunchy as the earlier bake but the texture and taste was similar. The colour was beautiful after 25 min of baking.

December Round-Up: Bread, soup and a bunch of other stuff

I’m sorry but I’ve been a bit distracted and haven’t kept up with my posts this month. Here are a couple of recipes for buns, 3 for soups and a lot of pictures of meals I’ve made to make you salivate. I hope to do better in 2016.

Bread/Buns

  1. Pretzel Buns

Crumb

Pretzel Buns – makes 6-8 buns

200 ml warm water
1 pkg (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil (ie sunflower oil)
2 1/2 cups (about 300g) all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
4 tbsp baking soda
1 egg, beaten
sea salt for sprinkling

Add the sugar to the warm water and stir until dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let it rest for 5-10 minutes (it should be foamy).

Put the flour and salt in a medium bowl then pour in the yeast and oil and mix well with a spoon. When it’s well combined, knead the dough with your hands for several minutes. If needed, add more flour. The dough shouldn’t be sticky.

Once ready, shape into a ball and brush lightly with oil. Place the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and then with a towel. Leave it to rest somewhere warm. This would take about 1 hour. The dough will double in size.

When it’s ready, take it out of the bowl and knead it again a little bit on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into 6 (or 8) pieces and shape them into balls. Cover the balls with a light towel and leave them to rest. This time for about 30 minutes.

Now it’s time for the part that will give these buns their appetizing crust.

First, prepare a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

In a large saucepan, bring 1 1/2 liters (6 cups) of water to a boil. Remove from the heat and add the baking soda little by little (it’s going to foam, so don’t just dump all of the soda at once, because it will overflow and turn your stove into a mess). Place back on heat.

Place 2 or 3 of the buns in the water and poach them for 30-40 seconds on each side. Take them out with a slotted spoon and put them on the baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 200 deg C (395-400 deg F).

Brush the buns with the beaten egg, sprinkle some sea salt (or pretzel salt, if you have). Make several cuts on top of them with a sharp knife.

Bake the buns for about 15-20 minutes or until they’re a nice brown colour.

Let cool for 5 minutes on the baking pan and then transfer to a cooling rack.

      2. Easy White Buns for Xmas

Debra C’s Easy White Bread – makes 1 loaf of bread (in 8″ x 4″, 9″ x 5″ or 13″ Pullman), 2 free form loaves, 15 dinner rolls  baked in a 9″ x 13″ pan.

1 1/4 cup warm water
3 tbsp sugar
5 tsp active dry yeast
1- 1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil or melted butter
3 – 3 1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour

Put warm water, yeast and sugar in medium sized bowl and stir until dissolved. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes or until foamy.

When yeast blooms/bubbles, add salt and oil/butter, stir until salt is dissolved.

Start adding flour slowly (1/2 cup at a time) and stir with spoon until you can’t stir any more.

Flour your hands and turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and keep adding flour as you knead. This is going to take several minutes, adding just a bit of flour at a time. After adding flour just form a ball and cover with your bowl.

Let rise 5 minutes in the bowl, covered.

Roll out or gently press with your knuckles, until it becomes a rectangle (10″ x 14″).

Roll up and place the dough, pinched seam down, into a greased loaf pan. Cover with a towel and let rise 20 minutes or until double in size in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and cut a slit in the top of the bread. Brush with a little egg glaze or milk.

Bake approx. 20-30 minutes until done.

Cool before cutting.

For rolls – Divide into 15 equally sized portions and shape into balls. Place into an oiled 9×13 inch glass or ceramic baking dish and let rise.

Brush with egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp of cold water) and bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Let rest in dish for about 10 minutes and ten remove to cooling rack or the bottoms may get a bit soggy.

Soup

  1. Kale and Hot Italian Sausage Tri-Colour Gnocchi Soup

Kale and Hot Italian Sausage Tri-Colour Gnocchi Soup – serves 4-6

1-2 tsp vegetable oil
4 links hot Italian sausage, casing removed
1 small white onion, peeled and diced
4 cups good-quality chicken stock
1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and diced (optional)
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped (and stems removed, if desired)
1 pound potato gnocchi, tri-colour … for colour
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt (1/2 tsp) and pepper (1/4 tsp), to taste starting with amounts noted

optional toppings: freshly shaved or grated Parmesan cheese, crumbled bacon

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, cook the sausage and onion until the sausage is browned, breaking up as much as possible. Drain out as much of the excess grease as possible.

Add in the chicken stock, salt, pepper and diced roasted red peppers (if using), and bring the mixture to a simmer (still over medium-high heat). Once it reaches a simmer, reduce heat to medium-low and add the kale and gnocchi and stir to combine. Continue cooking for 5 minutes, or until the gnocchi are cooked through and tender. Stir in the heavy cream.

Season to taste with additional salt and pepper if needed.

Serve warm with desired toppings.

NOTE: If you can’t find hot Italian sausage, use mild and add a sprinkling of crushed, dried red chili pepper flakes.

    2. Turkey Wild Rice Soup

Cream of Turkey and Wild Rice Soup – serves 6-8

4 cups chicken broth (or 4 cups water and 2 tbsp chicken soup mix)
2 cups chicken breast (cooked, and cubed)
4 oz long grain and wild rice blend
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp butter
1 cup carrot, diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, diced or 2 tbsp dried onion soup**
1 cup corn, canned or frozen (optional)
1/2 cup whipping cream
~1/2 cup water

** What I used

In a large sauce pot, saute the carrots, celery and onion in the butter over medium heat.

After a few minutes, add the flour, stir into the butter and cook for 3-4 minutes to cook out the rawness in the flour.

Stir in the chicken broth a cup at a time until it’s all been added to the pot. Add the corn (if using), onion soup mix (if you didn’t use onion), black pepper, cubed chicken and rice blend. Bring to a boil then cover the pot and reduce the heat until the soup is simmering and cook for 25 min, or until the rice is tender.

Whisk in the whipping cream and check the thickness. If too thick, add the additional water. Taste for seasoning. If too salty due to using the dried soup mix, you may wish to add a bit more water.

    3. Chicken Chile Verde Soup

Chicken Chile Verde Soup – serves 6

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups water, divided
1 cup masa harina
1/2** – 1 cup cup green enchilada sauce
1/2 jalapeno pepper**, diced or 1 4 oz can diced green chiles
1 tsp chile powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1/8 – 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack or old Cheddar** cheese
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

Garnish: additional Monterey Jack cheese and crushed tortilla chips for topping, if desired

** What I used

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add in the chicken broth.

Combine 2 cups of the water with the masa harina, whisking until smooth. Pour into the pot along with the remaining cup of water, enchilada sauce, and jalapeno or green chiles. Season with the salt, chile powder, cumin and pepper to taste. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until thickened.

Stir in the Monterey Jack and cream cheese. Cook until the cheese has melted, whisking if needed, 5-10 minutes. Stir in the chicken and cook until heated through.

Serve topped with additional Monterey Jack cheese and crumbled tortilla chips, if desired.

NOTE: This soup will get thicker upon standing. If you like a thinner soup, use more water or chicken broth to thin it out.

Miscellaneous Meals

Mushroom Alfredo and chicken cutlet

Chicken cutlet, mashed potatoes

Pizza – Italian sausage and mushrooms

Meatloaf, baked beans, onion rings and coleslaw

Roasted chicken breast, baked beans and coleslaw

Meatloaf, mashed potatoes, coleslaw

Pan fried pork chop, mushroom gravy over mashed potatoes, corn and salad

Romanian-Themed Christmas Eve Supper: Fasole Batuta (Mashed White Beans) and Bacalao (Salt Cod)

My mom did 99% of the cooking at our house. However, one dish that my dad could, and did make, twice a year, was the white beans that were featured in this menu. I’ve not been able to find it in any of my google searches of Romanian dishes so I wonder if the pairing of mashed white beans (Great Northern, navy, or cannellini) and soaked salt cod was unique to our family.

Pieces of dry, salted cod would be soaked overnight in several changes of cold water, placed in the bottom of a baking dish and then the pureed cooked and seasoned beans would be layered on top. The dish would be baked at 350 deg F for about half an hour, and then my dad would pour 2-3 tablespoons of oil flavoured with fried onions and paprika over the top and serve large spoonfuls to each of us. A white bean and noodle soup, made with the bean cooking liquid and a cup or so of mashed beans, would precede the beans and cod.

I decided to break up the pairing and instead serve 3 separate dishes: the soup mentioned above, a mashed white bean dip/spread and salt cod cakes. And because I thought I might still be hungry, I made a quick pasta dish with jarred sauce and a seafood medley.

Appetizers/Bread

Fasole batuta cu ceapa caramelizata (Mashed White Beans with Caramelized Onions)

I made the rolls from a recipe posted on a FB bread baking group I belong to.

Salted Cod Cakes

Soup

White bean and noodle soup

Main/Pasta

Florentine Seafood Medley over Fettuccine

Memorial plate … buns and dried Romanian sausage

Waiting for Mos Craciun (Santa Claus)