Tag Archives: bread

Tartine Bakery Country Loaf … Sourdough (sigh)

You know me, and giving up.

I don’t.

I’ve  tried several ‘traditional’ sourdough recipes, since I decided to make my own sourdough starter in the summer of 2015, and met with nothing but failure. I blamed the starter, but then I had problems with the new one too … probably a case of using the starter before it was ready.

I’ve learned through the process, sacrificing a lot of flour (all purpose and bread) to the bakery gods. Until I finally got this baby. (SO so proud.)

I think this latest bake is pretty good. I used a recipe I found online, complete with step by step pictures of each stage. My pre-bake loaf was a bit slacker than the one in the picture. As you know, I don’t have a digital scale, just an old fashioned one that’s not very accurate so I’m sure my bread and flour amounts are off. Still, I was able to produce a decent loaf. Good colour, decent rise and I think the crumb is comparable to pictures I’ve seen online. So, I fed my starter (it’s over 2 weeks old now) and tossed it in the fridge to wait until I get inspired to bake with it again.

NOTE: Better pictures of the crumb have been posted from my second attempt. (12/11/2016)

I gots an ear on my loaf even with my crappy serrated knife to make the slashes

I MAY bake next weekend, I may not. I wish I could afford to buy a new scale. I should really invest in a lame or, the next best thing, a package of straight razor blades (10 for $16) but they’re luxuries at my current financial state. So, I’ll have to muddle along the best I can.

No bench scraper but my offset spatula works for shaping the bread into a boule.

Pineapple juice (canned NOT fresh) and whole wheat starter, after 2 weeks of feeding

Honey Whole Wheat Loaf – Sourdough Starter Version

Warning: PICTURE HEAVY POST – Please remember, the post is mostly to help me remember what I did so I can recreate or improve my efforts. Especially since often I don’t make the dishes again for a year or more. I’m happy if the research I did from various sources and synthesized here helps others too, of course.

The crumb looks a bit moist and the shaping isn’t as tight and even as I would have liked. In the interest of full disclosure, I under baked the loaf by 5 minutes compared to the yeast loaf. I just wanted it to be DONE! And I cut it after 35 minutes NOT an hour so it was still warm. On the whole though, I’m pleased with my results.

All Sourdough Starter

The Five Steps of Bread Baking

1. Mixing

I wasn’t sure if I had enough yeast in my starter to ‘lift’ the loaf so I fed 1/2 cup of active sourdough starter with 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup of warm water.

Pictures right after mixing and 1 hr later.

Two hours afterwards – I tried the float test, which failed. I’ve been advised that with such a thick/stiff starter, that bit of dough would never float.

At that point, I added the salt, the rest of the water, some honey and enough bread flour to get a soft supple dough. I kneaded the dough for 10 minutes, let it rest for 5 minutes under a bowl and then kneaded it for another 5 minutes, as with the yeast version

2. First rise or Bulk proofing – It should double in size before being shaped … I think it did.

Time: 1/2 hr and 1 hr

Time: 1 1/2 hr and 2 hr

3. Shaping – I didn’t take my time with this and seal the roll so it’s a bit uneven.

4. Proofing or Second Rise – I estimated that it had doubled in size by eye. Didn’t even do the ‘finger poke’ test. Google it if you’re curious

5. Baking

After 30 minutes, the loaf was removed from the metal baking pan and baked directly on the shelf in the oven for an additional 10 minutes to brown the bottom and finish cooking. (Note that this loaf was ONLY baked for an additional 5 minutes, which probably accounted for the ‘moist’ and what was called ‘underdeveloped’ crumb on my FB sourdough baking group.)

The finished loaf brushed with melted butter and allowed to cool until room temperature.

Mini Honey Whole Wheat – makes one 400 gm loaf

Version 2 – Whole Wheat Pineapple Sourdough Starter

Step 1: Increasing the amount of starter

1/2 cup of active starter
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup warm water

Mix well in a bowl and place into a warm place (microwave with a measuring cup with 2 cups of very hot water in it) for 2 hrs.

Step 2: Mixing the dough

3/4 cup bread flour, divided
1 1/2 tsp honey
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 tsp salt

In a small bowl, dissolve the salt and honey in warm water.

Add the warm water, honey and salt mixture to the sourdough mixture and stir well with a wooden spoon until it’s well incorporated. Stir in about 1/4 cup of bread flour and beat gently. Keep adding the flour until the batter gets too thick to stir and forms a ball around the wooden spoon.

Transfer to a lightly floured working surface and knead using as much flour as you need to get a smooth and supple dough, about 10 minutes.

Let rest for 5 minutes covered with a large bowl then knead for another 5 minutes.

Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and a towel and let rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape into a loaf. Place on a prepared baking sheet or in a loaf pan and let rise until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.

Bake for 30 minutes, take out of pan, and bake directly on the oven shelf for another 5-10 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown and when rapped, the loaf gives a hollow sound.

Spray top with water after placing in oven and a second time 5 minutes later.

Brush the top with melted butter after removing from the oven.

Let cool to room temperature before cutting.

Honey Whole Wheat Loaf – Yeast Version

WARNING: PICTURE HEAVY POST … I split the one I was going to post in 2 but there are still a lot of pictures as I’m a visual learner/teacher.

I have to admit that I don’t actually care for the taste of sourdough bread. I don’t DISlike it but it’s not something I prefer. However, making a tasty and attractive loaf of sourdough bread is on my cooking bucket list, even if it’s only the mental one. So, I’ve set out to figure out what I need to do to succeed starting with making a sourdough starter from scratch.

To date, I’ve made two sourdough starters. One with all purpose flour and water and, most recently, one with whole wheat flour and unsweetened canned pineapple juice. Time is important. It takes at least 2 weeks of feeding for the balance of yeast and bacteria to adjust and turn a neutral flour mixture into one with the proper pH balance to sustain the right kind of yeast. And there’s no substitute for time. Don’t let that early bubbling and rising fool you after day 4 or 5. It’s NOT ready yet to substitute for yeast in your bread baking.

It’s fall and the house temperature is set to 70 deg F so I’m doing all my proofing in a microwave with 2 cups of hot water to provide as optimal a rising environment as possible.

In this post and the one following, I’m going to try to replicate a honey whole wheat (33%) and all purpose flour bread made with yeast, and a touch of starter for flavour with an all sourdough starter. There’s more whole wheat flour in the all sourdough starter loaf than in the yeast version as my starter is mostly whole wheat and my secondary addition of flour (bread only) didn’t end up needing as much flour to get a nice, soft dough.

Yeast and a Touch of Sourdough Starter

Shaped, proofed for 1 hr and baked for ~40 minutes at 375 deg F.

Nice oven spring on the mini (400 gm of dough) loaf

Brushed with melted butter

This is the kind of crumb I want with my all sourdough starter bread

Mini Honey Whole Wheat – makes one 400 gm loaf

Version 1 – Yeast

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
~ 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp honey plus 1/4 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sourdough starter

In a small bowl, mix together the warm water and honey until the sugar is dissolved. Add the yeast, stir and let rise for 10-15 minutes until the mixture is foamy.

In a large bowl, combine the 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup of all purpose flour and salt. Stir in the yeast-honey mixture and the starter with a wooden spoon and beat until you get a nice smooth batter. Gradually stir in another 1/2 cup of all purpose flour until the dough gets too stiff to stir and forms a ball around the spoon. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured working surface.

Knead for 10 minutes using the reserved flour and as much more flour as need until you get a nice smooth and supple dough. Let rest for 5 minutes covered with a large bowl then knead for another 5 minutes.

Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and a towel and let rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Transfer the risen dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape into a loaf. Place on a prepared baking sheet or in a loaf pan and let rise until doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375 deg F.

Bake for 30 minutes, take out of pan, and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the bottom is golden brown and when rapped, the loaf gives a hollow sound.

Spray top with water after placing in oven and a second time 5 minutes later.

Brush the top with melted butter after removing from the oven.

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