This week’s challenge was French bread, a lean bread without milk or fat. This formula called for a pâte fermentée which ultimately comprises 50% of the total dough mixture. According to Reinhart, this high level of “old dough” creates a sweeter, richer bread with a reddish gold caramelized crust.
I mixed up the pâte fermentée the night before, placed in the refrigerator overnight and allowed to thaw 1 hour prior to making the dough. After it thawed, I cut it up into pieces and added it to my mixing bowel.
Another interesting point to note with this formula is that half of the flour is bread flour while the other half is all purpose flour. The intention of using the mix of flour is to create a softer texture.
After fermentation, I shaped the dough into a baguette. First, I patted the dough into a rectangle and folded the dough into thirds like a letter. I then imprinted a crease in the middle of the dough with the side of my hand. I folded the dough in half and pressed the seam closed with the heel of my handle. Lastly, I rolled the dough into its desired length.
While the dough proofed for 45 minutes, I preheated the oven to 500 degrees and placed a filled water pan in the oven along with my baking stone.
After proofing was complete, took the stone out of the oven and transferred the dough to the baking stone. I did this by lifting the parchment paper (dough and all) off the jelly roll pan and onto the stone. I then rolled the paper out from underneath the dough. This did not go as smoothly as planned, so I am still in search of the perfect way to transfer dough from the proofing pan to the baking stone.
I slashed the dough with a serrated bread knife, which also didn’t go as well as planned. I really do need to purchase a lame! Lastly, I sprayed the dough with water.
After I placed the stone and bread into the oven, I turned the oven down to 450 degrees. The dough (I made 1 loaf out of ½ of the recipe) cooked for about 30 minutes to reach the internal temperature of 205 degrees.
My end product didn’t look very pretty but it had all of the flavor Rinehart promised – robust, tender and sweet. I also finally got a nice crispy crust! I brought the bread to our family Easter celebration and it barely lasted until dinner!
This week’s challenge was Kaiser Roll. In trying to figure out how I would actually serve this bread, I recalled a tradition from my hometown of Buffalo, NY. Beef on Weck is a roast beef sandwich on a kummelweck (essentially a Kaiser roll topped with coarse salt and caraway seeds). I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to pair this challenge with a Buffalo tradition!
This is the first formula I made that calles for a preferment called pâte fermentée (translates to old dough). I mixed up the preferment the night before, allowed for 1 hour of fermentation and popped it in the refrigerator overnight. Before mixing up the bread dough, I allowed the pâte fermentée to thaw for 1 hour. I found that this preferment was closer to a bread dough than the poolish but not as dense as the biga.
Pâte fermentée Pre/Post Fermentation
Pâte fermentée Post Thaw
After the preferment thawed, I mixed the ingredients up in my KitchenAid. This dough included an egg, malt powder and fat. Reinhart offered a choice between vegetable oil and shortening. I chose vegetable oil for no other reason than I wasn’t in the mood to deal with the messiness of Crisco!
After mixing, I allowed the dough to ferment for 2 hours. Reinhart made it very clear that the dough should ferment for 2 hours. He mentioned that if the dough doubled in size before 2 hours, you should punch it down slightly and allow it to ferment for the full 2 hours. Ultimately, my dough took the full 2 hours to double in size.
Next was shaping. Reinhart mentions the option of a Kaiser roll stamp, but the other blogs I have read indicated that this was a waste of time and money – that often the role didn’t hold the knot-like shape. I opted for the traditional knotting method. It wasn’t as hard as I expected, but I did have to deviate slightly from the instructions provided. I have described the procedure I followed below:
After shaping, I allowed to proof for 45 minutes and flipped the buns as explained in the book and allowed to proof for another 45 minutes. The book indicated that the first 45 minutes should be with the knot side down. I didn’t understand what this meant until after I went through the proofing process. This means that the “nub” should be touching the cookie sheet for the first 45 minutes. If you don’t follow this order the knot shape isn’t as defined through the proofing process.
In researching how to make Beef on Weck, I found a new method to help the toppings stick to the buns – a water/cornstarch solution. While the rolls proofed, I heated 1.5 cups of water. Just before boiling, I scooped out ½ cup of water and allowed the rest to boil. I mixed up 1 tablespoon of cornstarch in the warm water and dumped it back into the 1 cup of boiling water. After several minutes, the solution was thick and syrupy. I removed from the heat and allowed to cool After the rolls proofed, I brushed them with the solution and sprinkled an equal part mix of kosher salt and caraway seeds onto the rolls.
I placed the rolls into a 450 degree oven, which was prepped with a steam pan throughout the preheating process. After 10 minutes, I rotated the pans and turned the heat down to 400 degrees. It took about 20 more minutes for the rolls to become golden brown.
I did try to spray the sides of the oven with water but did not have a lot of success since I had 3 pans in the oven (2 pans of rolls and 1 steam pan). I accidently got the parchment paper of one of the pans wet, which caused the paper to burn. This is a good lesson for next time – to avoid getting the paper wet.
Beef on Weck Sandwiches
While the rolls were in the oven, I began to prep the roast beef. I decided to use an Emeril recipe on the FoodNetwork Site. I rubbed all sides of a roast with Emeril Essence, salt and pepper, then browned all sides of the roast. The recipe indicated about 4 minutes on each side, but I found 3 minutes was more appropriate.
I don’t have a Dutch oven (yet) so I prepped a large casserole with onion and thyme. After the roast finished browning, I placed it in the casserole, covered it with a carton of beef broth and set the leave in meat thermometer to 130 degrees. At this point the rolls were all finished and I turned the oven down to 275 degrees. It took about 2 hours for the 3 ½ lb roast to reach 130 degrees.
While the meat was resting, I poured the au jous in small pan (straining out the onion and thyme) and brought it to a boil. I mixed 2 teaspoons of cornstarch in a reserved ½ cup of au jous and added it to the pan and boiled until the mixture thickened.
To build the sandwich, I dipped thin slices of roast beef in the hot au jous and placed on a sliced roll. I topped off the beef with some horseradish sauce. Keeping with tradition, I served the Beef on Weck with a dill pickle spear and fries. It was delicious! The rolls were crusty and the seasoning stayed put through cutting and devouring!
The bread formula of the week was Italian Bread. My first attempts at bread making were with Italian bread, so I was pretty confident that I would have a success this week. Reinhart’s formula calls for a biga, which I made the night before, stored in the refrigerator and allowed to defrost for 1 hour prior to mixing the dough.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts. I much prefer enriched tender breads. To achieve this I used oil and milk instead of water. This recipe also optionally calls for diastolic malt powder. I decided to add it in since I still had it on hand from the bagel making.
This dough was very dense. I added additional milk to help soften the dough but it was still too much for my Artisan KitchenAid (which, by the way, I’m fairly convinced I’ll need to replace by the end of this project!). I ended up kneading the dough by hand for 5 of the 10 required minutes.
Mixed & Kneaded Dough
The dough rose very nicely in the expected 2 hours.
I decided that I would make 1 regular size loaf and several bread sticks. I shaped the various bâtards and after resting for 5 minutes, stretched them to size. The loaves proofed for 1 hour and increased in size by about 50%.
I am still working to perfect the “hearth” baking technique in my apartment oven. This time around, I filled the water pan before I preheated the oven and sprayed the loaves directly with water. I preheated the oven to 500 degrees and lowered to 450 once the loaves were in the oven. I decided not to use the baking stone because I didn’t think all of the loaves would fit on the stone and didn’t want to block circulation with an additional pan. The final product was very good. The crust still isn’t as crusty as I’d like but overall it was a success.
I decided to make the bread into garlic bread to serve with spaghetti. I took a couple of slices from the large loaf and added a layer of Brummel & Brown. I sprinkled salt, onion powder and garlic powder over the butter spread. Then I topped with mozzarella cheese. I baked the bread in a 450 oven while the spaghetti was cooking – about 12 minutes. It was a perfect addition to my homemade spaghetti sauce!
Laura’s Red Spaghetti Sauce
Coming off of my BBA Challenge hiatus, the next bread I tackled was focaccia. This is a rustic bread that took 2 days to make.
First, I mixed and kneaded the dough. It was a wet dough, but less so than the ciabatta. The instructions noted that the dough should be smooth and sticky but clear the sides of the bowl when kneading with a dough hook.
Post Mixing & Kneading
Next, I stretched and folded the dough. The procedure was to shape the dough into a rectangle on the counter and let rest for 5 minutes. After which, stretch and fold the dough once, let rest for 30 minutes and repeat 2 more times. I was worried that the dough would not be wet enough to proceed with these step without tearing, but it actually stretched quite nicely. However, I found that I did not need to add as much flour on the counter and dough as the book described.
Rectangle / Stretch & Fold 1 / Stretch & Fold 2
While my dough was resting, I whipped up the herb oil. I was running short on regular olive oil, so I used a combination of regular and virgin olive oil totally about ½ cup. While heating up the oil in a small pot, I added Emeril’s Essence, bay leaf, pressed garlic, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, kosher salt and pepper. To be honest, I didn’t really measure any of the ingredients – just a little bit of this and that. I turned off the heat once the herbs took on a bright green hue.
After the stretching and folding was completed, I allowed the dough to ferment for 1 hour.
I then prepared a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and ¼ cup of olive oil. I finally decided to invest in a quality jellyroll pan. I have been pretty happy with the purchase as the pan holds up much better in high heat and leaves the baked goods with evenly cooked bottoms. I digress. Per the instructions, I placed the loaf of dough onto the pan, spooned ¼ cup of the herb oil onto the dough and dimpled the oil into the dough. I also stretched it to the size of the pan through the dimpling process. The book noted that the dough would spread on its own throughout the proofing and baking process, so I did not worry about spreading to the edge of the pan. After the dimpling was complete, I placed the pan in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, I took the pan out of the refrigerator, spooned over the rest of the herb oil and allowed the dough to thaw for 3 hours. I preheated the oven to 500 degrees, place the dough into the oven and turned down the heat to 450 degrees. It baked for about 20 minutes, turning half way through.
Post Proofing / Post Thaw
The end result was pretty damn tasty! It was crispy on the outside but doughy on the inside. It reminded me of the crust of a Sicilian pizza I love. Jason and I gobbled up about three rows on our own! I served the bread with ricotta and spinach stuffed chicken, covered in mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. It was a delicious Sunday dinner!
A few posts on the BBA Challenge Group and tips from fellow participants gave me the hankering to take another crack at ciabatta. The first time I made ciabatta, the bread tasted great but it did not have the hallmark crispy crust and large holes. At the end of that experience, I decided I would make several adjustments. After making the English Muffins and reading about others’ experiences, I also decided that I need to make wetter dough.
Try a lean (or leaner) version of bread. I am wondering if the level of enrichment affected both the crust and holes in the bread.
Last time, I used all milk instead of water and added oil. This time, I omitted the oil and used ¼ cup buttermilk and ½ + cup water.
Form dough with a very wet consistency
This concept didn’t click for me until I read the ciabatta entry on Living Graciously; another BBA blog:
"You then take this wet mess [dough], plop it onto a flour-covered counter, and engage in the “lift-and-fold” method of kneading. The idea is that dough too wet to be kneaded can be scooped, stretched, then folded in on itself.”
Last time, I used a biga preferment which is close to an Italian or French bread consistency. This time I used poolish which has the consistency of pancake batter.
Thawed Poolish Pouring Poolish
As I mixed the dough, I resisted the urge to add more flour. The dough was very stick but it did not stick to the sides of the bowel as it mixed.
Reduce the amount of salt since it actually kills the yeast. The less salt in the dough, the less restrained the effect of the yeast is.
To be honest, I forgot about this one when I was making the dough. However, by choosing the poolish version, I effectively tested this theory because the poolish version has 2% less salt (as compared to the flour) to the biga version.
During the folding stage, I will tightly seal all of the seams. This is not specified in BBA, but I suspect that I will get better looking loaves this way.
This is actually was not necessary with the very wet dough. During the rest periods of the stretch and fold method, the seams melted into the body of the dough. I presume this is why the book doesn’t indicate to seal the seams!
Dough Pre Fold (Right Out of the Bowl)
Last time, I struggled with the stretched and fold method – the dough ripped instead of stretched. I now realize it was because the dough was not wet enough. This time the dough easy stretched, although with each round, the resistance of the dough increased as the gluten formed. I also had to cover my board and hands with a lot of flour in order to handle the dough because it was so sticky.
Post Stretch/Fold (Round 1) Post Stretch/Fold (Round 2)
Use a baking stone in future attempts (I don’t own one yet). The baking stone should also help crisp up the crust.
My awesome brothers bought me a baking stone for Christmas and this was the first time I was able to use it! The instructions in BBA are to place the stone in the oven during preheating, cover the back of a cookie sheet with cornmeal, place the loaves onto the sheet and slide them onto the baking stone in the oven. This process turned into a complete debacle for me!
My loaves did not slide off the sheet, instead they stuck stubbornly in place. Ultimately, I had to lift the loaves off the sheet and place them on the stone. Given that the stone was in a 500 degree oven and the loaves had minimal structural integrity, I had little luxury to perfect the placement. As a result, I ended up with oddly shaped loaves and slightly singed knuckles.
The book indicated that the loaves would swell during the proofing stage, but double. However, I have to say that my loaves came close, if not doubled. But when handling the loaves to load them into the oven, they degassed a ton which I presume is not ideal when the object is to have large holes in the finished product.
Next time, I am going to take the stone out of the oven, load the loaves and place the stone back in the oven. I realize this is not advisable, but preferred over repeating this experience!
Spray the dough directly with water prior to baking. This is not in the instructions for this formula, but it was a recommendation in the Anadama formula and it did in fact create a crisp crust.
For this attempt, I still filled a water pan with hot water immediately after placing the dough in the oven. I did not spray the sides of the oven, but sprayed the tops of the loaves once. I did get a crispier crust, but still not as crispy as I was looking for. Next time I will spray the loaves every 30 seconds for the first 2 minutes (instead of spraying the sides of the oven as the instructions indicate).
I was very eager to cut into the loaves after they cooled. The crust was in fact crisper and I did have bigger holes, but it still wasn’t ciabatta. Next time I’ll maintain the changes made plus:
Despite, not achieving the ciabatta, the bread was damn good! I believe the buttermilk created a super tender, flavorful crumb that melted in our mouths! I served the bread with a stout beef stew and it was delicious!
This bread actually required 2 attempts. The first time I attempted to make this bread it was a total flopolla! I had tried making the dough the night before and allowing it to retard in the fridge. However, the next day, it never rose.
Attempt #2 went much better. This time I did not try to ferment overnight. Also, based on my flopped experience, I decided to reduce the amount of craisins bye ½ and walnuts by 1/3. Otherwise, it just seemed like there was more filling than dough. I also used buttermilk to make a tender crumb and orange extract (this formula allows you to choose between lemon and orange).
In my resolve to stop being so afraid of wet dough, I also allowed the dough to be wetter than previously. It was gooey, but I could still work with it with floured hands.
This time, the dough definitely rose, but it still did not seem to double in size. This formula calls for 3.5 teaspoons of yeast which is 2 – 3 times more than the other formulas. It surprises me that the dough didn’t rise more. I am sure there is not a problem with the yeast I used because I successfully made other bread doughs with the same batch of yeast. I suppose that the raisins and walnuts weigh down the bread. Just to make sure the yeast was working, after the fermentation stage I cut the dough with a serrated knife to see the air pockets.
I found shaping the dough pretty easy (double-decker 3 strand braid), albeit time consuming. Already working with the dough once before, I knew I needed a floured surface and hands. One thing that does not make sense to me is that Reinhart indicates shaping 3 - 10oz strands and 3 – 4oz strands. That would equate to 42oz, however the ingredients only add up to about 40oz and with reduced craisins and walnuts, my dough only added up to about 32 oz. As a result, I ended up shaping 3 - 7.6oz strands and 3 – 3oz strands. I also moistened the top of the large braid before placing the small brain on top because I have read about other bakers having their small braid slide off.
Strands & Big Braid
I allowed the bread to proof for 2+ hours – still a little gun shy about the rising time. After covering the dough in an egg wash, I cooked it in the oven at a low 325 for 50 minutes. However, since the internal temperature was under 180, I stuck it back in for another 10 minutes. This time the internal temperature was just above 190 – 5 instead of 10 more minutes probably would have done it.
Like so many other readers, my top braid slid to one side despite moistening the top of the bigger braid. However, the bread still came out looking much better than last time. I also noticed that this loaf had a good amount of oven spring – the bread expanded a lot in the oven.
After sampling the bread, I thought it became a little too crusty on the outside. I think if I considered doing bread like this again I would put the egg wash on half way through or not at all. Ultimately, I discovered that I really hate craisins, so this bread was not enjoyable at all for me. At this point, all I really cared about was that it rose! I’ll bring it to work tomorrow for others to enjoy!
Versus the Flopolla
Here again was another recipe I was excited for – English Muffins. English Muffins are primarily cooked on the stovetop instead of in the oven. It made sense why these muffins always have a golden brown exterior, but I never put 2 and 2 together!
I did run into a problem right at the start. I mixed and kneaded all of the ingredients without a problem but realized that I forgot to include the shortening. Once I realized my error, I kneaded the fat into the dough. The dough looked a little weird and the fat didn’t totally incorporate, so I decided to make a 2nd batch. I shaped and cooked both to see if my mistake would have any impact on the end result.
After 60 – 90 minutes of fermentation, Reinhart indicates to shape 3 ounce pieces into boules. However, I had been following along other baker’s experiences on the Facebook BBA Challenge page. Many bakers complained that the muffins turned out thicker than commercial muffins. The bakers who were happy with the thickness of their end results actually rolled out the dough to ½ inch thick and cut out circles. I decided to use this approach. However, after I cut out all the biscuits I could, I found that the dough didn’t really re-roll well. Otherwise, I was happy with the shape.
After 60 minutes of proofing, I preheated the oven to 350 and pulled out my double griddle. I was nervous that cooking the dough on the griddle would be disastrous, but it was actually pretty easy. I kept circulating the muffins to try to make sure they all cooked at the same rate. I cooked each for 5 minutes on each side and popped them in the oven for another 8 minutes. The instructions indicate that the muffins need to go into the oven immediately after coming off the griddle; otherwise the cooking process is interrupted.
I was very happy with the favor of my end result, but the texture was on the dense side for me. The forward for this formula indicates that very wet dough creates a lighter, airier end product. I find that I error on the side of dry with bread dough in general. It’s possible that this was part of the problem with my ciabatta as well. I’m just so nervous about the dough being too wet, but I’m working on getting over that! Also, there was no discernible difference from kneading the fat into the dough.
Over Thanksgiving, I tried out the cornbread recipe in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I much preferred the flavor and texture of this version than others I tried, but Jason thought that the end result was too bready for his taste. He prefers the cake-like version I have made from AllRecipes. I decided that wanted to try to combine the two recipes.
To do this, I compared the BBA recipe with the one from AllRecipes using the Bread Baker’s Math System, where all ingredients are compared as a percentage of flour. Initially, I was quite confused because by definition, the flour (in this case, flour + cornmeal) should equal 100%. However, the insert in the BBA showed the flour at 51.1% and the cornmeal at 42.9% (=94%). After scouring the book and the internet to no avail, I tried e-mailing the author, Peter Reinhart. I was shocked to find that he responded within a half hour! I discovered that my confusion was warranted – there was a typo in the book! The flour should have read 57.7%.
Crisis averted, I forged ahead with my formula. I decided to eliminate the baking powder, oil and corn from my version. However, I added brown sugar and honey and modified the leavening. Also, at Peter Reinhart’s suggestion, I used finally ground cornmeal instead of polenta.
I was a little nervous, because this is the first baking recipe I have ever developed on my own, but the end results were exactly what I was trying to achieve. Even better, both Jason and I were happy with the bread!
This is a great basic recipe that can be spiced up with jalapeno and/or bacon.
1 cup Cornmeal (finely ground)
1 cup Buttermilk
½ cup Butter
3 tablespoons Granulated Sugar
3.5 tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Honey
1 cup Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
½ teaspoon Salt
The original BBA formula is actually for Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread. However, I do not like nuts and my husband does not like raisins, but we do agree on cinnamon! Also, since I didn’t have any on hand, I substituted the buttermilk for 2% milk mixed with lemon juice.
Mixing and kneading the dough was pretty straight forward. As I move through the book I am noticing the texture differences between the doughs. I have found that doughs that call for shortening, as this one does, tend to have a more tender and silkier look and feel.
After mixing, I placed the dough into a greased bowel to ferment. This bread called for a longer fermentation stage than earlier doughs – 2 full hours.
Next step was to shape the dough. I decided that I wanted to try to achieve the cinnamon sugar spiral in the dough. The first step is to roll the dough into a rectangle. With this formula and the cinnamon buns, I found it surprisingly difficult getting the dough out of the bowel (boule shaped) into a rectangular shape with consistent thickness.
After spending significant time obtaining the rectangular shape, I spread 1/4 cup of cinnamon sugar over the dough. Next, I worked on rolling the dough into a log. I was prepared for the difficulty of rolling the dough after my cinnamon bun experience. Unfortunately, I still found it challenging to achieve a tight roll. I find that it is difficult to get any friction with all of the sugar. Next time, I will consider using less cinnamon sugar and leaving a clean parameter around the edges of the dough. I’m hoping that this will allow the dough to stick to itself to achieve a tighter roll.
I then pinched the ends closed, then placed the roll into the loaf pan. Unfortunately, the dough worked itself to be longer than the pan, so I had to smush the log and roll the ends over slightly in order for it to fit.
The formula indicates that the dough should proof until it crests the loaf pan. This took longer than 90 minutes. Luckily, I was baking potatoes for dinner at this point, so the timing worked out well. I took the loaf out of the oven after the indicated 20 minutes but the internal temperature had not reached 190 degrees. After 10 additional minutes, the loaf was fully cooked.
It wasn’t until the next morning that I sliced the loaf. I toasted several of the slices and slathered them with butter. They were delicious! Next time I will add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla to the dough to boost the flavor a bit. Despite having concerns about the “tight roll” my swirl pattern still turned out pretty well!