We had company over last night for board games. I baked a loaf of heirloom wheats so that everyone could try and compare the varieties side by side:
I decided on a combination loaf because I thought that would be easy to bake into a reasonably good and consistent result and it would eliminate variables that could happen if I baked all four little breads individually. The sections tasted distinctive, which was my one concern going in.
I started by milling 150 grams of each wheat berry. (Each process repeats four times, once for each variety.) I then combined in a tupperware 100 grams of a flour variety with 100 grams of cold water and a faint pinch of yeast as a poolish. I put the “extra” 50 grams of flour into another tupperware. I refrigerated both overnight then pulled them out in the morning to warm up.
In the morning I added the remaining 50 grams of flour to the poolish along with 3 grams of kosher salt (2% salt as a percentage of flour weight) and 1/2 teaspoon of Instant (not Rapid-Rise) yeast. Mix all to combine thoroughly, cover, and let sit one hour. Form the doughs into oblong disks so that all four will fit side-by-side in a 9″ x 5″ baking pan. Cover. Let rise another 90 minutes, then bake at 450F for 30-35 minutes.
They were definitely distinctive. The Rougue de Bordeaux tastes of cinnamon and spices. The Red Fife is less spicy but also sweeter. The Turkey Red was described as “meaty” or “bold”. The Sonora White is mild by comparison and it’s really intended more for tortillas, but it was a good contrast to the other red wheats.
It was fun introducing people to bread like they’d never experienced. I think next time it’ll be four (or just two) full-sized loaves — two loaves would be way less fiddly and people could literally stick their nose in to smell the aromas.
One of our holiday traditions is attending a pot luck / lasagna party hosted by a good friend of ours. I’ll typically make some sort of bread. (Search the bottom of the webpage for “epi”, “focaccia” or “fougasse” for some examples.) This year it was a festive herbed focaccia created using a room-temperature overnight poolish as the base:
One day ahead I started the poolish: 800 grams of bread flour. 800 grams cool water. A few grains of Instant (not fast-acting) Dry Yeast, about 1/16 teaspoon. Mix thoroughly, cover tightly, and let sit on the counter overnight.
The next steps need to start at least 6-8 hours before consumption. Most of it is hands-off, but all up it comes out to over four hours of preparation + cooling.
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine 200 grams of bread flour, 2 teaspoons of Instant Dry Yeast, 30 grams olive oil, 20 grams kosher salt. Mix that briefly then add the poolish and mix on low speed for 8 minutes. Cover.
The total baker’s percentage formula comes out to 1000g flour, 800 grams water (80% hydration), 30 grams olive oil (3% of the flour weight), 20 grams kosher salt (2% of the flour weight), yeast.
Bulk rise until doubled in volume – this will take 1 – 2+ hours depending upon the temperature of the house.
Once doubled transfer the dough to a parchment-lined-and-oiled 18 x 13 sheet tray.
Lightly coat the top of the dough with olive oil.
Using your fingers, poke the dough all over down to the base.
Sprinkle on fresh herbs of your choice. I used rosemary and thyme from our raised garden beds. Which were buried under snow, so that took a couple of extra minutes to pick through for good stuff.
Cover the dough and start the oven preheating to 450F.
Let rise one hour. Sprinkle the dough with flakey (Maldon’s) salt.
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the internal temperature is at least 200F and the bread is pleasantly browned.
I accidently let the bulk rise much more than double. Between that and the starter poolish the dough was extremely loose and extensible. I sort of had to wrestle it into shape using a generous amount of oil to keep it from sticking to everything. Given a more correct rise time the dough should have been much more manageable.
I liked the festive appearance and the focaccia got nice feedback. I can see making this one again, though I think I may use a biga next time with the idea that it may make the dough more manageable in the shaping stage.
We were recently invited to a dinner party that involved dishes from a variety of cultures and places, sort of focused on North Africa and the Fertile Crescent. We brought naan. Pictured is a triple recipe to generously serve ten people:
I’ve made naan or naan-like things a number of times and basically winged it with decent-to-good results. This bake was for a discerning crowd so I wanted to use an actual recipe as a starting point to help ensure things didn’t go too far off the rails.
Ultimately I chose between Kenji’s Grilled Naan recipe on Serious Eats and a King Arthur website recipe. Kenji’s recipe calls for using an outdoor grill, so I mostly went with the King Arthur recipe because we were cooking on a grill pan instead of live fire. I used Kenji’s recommendation of bread flour instead of a mix of flours.
First, the King Arthur formula as written:
180g King Arthur AP Flour, 90g King Arthur Bread Flour, 142g warm water, 71g Full-Fat Greek Yogurt, 28g melted ghee or butter, 1-1/2 teaspoons Active Instant Dry Yeast, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt. Full recipe here. …After baking brush with butter and top with nigella seeds and cilantro.
My slight modification that includes honey and uses Baker’s Percentages:
270g King Arthur Bread Flour, 142g warm water (52% of flour weight), 71g Full-Fat Greek Yogurt (26%), 28g melted ghee (10%), 1-1/2 teaspoons Active Instant Dry Yeast, 2/3 teaspoon honey, 5g (scant 2%) salt. Combine all in a mixer for 6 minutes on low speed.
Cover and let rise until doubled, about 60 minutes.
Divide into ~100g balls. (The original recipe calls for 65g, which I felt were too small for that event.) Let the dough balls rest 20-30 minutes.
Preheat grill pan to medium/medium-high.
Very lightly oil a work surface roll out a dough ball to 8-10″ long. Then roll the next ball as the one on the stove is cooking. Resist the urge to roll out very thinly — the center may burn instead of bubbling.
Bake the first side about 45 seconds — until it the dough bubbles, then flip and bake another 45 seconds or until the naan is just cooked through. (Cooking them too long makes them tough.)
After baking brush with ghee and top with minced chives.
For transport we put a cooling rack on the bottom of a sheet tray, then piled on layers of naan with each level separated by parchment paper. We wrapped the entire thing in foil. Shortly before dinner the naan was reheated in a low oven while still wrapped in the foil.
I’d never made ghee, but it’s super easy. There are tons of recipes online but basically you just heat butter until warm/very warm, skim the surface until the solids drop out, strain. Done. We heated a couple of smashed garlic cloves in the finished ghee for a little background sense of garlic.
The naan was well received at dinner, so that part went well. I think the King Arthur recipe calls for too much liquid — I wound up adding a few tablespoons of flour and then a pinch of salt to keep the balance. If I had it to do over again I would have held back about 1/3 of the water initially to see how the dough shaped up.
I sort of feel like that’s not-uncommon in bread baking and recipe writing — too much liquid in the formula that then combines with generous amounts of bench flour to compensate. As a rule I try to do the opposite and incorporate as little raw flour as possible, which then also helps maintain the balance of the recipe. That’s why in Step #4 it calls for a lightly oiled surface, rather than floured or heavily floured.
Ten people ate twelve of the fifteen naan. Little or No Leftovers = Successful Recipe. I’ll use this one again.
An easy weeknight pizza with tomato sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella:
The formula: 350 grams AP flour, 220 grams room temperature water (63% hydration), 11 grams honey (3% by weight), 11 grams olive oil (3% by weight), 7 grams kosher salt (2% by weight). 1.5 teaspoons instant dry yeast.
The steps: Mix at low speed for 8 minutes or until smooth. Coat a bowl lightly with oil (it only takes a teaspoon or a little more). Ball the dough and swush it around in the bowl to coat. Cover. Let rise one hour, then fold the dough 2-4 times and cover.
Place a baking stone onto the oven – middle rack. Preheat the oven to 500F.
Let rise another 90 minutes then remove to a lightly oiled workspace. Gently stretch the dough into a circle, taking care not to smash the outer rim. Dimple the center all over with your fingertips. Transfer the dough to a screen or pizza peel. Top with the tomato sauce and pepperoni.
Bake for 8 minutes. Top with the mozzarella and bake for another 3-5 minutes until melted.
Our weeknight pizzas are 12-14″ in diameter. For crackery thin crusts we use 300 grams of flour. For “poofy” style pizzas we use 400 grams of flour. Today’s pizza was 350 grams and it was more poofy than crackery.
Today’s pizza was made with AP flour. Most of the time we’re using bread flour for pizzas. Either of those will work for this pizza, we just happen to have more AP flour in the pantry, so..
We also did a taste test of two (supermarket available) low moisture whole milk mozzarellas. It was Belgioioso vs Galbani. We baked a cheese-only pizza with equal amounts of the cheeses on each half of the pie for the test. The consensus was that they’re pretty even. I felt like maybe the Galbani tasted slightly creamier/milkier, but I don’t know that I could tell the difference in a blind test.
The topping is olive oil, zaatar, and Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.
The hydration is 75%, which is not on the high end for a focaccia — the dough is sticky but can be handled with wet or oiled hands.
800 grams King Arthur Bread Flour, 600 grams cold water, 16 grams kosher salt, 2 teaspoons Instant (not rapid-rise) yeast.
Mix the dough for 8 minutes on low speed, then cover and move to the refrigerator for 2-3 days. The refrigerator step can be skipped if crunched for time, though the focaccia will taste better after an extended cold fermentation.
Remove from the refrigerator at least 4-5 hours before you intend to serve the bread.
As the dough returns to room temperature: About every 30 minutes to one hour work around the bowl, lift the dough from the sides and push/drop the dough back towards the center, taking care not to pull so hard that the dough tears.
When the dough is near room temperature remove it from the bowl and place it on a baking sheet lined with oil-coated parchment paper. 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil should be plenty to coat the parchment. Spread out the dough without tearing it into a round/oval shape towards the edges of the sheet tray. If the dough fights back wait five minutes and try again.
Cover (I use another inverted sheet tray) and let rise one hour. If using zaatar mix 4 tablespoons with 4 tablespoons olive oil and let it rest and hydrate.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Using the tips of your fingers, dimple the dough all over, pushing down to the sheet tray. Spread a liberal amount of olive oil over the top, then top with the zaatar and a “healthy” sprinkle of flake salt. Cover and let rise one hour.
Bake for 30-35 minutes at 425F, then remove to a cooling rack, taking care not to spill any residual oil on yourself or other things you’re attached to. If during baking the bottom of the dough is getting too dark add a second sheet tray underneath the first. For this bake I used two sheet trays for the entire time.
The focaccia was served at a friend’s house with a Day of the Dead menu and beer theme and the bread was a big hit — the zaatar “face” motif didn’t last very long. This focaccia would also be good if substituting other herbs or cheese for the zaatar — I was targeting a sort of scary pumpkin face sort of thing, and zaatar tastes good and stands up to other strong flavors which made it a good choice for this event.
I’ve made many focaccias and I’ve come the the conclusion that the most important element is patience. The bread will be fine without the long refrigerator rise or extra folds and multiple rises, but I think the end result is better when it isn’t rushed. Because this was a weeknight bread I brought the dough to work and stored it in the refrigerator there, then removed it around to my desk at 2:30pm to start warming up for a 7:00 dinner. Many recipes will call for “one hour out of the refrigerator then proceed…” , but that never seems like enough time for the dough to warm up to room temperature and the later rises don’t wind up very satisfactory. Give it time.
In April I purchased four varieties of heirloom wheat berries from Breadtopia: Turkey Red, Rouge de Bordeaux, Sonora White, and Red Fife. UPS caused a bit of a hang-up when they delivered to the wrong address, but the customer service at Breadtopia was top-notch in sorting it out. I’m a happy customer.
I’ve read through both of the books I purchased (Leonti’s Bread Lab and Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads), and I’ve baked a little bit out of both. I’m at the point now that I want to try things that aren’t huge departures from how I’ve been baking to see how the finished products compare. With that in mind, a boule with 50% fresh milled Rouge de Bordeaux and 50% King Arthur Bread Flour:
Another added variable is the new Le Crueset Bread Oven. I’ll likely do a review after a few more bakes but so far I think it’s going to get a lot of use in the future. It was a very thoughtful gift.
First up, the weeknight sandwich bread with whole wheat:
The recipe: 600 grams total flour — 200 grams whole wheat (the picture above utilizes freshly milled hard red winter wheat), 400 grams bread flour (King Arthur), 420 grams room temperature water (70% hydration),12 grams kosher salt (2% of total flour weight), 1.5 teaspoons instant yeast.
Place the whole wheat flour in the mixing bowl. Combine with all of the water and let rest and hydrate for 45 minutes – 1 hour.
Add the other ingredients to the bowl and mix on low speed for 8 minutes.
Cover and let rise for 1 hour.
Fold the dough so that it will fit into a 9″ x 5″ bread pan. I used a fair amount of surface tension, which may have helped the dough rise evenly.
Cover and let rise for two hours. At the 90-minute mark set the oven to 425F
Slash the dough down the center.
Bake for 10 minutes covered with another upside-down bread pan. Remove the cover and bake for another 35 minutes.
So it’s totally doable after work, assuming you get home at a reasonable time. All-up it’s about 4.5 – 5 hours and most of that is hands-off.
I recently purchased a Mockmill 200 as well as four varieties of wheat berries. I also got a couple of books so that I wouldn’t be completely reinventing the wheel while trying to learn new skills for baking breads.
For me, the purchase decision on the grain mill came down to the Mockmill 200 or a Komo. When researching the choices they seemed to be fairly even in terms of performance and quality — there are a whole bunch of sites that review and compare the two. I settled on the Mockmill partly due to appearance, and partly due to an aggregate of thoughts from reading about the “pros” and “cons” of each, though frankly there was a good amount of conflicting / contrasting information on both. My feeling is that they’re both quality products and I’m not sure there’s really a “wrong” decision.