Some Assorted Baking Output


The weather has cooled and that means the kitchen is cooler too. I’m way more inclined to bake stuff when it’s not a million degrees in the kitchen.

Recent Stuff:

Epi breads on October 28:


To the left is a potato foccacia, similar to this 2011 recipe. What’s interesting to me is that recipe uses volume, not weight. I don’t bake using volume anymore. At some point I need to go back and figure out when the approach changed, and whether it was an overnight thing or if using weights was gradually phased in.  [Late edit:  The answer is further down this post.]

The epi breads used 150 grams of flour each. (This recipe, raising the oven temperature to 450F.) They really had a lot of oven spring this time. I’m guessing that the epi were allowed to rest a little longer after shaping, increasing the existing holes for steam to push up and out. I’d still like more contrast in color, other than that I’m pretty happy with them.

Next up, bread sticks on November 2:


There are two or three recipes here-

The sticks on the left use bread flour and 57% hydration. I rolled the 200 gram dough mass out to about 1/4″ thick, sliced it into ~1/3″ wide strips, twisted the strips, placed them on a Silpat, and baked at 450F for 22 minutes. They came out nice and crispy.

The sticks on the right were treated identically, except that I lightly dusted the dough mass with semolina flour for extra crunch. They didn’t need the extra crunch, but the semolina did offer a little bit different taste and texture.

I added about four tablespoons of butter to the sticks in the center. The 400 gram bulk dough was divided into about eight pieces and rolled out. These were intended for sopping up the sauce Iron Chef Leftovers had included with dinner. (Many Iron Chef Leftover dinners involve something awesome that needs sopping at the end of the meal.)

This batch comes at about the 5 year mark of messing with breadsticks. I was fairly happy with how they all came out, so that’s progress.

[Late edit:  On the linked post it says:  “This is the first time I’ve done a recipe using weights instead of volumes.”  Mystery Solved!]

I think I’ve gone through some broad baking trends since 2011:   increasing temperatures, decreasing hydration, decreasing oil, slightly increasing salt, more preference for a room temperature rise vs a refrigerator rise. Total abandonment of using volume and English measurements. (Thankfully, look at the tortured math in the link.) In other words, the baking is moving from a Reinhardt influence to a Hamelman influence, but that’s a long blog post in itself.

Finally, a big, goofy, pretzel necklace on November 8:


The pretzels would have looked better if I would have rolled them out thinner. The flipside is that they had enough durability to tolerate being worn on a string. It’s basically this recipe, except that the egg wash was only yolks thinned with a little water. That, and they were baked at 460F, which is the temperature that Hamelman uses for many of the doughs in his book. Each change was intended to produce a darker end result. A little more color would have been nice, but they tasted good, which is the main point of the thing anyway.

As Iron Chef Leftovers said:  “It’s a Flavor Flav pretzel necklace!”


Epi de Blé, Take Two. Closer To The Truth.

by A.J. Coltrane

Attempt #2 at Epi bread:


It’s basically just a baguette recipe:  400g Bread Flour, 240g water (60%), 9g kosher salt (2.25%) 3/4 tsp instant yeast. 425F oven for 22 minutes.

The shape is better this time around. Each Epi contains less flour — 200 grams (1/2 lb) of flour per epi. (Instead of 300 grams of flour as in Take One.)

I think maybe the “right” answer is 150 grams of flour per 18″ Epi. Baking at 450F and adding malt might help the appearance as well.

Still. Better this time. “Better” is good.


Epi de Blé, Take One

by A.J. Coltrane

1st attempt at Epi de Blé (sheaf of wheat):


The finished result is a long way from the “flower of wheat” idealized form. (Search “epi bread” for examples.)

The recipe is basically a standard baguette dough that is cut with scissors. I used 300 grams of flour for the dough. That was too much. As a guess, 200 grams would have made a thinner, more “graceful” epi.

Recommended temperatures run between 400F and 450F. I went with 425F for 20 minutes, which seemed to work out ok.

The Verdict:  It’s a nice pull-apart bread for dinner or a crowd. The shape creates a high ratio of crust, so there are more crunchy bits to go around. It’s easy, attractive, and festive. I’ll be making this again soon, and probably a bunch of times through the holidays.

Preztels For The Beer Event

by A.J. Coltrane

A big batch of pretzels:


Using this recipe:

400g bread flour, 220g water (55% baker’s percentage), 10g (2.5% bp) salt (does not including the finishing salt), 4g diastatic malt (1% bp), 20g unsalted butter (5% bp), 1 tsp yeast.

It’s the same ratios as the 2nd Pass — everything was doubled this time. (All the more reason to use Baker’s Percentage when baking.)

Each pretzel used 1/2 of the recipe, so each one contained basically 1/2 lb of flour. Everything on the counter represents a little over 6 pounds of flour, almost 10 pounds of ingredients in total. The oven has enough room to bake two at a time, so I was starting a new batch every 20 minutes. Two in the oven, two proofing on the counter covered in egg wash, two resting before shaping, two being shaped, and two in the mixer. It was an assembly line.

I finally got the “classic pretzel shape” right. I’m not sure what I was thinking before. I doubt I’ve ever really looked at a pretzel I guess.

All that, and we discovered that we couldn’t bring them into the beer event, so they got to hang out in the car.



The Second Pass At Pretzels

by A.J. Coltrane

The malt powder arrived today. Time for a 2nd attempt.

The recipe from the 1st attempt:  200g bread flour, 102g water (51% baker’s percentage), 6g (3% bp) salt (does not including the finishing salt), 1/2 tsp yeast.

Tonight’s recipe:  200g bread flour, 110g water (55% baker’s percentage), 5g (2.5% bp) salt (does not including the finishing salt), 2g diastatic malt (1% bp), 10g unsalted butter (5% bp), 1/2 tsp yeast.

TLDR;  Less salt, more water, and I added malt and butter. The recipe is now sort of an aggregate of Beranbaum and Hamelman.

The Beranbaum recipe calls for 400F. Hamelman calls for 450F. I decided to make two batches, one at 425F and one at 450F:


The two on the top were baked at 450F for 16 minutes. The two on the bottom were baked at 425F for 14 minutes. The lower temperature and shorter time was enough to cook the pretzels, but the color still wasn’t as deep as I’d like. Even the 450F batch darkened quite a bit in the extra two minutes it was given.

The other mini-experiment was an egg white wash vs a “whole” egg wash. The two on the left got the egg white wash, the two on the right used “whole” eggs. I couldn’t really tell a difference either in appearance or texture (bite).

All in all, every change seemed to be an improvement. Now it’s time to try making some really large pretzels and see how that goes.


The First Pass At Pretzels

by A.J. Coltrane

The first pass at pretzels:


It’s a variation on the Preztel Bread recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Bread Bible. I didn’t use malt or the optional butter, and I used egg white instead of lye. (I didn’t and don’t feel like messing with lye.) The I may go out tomorrow and find malt — I doubt the finished color will be as dark as I’m looking for without it.

The “recipe”:  200g bread flour, 102g water (51% baker’s percentage), 6g (3% bp) salt (does not including the finishing salt), 1/2 tsp yeast. Knead for eight minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes then cut the ball into two pieces.

Roll each piece out into a 22″ log. Shape into preztels. Cover and let rise 30 minutes.

Combine one egg white with 1/2 tsp water and brush on the pretzels. Brush again with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Preheat the oven and a sheet tray to 400F, add three ice cubes to the preheated tray for steam, and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.

I need to try this again using malt and butter. I may also raise the temperature to 450F on the next attempt in the quest for better browning.


The Belgian Beer Fest Breadsticks

by A.J. Coltrane

Breadsticks for the recent Belgian Beer Fest, somewhat overexposed:

160201 bread sticks

The Formula (I made 3 batches):  400 grams all-purpose flour, 240 grams cool water (60%), 10 grams kosher salt (2.5%), 8 grams olive oil (2%), 1/4 tsp instant yeast.

  1.  Mix on low speed 10 minutes. Transfer to an oil-coated bowl, lightly coat the dough with oil. Cover. Refrigerate 1-3 days. (I put these in the fridge on Thursday night and pulled them out of the refrigerator at 5 am for an 11 am departure time. I had some time left over, but that’s better than transporting them hot and steamy.)
  2.   Remove from the refrigerator and allow to warm up for 1.5 – 2 hours. (I then slept in until 7 am.)
  3.   Lightly oil the counter if needed to prevent sticking, then pat the dough out to a 12″ wide by 8″ tall rectangle. The dough will be close to 3/8″ thick.
  4.   Sprinkle your “enhancements” onto the rectangle. I used a little bit of all of:  Himalayan Pink Salt, Sea Salt, Cracked Black Pepper, and Semolina. Parmesan would work. So would sesame seeds. Or herbs. Tons of possibilities.
  5.   Use a pizza cutter to cut into 8 pieces, top to bottom, about 1-1/2″ wide. Each piece is now 1-1/2″ x 8″.   OR:
  6.   Use a pizza cutter to cut into 1″ wide pieces.  Each piece will be 1″ x 8″.
  7.   Twist each piece and place on a Silpat lined sheet tray. When I did mine the pieces “grew” another 3-4 inches, making them almost as long as the 13″ width of the sheet tray.
  8.   Cover with a towel and let rest 1 hour.

The thicker doughs were baked at 425F for 22 minutes.  The thinner doughs were baked at 450F for 17 minutes.

The breadsticks came out crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. The twisting meant that all of the “enhancement” ingredients were mixed through the dough; it made the breadsticks more interesting and added crunch (semolina) to the interior. It also gave the breadsticks natural “breaking” points. I think I liked the skinny ones a little bit better, but that could have just been personal preference.

Overall it’s an easy, versatile recipe. Using the refrigerator for a slow rise means that the dough can be mixed up to 3 days ahead — the dough will wait. If the breadsticks are being served with dinner cut the salt back to ~2% — the 2.5% salt was intended to stand up to the bold flavors of the beer and help cleanse the palate.


A Low-Oil Focaccia

by A.J. Coltrane

A low-oil focaccia to go with stew:

151227 focaccia

I think it’s still technically a focaccia, with oil in the dough and oil on top.

The formula:  400 g bread flour, 280 g water (70%), 12 g olive oil (3%), 10 g kosher salt (2.5%), 1 tsp instant yeast. Mix at low speed for 2 minutes, then next-to-low speed for 10 minutes. Let rest one hour, then stretch and fold. Move the dough to a parchment-lined and oiled pan, gently stretching the dough to the edges of the pan. Cover and let rest until almost doubled. Top with oil and dimple the surface. Bake at 425F for 20 minutes.

The rise was better than usual, partly because of the lowish oil content, and also because I did a stretch and fold on the dough after an hour, before moving it to the focaccia pan.

It’s a good bread for soaking up stew, whether it’s a focaccia or something else again.


Pictured is the boy cat in a basket that was to be loaded with bread for transport. Behind him is the “mobile cutting board”. Room temperature butter is balanced on the back left corner of the basket:

151227 boy cat

He had other ideas.

Jeffrey Hamelman’s Sesame Bread Sticks, Mostly

by A.J. Coltrane

They’re only “mostly” Jeffrey Hamelman’s Sesame Bread Sticks because I didn’t have malt syrup in the house, so I substituted honey.

Up close:

151222 bread stick 2

The (scaled) Recipe:  240 g bread flour, 134 g water (56% hydration), 14 g extra virgin olive oil (6%), 7 g honey (3%), 5 g kosher salt (2%). I used 3/4 tsp instant yeast. There are a couple of slight rounding errors, but the percentages are very close to the original formula.

The Process:  Mix all ingredients except the sesame seeds on low speed for 3 minutes, then raise the speed one notch and mix another 5 minutes. Let rest one hour. Portion the dough into “1.33 oz” (~37 gram) pieces and roll each out to 14-16 inches in length. Roll each piece in a moistened cloth, then roll in a tray of sesame seeds to coat. (I wound up with 10 pieces from the 406 gram recipe.)

Bake at 380F for 20 minutes. If at that point the breadsticks aren’t brown and totally crispy, return to the oven at 350F until completely baked.

151222 bread stick

For me, “crispy” took another 10 minutes at 350F. I think that happened because I’d only rolled the breadsticks out to around 12-14″ — I’m guessing they were a little thicker than they were supposed to be.

As for the color:  The photographs make the breadsticks look a bit lighter than they came out in reality. Using malt would have created a darker end product. Sticking with 380F for longer than 20 minutes might have helped too.

Overall the recipe (in Hamelman’s book “Bread”) is very clear and concise. Right now I’m leaning towards continuing with “Bread” as my main resource for a while.

Rick Bayless’ Corn Tortillas

by A.J. Coltrane

Periodically I decide I want to make tortillas from scratch. The results tend to be uneven, probably because I’m only trying it periodically.

150112 press

Tonight’s came out better than usual and were less hassle. I think there are two reasons for that — I didn’t make them as wet as usual, and I didn’t squeeze the tortilla press super hard. The drier, thicker tortillas separated from the plastic much more easily than in previous attempts.

I used a sandwich-size freezer bag. The thicker plastic seemed to help as well.

150112 tortilla

Cast iron skillets really hold the heat and lead to good color on the tortillas. (These are all 5-6″ in diameter.)

Combined with slow-cooker pork shoulder, cheese, and salsa:

150112 finished

Very tasty!

Bonus hunter pic:

141221 hunter

The toy is a Cat Dancer. The girl cat completely loses her mind. (Link for reference. Shop around.)

(Recipe link. Amazon link for the source recipe in Mexico One Plate At A Time.)