The Joy of Cooking 75th Anniversary Gingerbread House recipe. I chose this recipe because it seemed to be the simplest dough, or, at least the dough that was the most similar to something that I was familiar with. I treated the house-pieces as crackers and I think that “grounding” helped.
The dough recipe begins with 1 cup (2 sticks) butter melted over low heat. Add 1 cup sugar and 1 cup unsulfured molasses and stir until the sugar dissolves. Let cool to lukewarm.
In a large bowl whisk together 4-1/2 cups AP flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon ground ginger, and (I left these out) 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Make a well in the center and mix in the wet ingredients. Add another 1/2 cup AP flour until the dough pulls away from the bowl. Knead on the counter a few times, wrap in plastic, and move to the refrigerator to fully cool for up to 3 days. I removed the dough from the refrigerator 1 hour before rolling out — I’d suggest allowing 3-4 hours for the dough to come to room temperature instead.
Note: I found this dough too grainy and loose to knead, so I added a couple of tablespoons of water. Interestingly, the recipe thinks the dough may already be too wet and calls for adding more flour if needed…
Last night was pumpkin carving. We brought along a pumpkin-shaped cheesy bread:
It’s almost as large as a sheet tray and easy to make. The recipe is basically just two generic pizza doughs: 700g bread (or AP) flour, 440g water (63% hyrdration), 14g kosher salt, 2 tsp instant yeast.
For Thanksgiving I thought I’d give Peter Reinhart’s recipe another try. (2015 post here. 2016 post here. Ruhlman original post here. The skeleton of the post below is copied and pasted from the 2015 post.)
From the Bread Baker’s Apprentice — Peter Reinhart’s Double Celebration Challah. The “Double Celebration” indicates a double-decker of braided dough — a smaller braid sits on a larger braid. I increased the recipe by 1.5x because we were feeding a crowd:
Softened Unsalted Butter
Egg Whites, whisked until frothy
and Sesame Seeds for garnish.
1. One day ahead of time, combine 10.5 oz of water and bread flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature. (It’s a simple Poolish without yeast. This would also be fine up to three days in the refrigerator, if so, remove from the refrigerator at least 2 hours before continuing.)
2. Stir together 15 oz flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. In a separate (mixing) bowl combine butter, eggs, and yolks. Turn the mixer on low speed. Add the wet ingredients to the mixer, then slowly add the dry mixture until the ingredients gather and form a ball.
2. Mix on medium low speed for 6 minutes, adding more flour if needed to make a dough that is not sticky.
3. Lightly oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a ball, coat with oil, and let rest one hour, covered.
4. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead 2 minutes to degas. Return the dough to the bowl and let rest 1 hour.
5. 2/3rds of the dough becomes the big braid, and 1/3rd becomes the small braid. Each of those portions are divided into 3rds again, and rolled out into ropes which are smaller at the ends and larger in the center. The ropes are then braided, tucking the ends underneath. Watch this for help on how to braid. Transfer the big braided portion to a parchment lined baking sheet, top with the smaller braided portion.
6. Brush the loaf with an egg whites wash, spray with oil, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 60-75 minutes until the the dough has grown to 1.5x its original size.
7. Preheat the oven to 325F. Brush the loaf again with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake on the center rack for 20 minutes, then turn and bake another 20-45 minutes. The bread is done when golden brown and an instant thermometer reads 190F. (The pictured loaf saw 25 minutes after turning, which I think was too long. More on that below.)
8. Transfer to a cooling rack and wait at least an hour to eat.
I think every time I’ve made this I’ve come away thinking it could be better. 20 minutes + 25 minutes brings the internal temperature closer to 205F than 190F. In the future I’ll likely check the temperature at about the 20 + 15 minute mark. I also think the challah would benefit from a little more salt than the recipe calls out, perhaps even just an extra 1/2 tsp to take the total to 2 tsp (not including the salt in the eggs.)
We had a little bit of extra dough at the end of one of the braids. We were going to visit a 6-year old on Thanksgiving, so:
In reality the “body” is about 4 inches across. It has an “eye” of sesame seeds and a piece of black sea salt. The “turkey” went into the oven with the challah and was pulled at the 25 minute mark.
A Ciabatta. I substituted out 20% of the bread flour and replaced it with Spelt. For reference, the finished bread is about 12″ across:
I started baking with Spelt in 2018. Those blog posts are now gone as part of the move to the new site. For background, Spelt breads will hold air bubbles but the structure Spelt provides is very fragile and it requires gentle working and handling to avoid degassing.
The Recipe and Process:
400 grams KA bread flour, 100 grams Spelt flour (Bob’s Red Mill), 360 grams water (72% hydration), 15 grams olive oil (3%), 10 grams kosher salt (2%), 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast. That’s less than half the yeast that I’d use if I planned to bake the bread a couple of hours after mixing, but I had other ideas.
The dough was mixed for eight minutes, covered, and allowed to proof for around 4 hours. I then did a two “stretch and folds”, shaped the dough into a ball, and allowed the dough to proof on a parchment covered pizza peel for another two hours. (I covered the dough with an inverted large bowl during the 2nd rise.)
For baking: The oven and baking stone were preheated to 425F for 30 minutes. I added 1 cup of water to a sheet tray and placed it on the bottom shelf. When the water in the sheet tray was steaming I slid the parchment and dough from the peel onto the baking stone. Total bake time was 35 minutes. (At 30 minutes the internal temperature was only 192F, so I gave it another 5 minutes.)
Baked goods made with spelt flour will be more dense and heavy than those from wheat flour.
Spelt flour has a much higher water absorption capacity, giving a somewhat smaller loaf volume than common wheat flour.
Which is basically describes the finished loaf. While proofing the dough spread more “out” than “up”, and there wasn’t much oven spring, even though I’d slashed the loaf prior to baking and provided steam in the oven. The crumb wasn’t “tight” but it wasn’t “holey and rustic” either.
Spelt provides a nice nutty taste, and some je ne sais quoi, which is part of the reason I chose to include it in a same-day preparation. I also like Spelt because it tastes less refined and sugary than regular bread flour.
Overall it was a pleasant loaf. I sliced it thinly so that each piece wasn’t heavy and we served it with good butter. It didn’t last even half-way through dinner.
I’m getting more comfortable with the bannetons. I think they’re getting more “seasoned” too.
A boule “born” on the 4th of July:
The Recipe – 600 grams bread flour, 390 grams refrigerator water (baker’s percentage 65%), 13 grams salt (2.25%), 6 grams diastatic malt powder, 3/8 tsp instant yeast.
Combine ingredients and mix on low speed 8 minutes.
Cover and let rest 18 hours at room temperature. (65F – 70F)
Lightly spray oil the work surface. Remove the dough from the workbowl and stretch and fold the dough four times, once from each from top, bottom, left, and right. Gather the dough into a ball and place in a well-floured banneton, seam side up.
Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rest one hour. Place a baking stone in the middle of an oven, put a sheet tray on the bottom shelf. Preheat oven to 460F.
When the dough is ready, toss 7-8 ice cubes into the sheet tray. Turn the dough out onto the baking stone and slash the dough as you see fit.
Bake ~35 minutes or until the internal temperature is 200F.
This bread was a little bit of departure for me in a few ways:
It’s 600 grams rather than 400 grams. 400 grams has been my comfort zone.
This dough had a higher hydration (65%) than I’ve been able to “smoothly pull off” in the past when using a banneton. There has almost always been some sticking during release from the banneton. Not this time. I made a point to “aggressively and confidently” turn the dough out onto the baking stone. No sticking! That’s good thing!
The larger dough mass combined with the diastatic malt (and not using a dutch oven) created a relatively dark, thick, attractive crust.
The slashing was less than perfect: I need to swap out the razor blades for something newer and sharper a little more often.
Authors write about “Twelve Steps” (or more) to baking bread, which sounds like a lot of processes:
Bulk or Primary Fermentation
I “simplify” it in my head into four groups of “Activities”:
Bulk or Primary Fermentation
At the end of each Activity there’s a natural rest break.
In effect then, Twelve Steps become Four Activities:
Weigh and mix the dough, and let rest.
Divide and shape the dough, and let rest.
Shape/pan the dough, and let rest.
Bake, cool, and eat.
That sounds pretty manageable, doesn’t it? If you don’t count the baking step it’s only three Activities. Easy.
I bring all this up because I’d gotten into the habit of skipping Activity #2 when making focaccia. I’d mix, then coax the loose dough into a parchment-lined tray, allowing for one rise in the tray.
And that was fine, sort of. The focaccia were well-received, though I thought they had the potential to be better. As it turns out, if you don’t skip an Activity that people having been doing for thousands of years the results improve! Behold the power of trial and error!
A two-pound focaccia from Easter dinner:
A one-pound focaccia we ate with dinner last night:
Re-introducing the initial bulk fermentation gives a better crumb structure — the bread becomes more airy, with uniform bubbles throughout. I think that’s partly because the extra rest and handling means that the bubbles get redistributed more evenly. I’ve cut back on the oil too. The end result is a lighter, less oily focaccia.
Both breads: 70% hydration, 6% oil, 2% salt (not counting the pink salt), about 1% diastatic malt, baked at 425F for 24 minutes.
Here’s a Cheap Seat Eats post from January of 2016 talking about a good result due to allowing for an initial 30-minute rise before transferring the dough to the tray. Which means I’ve re-re-learned something. That’s good, right? The biggest difference between that one and these two is that the oil percent for these two were 6% rather than the 3% in the 2016 post. That, and I allowed for a 30-minute pre-ferment in 2016. These two got ~1 hour.
These don’t skimp on the butter or the cheese — the butter weight is 25% of the flour weight.
The recipe: 600 g AP Flour, 150 g room temperature butter, 300 g refrigerator water, 12 g kosher salt, 1 tsp instant yeast. (1+ cup of Grated Pamesan is applied to the dough sheet in step 5, below.)
Add the flour to the work bowl of the mixer. Add the butter and break it up into the flour with your fingers.
Add the other ingredients (except the Parmesan) and mix on low speed for 8 minutes.
Refrigerate, covered, for 1-3 days.
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Roll out the dough on parchment paper to 1/4″ – 1/2″ thick. It should come out to a rectangle around 10″ x 15″. The parchment paper will make it easier peel up the dough in step 8.
Spread the grated Parmesan evenly over the dough rectangle. Use a rolling pin to sort of mash it into the surface of the dough.
Using a pizza cutter, slice the dough across the short dimension into pieces 1/2″ wide and 10″ long.
Twist the individual slices and place on Silpat lined baking sheets. I was able to fit these onto two baking sheets.
Let rest, covered, for 15 minutes.
Bake for 20 minutes at 400 F.
Let cool on a cooling rack.
The finished weight of the breadsticks is somewhere North of two pounds — seven people wiped these out in no time. The nice thing about this recipe is that it will hold in the refrigerator for a few days, then be ready to eat in about an hour.
Epi Bread makes an appearance at the Iron Chef Leftover Annual Lasagna Party (cell phone pic):
I feel like everything came together pretty well this time around. The color was better than usual due to the addition of egg wash — two eggs were beaten then strained and brushed onto the doughs before the doughs were cut into the Epi shape. The egg wash created more contrast between the light and dark parts.
Each individual Epi was around 15″ long. The finished weight of all of the breads put together was around five pounds.
As far as the actual “mechanics”:
Each “batch” was three breads at 150 grams of flour each.
This time around I used a refrigerated “Poolish” (preferment) that I started on the 22nd — two days before the event. I went with a refrigerated Poolish because on the 22nd we weren’t sure we were going to be able to make it to the event, and I could bake the dough on the 25th if we missed out on lasagna.
To make one batch of Poolish combine 150 grams of bread flour, 150 grams of refrigerated water, and a pinch of instant yeast. Mix on low speed for 8 minutes. Cover. It can be refrigerated for up to three days with no real loss in quality.
(I did all three batches together (900 grams total), then divided it out into three – 300 gram units on baking day.)
On baking day combine in the mixer one batch of Poolish with 300 grams of bread flour, 120 grams water, 9 grams of salt, 1/3 stick unsalted butter (36 grams), and 1 teaspoon of instant yeast. Mix for eight minutes. Hand knead a little if the dough looks rough. Let rest, covered for 20 minutes.
Divide into three pieces and roll each piece into a baguette shape that will fit lengthwise into a Silpat-lined sheet tray. Cover and let rise two hours.
Brush each baguette with (beaten and strained) egg wash. Using scissors, cut the breads and lay the cut segments off to the sides for the finished Epi shape.
Bake at 460F for 22 minutes. Carefully remove to a cooling rack. (I used tongs to slide the Silpat out of the sheet tray, then slipped the Epis off of the Silpat.)
The addition of butter to the recipe made the finished product a little richer and dinner-roll like. The Epi shape made it easy to cut or break off pieces, and increased the total amount of “browned goodness” surface area. I’d like to think those decisions helped the breads fit in with the rest of the meal. Nobody complained.