Posts Tagged ‘bread’

Peter Reinhart’s Bagels

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Like many others around DC, I turned to baking to stave off boredom during the Snowmageddon/Snowpocalypse blizzards of 2010. And with all that time on my hands, I decided to take the plunge and bake the bagels I’d skipped over in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge. You see, the book goes alphabetically and there was no way I felt ready to tackle bagels on just my third attempt! Especially not when I’m married to a New Yorker with rather high bagel expectations.

These bagels were much more labor intensive than my previous breads. The dough quickly becomes stiff and tough to mix, so much so that my KitchenAid gave up before the final addition of flour. I mixed the remainder in by hand and began to knead, but it was so stiff that I ignored the warnings of other BBA bloggers and put it back in my KitchenAid … when the motor began to smoke three minutes later, it was back to kneading by hand. I probably kneaded about 15 minutes in total, letting it rest for several minutes midway through. After letting the balls of dough rest, I shaped them into bagel shapes and let them rest again. After 20 minutes, you’re supposed to plop them in a bowl of water and hope they float. Mine did not. Not after another 20 minutes, and not an hour plus later. I gave up and stuck the bagels out in the (non-heated) sunroom over night — our fridge was a little too full with blizzard supplies.

The next day, they didn’t seem to have risen at all. I let them sit on the dining room table for a couple hours, tried the float test again, and they still failed. I wasn’t going to give up at this point, so I went ahead and put a large pot of water on to boil and preheated the oven. This time they finally floated (I’m sure the boiling helped) and after boiling 1 minute on each side I placed them back on their trays to be topped. Of course, I discovered then I was out of poppy seeds, so I used a sea salt, sesame seed and garlic powder blend for most of them. I added caraway seeds to a couple, and cinnamon sugar on the last three. Then they bake in the oven, at 500 degrees, for 10 minutes. Now this is probably obvious to most people, but 500 degrees is HOT. I had to put my husband’s ove-glove (he’s a sucker for infomercials) on under my oven mitt to handle the trays while I transferred the bagels to the cooling rack.



We had the first round for lunch, topped with cream cheese and my mayo-free salmon salad. A little lettuce and tomato would’ve been nice, but, well, we were running low on fresh produce. (See aforementioned Snowmageddon. And, being February, I would’ve passed on those bland winter tomatoes anyway.)

Next time I might boil a little longer for a chewier crust, but these were pretty darn close to the real deal. My Jew-from-Flushing husband, who had skeptically asked if I wanted him to be honest or polite when he tasted them, actually liked them! I doubt we’ll stop going to Slim’s when we’re in New York, but these are a pretty good substitute … as long as you have a few hours to devote to baking them. I do want to try them again in the summer to top with fresh tomatoes and lox.

And as you can tell, the boy was perfectly content with his (with a hearty schmear of cream cheese, hold the fish!):

Shared with Friday’s Feast on Momtrends – go check it out!

Homemade with Love {Cinnamon Swirl Bread}

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

If I try hard enough, I can almost a remember a time when my idea of unwinding after a long work week was heading out for cocktails with girlfriends. (Okay, so it really wasn’t that long ago.) But nowadays, few things are more soothing than spending some quality time creaming butter, sugar and eggs in the KitchenAid. Sure, cooking with a 3.5-year-old isn’t entirely relaxing, but it is especially rewarding to see the boy bite into a fresh baked cookie or slice of bread with glee and to watch him proudly boast to his dad, “Look what Mommy and me made!” And there’s no better time than February (hello Valentine’s Day) to share home baked goodies with the ones you love. So I’m declaring February “Homemade with Love” month here at FoodieTots. I hope you’ll join in and share what you and your kids are baking, too. There may even be a round-up at the end of the month if you have links to share.

First up is Cinnamon Swirl Bread, the next entry in my Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge. Peter Reinhart’s bread calls for raisins and walnuts, which I like well enough, but I wanted to make a simple cinnamon bread first. This is the bread that inspired me to join the challenge, as I have strong memories of my mother baking cinnamon bread and the warm fragrance that filled the house. I don’t even remember if she ever made it more than once, but the cinnamon-sweet scent has stayed with me all these years, and motivated me to overcome my phobia of yeast.

This is a pretty simple bread, the dough smooth and pliable. In addition to omitting the raisins and nuts, I replaced the shortening with melted butter. The boy helped me knead, giving it a few enthusiastic whacks and pokes.

To add the cinnamon swirl, you simply pat the dough out into a rectangle, spread it with a generous layer of cinnamon-sugar, then roll up into a loaf. (You can see pictures of this step on Pinch My Salt’s post.) After a second rise in the loaf pans, it heads into the oven to bake.

(You can see the pronounced difference between the crappy over-stove fluorescent lighting and my Ego lights, the dough didn’t actually turn from yellow to white…) I had a stuffy nose the day I baked it, so the scent wasn’t as strong as I’d remembered, but the taste was everything I remembered.

Cinnamon swirl bread is best with a generous spread of fresh-from-the-farm butter, and maybe a little more of that cinnamon-sugar on top. Delish. Of course, if you somehow don’t finish the loaf the first day or two, it also makes scrumptious French toast. And needless to say, the boy was quite pleased with the finished product.

Breaking the Bread Baking Fast

Monday, September 28th, 2009

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that I decided to join the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge, and breathlessly announced my plans for “a year in bread.” The first recipe, mercifully, was simple and turned out perfectly, and I thought I was hooked on the yeasty aroma and feeling of accomplishment on pulling a perfectly risen, lightly browned loaf of home made bread out of the oven. And then summer came…. and suddenly it was over, gone in a haze of rain, farmers markets, travels and all that other summer chaos that seems to amplify once you have children. (And I only have one!)

So then here we were at the Jewish holidays, and time to dip apples and challah in honey and I hadn’t even made it through the B’s yetBBA’s recipes are in alphabetical order – so I skipped ahead, so to speak, and made my first loaf of Challah for our slightly belated, semi-homemade (hello Whole Foods prepared holiday food bar) Rosh Hashanah supper.  Ah well, it was a start back onto the bread baking trail, and now that the weather is turning cooler I hope to resume a pace a little more frequent than once every three months….

I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m the non-Jewish spouse in our family, so I’m still learning the holiday traditions.* Thankfully Peter notes in his book that it’s customary to double the sugar and shape the Challah into a round loaf for Rosh Hashanah, both of which I did. For some reason I decided to braid my dough first and then wrap it into an awkward round; apparently, there is an easier way to make a braided round loaf that doesn’t come out quite so lopsided. It tasted good, if a little less eggy than I anticipated. I blame the store-bought eggs, as we were unexpectedly out of our farmers market eggs. It was also rather bubbly, probably because I didn’t de-gas enough as I kneaded. But overall I’d deem it another success.

*It’s not just because I’m new to this that I made a reference to Yom Kippur, which is today, in my title and then went on to tell you about our Rosh Hashanah meal …. that’s my clever way of making up for not posting this before my jaunt to San Francisco, and stalling for time to tell you all about my 48 hours in the lovely foodie-haven by the Bay. Stay tuned… ;-)

Middle Class Brioche {BBA week four}

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009

After a week-long vacation that went by way too fast, I got back into the baking groove this weekend with my third* bread of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge, buttery rich brioche. The book offers three variations, the rich man’s, middle class and poor man’s, the main difference being the butter content. I opted for a middle-of-the-road approach and was pleased to find my resulting bread plenty rich; I imagine the rich man’s version must truly taste like pastry! I was also surprised at how easy it was to make something I’ve only ever had from a bakery. In fact, the husband declared these just as good as the ones we get at our favorite bakery, so I’d consider that another success. Last night we topped them with my sister-in-law’s fabulous strawberry-rhubarb jam, which was a fantastic treat (and homemade touch to our take-out chicken dinner).

BBA bread baking challenge brioche

Here’s my step-by-step photo montage … mixing in the butter was the hardest part, as the dough was quite sticky and even though my butter had softened on the counter for more than an hour, I kneaded the dough slightly by hand after removing it from the mixer to smooth a few remaining lumps. I used organic butter and my free-range, farmers market eggs, which added to the sunny yellow color of the bread.

bread bakers apprentice challenge brioche

I didn’t buy special brioche pans and just used a muffin pan, which was a little small for my larger rolls. I also regretted not taking out my scale to weight the portions as I divided it, because as you can see, I had a few that were significantly larger than the others. Next time…

* for those keeping track, I haven’t gotten to the bagels of week 3 yet but didn’t want to fall further behind. I’ll get back to them one of these days. And I’m sharing this with Real Food Wednesday, hosted by Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

Follow along at the Bread Bakers Apprentice Challenge homepage as we bake our way through The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Artos the Greek Celebration Bread

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

The second bread in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice (BBA) challenge was Artos, a Greek celebration bread typically enjoyed for Christmas or Easter. While I added the fruits found in the Christmas version, I stuck with the basic Artos shape rather than adding the decorative cross design.

The recipe begins with a starter, either a barm or a poolish. I chose the poolish as it was the simplest of the two, and I’d never made either before! The poolish is simply yeast, flour and water allowed to ferment for several hours. You then refrigerate it overnight and then are supposed to pull it out of the fridge an hour before mixing the rest of the bread’s ingredients. I took it out Memorial Day morning thinking I would mix it up before brunch, but of course that didn’t happen. When I returned five hours later (brunch was followed by playground and errands), it had exploded through its plastic wrap, over the top of its jar and oozed all over the place. After scraping off the crusty top, there was just about a cup left in the bottom of the jar which was precisely the amount needed for the bread.

Artos had a pretty long ingredient list, including a number of spices and extracts. I used cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg (no ground cloves). After mixing the dry ingredients, I plopped my gooey poolish-monster into the bowl….

poolish artos baking

… and added the beaten eggs, warm milk and almond extract. I had neither fresh citrus nor extract, so had to do without that. I mixed it in my Kitchen Aid again, but it was so sticky that I sprinkled an extra tablespoon of flour around the sides of the bowl so it would fully pull away from the bowl to knead. I added the organic dried cranberries and sultana raisins for the last two minutes of mixing.

artos bread baking

After kneading, the dough went into an oiled bowl and was left to rise for 90 minutes …

artos bread baking

Yep, more than doubled. I shaped it into a round boule and left it on the baking sheet for another 60 minutes. I was a little concerned that it rose outward at that point, rather than up, but went ahead and put it in the oven after 70 minutes as other BBAers had commented about humongous loaves.

artos bread baking

Sure enough, 43 minutes later this fragrant beauty emerged from the oven … loved the cinnamon fragrance while it baked! And it was a moist, delicious bread.

artos bread baking loaf

  • Note: I haven’t used spray oils in years, but after slathering oil on the Anadama dough by hand I decided I should pay attention to Mr. Reinhart’s instructions. I was happy to find spray grapeseed oil at my organic grocer. They also had organic olive oil spray but the grapeseed was recommended for baking.
  • N.2. My bread shrunk a little while cooling, leaving a few wrinkles in the crust. (Any baking gurus out there know why?)
  • N.3.: I hate to take a bye week so early in the challenge, but we’ll be traveling next week so bagels will be posted the following week, along with bread #4. Come back and see what’s baking!

You can see a (lovely) authentically-shaped Christopsomos loaf at Appoggiatura; or check out the enormous braided version by the Engineer Baker. And be sure to visit the BBA homepage at Pinch My Salt to check out other’s successes, failures and advice as we bake our way through The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.