Sunday, April 30, 2006

Golden Semolina Torpedo

Saturday, April 29, 2006
I'll admit this bread is not as photogenic as the Pugliese, but that's only because I ignored Rose's voice. She warns that this bread should be slightly under-proofed, because if it's allowed to rise fully it will collapse when slashed. So I tested it by poking my finger in the dough, and it was at the stage where it was not quite fully proofed. I knew I should put it in the oven, but I wanted to let it get just a little bit bigger, so I decided it should rise for another 15 minutes. And, of course, it collapsed after I slashed it. Rose's voice then said, "I told you so."
This bread was served with the coscia di agnello alle erbe con patate rosto (herb-crusted leg of lamb with roasted potatoes) and with a 2002 Uva di Troia. A wonderful combination, by the way. I was a little apprehensive about the bread, seeing as how it had collapsed and all, but I figured people had had enough wine by that time that they wouldn't be hyper-critical. I didn't have to worry though--this turned out to be one of my favorite breads so far, and everyone loved it. It has a beautiful golden color and a rich yet delicate flavor. I'm already longing to taste this bread again.
Today was the first day I've made two breads at one time. It's very confusing. I kept flipping back and forth between recipes and trying to remember which bread was at which stage. (I also baked a ricotta-pine nut tart for dessert, so the oven was on pretty much all day).
Also, this is the first bread that I've kneaded by hand--maybe that's part of the reason I'm so fond of it.
I'm at 27 loaves of bread after four months--right on target to complete all 82 by the end of December. And then I can make another loaf of golden semolina bread.

Brinna's Pugliese

Saturday, April 29, 2006
I made an Italian feast for eight people today--a feast that required two different loaves of bread; I'll give each of them its own entry because they were both so good that they deserve their own.
The first course was mussels with saffron and mustard broth, served with an Erbaluce. (I've never made mussels before--the whole chore of debearding them and checking their open/closed status always seemed too onerous to me, but these were beardless mussels and almost all of them were closed and open when they were supposed to be). The bread--a flavorful, open-textured, peasanty sort of loaf--was fantastic and perfect to sop up the sauce.
Only one piece of bread was left when I carried away the bowls of shells. And that was left only because of the Minnesota tradition of never taking the last piece of anything.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Low-Risk Sourdough Bread

Saturday, April 22, 2006

There are four recipes in The Bread Bible that scare me: sourdough (because you have to make a starter that could be rife with bacteria), bagels (because you boil them, and who boils bread?), baguette (because there's no way to disguise a bad baguette), and croissants (because they're just scary).
And there are about six different sourdough recipes. Sourdough presents an ethical dilemma. I can buy sourdough starter on line at and I'd love to do that. But I'm afraid that if I don't make my own starter, I will get an asterisk, like Barry Bonds, after my record of making all 82 loaves of bread, indicating that I cheated by not making my own sourdough starter but buying it through the internet. I told a friend my dilemma, and she pointed out that I didn't mill my own flour, and that didn't seem to bother me. That cheered me up some, but I was still relieved to see that Rose has two sourdough recipes that call for a starter from The Bakers Catalogue. Now I can make these two breads before I have to make a final decision on my dilemma.
In fact, this bread was very low-risk, and very delicious. If I could buy this loaf of bread, I would.
By the way, I used my new French slashing knife, and it worked much better than my old knife.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Pullman Loaf (Pain de Mie)

Monday, April 17, 2006
I know that I've become bread-crazed when the first thing I did when I got home from the airport--before even unpacking--was to start mixing up a loaf of bread. I was in Seattle, a city that has many wonderful artisan bakeries. In fact, I had a ham sandwich for lunch from Grand Central Bakery that was so perfect that I talked about it for days; eventually Jim had to put a ban on any further mention of the ham sandwich. Then we went to Chicago and stayed at the Sofitel, where we had a basket of breads and pastries every morning. Every time I ate a croissant or a baguette, I wanted to start baking.
So, when I got home from Chicago, I pulled out the pullman loaf pan I bought on E-bay (at half the cost of a new pan), and started putting together the bread. This must be the easiest loaf of bread so far. It's got a whole tablespoon of yeast in it, so it rises so enthusiastically you have to keep your eye on it lest it take over the kitchen. I don't know what happened--since I got my scale the doughs have been perfect. This one, however, was way too sticky and moist, but I just added more flour (a lot more flour) until it seemed right. (At least this time I had enough sense to realize it wasn't right and to fix it instead of blindly going forward, as with the infamous focaccia), and it ended up just fine--a perfectly lovely moist, soft, tender crumb with a sturdy, crunchy brown crust. This is still another bread that I wouldn't have made if I hadn't undertaken the 82-Loaf Vow. I've bought a pullman loaf from the store and a more boring loaf of bread I've never seen, but this buttery, fine-crumbed bread is not at all boring.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Butter Popovers

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Why have I never made popovers before? I always thought they were hard, but they're not at all. They behaved exactly as they were supposed to, and they were a delightful dinner roll for Sarah's birthday dinner, along with grilled salmon with wilted basil and mint sauce and asparagus salad with capers, olives, and goat cheese. A perfect spring dinner.
Actually, there is a perfectly logical reason for never having made popovers before--the lack of a popover pan. If you think a popover pan costs, say, $4.99, you are wrong. This pan is just one in a string of expenditures. I can see that baking is going to be a lot like gardening in the money department. You think you're going to plant a couple of packages of seeds, buy a few perennials, fill in with some petunias. And then you start digging out more grass, lusting after $85 tree peonies, scorning petunias. Before you know it, you're spending so much money you can never afford to retire.
I'm off to Seattle tomorrow, and then to Chicago for Easter weekend, so I'll have a long bread-making hiatus.

Mediterranean Matzoh

Sunday, April 9, 2006

I'm making a birthday dinner for Sarah. I told her I wanted to make popovers and I'd also make some matzoh to eat with hummus and cheese as an appetizer. Two non-yeast breads! Just three months ago, that would have been a relief. Now I love the long, slow process of yeast dough. There's the initial suspense--is this really going to work again, or will it just sit there this time? Then the miraculous change in texture, the feel of the dough in your hands, and the amazing smells.
But the matzoh was an interesting change of pace. Matzoh wasn't a part of my heritage, and the few times I've tasted it, I thought it was pretty boring. Kind of like lefse, which is also not part of my heritage, also beloved by many, and also boring.
This matzoh, with chopped fresh rosemary and plenty of olive oil, is oddly addictive. On first bite, it was a disappointment--despite the rosemary and olive oil, it seemed bland. Then I realized I wanted a second bite, and a third--just to test it, I said to myself. Now, as I'm sitting at my computer, matzoh-less, I have a strong urge to go back down to the kitchen and finish the rest of the big wafer. Fortunately, I'm able to restrain myself.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Potato Buttermilk Bread

April 5, 2006
This morning I took the some flaxseed bread out of the freezer for my morning toast, and realized it was the last piece of homemade bread in the house. I would either have to bake a loaf of bread today or have a piece of toast made from storebought bread tomorrow. An easy decision.
I just got the little bag of flour that I ordered from The Baker's Catalogue and still had some leftover buttermilk in the house, so I whipped up the biga for potato buttermilk bread. I left a note for Chelsea, the wonderful woman who cleans my house, asking her to put the biga in the refrigerator. Then I mixed up the dough when I got home from work, let it rise, shaped it, and went off to yoga, with instructions to Jim to preheat the oven at 7:30.
I tempted my friend Karen to come home with me after yoga with the promise of freshly baked bread (although she looked at me like I was a crazy woman when I dumped the ice cubes in the oven). Karen has a gluten intolerance, but was willing to eat the bread just to get a mention in the blog.
This bread, which took a village to make, is excellent. The potato/buttermilk combination makes it moist, tender, and very flavorful. The variation with dill sounds tempting--but I still have 62 more varieties of bread to bake, so there will be no variations until I've baked all 83.
My French slashing knife has not yet arrived, so I've again done an inferior job of slashing, Rose says the single-edged razor blade works best, but I won't resort to that until I try the French slasher.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Alsatian Onion Pizza

Sunday, April 2, 2004
Some of the breads have ended up being dinner because we ate enough of them so that it seemed pretty piggish to eat something else, but this was the first bread that was actually planned as dinner. I've made homemade pizza dough before, and it's always good, but I like thin-crusted pizza the best and I didn't think I could make it at home. This pizza wasn't the prettiest I've ever seen--the crust didn't stretch out to fill my big pizza pan, but it may have been the tastiest one I've made. All the pizza variations sounded good, but I chose the one with lots of caramelized onions, fresh thyme, gruyere cheese, and olives. The woman at the cheese counter at Lunds, who helped me pick out the gruyere, asked me what I was making with it. When I told her, she said it sounded perfect for this chilly, rainy day. She was right.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Walnut Fougasse

April 1, 2006
Fougasse is the French version of focaccia, and, if I'd realized that before I made it, I would have realized I should have rolled it out a little thinner. I think if you knew what a fougasse was supposed to be, you'd look at mine and think, "Hmm, there's something not quite right about that fougasse."
Fortunately, nobody at my house knew anything about what it was supposed to look like, and so they were willing to accept my version as the Platonic ideal of fougasses.
This was a fun dough to work with--very soft and, with all the additions of walnut oil, a little messy. I felt like I was in kindergarten again. Rose suggested pairing it with blue cheese and port. Luckily, I found a bottle of port hiding in the back of the liquor cabinet, and I'd already bought a wedge of cambozola.
Sarah had just found a new apartment before she came over to share in the bread tasting, and the combination of her new wonderful apartment and the fougasse, port, and cheese made her pretty happy.