Friday, July 10, 2009

BBA Challenge #8: Cinnamon Rolls (Whole Wheat)

It's hard to believe I'm already on the 8th recipe in the BBA Challenge. While I've really been enjoying the baking and the eating of all these breads, I'm ready to stop using so much white flour! So, this week, instead of the Cinnamon Rolls recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice I decided to make the whole wheat recipe from a book by the same author, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. I've made the BBA recipe before, so I thought it would be fun to try to make them whole wheat.
I started with freshly ground white wheat berries for a softer, lighter taste and texture. The recipe calls for both a biga and a soaker started the night before. This not only improves the texture of the finished loaf but serves to neutralize the phytic acid present in the whole grains, making them more digestible and unlocking nutrients that our bodies need. Instead of milk or buttermilk in my biga and starter I used kefir, since I had a lot on hand. It was a particularly strong batch and contributed a slight sour flavor to the rolls. Next time I think I'll use something other than kefir. The next day I combined the biga and soaker with yeast, salt, less than half cup unbleached flour, an egg, honey, and coconut oil to form a soft and slightly tacky dough.

Here is the dough with cinnamon sugar. Next time I think I'll roll it out a bit thinner than the half inch called for in the book so that I get more swirl.


... and here they are drizzled with a cream cheese and honey glaze.

The verdict? Very good, especially considering they were almost entirely whole wheat. Peregrine said they were the best cinnamon rolls he's ever eaten, but I think it was because I don't normally glaze them. Erik and I enjoyed them as well. I will definitely go back to this recipe next time I make cinnamon rolls. (Which is usually once a year on Pascha (Easter)!) For a healthy version of a very decadent treat, these did not disappoint! I plan to try more of the Whole Grain Breads recipes as the BBA Challenge progresses.
Next up: Cinnamon Raisin Bread.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

BBA Challenge #7:Ciabatta

It's hard to believe we're already on week seven of The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. I decided to do a more in depth post on this week's bread since it's one of my favorites, and is possibly the recipe from BBA that I've made the most often: Ciabatta.
A few years ago I sat on a friend's couch and flipped through a library copy of The Bread Baker's Apprentice. While I was no stranger to baking bread, I'd wondered how one could achieve the soft, moist crumb, and crispy crust of the artisan breads from the bakery. And there, in my hands, was the answer. I wasted no time in requesting my own copy from the library, and devoured the first section of the book, in which Peter Reinhart goes into much detail on the art and science of bread, of yeast and enzymes, of how manipulating time and temperature produces both subtle and drastic changes. I'm just geeky enough to enjoy that sort of thing! And better yet, he was willing to walk me through it step by step, the amazing process of turning flour, yeast, water and salt into "the staff of life".
Ciabatta hails from Liguria, Italy, and has spread across the Italy, and across our country as well. It literally means "carpet slipper" as it's freeform shape apparently can resemble a slipper. It may best be known as the bread that is typically used for making panini. (And trust me, it makes wonderful panini!) It is bread in it's simplest form; water, flour, yeast, and salt. It is the magic of "time and temperature" that transform these most basic ingredients into something much, much more than the sum of its parts.

Poolish, a pre-ferment that is started at least one day prior to baking. A simple mixture of flour, water, and a small amount of yeast, the pre-ferment is key to both the texture and the subtle flavor of the bread. It is left out at room temperature for a few hours, then chilled overnight.

This is the dough toward the end of mixing. It's a very wet, sticky dough and working with it takes a bit of getting used to.

Here is the dough after two rises, the first about 30 minutes, and the second closer to 2 hours. This recipe directs the baker to let it rise on a well-floured countertop.

I divided the dough into three portions; two I folded and placed into the folds of my "couche", which in this case is nothing more than some heavy cotton dusted with flour. It serves the purpose of providing structure for the loaves rise during their final rise. Because the dough is so wet, a lot of flour is used to prevent it sticking to hands, countertop, and couche. This is what gives the final product a rather "dusty" look. Incidentally, this dough is never "punched down"; rather, is is gently stretched and folded back together, degassing it as little as possible. This is, in part, what gives the characteristic large open holes.

The third portion of dough I divided into two pieces and formed each into a ball. I slipped these into baggies with a drizzle of olive oil (to prevent it sticking to the bag, of course!) These will become crusts for pizza in a day or two.

After about an hour in the couche, the dough is gently lifted and stretched out a bit before being placed on a floured peel. This peel was handmade as a friend and given to me as a gift.

About 15 minutes, 500 degrees, one steam pan, two baking stones (one on the lowest shelf and one on the highest; this simulates a brick oven a little more than just one stone) and three mistings later, the bread registers 205 in the center. The crust is golden and hard to the touch, but as the hot bread cools the steam inside will soften it into a lovely chewiness.

Slightly out of order here, but this is the moment the bread comes out oven, and this is the messy kitchen where all the magic happens! ('Cuz my kitchen staff are ages 6, 4, and 1, and frankly, I think they make a lot more mess than they clean up. But we're working on that...)

And here is the finished product; ciabatta!

And one last parting shot.

If you're interested in trying this recipe, you can find it here, along with quite a bit of the book. Go! Bake! Eat! Or, as they would say in Italy: Mangia, Mangia!

Just Call me Mother Goose

"Mama, we'll play Family, and I'll be the Mama, and you and Peregrine and Amy can be my kids." (Amy is a beloved doll.)
"Okay, Poppy, and will Raphi be one of your kids too?"
"No, he can be your baby. It's the first time ever that a kid layed a baby!"
Yeah, I've layed a couple babies in my time. You can just call me Mother Goose.