Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Excaliburger buns, coconut castle pudding, and King Arthur's long covered baker

Inspired by the possibility of watching Excalibur with a bunch of friends, we decided to make Excaliburgers and a castle-shaped pudding.

We found this silicone castle mold while visiting family in France.
Find it at your neighborhood Eurodif.

We ended up watching Vampire in Brooklyn instead—I'm not sure why, but it probably came down to what people felt more like mocking. That didn't stop us from making hamburgers and pudding.

I also used a covered clay baker for the first time, making walnut sourdough. I love the form factor but need to work on the technique a bit.

Walnut sourdough baked in a long covered pan

For the pudding, we used the Tembleque Puerto Rican Coconut Pudding recipe, minus the salt. It's very simple: just coconut milk, sugar, and corn starch, plus a dusting of cinnamon. And it held the mold's shape beautifully, with great detail. One recipe wasn't quite enough to fill up the castle mold, so if we make it again, we might make a 150% batch so our castle isn't stubby.

Tembleque: Puerto Rican coconut pudding with cinnamon.
Very nice when served with cut mango
Another pudding that should work great with the mold would be mango pudding, if I can find a tasty enough recipe. I love the mango pudding from Ton Kiang in San Francisco; every other version I've had has been disappointing.

Hensperger's delicious hamburger—pardon me, Excaliburger—bun

The burger bun was a Hensperger recipe (p. 92) featuring egg, butter, milk powder, and potato flakes, all of which make for a moist and tender—yet not wimpy—bun. I ran out of bread flour, so I used a tiny amount of whole wheat flour. Very tiny.

Mia's burger (thanks for the picture, Mia!)

The buns worked really well with the massive (almost half pound), juicy hamburgers we grilled.

A dozen burger buns (picture by Mia)

I thought about stenciling the buns, either with flour or with seeds in a cross or sword shape. Maybe next time. I'm dying to try bread stenciling, and with two artists in the house who love bread, it shouldn't be too hard to get stencils. I just have to get the materials and figure out what I want the stencil to be.

On to sourdough. One of my birthday gifts arrived, a little late, and I had to try it out. It's King Arthur Flour's long covered baker.

A just-shaped loaf in the long covered baker

I tried baking a loaf of sourdough in it, but had to delegate the actual baking. The bread turned out pretty well, despite being a bit overproofed and overbaked. I can't wait to try it again.

Overproofed and overbaked, but still good

By the way, we had no problem at all with the bread sticking. I'd read that, early on before the baker is fully seasoned, the dough can stick, but I don't think that's a likely problem with a simple sourdough. I used ghee as an anti-stick coating for the pan, and nothing for the top.

Boring details about making this bread:

  • Sunday afternoon:
    • 12:30 finished mixing, and put it in the fridge because I had to leave the house.
    • 15:40 took it out
    • 16:40 first fold (still cold)
    • 17:00 second fold (still cool)
    • 17:20 third fold (still cool)
    • 17:45 added walnuts, mixing the dough as well as I could by hand
    • 17:55 left it to rise
    • 19:40 it looked pretty high, so I put it into the refrigerator
  • Monday morning:
    • 5:30 started shaping; the dough had risen to about 1" from the top of the 2-gallon container
    • 5:55 shaped and in the baker (see picture above)
    • 8:15 called home and asked someone to start baking, starting it in a cold oven 
    • 9:05 called and it still wasn't baking! Nagged.
    • As requested, the top was deeply slashed, then it went into a cold oven, which was then turned up to 425. I'd asked for the top to be removed after 30 minutes, but instead the whole thing was removed and the lid left on. Someone later realized that the bread hadn't been browned, so they put it back in the oven without the lid for a little while, and then took it out to cool. So. Rather overdone. This is a very forgiving bread. Note the use of passive voice to avoid assigning blame to people who were doing me favors so I can't complain.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Walnut sourdough and maple oatmeal bread

It was too hot last weekend to use the oven, so although I prepped a loaf of walnut sourdough on Friday, we didn't bake it until Monday morning.

Walnut sourdough

By Sunday morning, I was dying for some bread, so I decided to make some in the bread machine. I picked Hensperger's maple oatmeal recipe (p. 436), which has buttermilk (which we happened to have), maple syrup, butter, and rolled oats.

Maple oatmeal bread

This was some great smelling bread! It cooked on the dark setting, so it had quite a crust on it.

Inside maple oatmeal bread

I like this bread. It was tasty by itself just after baking, and fantastic toasted with cheese and tomatoes the next day. It doesn't have as much whole grain as I'd like, but the oats (although undetectable) make it less guilt inducing.

The walnut sourdough was my husband's great idea. I used quite a lot of walnuts, but unfortunately I can't find my notes about the exact amount (5 oz?). They came from a bag of chopped (though fairly big) walnuts from a brand I can't remember (and haven't seen before, as far as I remember); they seemed to be pretty high quality. I didn't bother toasting or chopping the nuts. Instead I used them as-is, straight from the package.

Shaped and ready to refrigerate

I made the sourdough following the usual Josey Baker recipe on Friday, adding the walnuts at the third it's-not-kneading session. The weather was warm, so I felt free to actually knead the dough a bit to get the nuts distributed.

Just out of the refrigerator

Monday morning the weather had cooled enough that using the oven was thinkable, so we finally baked the bread that day. It had puffed up quite a bit, and I was worried it had overextended itself, but it turned out fine.

Deflating after leaving the refrigerator

I had a bit of a hard time getting the dough out of the basket, but finally managed to do so without whacking it.

Finally out of the basket

I did the usual bake (remembering to remove the baking pan this time), with good results.

After baking

I never seem to get an ear on the loaf. I wonder if it's the recipe, the sourdough starter, the cut, or the fact that I halve the salt. Or all of the above.

In a sandwich

This is a very tasty bread, especially an hour or two after cooking, when the crust is still crunchy. The walnuts turn the bread funny purplish colors, but they add so much flavor I don't mind. We've eaten this plain, in a salami sandwich, with butter and marmalade, and with cheese and tomatoes. I'm not sure about the salami sandwich, but it was delicious every other way.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Garlic sourdough, take 2

I made garlic sourdough for the second weekend in a row. Last time it turned out well, but I wanted more garlic pieces. This time, I used two heads of garlic, not just one. But, it turns out, two is a bit too much for everyday eating. It was good in an overwhelming, Stinking Rose kind of way, but not something you'd want to eat for more than one meal. (We did manage to finish it eventually, but it was more out of duty and a great breadbox keeping it fresh, and less because the bread was so good.)

This week's garlic sourdough

This time I also used a starter that wasn't as many hours old, so it had plenty of life in it. I think I did two iterations of starter revivification, one the night before making the dough, and one the next morning. I mixed the dough in the afternoon.

The size of the dough, pre-refrigeration, was similar to last time's. I kind of messed up on the shaping, though. I shaped it once, realized I'd forgotten to add the garlic, and had to shape it again. Like last time, I patted it out into a rectangle, folded it in thirds, and then folded it in half to create a longish loaf. I popped quite a few big bubbles doing this, since the dough was going a little crazy.

The previous week's loaf, just before going into the fridge.

This time, unlike last time, the dough grew a huge amount in the fridge. I'm glad I oiled the plastic wrap.

After ~15 hours in the refrigerator

This time, as I have the past few times, I put parchment paper on a cookie sheet, put both on top of the basket, and then tipped them all over, so the bread could fall onto the parchment-covered cookie sheet. The bread held on a bit to the basket, but not nearly as much as last time.

Ready to go in the oven.
I still could do better with slashing. It took a few tries to get the cuts I wanted.

I meant to use the cookie sheet as a peel, but I accidentally left it in the oven for the first, covered part of cooking. I used our largest pasta pot (from Ikea) to cover the loaf. It's not quite as wide as I'd like, but it's not too confining.

After 20 minutes of baking, I took off the pot... and realized that
I'd forgotten to remove the baking sheet

I removed the sheet and parchment paper and baked until I remembered to take the bread out. Maybe 15 minutes? The bake was a little bolder than I sometimes prefer, but it tasted really good—not burnt at all.

Like last time, the bread wasn't as high as I'd like, so it was a little hard to slice. I think I'm going to try cooking it in a pan next time. Fortunately, my birthday is coming up, and I've asked for a covered clay loaf pan.

A slice

In one place, an air pocket had formed around a mess of garlic. I was a little scared and a little excited to taste it, and rightly so. It was intense!

A bunch of garlic is at the lower left

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Cornmeal honey bread

Last night I decided to wake up to some bread, so I put the ingredients for Hensperger's cornmeal honey bread (p. 148) into the Zojirushi and set it to be finished this morning.

Cornmeal honey bread

What a great smell to wake up to!

This isn't a cornbread. Instead, it's a soft white bread with buttermilk (powder), honey, butter, and a small amount of cornmeal. Although I love the cornmeal texture, Bob's medium-grind cornmeal always manages to lodge in my one sensitive tooth. Ouch.

The crumb

The bread looked a little crestfallen and uneven, like many of my bread machine breads (probably because I reduce the salt and yeast). That didn't bother me.

A bit of a dip in the middle

Notes on recipe ingredients/adjustments:
  • Halved the salt to 0.5 teaspoon.
  • Halved the yeast.
  • Used dark, flavorful honey.
One thing I wondered was why it added so much gluten. I can see adding gluten to a whole wheat recipe, but this has no whole wheat at all, and only 10% of the flour by volume is cornmeal. (The rest is bread flour, which has plenty of its own gluten.) I don't object to gluten. But additional gluten in a white bread just seems questionable.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

2 sesame breads and a garlic sourdough

This week I made three Josey Baker breads. All tasted good but were a bit... wilted.

First, I made two loaves of sesame bread. I'd intended to make one, but accidentally added twice the water I needed for the pre-ferment, so I decided to go with it.

I didn't take a picture of the first loaf. I started it Friday (having taken the day off to attend to miscellaneous business), baked it Saturday morning, and took it to a party Saturday afternoon.

The second loaf stayed in the fridge until Sunday, when I baked it and it was soon demolished.

My husband can't keep this hands off
this sesame bread.

Both loaves of bread turned out flatter than I expected, but maybe I've just been spoiled by the sourdough I've been making lately. This recipe is a quicker one that uses a bit of yeast and no kneading at all.

Both loaves were pretty flat, yet the texture was good.

Thursday night, I started waking up the sourdough starter. Strangely, it kept getting very strong very quickly. I used one of the strong batches after it had mellowed a bit and smelled great, but perhaps I'd have done better to use a less aged child of the strong batch.

I decided to make the sourdough into a sourdough-garlic loaf. I roasted a head of garlic, disposed of the skin, and chopped the larger cloves into 2 or 3 pieces. Then, when the dough was ready to shape, I preshaped by spreading it out flat, putting cloves on top, and then folding the dough into thirds (the short way) and then in half (the same way). After a bit of a rest, I shaped it as usual, trying to keep the garlic on the inside.

One roasted head of garlic + sourdough

I then put the shaped dough into a basket, covered it with plastic wrap, and refrigerated it.

Shaped and ready to refrigerate

Tuesday night I took it out. It hadn't risen a huge amount, and unfortunately I kind of banged it while trying to get it out of the basket. Eventually it came out, and I slashed it and baked it.

Ready to go in the oven

The oven spring was a bit disappointing, but not surprising given that the pre-ferment was a bit old and past its prime.

The baked loaf

Fortunately, my family didn't care. When I came home Wednesday evening, the loaf was almost gone. Apparently, it made great sandwiches with cream cheese and lox, optionally toasting the bread first.

Closeup of one of the cuts

The texture seemed good to me.

I ate the end plain

The next time I make garlic sourdough bread—and there will be a next time—I'll make these changes:

  • More garlic: Roast 2 heads of garlic. Perhaps smush one into the dough, but keep at least one in chunks.
  • Less aging of the starter.
  • More careful handling of the dough when transferring it from the basket.

The last picture in this post is neither a loaf of bread nor ice cream, but our dog Bitty. She used to be beefier (we'd joke about the amount of yummy meat on her thighs), but kidney failure and what we suspect to be lymphoma have taken their toll. She's a barker and can be annoying, but she's still a good dog who's amazingly perky, given her medical problems. We'll miss her funny walk and the way she runs from her own farts.