Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Spent grain bread, sourdough onion rolls, cornbread, bread to go, and starting a starter

This past week, I made spent grain bread successfully, a relief after last time's weirdly low loaf. I also cooked a couple of great cornbreads, made sourdough onion buns again, brought bread on a family trip, and started making a starter.


Why do I need a third starter? I don't, so I converted my white starter (50-50, by volume). But why convert it? I'm beta testing an app, Bread Boss, which guides you through a variety of sourdough bread recipes. Now's the perfect time to test, since I'm staycationing the two final weeks of the year.

Spent grain bread

I used the same ingredients for my spent grain bread as last time (and almost the same as the time before). The only differences were in the prep:
  • I put in the salt, olive oil, and honey first, with the water and spent grain.
  • The spent grain was frozen, so I nuked it with the water until it was warm (but not as hot as last time).
  • I took out the bread as soon as it was done.
  • I didn't use the delay timer.
This loaf wasn't as tall as the first one, but it had great taste and texture. It was a bit lopsided, which is common when baking in the bread machine, but hadn't happened the two times before.

The outside

This recipe, especially with the spent grain from North English brown ale, is a winner.

The inside


I used The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook recipe for Southern Skillet Bread (p. 496), and the results were so good I made the cornbread again just a few days later. Here's what was different from the recipe:
  • Instead of 3/4 cup buttermilk, use 3T buttermilk powder and 3/4 cup water.
  • Instead of bacon drippings, use 2t roasted peanut oil and 2t vegetable oil (safflower, I think).
  • The usual sodium reduction measures:
    • No salt
    • Sodium free baking powder and baking soda
I'd used all peanut oil before, which I rather liked, but it seemed to taste too peanutty for our guests. Half the amount seemed perfect.

I used Quaker Oats yellow cornmeal, which worked just fine. Before I'd used Bob's Red Mill medium grind cornmeal, which I liked, but sometimes it had hard bits of grain that would hurt my teeth. If I happen to find Bob's fine grind, I'll try that.

This bread tasted fine the next day, but it had lost its wonderful crunch. Also, it's best warm.

Sourdough onion rolls

I've made these before, with success, but it's been a long time since I made any sourdough bread, so it felt new.

We had only one, smallish onion, so I chopped it, cooked it, and put all of it (2/3-3/4 cup) into the dough. I added it during the final stretch-and-fold, which turned into a dough mangling session.

I wanted to bake the rolls the next day, so I immediately put the dough in the refrigerator.

Dough, the next morning
The next day I took it out, let it warm up (partly in the oven on proof mode), and divided it into 8 parts. I shaped 6 buns and left the other 2 until later.

6 buns ready to rise

I cooked a little more onion and put it on top of a couple of buns, but I think the bread without the onion topping was just as good.

The buns at the bottom left have additional onion on top.
These buns probably would higher if my niece didn't pat them.

I cooked the buns at 450 degrees for 20 minutes with a cover over the pan, and then about 15 more minutes uncovered.

After cooking

These buns are amazing within the first hour or two out of the oven, when the onions are warm and the crust is still crunchy. After a few hours, they're probably best toasted, to bring out the onion flavor and make the crust crisper.

The next day I took the remaining two roll portions and shaped them into balls. After letting them rise a bit, I cooked them at 475, covered, for 15 minutes, and then uncovered for about 15 more minutes.

Mini boule

Bread to go

So I'd have food to eat with 10 of my closest family members, I baked a couple of loaves of bread: Bohemian black bread (BBB) and spent grain bread.

The BBB was much better looking than last time, thanks to using black cocoa.

Dark and out of focus, just the way I like it

The spent grain bread was the same recipe I made the last couple of times. I checked the dough a few minutes into its first rise and noticed that it was very soft and was almost non-existent on the left side of the bread pan. I picked the dough up, as best as I could, and put it back down in a more symmetric shape.

It worked! The loaf was high and symmetric.

Spent grain bread

For future reference, here's the ingredient list, in pan-addition order:
  • Scant 1 cup water, mixed (and, if the grain is cold or tough, microwaved 2 minutes) with 3/4 cup spent grain, firmly packed
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 T honey
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 2-1/4 c bread flour
  • 3/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 t bread machine yeast
It's best to check the dough's shape when it begins rising, so you can fix the shaping (making it symmetric) if necessary.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Same ingredients, a fraction of the height

What a difference a day makes.

I made another loaf of the North English brown ale bread, with the same proportions as before, but this time it turned out completely flat. I thought it'd be horrible, but it was actually tasty and chewy—a completely different texture from before.

The loaf on the left (and slice on the right) is the flat version of
the loaf on the right. The darker color is no surprise, since I
cooked the grain in the water, turning the water dark brown.

Here's all I can recall doing differently:
  1. Instead of putting the oil and honey in first, with the water and spent grain, I put them in last.
  2. A few hours before loading the ingredients into the bread machine's pan, I microwaved the water and spent grain together for 2 minutes to cook the grain a little more.
  3. I used olive oil instead of canola oil.
  4. I took the bread out 35 minutes after it was done instead of right after.
That's all I can remember. I suspect #1 is the cause—perhaps because the delay in mixing in the honey somehow made the yeast too active or not active enough. Another possibility is that the heavier oil and honey weighed down the flour and let moisture or salt get to the yeast sooner than it should have, or maybe later and the bread over proofed and sank. A thin skin of dough along the side of the bread pan might support the overproof theory.

Here's why I put the oil and honey in later than before:
  • That's the order the Zojirushi instructions recommend.
  • It's easier to pour in the honey after the oil, since I measure them in the same container.
  • I thought olive oil might be more susceptible to off flavors (from being mixed with water for a few hours) than canola oil.
I'm going to make another loaf soon from frozen spent grain, doing everything more or less the same except no delay timer, and the oil and honey and salt will go in before the flour. Why add the salt then? I want it to be more evenly distributed, and I suspect that when it's left until last, it's not. Also, I want to reduce the odds that the salt will touch the yeast before the bread is kneaded.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

North English brown ale bread

My husband was itching to brew a new batch of beer, using a kit we'd recently bought from Beer and Wine Makers of America, down in San Jose. It didn't hurt that his Christmas gift had arrived and was obviously the brewing hardware he'd asked for. Yes, Nathan gets to open Christmas presents early. Way early.

The kit was for North English Brown Ale, and the spent grain smelled delicious—dark without the bitter overtones of his last beer, Celebration Ale. He mentioned that the brewing process was different from the one he was used to, and that not all of the grain got soaked. More on that later.

I was eager to make bread with the spent grain, but I decided to make a smaller loaf. I basically multiplied all the ingredients of the recipe I like (Snappy Service Cafe's Homebrewed to Home Baked: Spent Grain Bread) by 3/4 to 2/3, using Hensperger's similar recipe (whole grain daily bread, p. 181) as a guide. The ingredient list ended up being:
  • Scant 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup spent grain, firmly packed
  • 2 T canola oil
  • 2 T honey
  • 2-1/4 c bread flour
  • 3/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 t salt
  • 1 t bread machine yeast
The Hensperger recipe, besides using buttermilk instead of water and having slightly different proportions, also calls for a bit of rolled oats and gluten. But I stayed with the Snappy recipe's ingredient list.

I used a new honey this time, from Bay Area Bee Company.

Mmmm... This is a great smelling honey.

Another change I made was using the delay timer (on basic cycle, regular crust). I set it to finish at 6:30 a.m., before my alarm goes off but after I sometimes wake up anyway. If I got it out right away, it'd have time to cool before I had to leave to catch the bus.

The next morning I woke up (a little early) to the delicious scent of baked brown bread. I took the loaf out of the bread machine and set it out to cool. It was tall and light for its size, with a nice, medium brown color—darker than the hefeweizen bread, but lighter than the celebration bread.

English brown ale bread, fresh out of the bread machine

An hour later I had to leave, and since the bread was almost cool, I felt free to cut a slice off. This is some tasty bread! Its only fault, as far as I'm concerned, is that some of the grain was a little hard on the teeth. This might be due to my husband's problem in getting all the grain wet and cooked.

First slice

I'll make this recipe again in these proportions. I have plenty of leftover grain from this batch of beer, and I might try cooking it a bit in the bread water (perhaps in the microwave) before putting it in the bread machine.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Two semolina breads

We needed some white bread to use for Thanksgiving stuffing, so I made a Hensperger recipe that features a bit of semolina: pane italiano (p. 208).

Tragically, the stuffing recipe used the whole loaf. Still craving semolina bread, I made a similar (but not as tasty) recipe a couple of days later: semolina country bread (p. 202). I soon tried the first loaf again, but it turned out to be quite different from the first time.

Pane italiano numero uno

I made the 1.5 pound loaf with no ingredient changes except for the usual halving of yeast and salt. I baked it on the normal cycle, not noticing that the recipe called for extra kneading, accomplished using either the French bread cycle or by resetting the machine to double the kneading time. The recipe calls for a dark crust, but I specified a normal crust, figuring that stuffing bread needn't be overbaked.

I should've made the 2 pound loaf so we could've had some left over! The little bits that stuck to the paddles were delicious and crunchy—semolina's a great ingredient. The crust had some big bubbles for some reason. I couldn't resist poking one, and it shattered.

No picture, unfortunately. But the stuffing was really good.

Pane italiano numero due

When I made the bread again, I still used the 1.5# recipe, but I measured by weight instead of by volume. That was probably a mistake, as the recipe specifies only volume, and I think that the flour bag's weight/volume ratio was too high, resulting in more flour than when I measured by volume.

Otherwise, I followed the recipe instructions more precisely than before. I specified a dark crust and reset the machine after kneading was finished, so it could knead again. I checked the consistency when I reset the machine; it seemed dry, so I added some water. Then, unfortunately, I had to go to bed, so I didn't get to see the bread until the next morning. 

The loaf was much taller than before—too tall to fit into the breadbox unless I took out the cutting board. It wasn't noticeably darker than before, and it wasn't crisp at all by the time I saw it.

A very tall loaf

We liked it OK, but it's just kind of a semi-interesting white bread at this point. I have a feeling that this bread is much better if you eat it while it's warm.

If time allows, I prefer the Italian semolina bread recipe (p. 252). I might make pane italiano again, but only for stuffing bread or if I plan to eat it right after it finishes. And I'll measure by volume.

One good thing about pane italiano is that you can make it using a delay timer. I'd have to create a homemade course to be able to do the extra kneading without intervention. (My machine doesn't have a French bread setting, which would make the extra kneading happen automatically.)

Semolina country bread (pane di semola)

This bread has a higher proportion of semolina than the first, with no sugar or potato flakes. It also has sesame seeds, which make it a little more interesting. But not much more.

Cooked on dark, this bread doesn't look very dark
(the side wasn't as dark as this picture makes it seem)

This bread was fine, but I probably won't make it again.