Sunday, March 20, 2016

Cranberry-walnut sourdough is delicious (and other lessons learned)

I've been making lots of sourdough lately. My favorite had dried cranberries and toasted walnuts.

Cranberry walnut sourdough #2

Rather than dwelling on individual loaves, this post summarizes what's worked and what hasn't lately. As usual, the sourdough is based on Josey Baker's recipes.

How much fruit & nuts?

When I make a loaf that's just walnuts, I usually use 1 cup (or more) of toasted walnuts. When the loaf is fruit and nuts, I use 3/4 cup of toasted nuts and 1/2 cup of dried fruit.

To soak or not to soak?

If you have great dried fruit, I don't think you need to soak it. If you do soak, 20 minutes in hot water seems sufficient, but be sure to drain the fruit really well.

I didn't soak the cranberries the first time I made cranberry-walnut bread, and the bread was still delicious. A big part of their deliciousness was that the cranberries were great. I think I got them at Berkeley Bowl.

Interior of cranberry-walnut loaf #1

The second time I made cranberry-walnut bread, I used cranberries from Trader Joe's. They were fine but not great, so I didn't love the bread quite as much. I soaked them and should have drained them for longer, but the end result was still a very nice bread. You can see from the pictures that the cranberries in loaf #1 were larger and more deeply colored. They just had a lot more flavor than those in loaf #2.

Interior of cranberry-walnut loaf #2

In a raisin-pecan loaf that I made, I soaked and drained the raisins, both for longer than I did the cranberries. That worked out well, but I don't think you need to soak the fruit for that long.

When to add the fruit & nuts

I used to add walnuts just after mixing in the flour. That's probably the easiest way to go, but the dough is discolored by the walnuts: near the walnuts, the dough is purplish, as you can see in my other posts about walnut sourdoughs.

Another option I tried is adding the walnuts and fruit during shaping. This worked OK, but the distribution wasn't very good, and you have no possibility of reshaping if you mess it up.

Take my raisin-pecan sourdough. I spread its dough out flat, then spread out the soaked raisins and toasted pecans, and then rolled it all up. But the dough had no surface tension, so I ended up folding it into thirds to make it a little more likely rise and get a nice ear. 

Raisin-pecan sourdough

As you can see from the picture above, the shape is a little odd, but I did get that ear. Unfortunately, it was along one of the seams (at the top of the picture), not where I diagonally scored the bread. Also, raisins peeked out of the scores. Not a good look.

Inside the raisin-pecan sourdough

The distribution of raisins and nuts was uneven, but not as bad as I feared.

With both cranberry-walnut sourdoughs, I mixed in the fruit and nuts after my last fold-and-stretch knead. This wasn't as hard as I feared.

The winner: cranberry-walnut sourdough #1

The loaf had no ear (my boules never do), but the bread was delicious, with the mixins well distributed throughout.

Delayed baking and flying roofs

I often don't bake the bread the same day that I start it. Instead, I let it rise in the refrigerator, so I can bake it when I need it, and the bread can gain depth of flavor. In my house, we like sourdough.

For my last couple of batches, I created enough dough for two loaves. One loaf I shape immediately (to either bake right away or put in the fridge for a day or two), and the other I put in the fridge, unshaped. The next day I'll shape the second loaf.

I recently was having lots of flying roofs—the top crust would separate from the bread below it. The cause seemed to be taking the shaped loaf out of the fridge before I was ready to put it in the oven. Once I changed to baking cold dough, right out of the fridge, the flying roofs went away.

Sesame sourdough looked good on the outside

The sesame sourdough was my most recent victim of a flying roof.

Flying roof (not as bad as some I've had)

Baking pans & form factor

For boules, I use either the bare cooking stone with a large, squat stock pot on top or (more recently) a huge dutch oven.

Large, squat stock pot

The dutch oven is a little scarier, but it worked out really well when I somehow used a cloth to maneuver the dough into it, as opposed to when I used a parchment paper sling. (The parchment paper made the loaf's edges wavy and was hard to remove, since it got brittle.) I need to try the dutch oven again.

Huge dutch oven

For longer loaves, I used to use the same stone + stock pot combo as for a boule, but sometimes I'd misposition the pot, and the edge of the loaf would be a little weirdly shaped. Last time, I used my long, low, 5-quart Le Creuset pan. I was afraid it wasn't tall enough, but it worked out great.

5 quart Le Creuset worked great for a longer loaf

For really long loaves, I use the King Arthur covered baker. It's a handy form factor, but the crust isn't as nice. I baked my most recent plain sourdough in the covered baker, so it'd be easier to share with my parents.

Just before going into the oven.
This dough was a bit wet and overproofed;
slashing did not go well.

The crust looks nice, but I don't like it as much

Inside the end piece

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Two seedy sourdoughs

Last week I made a couple of sourdoughs, one with pumpkin seeds added during shaping, and one with sunflower seeds added at the beginning. Both were, as usual, based on Josey Baker's sourdough recipe.

Sunflower seed sourdough

The first loaf had an amazing crust, which I attribute either to cooking it in a dutch oven or cooking it almost too much. Perhaps both. The second loaf had a good crust, but it wasn't as crunchy-chewy as the first.

With the first sourdough, I had enough time to let the dough rise slowly, although (sadly) I didn't keep the details. I think the first rise was about 24 hours, mostly in the fridge.

After the first rise, I shaped the bread and added pumpkin seeds. (They might have been roasted, but they weren't salted, and I didn't soak them.) I pushed the dough into a flat rectangle, then spread a layer of pumpkin seeds on top, and then sort of folded it a few times.

This way of adding the seeds had worked before, with the walnuts, but it didn't work as well for the pumpkin seeds. They ended up clumped. It'd probably be better to mix the seeds into the dough at the beginning.

After shaping

I don't recall how long the shaped dough was in the fridge, but I did take it out for a final rise at room temperature. I forgot to set an alarm, so the dough rose a little too long. Oops.

After rising perhaps a bit too much

I put the bottom of a dutch oven in the oven, on top of a baking stone, and heated the oven to 500 degrees for 30+ minutes. Then I flipped the dough onto some parchment, and gently laid the parchment in the dutch oven, added a lid, and turned the oven down to 475. As usual, I removed the lid after 20 minutes and cooked the bread for another 15+ minutes.

For some reason, this time the parchment paper folded in such a way that the bread had little protuberances around the bottom.

Parchment paper induced bulbs at the top and bottom right

I cooked the heck out of this bread. It looked almost burnt, but it was really really tasty.

Well done

If you look closely at the interior, you can see clumps of pumpkin seeds.

The sunflower seed dough was a different beast entirely. I started the night before, toasting and then soaking the sunflower seeds (~ 1 cup), but I didn't have time to put the dough in the fridge. I just made the dough, and then kept it out until it was ready to shape.

Shaped dough

Ready to go into the oven

I baked this loaf directly on the stone (with a pot on top for the first 20 minutes), but I think the dutch oven produced a better crust.


I like how this bread had sunflower seeds everywhere.

It looks like the crust separated a little bit, but I only noticed that in one spot.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Oat-applesauce muffins and a walnut sourdough

This weekend I made muffins and, for the first time in a while, sourdough.


These "healthy oats and applesauce muffins" feature applesauce, whole wheat flour, and lots of oats. They're similar to a bunch of recipes, but they use whole eggs instead of egg white, and butter or coconut oil instead of a boring oil or margarine. The recipe also doesn't come with a topping.

I used butter and substituted brown sugar for the white sugar. I also added about 1/2 cup cinnamon chips, just because I could, and a pinch of salt.

I thought about adding a topping, but decided against it. I also considered adding raisins, but abandoned them in favor of the cinnamon chips.

Before going into the oven

I cooked the muffins (11, not the claimed dozen) on 375 on the convection setting for 12-15 minutes. (Someone ignored the alarm!) Although the toothpick came out clean, the muffins didn't look done. Still, the timing (whatever it was) was perfect. The texture was nice and moist, but definitely cooked through. The muffins didn't rise much, if at all; I'm not sure if that's because of my faux baking soda & powder, or just how the recipe works.

The muffins tasted pretty good, but not amazing—they were much what you'd expect from a cinnamony, completely whole grain muffin recipe. If I make it again, and I might, I'll try whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular whole wheat flour. I'll probably use raisins or cranberries instead of cinnamon chips.

About the cinnamon chips: I haven't yet found anything I love them in. If they were bigger, I might like them better, but they just kind of get lost in everything I've tried, so far. I wonder if they'd be good added on top of an iced muffin—say, a carrot cake muffin.

Walnut sourdough

I hadn't made bread outside the bread machine in a while, so this loaf was way overdue. Unfortunately, I forgot to put the dough in the fridge before I went out for the evening, so the dough rose way too high!

It should be half this high!

When I got home and saw my mistake, I decided to go ahead and shape the bread. The bread was so gloopy it was rather hard to work. I ended up flattening it out, adding a bunch of walnuts on top, and then folding/rolling it a bunch of times to try to add a little surface tension.

Plopped into a banetton

The next morning, I took it out of the fridge and let it rise at room temperature (around 68 degrees, just like the night before) for a couple of hours . Then I put the dough back in the fridge while I went out for a couple of hours.

Before baking

When I got back, I preheated the oven to 500 degrees for 45 minutes, to get the baking stone nice and hot. I then turned the bread out onto a parchment-covered peel, which took some doing since the dough was sticky. I sliced the top, then slid the bread onto the stone in the oven, placed a big pot on top of it, and reduced the heat to 475.

The resulting bread was very flat—not surprising, given how overworked the yeast had been. Poor yeast.

However, the texture was fine, and it was deliciously sour! The crust, a couple of hours after baking, still had a great, chewy yet crunchy texture.

Flat, yet delicious

This bread tasted great by itself or with fresh mozzarella on top. It'd be great with olive oil or butter, as well.

I used the usual Josey Baker recipe, with added walnuts (maybe 3/4 cup, toasted).

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Oatmeal stout bread flops, plus pot pies, spelt bread, and beans

In this episode, I endure a frustrating series of failures, ended only by giving up. I also sing the praises of pastry flour, spelt flour, and heirloom beans.

Mini-mash oatmeal stout bread

My husband brewed oatmeal stout, using a kit from MoreBeer. They call this one a mini-mash, since it has so much grain. The recipe calls for 4 pounds of malted barley (half of it 2-row, and the remainder 4 different kinds of dark malts), 1 pound flaked oats, and 4 oz wheat—over 5 pounds of grains! Most recipes my husband has brewed use 1/2 to 1 pound.

The huge amount of grains (while not nearly as much as an all-grain recipe) meant my husband couldn't put all the grains in bags. (The first part of making beer is soaking the grains in hot water, as if you were making tea, but the soaking takes a lot longer.) As a result, he couldn't strain most of the grains, and (although I couldn't see this) they were apparently much wetter than usual.

That's a lot of spent grain

We saved about 6 cups of the spent grain for breads. The grain didn't look noticeably different from others I'd used, but they acted much different.

Flop #1

Sunken and inedibly gummy

The usual recipe, except that I used a full cup of water, not a scant cup.

Flop #2

Less sunken, and almost edible

I reduced the water to 3/4 cup, and I used the regular cycle instead of whole wheat. This one looked and tasted more like my normal spent grain bread, except that it was collapsed and gummy — both of which are exaggerations of tendencies that were evident but not problematic in my other spent grain breads.

Flop #3

Hensperger says the collapse due to too much yeast action, so I reduced the yeast to 3/4 teaspoon. I think I used the whole wheat cycle.

The result looked just like flop #2.

Try #4

Same as flop #3, except the honey changed (to something similar) and I added 30 g more of bread flour.

The result looked just like flops #2 & 3.

If I ever make bread from a mini-mash again, I'll be sure to squeeze the grains thoroughly before measuring them. Yeesh.

Turkey pot pie

During this time of failure, I took solace in my husband's delicious turkey pot pie. One double-crust recipe produced enough pot pies for me to eat one or two helpings every day. That's probably not good for my waistline, but they tasted so good!

Reheated for 20 minutes at 350 degrees

Nate's always made good pie crusts, but lately they're amazing—great flavor and texture. He credits a new flour he's been using: King Arthur's pastry flour blend. I'd bought that flour along with their excellent cocoa powders (both black and triple), cinnamon chips, and a bunch of bread flours that I have yet to try.

Better than all-purpose flour for pie crusts

Whole-wheat toasted sesame bread

After so many bread failures, I went back to an old favorite, Hensperger's whole-wheat toasted sesame bread. And I forgot to put the paddles in the bread machine. The result was, needless to say, inedible—a cracker topped by flour and yeast. Mmm, mmm, mmmmm.

The next day, having recovered enough to try again, I realized I was out of whole-wheat flour. So I made the bread again, using spelt flour I had in the freezer. The bag said you could substitute the flour one-for-one for whole-wheat flour, so I did.

And it worked. Yay!

Finally, a success!

Magical fruit

Finally, I recently when to the Rancho Gordo store in the Ferry Building (on my way back from watching adorable puppies play on a mock football field). My haul included some chile powder, oregano, and hot sauce, plus five kinds of beans:
  • Santa Maria Pinquitos
  • Royal Corona
  • Ayocote Amarillo
  • Vaquero
  • Alubia Blanca
I recently cooked the Alubia Blanca beans in the Instant Pot I got for Christmas.  Into the pot went1 pound of unsoaked beans, water to cover by 1.5+ inches, and a bay leaf. I put it on for 25 minutes on manual. The results were tasty, but unfortunately we aren't used to using beans in this household. I never got around to making a salad (perhaps Alubia Blanca salad with pineapple vinaigrette), but I did enjoy the beans as a quick snack/lunch when nothing else was available. I'd just stir up the beans with a few shakes of salt-free spice, and voila—a filling serving.

The next time I make a batch of beans, I'll plan better.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Two British beer breads

I've made this spent grain recipe many times before, but I'm still tweaking it. This week, I tried measuring the flour by weight instead of by volume. I also used ordinary Trader Joe's honey and olive oil, instead of going fancy (for the honey) or tasteless (for the oil). Finally, I used the whole wheat cycle on the bread machine, instead of the normal cycle.

British porter

The spent grain for the first loaf was very dark, from a British porter kit from Oak Barrel Winecraft that included half Black Patent and have Crystal 77°L. The spent grain was probably in smaller pieces than before, since we used our own mill to crack it. (This is a new attachment to our stand mixer, and we used the coarsest setting... but that still seems to produce too much powder for beer. The product is, however, great for bread.)

Dark spent grain

As before, I put the following into the pan first:
  • 1 scant cup water
  • 3/4 cup packed spent grain
  • 2 T TJ's clover honey
  • 2 T TJ's olive oil
  • 3/4 t fine sea salt (also TJ's)

Spent grain, salt, and liquids went into the pan first

Then I added the flour, topped by the yeast:
  • 270 g bread flour (my approximation of 2-1/4 c)
  • 90 g whole wheat flour (approximately 3/4 c)
  • 1 t bread machine yeast
This was my favorite iteration of the spent grain bread recipe. When I lifted the lid to check on it during a rise, it smelled rich and alcoholic—that yeast must have loved these grains.

Lopsided but tasty

The resulting bread was a bit lopsided, as it often is, but had a great, almost chocolate taste that worked wonderfully with peanut butter and jelly. It tasted almost like a pumpernickel bread, without the seeds.

North English brown ale

The next loaf of bread used the same recipe, but with a few differences:
  • I used frozen spent grain from the mid-December brewing of North English brown ale.
  • I thawed the grain in a full cup of water in the microwave (1 minute high, 2 minutes half power).
  • The flour mix was slightly different. Instead of 270 g bread flour (King Arthur) and 90 g whole wheat flour, I used:
    • 45 g King Arthur bread flour (all I had)
    • enough King Arthur French-style flour to bring it up to 272 g
    • 88 g whole wheat flour
  • I used a scant teaspoon of yeast, instead of a whole teaspoon.
The French-style flour looks less white than the bread flour, and it has 2g of dietary fiber per 30 g—twice as much fiber as the normal bread flour. The website says has 11.5% protein content and is a "medium-protein, high-ash flour.... The higher ash count indicates that the flour is higher in minerals (since it's milled closer to the bran), which gives this flour a deeper flavor than all-purpose." Its ingredient list has just two items:
  • hard white wheat flour
  • malted barley flour
The bread flour was unbleached enriched hard spring wheat flour, which contains wheat flour, malted barley flour, and some vitamins. It has 1 g of dietary fiber per 30 g and, according to the website, 12.7% protein content. It also warns that bread flour is more absorbent than other flour, so I was a little worried that the bread would be gloppy.

I used the basic whole wheat delay cycle on the bread machine, which delayed the start time for 5.5 hours. The next morning, I woke up to a fantastic scent.

Brown ale bread

The bread was beautiful and tasty. It's much less dark than the previous bread, and perhaps even the previous incarnation of brown ale bread, but it had great texture and flavor.

Went well with salad

Next time I want to try the French flour with the porter grains, using a full cup of water, to see how much of the difference between versions of the brown ale bread is attributable to the flour.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Swedish rye and Kölsch spent grain bread

For the first time in many months, I made Hensperger's Swedish rye bread (p. 136). I also made a spent grain bread, using still warm grains and some barley syrup left over from my husband's latest brew.

I made the following adjustments to the Swedish rye recipe:
  • Reduced salt to less than 3/4 teaspoon (maybe 1/2 teaspoon; I didn't measure precisely).
  • Reduced yeast to a scant 1.5 teaspoons.
  • Reduced gluten to 1 T (mostly because I couldn't be bothered to find a clean teaspoon measure).
  • Used organic safflower oil and TJ's multi-floral and clover honey (northern U.S.).
As I have been doing lately, I put the oil, honey, and salt in with the water. I didn't want to stay up until 2:30 a.m. for this bread to cook, so I put it on a delay timer for 9 a.m.

I denuded a huge orange for this bread.

The bread smelled great the next morning. It looked pretty good, too, if a little lumpy.

Rorschach test: What does this bread look like?

Most importantly, the Swedish rye bread smelled and tasted really good. We didn't quite finish it, but we sawed quite a bit of it away before abandoning it.

Next, I baked the same spent grain recipe I've been making for a while, but with leftovers from brewing Kölsch ale. I even scraped the malt syrup jar so I could use liquid malt extract instead of honey. Here are the details:
  • Instead of 2T honey, I used 2T barley syrup (which was half Pilsen and half Munich).
  • The spent grain (3/4 cup) was half white wheat malt and half crystal 10°L.
  • The 2T of oil was safflower (organic), instead of olive, because I wanted to taste the grain and barley.
  • As before, the first things into the bread pan were the spent grain, oil, syrup, salt (3/4 t), and a scant cup of water.
  • As before, I used 2-1/4 c bread flour, 3/4 c whole wheat flour, and 1t bread machine yeast.
  • The rising bread was way over on one paddle's side, so I picked it up early and redistributed it.

Spent grain going into the bread pan

The bread came out looking pretty good.

Lighter than the other breads, as you'd expect given the grains

The taste of the bread was good, but I wasn't crazy about the texture. The bread was soft, like a buttermilk or potato bread. That didn't bother my husband, who ate a bunch of it the night it was baked.

I didn't notice the pyramidal shape of this loaf right away,
so I suspect it got squeezed at the top when it was first sliced.

If I can find any malt syrup, I might make this bread again, doing everything the same except changing the crust control to dark.

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.