Thursday, December 30, 2010

#32 - 100% Sourdough Rye Bread

Once again, I was skeptical, and once again, I was proven wrong. When I read this recipe, or "formula," as Peter Reinhart calls it, I thought no way; this will never work - not enough gluten - it won't rise; it will be too heavy, and on and on. Well, rye flour doesn't have a lot of gluten, but it did rise - not as well as its cousin, white flour, but rise it did.

The final loaves were not the typical looking baguette. Heavier and denser than the baguette made using white flour, I carefully cut a thin slice and tasted it, and it was okay - just okay. But then I remembered bread's old friend, cheese. I cut a thin slice of a New Zealand Cheddar, and put it on top of the bread. The affinity of the bread and the cheese is one of those mysterious twists when the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Alone, the bread is okay. Alone the cheese is good. But combining the two makes a happy explosion of flavor and texture in the mouth - one that is not to be missed.

The Finished Loaves

Risen and Ready for the Oven

In the Oven

And There They Are

#31 - New York Deli Rye

Triple Beauties - Looking Good and Tasting Just as Good

I have always loved a good rye bread. I love it toasted with poached eggs on top. I love it toasted with jam on it. I love it as the wrapper for a good sandwich. But I have never been able to make a good rye bread. And I have tried. Many times have I tried, but it never has that distinctive deli rye flavor - until now. This one has the flavor - and it has the texture. The caraway seeds are the final touch which gives it that authenticity. I will make this again and again.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

#30 - Basic Sourdough Bread

There is sourdough, and there is Peter Reinhart's formulas for sourdough. I have made sourdough breads for over 30 years. I have used those silly "tourist" packages one gets from Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. I have grown the starter using organic champagne grapes and organic flour from the specialty natural foods store - and never with great results. Sometimes, they were bricks; sometimes they were gummy and raw; and sometimes they were just flat and lifeless. Not so with Peter's formulas.

Starting with the basic sourdough formula here, I chose to bake these into baguettes for my birthday party dinner, which was my 60th birthday - the theme of which was 60 and Fabulous! and the bread was lived up to that theme. I still like the French baguettes slightly better, but this formula was a darned close second. Great flavor; great texture. I will make these again - definitely.

From my 60th - and Fabulous! birthday party. Used for dipping into the sauce part of Dorothy's meatballs and sauce.

The Firm Starter

Kneaded and Ready to Rise

I finally had someone there to take a picture of the famed "windowpane." It was fun to get to that point.

In the Oven

Behold the Sourdough Baguette!

#29 - Pugliese

Back from a very long hiatus. Did not bake from the challenge since before summer. But I have decided to finish this challenge by the end of 2010, which was about one week from the day I actually baked this. I think I'm going to reach my goal. It is 2:30 a.m., Wednesday, December 29th, as I write this, and I only have the last two breads to go. I'll be writing furiously too. Stay tuned to see what I have planned next. : )

Pugliese - funny name - good bread - not great, but good. Mine did not come out at all like the picture in the book. I think it's because I didn't use the semolina flour and opted instead for the bread flour. This bread had great rising power and was wonderful right out of the oven, but became pretty dry pretty quickly. I have a loaf to my daughter, who planned to make French toast with it. Haven't heard back from her yet as to results, but I am guessing it made outstanding French toast, due to the slight dryness - great for soaking up the custard-like batter.

The Finished Loaves - Twin Beauties - Again

Fully Kneaded - Ready for the Rise

And Now Ready for the Oven

What a Gorgeous Loaf!

#28 - Potato Rosemary Bread

What a delicious bread! The combination of the roasted garlic and the rosemary really added tremendous flavor to this delightful loaf. It is a winner; one that I will make again and again. And having the biga already in the fridge is a real help. Confession: sometimes I don't even take the chill of the starter. Ever since making the Pain l'Ancienne, with its cold everything, I figured using the cold starter would be okay, and it was.

Twin Beauties

The Finished Loaf

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

#27 - Portuguese Sweet Bread

I am 100% Portuguese. Family lore says that sometime in the 1860s, or thereabouts, my ancestors went from the Azores, off the coast of Portugal, to Hawaii with Captain James Cook's missionaries on their honeymoon - "on a lark." My
parents, brother and I were born in Hawaii and moved to San Diego in February of 1953.

And here we are - "Coming to America" - from left to right - my brother Al, me, my Dad Al, my mom Olga, and my Grandma Rocha. Look how dressed up we were! That's how people dressed to travel back in the day. This photo was taken at the Honolulu airport just before we left to move here permanently. Thanks to my bro for being the family historian and digging this treasure out.

There is also a large Portuguese population in San Diego, but I was not raised in or around that culture. It was the 50s - a time of assimilation - so I had very little exposure to my heritage - except for the occasional "Festa" (pronounced feshta). The year 2010 marked the 100th anniversary of the Festa, and so I decided to go. As I walked up to see the dancers - a huge draw for the day's festivities - they were dancing the "Chamarita," a Portuguese folk dance that is inherent in some of my fondest memories of my beloved Grandma Rocha. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both.

Coincidentally, the bread that came up for that week's rotation was the Portuguese sweet bread, which i had just made the night before. Something so comforting when the universe is in order like that.

My photo essay that follows is of the Festa experience as well as my journey to Poruguese sweet bread land.

Two of the dancers from Northern California who travel from Festa to Festa dancing the Chamarita and other traditional Portuguese folk dances. They have day jobs; they just do this for fun. Made me want to learn this dance from my childhood memories. And by the way, their arms are over their heads during the entire dance. No need to work out any more than this.

And here I am with two of the dancers. They were very friendly - and great dancers.

This troupe had the best costumes - by far. Their partners matched the colors with their own costumes. They looked great!

This group had traveled down from San Leandro, where there is a huge Portuguese population. The woman directly to my right was so friendly, and in true Portuguese style - loved to talk. We were a great pair!

And now onto the bread: Fresh out of the oven, this was a winner, but as soon as it cooled, it was pretty dry. I have had this experience before, and I am not quite sure why this happens, but no matter. I made bread pudding the next day with the leftovers, and it was outstanding! I imagine it would make fantastic French toast too, for the same reason.

The Finished Loaf

Kneaded, and Ready to Rise

Read for the Oven

In the Oven


#26 - Poolish Baguettes

These poolish baguettes were okay - just okay. The original French baguettes were far and away superior. I even gave up my old recipe for baguettes, which I had been using for over 20 years for those baguettes - so these had a tough act to follow. In the future, when I want to make baguettes, I'll opt for the non-poolish ones.

The Finished Baguettes

Nice Action from the Poolish

Ready for the Oven

#25 - Pizza Napoletana

I have made homemade pizza before, but it was never as good as this one, nor was it as easy to make. Thank you, Peter for this wonderful recipe. I now keep the dough in the freezer, so I can have a much healthier, low-fat pizza whenever I want it.

My version of Hawaiian pizza - pineapple and turkey bacon.

I don't eat beef, so I make turkey meatballs, which I used for this wonderful version.

In the oven.

The finished pizza - cooling.

Hawaiian pizza ready for the oven.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

#24 - Panettone

This bread was such a surprise to me. I didn't think I would like it - too much like fruitcake, I thought. Was I wrong! And it was our turn for breakfast the next day, so my lucky colleagues got to feast on this delectable bread. And the reviews were stellar - they gobbled it up in no time at all, which is always so gratifying.

I preferred the smaller shape; like cupcake, but better, because it was bread. : )

Here are the steps start to finish:

The dough being mixed.

The fruit mixture, consisting of dried cherries and raisins.

Combining the fruit with the dough.

Post kneading, first in the mixer, then by hand; ready to rise.

Ready for the oven.

In the oven - one large plus six smaller ones.

Out of the oven - the small ones.

The finished Panettone.

Monday, May 17, 2010

#23 - Pane Siciliano

The Finished Product

This was another of those interesting breads that I probably never would have made were it not for this challenge. And the truth is, I will most likely not make it again. It was all right, and it made great toast, but there are so many other breads in this challenge that are far superior. So this was fun, and the shape was not nearly as difficult as I though it would be, and I'm glad I had the experience, but if given a choice, I'd make the Pain L'Ancienne again and again over this one.

#22 - Pain de Campagne

Look at the Crackle on that Crust!

"Bread of the Country" - remininscent of good peasant bread they probably ate during medieval times. If that is the case, take me back in time - no wait - I would have had to bake this bread in a wood burning hearth. Perhaps it is the best of both worlds that we can bake in our thermostatically accurate ovens, and still have the flavor and experience of the chewy crumb and crunchy crust of this flavorful bread.

Monday, February 22, 2010

#21 - Pain L'Ancienne

Pain L'Ancienne

What a fantastic bread! They just keep getting better and better. I was very skeptical about this method. I thought Peter had flipped out on us - ice water? First rise in the fridge? This will never work. Was I ever wrong! Is there a theme building here over the last few posts?

I said to myself, "Oh, well, what the heck? I'm committed to this project; let's see what happens. I dutifully mixed the dough - yes - with the ice water, thinking all the while, un, hmmm - sure Pete - I was somewhat surprised at the resulting dough, but did not think too much about it. I was more concerned trying to find room in my fridge for the bowl with the rising dough inside.

Didn't think a thing about it the rest of the night or the next day at work. When I got home from a particularly long day at 9:00 (!), I remembered I had that bread to deal with. I took it out to de-chill, and to my surprise, it had risen quite well.

Now, while I live in San Diego, let me dispel a myth right now - it does rain and it does get cold - okay maybe only for the blink of an eye, but it does, and it was that night. I thought it was way too cold for this to ever de-chill, but I set it on the counter and busied myself with a project upstairs in my home office. At about 11:00, I remembered the bread. When I went downstairs to shape it, I thought, hmmm, this may not be so bad after all. As I began to shape it, I began to see the potential for this bread. What a fantastic dough! It had a wonderful springiness to it. I decided to be a heretic, though, and formed it into a hearth loaf, rather than baguettes. I simply wasn't in the mood for baguettes; with all this winter chill, I wanted a big, round, earthy hearth loaf. As I shaped it, though, I noticed it gave me difficulty in securing the bottom of the loaf. I rounded it the best I could, placed it on a parchment-lined sheet pan onto which I had sprinkled a good amount of finely ground cornmeal. I covered it with an impeccably clean kitchen towel, preheated the oven to 500 degrees, set the timer and went back to my project upstairs.

For anyone interested, my project was printing out and binding into book form poetry and commentaries on their writing experiences that my 7th grade students had written. They did such a fantastic job on this, that I decided to gift them with their own copy of the book.

When I checked on the bread later, it was as I had anticipated. It did not rise high and round, but rather like a large pancake with a small mound on top.

My Pathetic "Pancake"

Oh, just get it in the oven, already, I thought. I had set a pan on the bottom shelf, and I went through the motions of steaming the oven for hearth baking - pouring a cup of hot water into the pan just as the bread went in; dousing the oven walls with water every 30 seconds thereafter for 90 seconds, set the timer, and went back upstairs. I know. How cheeky of me to leave the bread unattended! But when I came back about 20 minutes later, to my astonishment and delight, the bread had risen like the phoenix.

In the Oven

My "pancake" had risen to a tall and majestically round loaf, brown and gorgeous. I turned the oven down to 475 and let it go another 10 - 15 minutes. When I returned again, it looked done, but when I checked the internal temperature, it wasn't even at 100 degrees yet, and the thermometer came out with a big glob of wet dough on it. Uh, oh, I thought. I was afraid of this. Since the original recipe was for baguettes, and the dough was rather wet, I had anticipated that this might be problematic. I turned the oven way down to 300 degrees and checked every 10 minutes until the temp registered 207 degrees. I don't even know how much longer that took, but it was at least another 30 minutes.

The Finished Loaf - What a Beauty!

By now it was 2:00 a.m., and I had to go to work in just a few short hours, so I photographed the loaf, and let it sit on the rack overnight. For the first time since this challenge began, I did not slice into the loaf and taste it fresh and hot from the oven.

In the morning, however, I sliced off a piece and was stunned to see the most perfect crumb I have seen yet coming from a loaf of my bread in the 35+ years that I have been baking bread. Of course, I spread a little butter on it, and - well - it was amazing! It had a completely different taste and texture from other breads.

A Moist and Delicious Crumb - and Fantastic Toast!

Peter, my hat's off to you, and I will never doubt your methods again. You are the master. Of course, the real question is why would I doubt anyone who dreamed up the phrase, "Slow rise as metaphor?" It is magical; it is mystical; it is a metaphor. Oh, and it is mighty tasty too. The flavors must have married well and had some mystical fermentation magic going on in my fridge overnight, but we won't go there.