Sunday, January 16, 2011

#40 - White Bread

Sourdough Baguettes and White Bread Shaped into Dinner Rolls

This white bread recipe was decidedly better than my first white bread recipe, which was my first bread-baking attempt some 38 years ago. This recipe made wonderful rolls. I made them for my birthday party in November. They went very well with the turkey meatballs and sauce. After the party, we froze those that were left. That was a great idea, and since they thawed out so quickly, whenever I wanted a fresh roll, I just popped one into the microwave for a few seconds and had fresh hot bread at a moment's notice. Wonderful!

While I vastly prefer whole wheat bread, if I need basic white bread, this will be my go-to recipe.

In the Oven

The Finished Rolls

# 39 Vienna Bread


Yes, these loaves of Vienna bread are absolutely beautiful, but far too sweet for my taste. The little boys next door loved them though. I like my bread to taste like bread, not cake. The Tuscan bread was similar, but had that great Italian flavor, much more to my liking.


The Finished Loaves

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

#38 - Tuscan Bread

This time, the beauty of the loaf matches the texture and the flavor - fabulous!

I am currently re-reading the first section of Elizabeth Gilbert's great book, Eat Pray Love, in which the author spends four months in Italy learning how to live life the Italian way - in pursuit of "Il bar far niente," in English, "The beauty of doing nothing." Although she doesn't exactly do nothing - she eats - and writes about what she eats - quite well. Almost as well as Steinbeck writes about food.

This bread, in my imagination, has me sitting in a trattoria in Rome or in Florence, ripping off a chunk to accompany a lovely pasta with a robust tomato sauce, redolent with garlic and herbs. It is a somewhat salty loaf, which somehow translates to Tuscany in my nascent Italian vocabulary.

A great loaf, and since I cook a lot of Italian food, I imagine this one gracing my bread basket many, many times.

The Close-Up

The Finished Loaves

# 37 - Swedish Limpa

Looks good, I know. But its good looks belie its flavor.

This one was just okay. Not stellar, by any rating scale - just okay. I had one slice and gave the rest away. But with 43 breads, they can't all be winners like the Poilane style miche, which, by the way two weeks later - thawed from the freezer - still makes the best toast - ever.

The Extreme Close-up

The Finished Loaf

Friday, January 7, 2011

#36 - Stollen

Perhaps not a perfect crescent moon shape, but one of the tastiest breads in the challenge.

Now I admit I was not looking forward to making this bread. First of all, it has an ingredient in it that I have detested since childhood - that nasty candied fruit that they put in fruitcake. When I was a kid, the only cake my mother made from scratch was fruitcake. I would get so excited that she was baking, and the ingredients looked so good and smelled so good. And then I would bite into it and be absolutely crestfallen with disappointment - due to - yes, that nasty candied fruit.

I dragged my feet on making bread, but time was running out - my deadline was looming - so I decided to take a leap and use dried cherries instead. I soaked them in rum, used toasted slivered almonds, orange and lemon extracts, and orange zest, and I now had one of my favorite breads in the challenge! It is wonderful hot right out of the oven; the next day; the day after - and makes absolutely spectacular toast.

I will make this bread again and again.

Oh - and I didn't see any reason to use the powdered sugar - it is perfect without it.

In the Oven

The Finished Loaf

# 35 - Sunflower Seed Rye

The Finished Loaves

Looks pretty good, doesn't it? Ah, but we all know how looks can deceive, and to my mind and taste buds, there was deception here. This was my least favorite bread in the whole challenge. Not crazy about the flavor; and the texture left me cold - too soft. Oh well ... On to the next ...

"The Single Loaf - Put a Ring on It"
Sorry, couldn't resist : )

#34 - Pumpernickel

The Finished Loaves

The Pumpernickel was very similar to the 100% Rye that I made into the baguette shapes. This bread was okay, but I prefer the 100% Rye because of its texture, and, like the Rye, it was better with cheese.

I have forever sought to make the dark, dark pumpernickel that my mom and I used to order with a delicious minestrone at a now defunct restaurant in Laguna Beach, California, called That Place Across from The Hotel Laguna. That pumpernickel was the color of dark chocolate, with a crisp crust, a relatively soft crumb and a tangy flavor, undoubtedly enhanced with sourdough and caraway seeds. I have never found a recipe for that bread. It never comes out dark enough, in spite of using copious amounts of dark chocolate and molasses. Perhaps they used food coloring of some sort?

The pursuit continues ...

Another View
And Yet Another View

#33 - Poilane-Style Miche

Book Cover - Bread Baker's Apprentice

My Version

I love this bread! It is definitely in my top three. Now, Monsieur Poilane's bread is famous - no legendary. I have read about it - first in Bernard Clayton's great book, The Breads of France, and often, since then, in a wide variety of publications from travel books to food magazines to cookbooks. I have even eaten some of Poilaine's bread, which was flown in from Paris to San Francisco - but never have I had the temerity to attempt to make this iconic bread until today.

It was surprisingly easy, and though the author says not to mix it in the stand mixer, I gave it a try, and it worked fine. Let's hear it for the trusty Kitchen Aid - mine isn't even the big one.

When that loaf came out of the oven - so impressively huge and well-risen, I was ecstatic. It filled my house with that tangy sourdough aroma and the taste - well - unbelievable - great flavor - perfect texture - with an amazing crust. This may just be the perfect bread!

Well done, Peter. You mastered Poilane's formula.

See the crackles on the crust? That happened after it came from the oven - crackled in the cold early morning air - a lovely sound.

I like the lights in this picture - the glow from the lamp to the left and the Christmas tree to the right.

View from Above

Three-Quarter Angle