From the kitchen: bread #28

I am so proud of my 28th baking result that I have to post pictures immediately 🙂

I used a recipe from Brotbackbuch n.2, namely Roggenmischbrötchen (mixed rye and wheat flour buns) in order to use a generous amount of my rye sourdough, that was almost dripping out of its container.

I took some time to understand the format of the recipe, but then followed it without issues. I made 8 buns and let them rise under a cloth (a piece of BOMULL fabric by IKEA, that I received as a present from valhalla – actually, as the wrapping of a briaccola):

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Notice the separation folds: they keep the buns from sticking to each other, and partly decide how large the bun will rise. I put a good amount of flour on the cloth to prevent sticking.

After about an hour of rising, the buns grew twice the initial size, so I preheated the oven and tried a new technique to put them in it, using a half-circular wooden tray that I had from a small electrical pizza oven. It worked like a charm:

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The buns cooked nicely for 20ish minutes, in two batches of 4:

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And here they are:

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The black and orange tool is a temperature measuring device. It is super useful in the kitchen: I used it to check the temperature of the oven, but I most often use it to measure the temperature of oil in a pan, so that it doesn’t overheat, and is hot enough to start browning onions.

Here is the detail of two crusts:

I am going to taste one, as soon as it cools down a bit 🙂

I hope I inspired you to bake your own bread and buns!

From the kitchen: pumpkin slices and bread

Short post about my recent kitchen activities. Let me start with butternut squash slices:

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It’s a very simple recipe. Slice the squash in slices around half cm thick, sprinkle with salt, chili, nutmeg, thyme, oregano and oil, and bake at 170 degrees for around half an hour, or until the skin starts to wrinkle and the edges start to brown.

It is nice to cook a meal (or part of it) in the oven, because there is some preparation to do, but most of the time you are free from cooking duties, except from monitoring the oven very closely:

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And last, my bread #24, with the best crust so far:

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I baked it in a casserole dish, on top of an upturned casserole dish which stayed in the oven from the start and is therefore already hot. I think I’ll keep this setup, given its great results!

In the kitchen: moelleux

Yesterday I had a bit of inspiration for baking. I fancied something chocolatey and muffin-like, so I browsed my cookbooks, especially “La ciliegina sulla torta” from the famous Italian blogger Jessica Leone. This book is a present from my mum, who bought it after reading her blog, tried her recipe for Belgian waffles and adopted it as her default one. That’s huge. My mum used the same waffle recipe for decades (with unanimous approval) and went so far as swapping it for a new one. So when I found a soft chocolate cupcake recipe, I was sure it would come out great.

Moelleux is the French name for a chocolate cake with soft center (see this page [in French] for a great description). It became the favourite word of my geeky friends when we attended FOSDEM earlier this year and feasted on moelleux at our reunion dinner.

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I edited the recipe a bit, because I didn’t want to use butter. I used coconut oil and coconut paste instead. I added too much flour and I compensated that with a spoonful of soya yoghurt and one of almond mousse. The recipe suggested to bake them for 15 minutes for a soft centre, or 20 for a firmer texture. They ended up in between a moelleux and a brownie, with a hint of coconut.

From the kitchen: baking trick

Hello all! I wish to share with you a rather known trick to let a simple electric oven bake bread with wonderfully crispy crust.

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Bread #16: the best crust so far, thin and tasty

Various baking websites and books recommend to have high humidity for the beginning of the baking process. Professional baking ovens have built-in water sprays that allow to regulate humidity at will, but they are quite expensive. At my mum’s house there is a gas oven. When gas is burnt, it produces small amounts of vapour, that is perfect for bread (and most of oven dishes too). Electric ovens don’t burn anything, so the air inside becomes dry very fast. You notice that if you bake bread and its crust is thick and very hard. It means it has dried out too much and has lost all humidity.

I have bought a relatively cheap electric oven and have only lately started making bread. I quickly realised that the crust was always too thick and dry, so I managed to solve the low humidity issue by adding a baking tin with around one glass of water right before warming the oven up, and leaving it there until the end of baking. The amount of water evaporates during the baking process, so that the tin can stay in the oven until it cools down and it’s safe to remove.

The second improvement is about the surface on which the bread cooks. I used to bake on a metal tin (the one that I decided to fill with water) and I read that a ceramic surface is very suitable for baking. Therefore I used my biggest porcelain casserole dish, upside down (so that the bread will be on the rough, porous surface). I put it in the oven before warming it up, so that the bread will be on a warm surface from the start. It is a bit tricky to put the bread in the oven, but with a small wooden cutting board as support, I manage to transfer the bread on its piece of baking paper quite safely.

I have baked three times with this setup and I am very happy with the flavour and texture of the crust.

Happy baking everyone!

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Today’s bread, my #17: roggen, dinkel vollkorn, sunflower and flax seeds, roggen-sourdough

From the kitchen: coconut sablés

For a friends’ party I challenged myself with a new biscuit recipe. It was risky for two reasons, first because it was a recipe untested by me, second because I am not so good at biscuit baking.

Nevertheless, full of optimism, I baked a batch of coconut biscuits following this recipe from La Tendresse en Cuisine [in French] and this is how they came out:

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They look nice and crumbly but they were way too dry. I believe that my difficulties come from my inability to understand if the intermediate steps are correctly done. Actually, the pâte sablée had a wonderfully crumbly texture. I wonder what I did wrong, or at least, not well enough.

Anyway, they are all gone! Let’s see how I do next 🙂

From the kitchen: baking with sourdough

Hello all, let me introduce you my experiments around sourdough in my weekly cooking post!

Two weeks ago I went shopping and the baking dry yeast was out of stock, so I decided to try a package of dry sourdough. I baked a bread with half of the package and put the rest in a big glass jar with some water and flour. As expected, it bubbled and grew and developed a nice sour, fruity flavour. (The bread was very good, but I will focus on the sourdough culture.)

This is how it looks today:

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I took this picture after adding a small amount of mature sourdough (around 20g) to a small glass of lukewarm water and an equivalent small glass of flour. I mixed them well, so that the mixture reached a fluid consistency. I read that such watery mixture is the one that is more ready to use, but also more prone to go bad; but as I monitor it every day, and bake once or twice a week, it is not a big risk.

Sourdough maintenance is an art, that however starts very simply. What I gleaned from the Internet and books (especially Das Brotbackbuch n.1) is that you need to periodically “refresh” the sourdough with new water and flour, i.e. food, otherwise the micro-organisms start developing unwanted acidic and alcoholig compounds, that are unsuitable for baking. What I do after four or five days is to take a small amount of the mature sourdough and put it in a new container, with fresh water and flour. With the rest of it I bake my bread. I find it a very convenient arrangement, because I obtain a good amount of sourdough for my baking necessities, while at the same time I reboot the culture every few days.

Baking with sourdough has been a wonderful discovery. The bread gets a fruity, slightly sour flavour that I really love, plus a lovely fine texture of bubbles in the crumb:

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and a crispy crust:

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I hope this inspires you to try baking with sourdough!

 

From the kitchen: baking bread

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I assumed for a long time that bread baking was not for beginners, and even good bakers needed an especially good oven in order to bake decent bread.

My friend Madi recently broke this spell by publishing her wholegrain bread recipe [in Italian]. Knowing that I could ask her for help if needed, I decided to try myself. The recipe was really simple; my electric oven seemed good enough for the task. Actually, the first bread was pretty good! Madi gave me some tips on how to improve the process, and I wish to share them with you.

For example, this bread had too much water in the dough (or not enough flour – I stopped adding it as I thought the dough was firm enough):

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You can see it came out very flat and with a lot of holes that correspond to many big bubbles. It was not bad, but as the water evaporated during baking and afterwards, it became quickly dry.

How to avoid that? Add all the flour that the recipe or the flour bag indicates. The dough could look firm and soft enough, but if you wait around one minute and it becomes sticky again, keep adding flour.

This other attempt was overall pretty good, but the crust was too dry and hard:

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The crust became too hard because the oven temperature was insufficient. Even if the knob was set at 200°C, it was too low, so the crust dried instead of becoming crisp and brown. My solution was to set the oven at 230°C and closely monitor the baking process (especially with my nose: when bread is baking well, it always smells wonderfully!).

With the experience gained, here are two breads I am especially proud of:

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Bread #4
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Bread #9

I hope this inspires you to start baking! Feel free to ask me for clarifications 🙂

(More pictures of my baking successes on my Flickr)