November sun

Yesterday was the sunniest day of the last three weeks. The yellow of the few leaves still left on the trees made a nice contrast with the blue sky.

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I gladly basked in the sun while waiting for my train… and I wasn’t the only one:

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I came home and baked my best bread ever, #42. I made a single cut, deeper than usual, and the crust opened nicely around it. I let the upper heat on for ten minutes more, and the crust came out deliciously crispy. It’s the fourth time I follow this recipe, I think I won’t get it wrong anymore!

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Happy November everyone 🙂

 

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From the kitchen: bread #39

Baking updates! Bread #39 followed the same recipe as #38, but I had to be creative with flours, as I discovered after making the Vorteig (pre-dough, with flour, water and yeast, left to rise for a few hours before adding all ingredients) that I had too little wheat flour left. I added Roggen and Dinkel flours, as well as a good amount of durum wheat semolina, and the resulting bread was brown and fluffy, with one of the best crusts ever!

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I had made a few changements in the cooking part, namely baking directly in the casserole dish. The downside is that the upper crust gets crisp and brown, while the lower crust and the sides remain soft – a bit too much. This is because I let the bread rise in the casserole dish, heated the oven, and put the casserole dish in the oven together with the bread, without pre-heating it. It took a while to get to temperature, therefore did not cook the lower part of the bread that much.

I hope you are inspired by my experiments and that you soon will try (or resume) baking too! I’ll be glad to hear back from you, and maybe I can start answering your questions about baking? Let’s try 🙂

From the kitchen: bread #38

Yesterday I ran out of bread and decided to bake it myself, summoning my courage to overcome the bad experience of bread #37, which I had to throw away (it was underleavened and partially raw after one hour in the oven, and no further toasting could save it).

I followed precisely the steps of Weizenmischbrötchen recipe in the Brotbackbuch, took half a day from start to finish, and I obtained two light, fluffy loaves:

I am a bit sad that I used only dry yeast, but I’m so happy for such a nice result 🙂

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!

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: 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!