Bread And Soup

It's raining and cold this weekend and I just made some split pea with ham hocks that was fantastic with a hearty 30% whole wheat, 10% rye and 5% buckwheat sourdough boule (I don't have a name for this bread, I just made it up).

Adding other flours to sourdough adds more depth of flavor and I find plain white sourdough kinda boring.

I like a thick crusted bread with a nice chewy interior to accompany soup.

The interior serves to mop up delicious broth and a nice chewy bread holds together while others might break up on saturation with broth. The solid crust serves as a robust handle for delivering the soup soaked bread to my yap hole.

But you can pick a flavor for your bread depending on what soups you have.

That said, you can really pair flavors however you like. You might like a rye bread with something like french onion soup, but not with a creamy carrot soup. You might like sourdough with chicken noodle but not with mushroom bisque. It's really up to your flavor preferences.

Published: April 7, 2017 | Comments: 0

Gluten Free Baking

Can you have gluten free bread? I'd say you've got yourself worked into a corner here. Because of how gluten acts in dough, you either have to use gums to create that elasticity, or a blend of ingredients that can mimic some of the properties.

Gluten free baking, particularly yeast bread, is a completely different proposition than its gluten-y counterpart.

If you don't want to use "a million and one different flours," then a pre-mixed flour blend is your best bet.

However, most pre-mixed flour blends contain gums. If you don't want gums, you should expect that you're going to have to use multiple flours.

Personally speaking, I make my own blend, based off of Shana Ahern's recipe. It's six different flours: brown rice, sweet rice, potato starch, tapioca starch, almond flour, and sorghum (or teff, or millet, or buckwheat) in a 40% whole grain/60% starch ratio. I make about 5lbs at once, for significantly less than the cost per ounce of the ridiculously overpriced Bisquick/Cup4Cup/King Arthur/pick-your-brand-since-they're-all-the-same-three-ingredients-anyway. Tastes a whole lot better, too. Is it a pain in the ass? Yeah. It's better than paying $5 for less than a pound of flour, though.

I also like Shauna's recipe for multigrain yeast bread. It's a good hearty bread without being gummy or otherwise funkily textured. The flaxseed/chiaseed slurry makes a much better substitute for gluten than any gum I've ever tried, and it adds a nice nutty taste to baked goods.

Most pre-made gluten free flour mixes are a mix of brown rice, white rice, tapioca starch and potato starch. It may be difficult to find pre-mixed GF flours without xantham gum premixed with it, so you may need to mix your own flour. Here's a good, simple, starting mix. You can add in other grains later for flavoring as desired. Millet, Buckwheat, Amoranth, Sorghum, are all good choices to experiment with.

Some Tips: Finding the right amount to add of the binding agent you choose may be difficult, expect to experiment, but always start with the recommended measure on the packaging. I have no tips for anything other than Xantham Gum, which is to not use too much – it gets slimy and rubbery. Too little, and your dough will crack when rolling or kneading.

If you do yeast/egg breads, use an extra egg – I don't know why, but it yields better results.

Give the yeast longer to rise than wheat.

Published: March 20, 2017 | Comments: 0

Skip The Machine

I like to thrift shop and from the number of donated bread machines I think they aren't very useful. I have one and honestly, it doesn't encourage you to make more, as it's not very tasty and sort of comes out slightly on the cake end in terms of texture.

My main complaint is nothing smells like bread, just yeasty.

Rice is not that difficult. Bread is difficult to make worth doing again. There is no such thing as good enough bread. It's either excellent or not.

If you want to continue use the manual first, as it will have recipes tailor-made for that machine. Also, some require dry ingredients first, some want the liquids first. So go ahead & try the booklet you have. King Arthur is awesome! Don't forget your local library as a source of cook books.

My 2 cents, if you need 'instant' bread, buy the stale pre-sliced plastic wrapped stuff. I've made some excellent bread, but it is all good used for toast

Published: March 14, 2017 | Comments: 0

Adding Egg Whites To My Bread

All my egg white increases have been in quick breads, so that isn't helpful. But – in case your goal is adding protein to your bread without negatively impacting the texture: using the whey from homemade cheese is a flavorful replacement for water in yeast breads that has not resulted in dryness, flatness, or scorch risk for me.

I don't recall the impact on crumb.

Don't expect egg whites to strengthen the gluten structure. Any old protein won't form a springy dough that can handle air bubbles the way gluten can. Gluten is special because it has long strands that can line up and link together.

This is why dough gets tight and stiff as you knead it; all those gluten strands are being lined up.

I'm not sure if your goal is using egg whites or getting bigger air bubbles… if you just want to use egg whites, make a soft enriched bread. If you want a nice chewy loaf with an open crumb, make a high hydration lean dough.

I don't have a scale so it is a little bit more about eying it. My challah recipe, which I use on a regular basis:

  • Tbsp dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg white (set aside the yolk for the wash)
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 5 1/2 cups flour (wheat or white)
  • 6 cups fir high altitude
  • 1/4 cup gluten if using a high percentage of wheat

(I make this using the bread machine dough cycle) Combine water yeast and sugar. Mix and let stand for 10 minutes until it is very foamy. Add the rest of the ingredients in order, mixing well after each one. Once the dough is formed, knead for 5 minutes. Cover and let rise until doubled. Heat oven to 350 F. Punch down and shape as desired. Cover and let rise for 10-15 minutes Mix the yolk with a little water and paint it gently with a brush. Sprinkle with seeds (poppy ,sesame, sunflower, etc) Bake in preheated oven until bottom is hard when you tap on it.(about 25 min.) Remove, place on rack to cool for at least 15 min.

Published: March 11, 2017 | Comments: 0

Quick Irish Soda Bread

I havent made it in ages but it has more wholewheat than plain flour ratio. It should have more of a wheat based bread look than being white bread. When I say 'traditional' I also mean the common/ basic foundation of irish soda bread (ISB). So ISB is commonly and traditionally plain without raisins or other fruit. However of course you can add things as you like (my sister makes one with bacon/cheese/ jalapeno* variation).

ISB is commonly made because the climate (in ireland) isn't great for bread that needs long proofing- cold/wet weather, heating is also expensive so you arent commonly going to have heating on all day (though its not cold that everyone is dying!). And I believe wheat is a bit cheaper there too.

Adding wheat is a must for ISB perhaps other soda breads dont need it but Irish soda bread needs wheat.

Some ways to eat the bread:

  • Irish lamb stew (not my fave thing to eat)
  • Bubble and squeek*
  • Sunday carvery with 3 types of potato- mashed/roasted/steamed …. all on your plate!
  • Black pudding and scallops
  • Full irish breakfast (thats smoky back bacon with white and black pudding)
  • A proper poured guinness (those irish car bomb drinks are offensive to irish history)
  • Chunky chips with curry sauce
  • Potato farls
  • Tayto crisps!
  • Bacon joint thingy
  • Jaffa cakes
  • Breakfast roll
  • Chicken roll

Boxty is fun too; several different recipes made out of potato.

Boxty pancakes are really common, but i personally like the boxty dumplings, which are a bit like Irish gnocchi (and you can sub gnocchi for them in recipes with some success).

Basically it's mash potato, grated raw potato and flour mixed together into a dough, made into dumplings, boiled like pasta until the raw potato is cooked.

When I was in Dublin last I remember having this great meal which was boxty dumplings, salt beef, cabbage and maybe a few other vegetables (carrots and onions maybe) tossed in a white mustard sauce.

It was really good, and I've cooked various imitations of it since at home.

Published: January 28, 2017 | Comments: 0

Proofing Sourdough Bread

This recipe is pretty thorough and turns out great. Though it could have used a little more info on proofing, and baking with steam.

The recipe itself is simple.

  • 500g bread flour 300g water 10-15g salt 100g active starter
  • Knead, rise, form, proof, bake at 450 with steam.

You can only approximate if you don't have a scale so your mileage may vary greatly. I learned that if you want real bread you need to meassure in grams. Cups just don't cut it. I picked up a cheap scale at Walmart and it has been one of the best investments to make bread.

Mix the stuff with the flour, water and salt. Knead briefly, turn into an oiled bowl and cover loosely. Let rise for an hour, knock the gas out of the dough and let rise again.

Turns the dough onto a floured surface, shape and proof until puffy (gently poke it with a wet finger rip. when the indentation springs back slowly it's ready)

Bake at 450 in a preheated oven. For steam you can do one or some of the following.

Pan of water on the bottom of the oven. Sort of works.

Mist the bread with a spray bottle before baking and evey few minutes during the first ten minutes. Works really well but you lose heat every time you open the oven door. Preheat your oven to 550 and keep it there for the first ten minutes.

Bake in a covered container. A dutch oven or place a metal bowl over the dough. Remove cover after the first third of baking time. This may be the best method of them all.

Bread making as very much both art and science. The odds of getting perfect results on your first attempt are slim. Every oven is different, proofing times vary, room temperature, water temperature, kneading time and technique all play important roles. Heck, just shaping the loaves takes skills you learn by doing.

Spend some time looking up bread making on YouTube.

Theres lots of cool stuff there.

Published: January 26, 2017 | Comments: 0

Bread Without A Breadmaker

The best tweak you could do is to drop the no-knead and get your hands in there for a good 10 to 15 minutes of hard work. That's about 3 songs on the radio with an advert somewhere (or 1 song if you were a teenager in the 70s).

If you simply can't be bothered to knead the bread (why?) then you can use this simple recipe.

Artisan Bread

  • 4-1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2-1/4 cups of wheat flour
  • 3 cups of warm water โ€“ 90 to 95F
  • 1-1/2 tbsp of kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 tbsp of granular yeast
  • 1/4 tsp of black pepper

In a large bowl, add the wheat flour, white flour, pepper, yeast, and salt and mix. Slowly pour in the warm water and mix ingredients. Donโ€™t work the dough at all.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about an hour or two. Place the bowl in the warmest area of the kitchen to aid in rising.

Divide the dough into three even sections and form each into a ball. Place on a pizza stone or a baking pan dusted with a little flour to prevent from sticking. Dust the outer edge of each dough ball with a light coat of flour to prevent sticking.

Cover the dough on the pan or stone with a towel and let rest for about 20 to 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 450F, and before placing in the oven, take a sharp knife and make a couple of slits in the top of the loaf to allow the moisture to escape as it bakes. Bake 30-35 minutes.

If you place a pan of water on the rack below the baking bread it helps the bread stay moist and bake even.

The first few loaves you bake will likely be awful compared to even store bought pre-sliced loaves but don't stop trying. There's always another loaf and the densest bread can make great croutons or melba toast.

My biggest hurdle was handling dough that was still wet without adding more flour. If there's one tip I could give it's weighing ingredients against bakers ratios (% weight of each ingredient against weight of flour). I think it gives you a real appreciation of how much the percentage of water affects the resulting loaf (seriously, for baking 1 loaf, a few grams either way can be the difference between a country loaf and a ciabatta).

Published: December 29, 2016 | Comments: 0

The Bread Debate

I've never been one to cut bread out of my diet, I like to have the odd slice here and there, but people try to tell me to cut it out completely.

I haven't cut bread out completely, nor do I plan to.

That being said, I am pretty picky about what breads I eat the majority of the time. I stick mostly with whole grains, brown rice, rolled oats, etc. For example, for our breakfast burritos I use FlatOut wraps instead of white burrito tortillas.

Making that switch made it easier to eat less of it because a serving of brown rice or a slice of whole wheat toast make me feel more full than white did and whenever I have it I add on as many veggies as I can to give what I'm eating more of a boost.

I'm pretty sure everyone is sick of hearing "everything in moderation" but personally it's worked out really well for me with my own diet and health.

Eating whole grains or a slice of toast or a sandwich a few times a week isn't a bad thing if you're not overdoing it and it's in conjunction with good exercise and a diet that's full of other healthy things.

It kind of depends on what you're trying to do with your diet.

If you're trying to go for a really balanced plan you don't need to cut it out completely, but you should try to stick to whole grain breads as they are much healthier than white breads. If you are trying a low/zero carb diet then yes, you should cut out bread completely.

Your body essentially treats all carbohydrates as sugar and really only does one of two things with them: burn them right away or turn them into fat.

If you're active enough that you're burning them right away it's not too big of an issue, but it does mean that your body isn't choosing to burn whatever fat stores you're trying to lose. If you don't burn them right away they get turned into fat which you will have to burn off later. This is a pretty simplistic summation of the process, but it's the general idea behind avoiding carbs when trying to lose fat.

Whole grains, brown rice, oats, etc are much better for you than highly processed grains and starches because they come with a lot of fiber and other nutrients.

The fiber and the more complex structure of the carbs means your body has to work harder to burn them or turn them into fat whereas with highly processed carbs your body can instantly use them or store them.

Published: December 25, 2016 | Comments: 0

When You Get The Urge

I recently got into baking bread in a big way. I've been at it about 4 months and I have to say: it's awesome. My first attempt at bread was also really dense and cakey.

I'm pretty sure my issue was that I was using flour without enough gluten content, was using too much flour and that I didn't let it rise enough.

Bread can be tricky; it can depend on the conditions of your kitchen and the time of year, too. I think adding more yeast will make it rise faster, but might not make it rise more.

Try using a bread flour rather than all-purpose and check out my last link about how to measure flour to make sure you're not using too much.

How does your dough feel before you bake it?

The best advice I've heard is that it should feel a little like a breast when it's risen ๐Ÿ˜‰ I'm guessing no-knead breads will almost always be denser than kneaded breads because you aren't helping form the gluten chains that give it the elasticity to rise well.

Here are some recommendations for bread from an intermediate bread baker:

The first recipe I ever tried was a no knead recipe.

I have to say it was DELICIOUS but my first attempt was really dense. I substituted whole wheat flour for white and I think it didn't have enough gluten. Chef Tess goes over flour substitutions, so it's worth reading the whole blog post if you're going to try this one. This bread was so good toasted with butter.

Most of the time, I want a whole wheat bread for sandwiches, and I found that this recipe from King Arthur Flour came out perfectly every time as long as I measure my flour the "King Arthur way".

It's not the simplest recipe with the dried milk and oil, but I don't think it adds much complexity, really. I prefer to knead this in my food processor, because it's a little tougher by hand.

My only criticism is that it's pretty crumbly when cut for sandwiches.

King Arthur's website is chock full of baking tips that I found helpful. Their method of measuring flour is nice if you don't have a kitchen scale; I think my common issue when I started was trying to use too much flour because I wasn't "fluffing" it. I now mix my flour with a whisk to fluff it and then scoop it into my measuring cup with a separate scoop.

Another tip is if you want to substitute "rapid rise" or instant yeast for regular yeast.

My kitchen is pretty cold except in the dead of summer, and I can't get a good rise in 2 hours from regular yeast.

Ain't nobody got time for that.

I just started baking sourdough the last two weeks. I'm still learning; I can't seem to get my starter to give a consistent level of sourness. There are some dead simple recipes for sourdough, but you have to keep the starter fed.

Published: December 13, 2016 | Comments: 0