Wednesday, September 30, 2009

BBA Challenge Week 19—Marble Rye

marble rye-spiral loaf-cut-horiz

Check out that beautiful marble rye—and I didn't even have to steal it from an old lady!

I'm baking my way through Peter Reinhart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with 200+ other amateur bakers. Want to join in the madness, or just learn more about this semi-crazy undertaking? Check out the following links:

rye flour

Can you believe it? Bread #19. Seems like I started this challenge just the other day, yet here we are, 19 weeks later. Nineteen breads baked (some twice). Nineteen chances to learn just a little bit more about this whole bread baking thing. Seventeen new recipes (I'd made the poor man's brioche and cranberry walnut bread before). And 19 different ways of combining same or similar ingredients to achieve unique results each time. Ain't bread cool?

I wasn't sure about this one, Marble Rye. For some reason I was thinking I wasn't a big fan, but now I wonder if I had a different bread in mind. Pumpernickel, maybe? The process, though, was intriguing, because I'm a fan of fun shaping techniques.

I re-read the recipe earlier in the week to make sure I had what I needed on hand. All was easily available, save the secret to making dark rye dark—caramel coloring. Who knew? Not me, that's for sure. I assumed the darkness of the bread came from the flour itself. I thought there were different kinds of rye flour, dark and light, that created the variation in color, but I was mistaken. The formula for both the light and dark dough is exactly the same, with the exception of added, natural food coloring. Peter Reinhart offers some alternatives to caramel coloring. You can use instant coffee, carob or cocoa. I settled for coffee.

marble rye-coffee

Unfortunately, it barely made the dough darker. So I committed what might be a sin in bread baking, and added food coloring. Like the kind you use to tint frosting. You know how when you were a kid, you'd think, "Hey if red and blue and yellow are so great on their own I bet they're AWESOME all together" —and then you'd end up with a brown sludge? I used that principle to create a murky brown-bordering-on-black food dye and added that to the dough. It still barely budged the color. Rather than taint the dough any further, I called it good enough and moved on.

marble rye-bowls of dough

Here are the two batches of dough after the initial rise. Kind of hard to tell the difference in color, isn't it?

Something Shiny tangent: See how coarse the dough looks? Apparently, I was supposed to sift the dough before using it. Sift it TWICE, as a matter of fact. I didn't realize this as I read the recipe. PR talked about how "white rye flour" is sifted twice to remove the bran and germ but I didn't know that he expected ME to do the sifting. Oops. I had no idea I'd goofed until I read Frieda's account of her beautiful Marble Rye. Over at Lovin' from the Oven, Frieda talks about grinding her own rye into flour then sifting it. Oh, so THAT'S why mine was so coarse. I mentally slapped myself on the forehead and thought, "Next time." She also used the caramel color, so you can see what the dark dough is supposed to look like.

OK, back to the process...

marble rye-dough hunks

Since this makes two loaves and I needed two layers of each dough for each loaf, I weighed and divided the dough in four equal pieces. My math skills are pretty mad, right?

marble rye-2layers

I rolled out each chunk of dough, then alternated layers of light and dark. I mean, "barely noticeably darker".

marble rye-4layers

marble rye-spiral loaf

Then rolled it up, sealing tightly, tucking under the ends, and putting it into a prepared bread pan. One down, one to go, and I had a plan for the other one. A half-cocked plan, but a plan nonetheless.

I was going to, wait for it... braid it. Oh yeah.

marble rye-strips

I stacked the layers as with the spiral loaf, then rolled them out a bit more, as a group. Then I cut it in threes and started braiding.

marble rye-half braid

marble rye-braid

marble rye-braid-stripes

Hey, look at that! My not entirely well thought out plan WORKED.  


marble rye-proofing split

Oooh, that looks bad. Hm. Guess I pulled a little too tightly, or rolled it a bit too thin. And the coarseness of the dough isn't helping matters. Why the heck is this dough so coarse? Oh, right. Moving on! Baking time. I carefully brushed egg wash over the increasingly delicate braid, slid the pan into the oven and hoped for the best.


marble rye-exploded
That braid didn't stand a chance. It totally blew up in the oven. Oven spring can be your enemy too, you know. 

But check out the nifty stripy bits on the left side. You can totally see the dough strata. Cool.

marble rye-baked loaf-both
Ah, my lovely loaf. This is both sides of the same loaf. This one also broke from oven spring, but it's on the side and doesn't detract from the loveliness. And you can see the layers a bit on the other side (bottom pic).

marble rye-spiral loaf-cut

Nice swirl, no? I'm pretty proud of that, even with the light and barely-darker dark making a less than perfect contrast. Check out Phyl's bread over at Of Cabbages and King Cakes. SUPER gorgeous.

marble rye-braid-cut-stacked

And the braid? Not half bad! I think the idea is sound, but the execution went awry. Next time.

marble rye-braid-cut

There will definitely be a next time, because this was wonderful. One of my favorites, at least as far as sandwich types of bread go. It had great flavor and texture. I liked this better than the light whole wheat and ate a LOT of it, mostly plain because it's that good, but also with a little bit of butter, and a few times with jam.


Even the part that looked like an exploded alien.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

BBA Challenge Week 18—Light Whole Wheat


Recipe #18 - A delightful sandwich bread that I foresee being an excellent dinner roll - Light Whole Wheat.

I'm baking my way through Peter Reinhart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with 200+ other amateur bakers. Want to join in the madness, or just learn more about this semi-crazy undertaking? Check out the following links:
Light Whole Wheat bread is meant to be a one day bread, but I ran into some problems. I wasn't able to bake over the weekend like I normally do for my BBA Challenge breads, so I improvised. Shocker.



I had enough time to mix the dough and let it go through it's first rise but not enough time for a second rise and bake. So I took a chance. I shaped the loaf, put it in the prepared pan — and put it in the refrigerator. I'd planned on baking the next evening but didn't think it through. I should have refrigerated the dough UNshaped, saving that step for the following evening.

When I opened the refrigerator the next morning, I noticed a problem. The dough rose more than expected and was cresting well over the top of the pan. I knew if I let it go until I got home from work, it would be over proofed, so I rolled the dice and took a gamble.

I pulled the pan from the fridge, popped it in the oven and fired it up to bake, letting the bread sit in the oven while the oven preheated. Normally you need to let the dough warm up to room temp before baking but I didn't have the time to wait. I set the oven for 350°F and went about my morning routine, checking on the bread along the way. Once the internal temperature reached the required 190°F, I pulled it out of the oven.


It worked! I successfully baked a loaf straight out of the fridge—and had VERY fresh bread for breakfast. The perfect way to start the day, as far as I'm concerned. You can see from the pictures that the top part of the bread, the part that rose in the fridge, is less dense that the rest of the loaf. But that's the ONLY thing I notice that shows me that I took a proofing short cut. The taste was fantastic. It was terrific all on it's own, as toast and as sandwich bread. But I think this would make an ideal dinner roll—soft, flavorful and easy.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Grapes. Lots and Lots of Grapes.


About a month ago, Dwight and I picked a random collection of pears, blackberries and assorted other produce at his mom's house. Remember? While Dwight was busy plucking pear after pear from the fruit-laden branches, I wandered over to the grape arbors and took a peek at the masses of green grapes.

Here's what they looked like a month ago.


About two weeks ago, we got the call that the grapes were ready. Hooray! After a half day at work, Dwight and I headed off to his mom's, me with camera in hand, to pick a whole mess of grapes.


In this case, a "mess of grapes" equaled about 85 pounds. Seriously.


And the thing is, we barely made a dent. Fairy wanted us to get first pick before she let the neighbors at them. Each year, Fairy lets them have their fill of grapes with which they make gallons and gallons of grape juice.

handful grapes

These are Concord grapes and are amazing. Apparently, Concords are disease and pest resistant, so they're easy to grow and keep pesticide free. They do have seeds, but the flesh just bursts with flavor. And the scent. It's heavenly. Heady. Like you just opened thousands of bottles of Welch's grape juice.

bag of grapes

We picked and picked and picked some more until we decided we probably had enough. Yeah, I think we did.


Picking was jut the first step, though. We had to process all of them and quickly. At first, Dwight used a juicer, but it was tedious and messy. Plus the color of the juice was all wrong. It was brownish. Blech! He then had an epiphany.

grapes on counter

"I think we should just cook them whole then run 'em through the mill, not even mess with the juicer."

grapes in pot1
grapes in pot2

Sure enough, that did the trick. Cooking the grapes with the skins on meant keeping the bright purply-pink color you want in grape jelly and grape juice.  So we cooked pot after pot of grapes, after de-stemming and washing them. It took all day—and well into the evening.

Dwight got a killer arm & shoulder workout, pressing batch after batch of grapes through our old-fashioned mill. It's a metal, cone-shaped colander on legs with a wooden, cone-shaped pestle. You push the fruit around, squishing it through the small holes, using nothing but leverage with the one hand and brute force with the other. It's a handy gadget. I've used it on sangria fruit that's been sitting in the wine all night. I'll run it through the mill to squeeze out every drop of fruity alcohol, strain and put back into the sangria with fresh, pretty fruit.

food mill
food mill in use

While Dwight cranked out juice, I made jelly and canned it in a boiling water bath. I made 24 8-oz jars of jelly and we had gallons of juice left. After tasting the jelly—and making yummy groaning noises—I had my own epiphany. Make grape simple syrup for mixed drinks. Dwight, the on the spot, clever guy that he is, named said drink perfectly. Grapelletini. And let me tell ya, they're AWESOME.



Oh, and before we processed 85 lbs of grapes, we made about 18 16-ounce jars of salsa. I didn't get any in-process pics of that. Three kinds of peppers, lots of onions, oodles of garlic, mountains of tomatoes, a healthy dose of spices and a generous splash of lime juice all came together to make some darn tasty salsa. It's awful purty, too.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BBA Challenge Week 17—Lavash Crackers


Here's something I've never made before and didn't expect to find in a bread book—crackers.

I'm baking my way through Peter Reinart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with 200+ other amateur bakers. Want to join in the madness, or just learn more about this semi-crazy undertaking? Check out the following links:

To be perfectly honest, I had very little desire to make this recipe. I mean, crackers? Really? Crackers are something you get in a box at the grocery store, pre-made, ready to eat. I love me some Triscuits. Delicious, full of fiber, low in sodium, no HFCS or hydrogenated oils. And they're ready for me at the store any time I want them. So why the heck would I want to MAKE crackers?

But I joined this challenge to make EVERY bread in this book, so here we go.

lavash 1-prep

I made the dough the day before and let it sit in the fridge until I was ready to finish the process. I decided to use sesame seeds, poppy seeds, paprika, white pepper and kosher salt for toppings.

lavash 2-rolling

lavash 3-rolling

lavash 4-sesame seeds

lavash 6-poppyseeds

lavash 7-pans

I was going through the motions on this and spaced that I need to add the toppings AFTER putting them on pans. Oops. But it worked out OK. I'd used the rolling pin to the press the toppings into the dough, so they mostly stayed put while I set the dough onto the pans. I cut half before baking and left the rest as a sheet to break into pieces after.

lavash 8-pans-cut

At least there was no waiting — into the oven they went, and just a few minutes later, I had crackers. Woop-i-dee-doo.

lavash shard

Except... except... they were good. Really good. Damn. I was kind of hoping they were just "eh" so I could blow them off and have an "I told you so" moment with myself. I don't see myself making them again, though. For me, the work/payoff ratio isn't high enough. I'll stick with Triscuits. But these Lavash Crackers sure are pretty and taste great, if you're so inclined.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

BBA Challenge Week 16 — Kaiser Rolls


Here we are, 16 breads into the challenge and on a roll. *groan* OK, OK. Lame jokes aside, baking one bread per week—sometimes more—has been just the thing I needed to eliminate excuses and finally get around to utilizing this wonderful bread book.

I'm baking my way through Peter Reinhart's award winning book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, along with 200+ other amateur bakers. Want to join in the madness, or just learn more about this semi-crazy undertaking? Check out the following links:

I'm going to let the pictures do a lot of the talking this time and interject commentary or captions as needed.

kaiser prep 1

This is a two day bread, utilizing pâte fermentée, the same pre-ferment used for the BBA French bread. After all of the weighing, mixing, kneading, etc., we come to the shaping.

kaiser prep 2
See the book in the background? Take a good look at the picture of what the rolls are supposed to look like, because my rolls? Yeah, they don't look anything like that.

kaiser prep 3

With my trusty scale, I weighed hunks of dough to get them all about the same size. I was shooting for 100 grams. Someone in the group mentioned that this seemed the ideal weight.

kaiser prep 4

Each hunk of dough is then shaped into rolls and left alone for about 10 minutes for the dough to relax. SHAPING TIME!

kaiser prep 5-cutting

See that cool plastic, fancy cutting tool thingy that's supposed to make the signature "Kaiser Roll" shape? DON'T BUY ONE. They're a waste of $6.95 (+S&H) or whatever it was because, as you'll see in a minute, it's just about worthless. But if you happen to know the trick to getting this thing to actually MAKE the correct shape, please post about it in the comments. I'm curious to know if there is some magic twisting motion involved or if the directions in the recipe cause some of the problems.

kaiser prep 6-all cut

What you're looking at are the bottoms of the rolls. Here's where things went a bit squiffy. According to the directions, you're supposed to line a baking sheet with parchment paper, mist it with spray oil and dust with cornmeal. Then he says you're supposed to put the rolls, cut side down on the parchment. I'm thinking "the parchment" means the one you just prepped. But... but... it's covered with cornmeal. Sooo, that's why the tops of my rolls have cornmeal all over them. Not a bad thing, not at all, but I'm thinking Mr. Reinhart meant for me to put them on some OTHER piece of parchment for this first after-shaping rise.

kaiser prep 7-ferment1

So you cover them up and let them proof for about 45 minutes. They get all nice and puffy. Then you flip them over...

kaiser prep 8-flipped

And they have to rise AGAIN. Hey, I'm used to this whole bread waiting game thing, but these seemed especially time consuming. I was thinking, "Cool. After 45 minutes, I can pop these in the oven and they'll be ready just in time for dinner. *reading, reading* Wait, What? ANOTHER 45 minutes?? Gah!"

So I waited some more.

kaiser prep 9-flipped2
You see that middle roll on the right? I used the cutter on that one again because I wanted to run a test. It seemed odd to put the cut side down and squish the cutting marks all to hell, so I thought It'd see what it would do left to rise like that. Yeah, it didn't make a bit of difference.

kaiser cooked-full
Can you tell which one I re-cut? Don't feel bad, I can barely tell myself. But it's the one that looks the least like a star. Or sand dollar.


kaiser-silver dollar

The super-special shaping tool make a dandy star shape. So if that's what you're going for, by all means, knock yourself out and buy one.

By now you're probably thinking, "Sheesh. Did she hate making these things or what?" Actually, no. It was pretty fun and different from any of the other breads we've done. It just felt really, really looong. Thank goodness they tasted fantastic. I mean, look at that crumb:


So, they had a weird, very un-Kaiser Roll-like shape. Psshht. Who cares. They were awesome.

p.s. Apparently, I need to learn how to turn on the iron every now and then. I have a nasty habit of using seriously wrinkled linens in my photos. Whoops.

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