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Monday, January 31, 2011

Multigrain Struan 02

Yes, second attempt within a month. I like the idea of a nice multi-grain bread and the wonderful thing about Peter Reinhart's Multigrain Struan from the Whole Grain Breads book is that it lets you choose any grains you want to add (within the given quantity). The good/bad thing is that every new combination of grains is like baking a different recipe because it is hard to predict how well the bread will rise or how it will taste. The bad thing is that to perfect one combination of grains would mean several attempts varying the different parameters (liquid, sweetener, kneading and rising time etc). I don't have the discipline for that and I think it is much more fun to be able to bake something with grains I feel like experimenting with. Like this time, I had some cooked quinoa and brown rice around. Well, ok, when I cooked these grains I cooked some extra so I could use them in this bread.

Soaker and biga
I also had some buttermilk that needed to be used. From different side notes in the book it appears that if using buttermilk or yogurt, a biga is the pre-frement to use instead of a wild yeast starter. (I think my mother starter is going to have to languish because it seems to be restricting me in the types of breads I have been baking). So I made a standard biga (whole wheat, tiny amount of commercial yeast and water). I used the same logic for the soaker as my previous attempt: use the given amount of wheat and salt, and use a combination of cooked / uncooked grains and liquid to make a total of 400 grams of soaker. I did use a little vital wheat gluten to help with the structure and rise. This is what the soaker ended up looking like:
56 g  / 2 oz whole wheat flour
4 g salt
2 g / ½ tsp vital wheat gluten 
84 g / 3 oz cooked brown rice
76 g of cooked quinoa
126 g buttermilk (that is all I had and fortunately that was sufficient)
46 g rolled oats
4 g ground flaxseeds

Biga on the left and soaker on the right.

Final dough
The soaker was pretty damp (notice the water drops on the right in the picture above). I had to add quite a bit of whole wheat flour when kneading the dough. I didn't measure it, but it was about an ounce. Even then, the dough stuck to my hand till the very end. I believe this is normal with multigrain doughs. I also didn't get a convincing window pane test. I kneaded a little more than usual hoping to help develop the gluten.

Kneaded dough ready for first rise. The rice grains stayed intact.

70 mins later, about 1½ time in volume and passing the poke test.
Ready for shaping

Shaping and proofing
I didn't round and rest the dough like I have been doing in the past. The dough felt 'wet' after the first rise and was not easy to shape. It didn't hold its shape very well. Perhaps I should have added more flour in the final dough.

Shaped and ready for proofing.

About 60 mins later, decent rise, I thought.

I slashed the dough. I think I should stop slashing doughs for several reasons: I don't have a good tool for it, I usually do a half-hearted job and it usually causes a collapse that may or may not get fixed in the oven.

Not much oven spring.
Also, I seem to always shape my loaves a little lopsided.

Bread sliced well. The brown rice is clearly visible but the quinoa is lost (not a problem).
I almost always get dense areas at the bottom of the loaf, I need to work on that.

The bread sliced well, tasted decent. We had it with vegetarian chili today and it worked well. I also had a bit with orange marmalade, that was nice. Tomorrow will be the sandwich test.

Date: Jan 30, 2011
Recipe: Multigrain Struan from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads

Flours: Whole wheat flour
Bread specific ingredients: Brown rice (cooked), quinoa (cooked), rolled oats, flaxseeds, vital wheat gluten
Sweetener used: Honey (1 T, one third the recommended amount)
Liquid: Buttermilk

First rise time: 70 minutes
Proofing time: 60 minutes
Comments: See soaker composition in the description above. The first rise went pretty well but the dough was still a tad to wet making it hard to shape. Tried three of the things I had wanted to:
Used a regular biga
Used buttermilk instead of milk
Used a combination of cooked (quinoa, brown rice) and uncooked grains (rolled oats).

The results are different of course, and a tad better than last time. But changing three variables at once means I can't pin point the reason for better results. However I think I am just going to go with different combinations and have fun along the way. Documenting them here means that if I do make a super winner, I would have the notes to possibly recreate it again.

I also made rye crackers from PR's 'Artisan Breads Every Day'. They have turned out wonderful. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures during the process. I am sure to make them again, I'll definitely write about them then.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lemon Cranberry Walnut Muffins

I got lemons from a colleague last week and wanted to put them to good use while they were still juicy. I also wanted to bake something slightly-sweet to have as dessert. I looked around for recipes of muffins that used lemons and found that lemon-poppy was the most common combination. I don't care much for poppy seeds, so I thought I could improvise my mixed berry recipe from last week as the base and replace the berries with lemon and something else. Cranberries and chopped walnuts sounded good.

I had buttermilk at hand from the soda bread and buttermilk biscuits. I thought it would complement the lemons well. This is what I came up with:

My Mixed Berry recipeLemon-Cranberry-Walnut recipe
1 C frozen blueberries
½ C frozen raspberries, cut in half
1.5 oz dried sweetened cranberries, finely chopped
2 oz chopped walnuts
1 t lemon zest (up to 1 T can be used)
2 T lemon juice
2 C whole wheat pastry flour
2 T wheat germ
1 T cracked flaxseeds
2 C whole wheat pastry flour
3 T sugar
3 T turbinado sugar
2 T agave nectar

4 T turbinado sugar
3 T agave nectar
1 T baking powder1 T baking powder
¾ t salt¾ t salt
2 large eggs2 large eggs
1 t vanilla extract½ t vanilla extract (I ran out of extract)
¾ C 2% milk
½ C unsweetened applesauce
¾ C low fat buttermilk (milk is better)
½ C unsweetened applesauce
3 T butter, melted
3 T vegetable oil
3 T butter, melted
3 T vegetable oil
C = cup
T = tablespoon
 t = teaspoon

Method is the usual:
Sift dry ingredients together
Mix wet ingredients together well (in the order butter, oil, sweetener, eggs, vanilla extract, applesauce, buttermilk)
Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Do not overmix.
Gently stir in cranberries and walnuts. Do not overmix.
Bake 20-22 mins in a 400° F oven.

The batter was easy to put together and it bubbled up more than expected. I need to study more about combining buttermilk and baking powder. Fortunately it was able to go in the oven right away. I didn't fill the muffin pans fully, expecting some rising, so I had some left over batter. But the muffins didn't rise a lot.

The muffins tasted good. The cranberries won the flavor war over the lemons. A little more lemon zest would have been better. The walnuts added a nice bite to the texture. These were not very sweet or melt-in-your-mouth muffins, but they were good for satisfying my sweet tooth.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Whole Grain Soda Bread

Or Multigrain and Seed Soda Bread

I have never tasted soda bread. Whenever I come across a recipe for soda bread I skip over, because it is not a yeast bread. This weekend was looking busy but I wanted to have bread around. Earlier in the week I had read Heidi Swanson's recipe for an Oat Soda Bread. It seemed like the perfect thing to make for the weekend. Through her post I also read a version of the bread by In Jennie's Kitchen. My only problem was that neither was whole grain. I wondered if I should try to make one. After all, I didn't know what to expect anyway. Heidi's website also has a recipe for a Six Seed Soda Bread which looks wonderful. I believed that combining the two recipes and then making some tweaks might get me what I wanted: a nutritious whole grain bread in a short time.

The basics
Looking up a few more recipes online, I found that the basic ingredients for a soda bread are: flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk, optionally oil and sweetener. The idea is to stir them briefly, transfer the batter-dough to a pan before the soda starts doing its rising and bake. Simple.

Making it whole grain
Heidi's recipe calls for 7 oz of oat flour and 10 oz of all purpose flour. I decided to split the 10 oz into 6 oz of whole wheat and 4 oz of seed flours. Because there would be no rising time like pre-ferments in whole grain breads, I soaked the whole wheat in some of the buttermilk for about an hour, to soften the bran, before putting it all together. The downside to this was that later when I added the baking soda and salt I had to ensure that it mixed well with the soaked flour as well as the dry flour. I toasted all the seeds and nuts a bit and then ground them up fairly fine. I made the oat flour from a mixture of 3.5 oz each of quick and rolled oats. I added a little bit of agave nectar to make up for the slight bitterness of the whole grains and seeds. I figured I didn't need any oil because of the presence of seeds. My setup looked like this:

From left: Soaked whole wheat flour, buttermilk with agave nectar,
ground seeds, oat flour, baking soda and salt

Final dough
I used 2 cups of buttermilk instead of the recommended 1¾ cups, thinking that the whole grains would soak up more, but I didn't realize that it was unnecessary because the seeds wouldn't absorb as much liquid. My dough was more like thick batter and not 'knead-able'. I mixed it well in the bowl and transferred it directly to the pan. Brushed it with some more buttermilk and sprinkled it with some sesame seeds.

Ready for the oven

Followed Heidi's instructions for the most part, except the kneading and not slashing. The dough rose a little during baking, not much. I wonder if a 8½ x 4½ pan would have made a prettier loaf than my 9¼ x 5¼  silicone pan. I didn't move the rack at half time because the surface seemed to be browning well. When I tested the dough at the 45 min mark, it registered over 205° F and seemed done.

Sesame seeds looked pretty.

I baked some buttermilk biscuits as well.

Sliced okay, with bits of edges falling off sometimes

Close up of the crumb

One of the things missing when baking this bread was the aroma that I have come to associate with bread baking. The bread doesn't taste anything like yeast bread, and maybe that is how it is with regular Irish soda breads. Like I said, I've never had some before to know. That aside, it tasted good, nutty but with a hint of soda, which might be the result of the dry and wet flours not being mixed well. I had a slice of bread plain and some with a little clarified butter (ghee), I liked it, although RH didn't like it that much (He is biased towards the buttermilk biscuits). I am sure it will taste great with spreadable cheese, but I'll have to try it with fruit spread before I can be sure how well that works. I think it would toast well too. That will be known over the next couple days.

Date: Jan 21, 2011
Recipe: See description above for references
7 oz oat flour (made by grinding rolled oats)
6 oz whole wheat flour
4 oz ground toasted seeds & nuts (I used 1.5 oz walnuts, 1 oz sunflower seeds, 1 oz pepitas, 0.25 oz wheat germ and 0.25 oz flaxseeds)
1¾ tsp baking soda
1¼ tsp salt
2 C buttermilk (1¾ would be sufficient)
1 tbsp agave nectar
Comments: This was a decent first try for changing a recipe quite a bit and getting something edible. It would be worth trying again, but I really don't think I can use this as a replacement for a yeast bread.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Multigrain Struan 01

This was my fourth attempt at Peter Reinhart's Multigrain Struan bread and I didn't have any more success than I had in the past three attempts. The bread has never risen very well and the taste has always leaned towards being gummy or crumbly. To be fair, each attempt has differed wildly in the different grains used. I really want to be able to make a good multigrain bread, because I really like the idea of having other whole grains besides just wheat. I hope to get more systematic in the next few attempts to try to figure out how I can get a better loaf.

There is a lot of discussion on online blogs and forums about PR's Multigrain Struan, but a lot of it is about the bread in his other book, Bread Baker's Apprentice, which does not use all whole grains.

Soaker and Starter
The soaker in this bread contains 56.5g of whole wheat and 170g of any combination of cooked and uncooked grains. (That is a lot of freedom, coming from PR). Hard grains should be cooked while the soft ones can be left uncooked. The soaker also contains 170g of liquid and the frequent question is: does the liquid used to cook the grains count towards the 170g. I think it should, because the first time I made this bread with 170g of cooked grains + 170g milk, I ended up with a very very wet dough that needed a LOT of extra flour in the final mixing before it could be kneaded. If uncooked grains are used then it makes sense to soak them in the specified liquid. I have read in several places that a combination of cooked and uncooked grains works best.

I recently bought a package of Bob's Mill's 10-grain hot cereal and thought it would be perfect for the multigrain bread. They do need to be cooked though because they are in cracked form rather than flakes. I figured I would cooked some grains using the milk amount specified and then add either uncooked grains or more liquid till the soaker reached the specified 400 g total weight. This is what I ended up with

100 g Bob's Mill 10-grain hot cereal cooked in 150 g milk and 50 g water. = 293 g mix
Added 57g whole wheat flour, 25 g milk + 15 g quick oats = 384 g (- stuck to hands)
Added 6 g quick oats + 14 g milk = 402 g soaker.

I used a recently refreshed mother starter for my starter.

Starter on the left and multigrain soaker on the right

Final dough
The final dough adds a little more whole wheat flour, salt, yeast, sweetener and oil. In the past few PR's breads I have been using less yeast and allowing for more rising time, but this time I stuck with the given amount of yeast. I did half the sweetener. I don't do the window-pane test PR mentions to ensure that the gluten development is sufficient. I usually just go by time and the feel of the dough. I should learn to do the window-pane test.
Final dough ready for bulk fermentation (first rise)

It rose really well, I thought

My pitfall?
Recently I have been rounding and resting the dough according to LR's suggestion. After this bread was done, I went back and read the introductory chapters of PR's WGB book and I think doing this might be letting the enzyme activity go overboard. I will not be doing this for his breads anymore to see if that makes a difference.

I rounded and rested it for 10 mins

Shaped and ready for proofing

Didn't rise much during proofing even after giving it extra time.

Didn't get any oven spring either

Crumb was decent but tight at the bottom

The bread sliced well, tasted decent. However it was not good for sandwiches at all. It crumbled into pieces too easily. It was nice with soups and stews.

Date: Jan 16, 2011
Recipe: Multigrain Struan from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads

Flours: Whole wheat, Bob's Mills' 10-grain hot cereal
Bread specific ingredients: None
Sweetener used: Agave nectar
Liquid: Milk

First rise time: 75 minutes, followed by rounding and 10 minutes rest
Proofing time: 90 minutes
Comments: 10-grain cereal consumed much more liquid than the plain steel cut oats I am used to cooking. There was no noticeable crunch from them in the bread, probably how I prefer it. I wonder if simply soaking them overnight in milk would be enough. See soaker composition in the description above. The first rise went pretty well. I wonder if the wild yeast starter is not very good anymore (the past few of PR's breads haven't been great either). I think the next version of this bread should use a regular biga to isolate one variable in this multi-variable puzzle.
Different things I want to try with this bread:
Use buttermilk instead of milk
Use a combination of cooked and uncooked grains. I want to try quinoa, brown/wild rice sometime.
Use the specified amount of sugar (even though the sweetness with this bread is just fine), to see if it matters.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Walnut Whole Wheat Bread

I needed a change from making PR's breads, with the two day planning and the more scientific process (Well, not really, but it seems like it). I needed something more casual: put together ingredients-knead-rise-shape-proof-bake. I didn't find anything in LR's book that I felt like making and had all the ingredients handy. So I looked through my newest cookbook 'King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking: Delicious Recipes Using Nutritious Whole Grains' (KA). There is a whole section on yeast breads but most of them have some amount of bread flour or all purpose flour. Some day when I am feeling a little more generous I will try one of them. I did find a recipe that was 100% whole grain and sounded good; Walnut Whole Wheat bread. That's what I made Thursday evening. It took about 5.5 hours from start to finish, which is fairly minimal for yeast breads.

One of the unique ingredients in most of KA's whole grain bread recipes is the use of a little orange juice. They claim that it softens the whole grain and the flavor is not noticeable in the final results at all. I think it worked really well. The recipe also called for finely chopped walnuts and I love walnuts in bread, great crunch and taste and a great way to add omega-3 to a vegetarian diet. From LR's book I have learned that walnuts should be lightly toasted which slips some of the bitter covering off the walnuts. I also used LR's suggestion of adding the walnuts towards the end of the kneading process to keep them from tearing the gluten. Also adding walnuts early on can make them turn purple when baked.

The process
It was the first time with this recipe, so I followed the ingredient specifications obediently, even though I was tempted to reduce the quantity of sugar and instant yeast. Next time I probably will.


The dough was very sticky throughout,
but the book warned against adding flour to 'fix the stickies'.

Close up view to show the finely chopped walnuts mixed in.

After the first rise. The dough rose surprisingly fast and high.
It sighed noticeably when poked.

I rounded and rested the dough for 10 minutes before shaping it.

After proofing for 50 minutes. The book said it would take 1.5 - 2.5 hours
but if it rose 1 inch above the pan rim, it should go in the oven.

I thought it should be slashed knowing it would collapse. I did it anyway.

Didn't get much oven spring.

Crust was wonderfully flaky and the loaf felt very soft.

Nice crumb methinks.

Date: Jan 13, 2011
Recipe: Walnut Whole Wheat Bread from 'King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking: Delicious Recipes Using Nutritious Whole Grains'

Flours: Whole wheat
Bread specific ingredients: Walnuts, orange juice, vegetable oil
Sweetener used: Light brown sugar
Liquid: Water

First rise time: 95 minutes, followed by rounding and 10 minutes rest
Proofing time: 50 minutes
Comments: Followed the recipe closely, even though sugar quantity seemed a lot. Next time can half sugar and/or try agave nectar. Used all 2½ t instant yeast. Mixed walnuts at the end of the kneading period. Dough was very sticky throughout the kneading. It rose very quickly compared to the times given, collapsed a lot when slashed and then didn't have much oven spring. Registered 205° F after 40 minutes (given temperature was at least 190° F and 40 minutes). Baked on fourth-from-top rack. Remembered to bake at 25° F less in the Chicago Metallic pan. Bread did not come out easily, so had to loosen edges. The bottom didn't sound very hollow so put the bread (out of the pan) back in the turned off oven for another 5 minutes. Crust is surprisingly wonderfully flaky. Crumb is pretty good too and taste is wonderful. Authors were right, the taste of the orange juice is not noticeable at all. Will definitely make again, probably with less sugar and yeast.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Whole Wheat Pizza

Also experimental baguettes and dinner rolls.

I've regularly made pizzas using Peter Reinhart's Whole Wheat Pizza dough recipe. This time, I tried some new things:
1. I used a recently refreshed mother starter instead of a biga.
2. PR's suggests making 5 small pizzas, but I usually make 4 slightly bigger pizzas, two on the same day and then I freeze the remaining two dough balls for pizza later in the week. This time, I used the second half of the dough to try to make baguettes and dinner rolls.

This dough has a normal soaker with whole wheat flour (fine grind), salt and water. The final dough contains, the soaker, biga or wild yeast starter, salt, instant yeast, optional sweetener and olive oil.

This was the first time I let the dough rise on the Silpat sheet instead of a container. It made it harder to judge a 1.5 increase in volume, so I did the wet finger ½ inch poke test.

Wet finger poke test after the first rise. If the hole doesn't fill
or the dough sighs, it is ready for the next stage

Because it wasn't yet time for dinner (and I didn't see any harm),
I let the dough rise again
Notice the bumps in the surface due to accumulated gas bubbles

One quarter dough (225 g) each for two pizza doughs on the left
and 1/8 pieces for baguettes and dinner rolls

Baguettes and dinner rolls
Baguettes are amongst the most difficult bread shapes. It doesn't make it any easier with whole wheat dough that is not as stretchy as white flour dough. One has to be very careful to keep as much of the gas trapped within as possible. This means minimum handling. I kept that in mind and didn't play too much trying to get them to look like baguettes. I used parchment paper as a makeshift couche to help the baguettes rise with the right shape. The dinner rolls are much easier to shape. Baguettes baked at 350°F in a steamed oven for a total of 30 minutes, with a pan rotation after 15 minutes.

Baguettes and dinner rolls proofing

Proofed and slashed (not very well) and ready for the steamed oven

Out of the oven. The slashes were lost because they weren't well made.
Registered a good 205° F when I got them out

Cross section. We had the dinner rolls with broccoli-cheddar soup for lunch

This was the first time I used the Silpat to roll the dough. It's nonstick, so the idea was that the dough would be easier to roll. But PR suggest a very well floured surface and hands when preparing the crust. I am not good at hand stretching the dough. Earlier I would simply roll it out with a rolling pin. Now, I do a little of both, rolling pin and hand stretching. Hopefully some day I will be able to do it all by hand stretching and maybe even be able to toss the dough!

Proofed pizza dough ready to roll out

Rolled out with a mix of using the rolling pin and hand stretching

Pizza toppings
We love our veggie pizza loaded, with lots of pizza sauce and toppings. Trader Joe's pizza sauce is the best I have used so far. Pepper Jack cheese is the cheese of choice, because it melts well and is spicy. Usual toppings are sauteed onions, mushrooms, red bell peppers, sliced olives and spinach. I've used soy crumbles and baked tofu, but didn't care much for them. I sometimes sprinkle the dough with ground flaxseeds and/or crushed pepper flakes before putting on the pizza sauce.

Pizza toppings: Partially caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms,
red bell peppers, Trader Joe's pizza sauce and grated pepper Jack cheese

Loaded pizza

I usually bake the pizza at 450° F for 10 minutes on the middle rack and then 3 more minutes on the lower rack.

Out of the oven. The half with less cheese is for those of us
who have to watch their calories

Two pizzas: One for dinner that night and the second for lunch the next day

Date: Jan 9, 2011
Recipe: PR's Whole Wheat Pizza

Flours: Whole wheat (fine grind, except for starter)
Bread specific ingredients: Olive oil
Sweetener used: Agave nectar (used half the recommended optional quantity)
Liquid for soaker: Water

First rise time: 105 minutes (using 1/3 the specified yeast)
Second rise time: 60 minutes 
Proofing time: Baguettes: 60 minutes, Pizza dough: 80 minutes after 30 minutes refrigeration (in order to bake baguettes first)
Comments:  Used recently refreshed mother starter instead of biga. Used only ½ tsp instant yeast in final dough (instead of 1 ½ t) to slow the rise. Baguette shaping is going to need more practice. Also need to learn to slash the dough better. Did a better job hand stretching the pizza dough than previous attempts. Dough was stuck to pizza pan (first pizza), so had to put it back for another 3 minutes on the lower rack. Second pizza got a nice bump during the baking (see right side of lower pizza in picture above). Pizzas tasted good. Baguettes and dinner rolls tasted like the whole wheat bread I normally bake.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mixed Berry Muffins

I got blueberries on a good deal at the market last weekend and I had frozen them, but wanted to bake something with them. I found a reasonable recipe in my go-to book for special meals and family dinners, Jeanne Lemlin's Vegetarian Classics. This was one of the first cookbooks I owned and almost all of the recipes I have prepared from this book have been keepers. I highly recommend this book.

I say reasonable recipe, because it doesn't use whole grains, but I have learned to modify recipes to add nutrition value. I made quite a few changes, and I need to write them down for next time, so here's a post for a non-bread baking attempt.

The last time I made 12 muffins using a berry muffin recipe I found online, the batter seemed less and the muffins barely reached the tops of the pan. This may be because I use silicone muffin pans and their volume is larger (I don't have a tin pan to compare). So this time I decided to make some additions to increase the volume of the batter, along with improving the nutrition.

I have given the original recipe and my substitutions in case you would like to make the original recipe.

Original recipeMy recipe
1 ¼ C frozen mixed berries1 C frozen blueberries
½ C frozen raspberries, cut in half
2 C unbleached flour2 C whole wheat pastry flour
2 T wheat germ
1 T cracked flaxseeds
½ C (=8 T) sugar3 T sugar
3 T turbinado sugar
2 T agave nectar
1 T baking powder1 T baking powder
¾ t salt¾ t salt
2 large eggs2 large eggs
1 t vanilla extract1 t vanilla extract
1 ¼ C low-fat milk¾ C 2% milk
½ C unsweetened applesauce
6 T butter, melted3 T butter, melted
3 T vegetable oil
C = cup
T = tablespoon
 t = teaspoon

Method is the usual:
Sift dry ingredients together (coat berries with 1 T of dry mixture and keep aside).
Mix sugars and wet ingredients together.
Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Do not overmix.
Gently stir in berries. Do not overmix

Bake 20-22 mins in a 400° F oven.

Out of the oven

Nice rise. (I like silicone-ware a lot, because it doesn't need greasing
and baked goods come out easily)


Muffins taste good, not too sweet not too crumbly, with moisture and tartness from the berries. Some might say they are hardly sweet, but we don't like overly sweet foods (with some exceptions, of course). These are making a good post-meal dessert for us. Best of all, they were very easy to put together.