About Me

Friday, April 29, 2011

Dutch Baby Pancake with Apples

Or Cast Iron Skillet Experiments #3

Cast Iron Skillet Experiments #1
Cast Iron Skillet Experiments #2

This is not a bread related post, so just a picture.Leave me a comment if you would like the recipe.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Applesauce Walnut Bread

I had made this wonderful bread from Laurel Robertson's 'The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book' when I had just started baking bread, and shared it at a potluck party at work. I got a few compliments for it, but mostly I really liked it myself. I have been wanting to make it again ever since but didn't get around to it. Too many good recipes, too little time. Sigh!

The ingredients
As the name suggests, applesauce and chopped walnuts are the star ingredients. Buttermilk is the liquid of choice. The other ingredients are whole wheat flour, yeast, oil, salt and some water. I made half the recipe, one loaf, and added 1.5 tsp vital wheat gluten to the 415g of wheat flour.

The ingredients

The applesauce is warmed well and the oil and buttermilk are gradually mixed in. The active dry yeast is proofed in some warm water.

Ready to mix wet ingredients into the flour + salt + yeast mixture

The dough was fairly sticky throughout the kneading process. I added about a tablespoon of flour to help with the stickyness. I had processed the walnuts in a mini-prep processor, so they were closer to being walnut meal rather than chopped walnuts. However, I believe that grinding rounded the pieces whereas chopping by hand would have made sharp edged pieces which would have cut the gluten. Also the finer texture helped the walnuts blend in fairly easily.

Walnuts are added towards the end of kneading

The risings
It was fairly hard to round the dough nicely because it was so sticky.

Ready for first rise

First rise is done

Deflated, rounded and ready for a second rise

At the end of the second rise

Shaped and ready for proofing

Proofed and slashed

The bread
I was on a time deadline with this bread and it was just a tad underproofed when it went into the oven. It did some oven spring.

Out of the oven


Nice crumb, but best of all... great flavor

This bread is just a tad on the sweet side, sweetness coming from the unsweetened applesauce (there are no added sweeteners). It would be hard to guess that the bread contained applesauce. The walnuts bits are noticeable but I love walnuts in bread. Not the best bread for savory sandwiches but it was wonderful toasted and with nut butters and jam. Yum!

Date: April 19, 2011
Recipe: Applesauce Walnut Bread from Laurel Robertson's book, 'The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book'

Flours: Whole wheat
Bread specific ingredients: Applesauce, walnuts
Sweetener used: None
Liquid: Buttermilk and water

First rise time: 100 minutes
Second rise time: 55 minutes followed by 10 minutes of rounding and rest.
Proofing time: 40 minutes
Comments: Added 1.5 tsp vital wheat gluten (about 7 g in 415 g of flour). Care should be taken when adding oil and cold buttermilk to the warm applesauce. Grinding the walnut coarsely is not a bad idea. Make this bread again soon.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I wanted to play with my new cast iron skillet after spending a couple of days trying to season it. I read in several places that cornbread was best baked in a cast iron skillet. This was perfect, because I had little time to bake last week. So, although this is not a yeast-bread, it has the word 'bread' in it's name and hence qualifies for this blog. Not that I need to justify what I post, right?

The recipe
It turned out that I didn't have enough cornmeal at home to make either of the recipes from Laurel Robertson's book. I saw several versions online, but what I finally ended up making was simply based on what I had around and what I was willing to add (sugar and fat).

1 C cornmeal
1 C whole wheat pastry flour
1 t baking powder
½ t salt
2 eggs
1½ C buttermilk
1 T honey
2 T vegetable oil

Putting it together
This bread is extremely simple to put together.

The oven is preheated to 450 F. I added the oil to the skillet, swirled it around and put it in the oven as it heated. I had read about this method in one of the numerous recipes I had perused online and found it interesting.

The ingredients

The first four ingredients are mixed together very well. The eggs are beaten in a separate bowl and the honey and buttermilk are added to the eggs.

Dry and wet ingredients
The wet ingredients are added to the dry ingredients and stirred until just blended. When the skillet has heated for about 10 minutes, it is brought out and the hot oil is added to the bread mixture and stirred just a little bit more. The mixture is then poured into the skillet and the skillet is put back in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes.

Ready for the oven

Out of the oven after 25 minutes

Cross section

Bottom view

The bread
The bread slid right out of the pan. The bottom and sides were nicely browned. The bread was not sweet at all. I haven't eaten a lot of cornbread to know a good one from a not-so-good one. If it had to be eaten by itself, I would probably like a slightly sweeter flavor. But this bread could go either way, depending on what it is offered with, chili, butter or honey. All in all, a fun dish to make in the skillet and nice enough to make for company.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mediterranean Garbanzo Bread

In the search for a sandwich bread and something that I could give my father-in-law for his April Christmas present, this recipe in Laurel Robertson's book sounded interesting. I had enough time to soak the dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and they would be cooked and ready in time on baking day. I was also excited about trying a new piece of cookware... read on.

LR recommends that the beans be cooked just before using them because cooked beans begin to ferment quickly. This was new information to me. I've frequently seen recipes that say you can cook a big batch of garbanzo beans and refrigerate them for about a week to use in different dishes. In order to make sure the beans mixed into the dough well, I processed them with a hand blender until fairly smooth. This can get tricky when blending in open containers and without added liquids, little flecks of beans kept flying around.

I added 1.5 tsp of vital wheat gluten to the flour to ensure a good rise. Yeast and salt are also added to the flour. The liquid used is the water from boiling the beans and water, if needed, to make 2 C of liquid. I had more than 2 C of liquid because I had cooked more beans than needed. So I did not need to add extra water. However because the beans had just been boiled, the liquid was fairly hot (120° F), and it needed to be 70° F for mixing in. I added the honey and optional oil (half the specified value) and worked at cooking the liquid so I could move on.

Ingredients grouped together

The dough was unusually soft and elastic. It wasn't wet but it was very different than most doughs. Very pleasing to knead.

After mixing all the ingredients and kneading for 20 minutes

The dough rose unexpectedly high. Within an hour and 20 minutes it was touching the lid of the container. Remember, I had two loaves worth of dough.

Most impressive rise I've seen in this container.

Deflated and ready for a second rise

Another good rise after 35 minutes

Split in two, rounded and resting

New cookware
The day before this bread was baked I received a pleasant surprise in the mail. A belated birthday present from my brother-in-law (from my Amazon wish list), a Lodge cast iron 3 qt combo cooker. I had read about how it is a great multi purpose utensil to have and especially nice for baking bread. I couldn't wait to bake in it.

I didn't have time to read a lot about bread baking in closed cast iron pots before attempting this. One school of thought is to preheat the cookware and then, very carefully, slip the proofed dough in it. The other school of thought is to proof the dough in the skillet/pan at room temperature and then put it in the oven as usual. The moisture in the bread released during baking is trapped in the closed container, creating conditions similar to those in professional ovens. In either method, the cover/lid is to be removed half way through the baking period to allow the crust to brown.What I didn't study much is the ideal baking temperature for the two methods.

I was still getting used to the weight and handling of the cookware, so I decided to try the non preheat method. I used the lid / skillet as the base and used the pan as its cover. I also chose to use parchment paper at the base because the skillet is not non-stick, yet. I used the specified temperature of 350° F (after preheating the oven to 425°), but I think if cold cast iron is being used, the baking temperature should be higher, around 450° F. I will be reading up more about that soon.

Ready for proofing

Proofing in the combo cooker

Spread out boule, but not bad


Neither loaf got much oven spring, I wonder if it was overproofed. With the lid on the cast iron combo cooker (I am going to have to come up with a shorter name, cicc?), it was hard to tell what was happening in there. I took the lid off after 20 minutes. The deep pan of the combo cooker is fairly heavy and definitely requires both hands. It also means that a lot of heat escapes when the lid is being removed from the oven. I let the boule stay in the oven a little longer than the loaf pan, reasoning that it had got a slow start in the cold cookware.

The loaf out of the oven.

The boule, out of the oven


Crumb shot

The Bread
Both the loaves got a quick brushing of butter to soften the crust. We gave my father-in-law the boule, so I don't have crumb shots for it. The loaf sliced well, but when we used it for sandwiches, it feel apart a bit. I had some with almond butter and it was great. It is really hard to tell any presence of the garbanzo beans, they lend a very mild flavor to the bread.

Date: April 3, 2011
Recipe: Mediterranean Garbanzo Bread from Laurel Robertson's book, 'The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book'

Flours: Whole wheat
Bread specific ingredients: Garbanzo beans
Sweetener used: Honey
Liquid: Water from boiling garbanzo beans

First rise time: 100 minutes
Second rise time: 35 minutes followed by 10 minutes of rounding and rest.
Proofing time: 30 minutes
Comments: Added 1.5 tsp vital wheat gluten (about 7 g in 745 g of flour). Used 2 T vegetable oil, half the quantity of the suggested optional oil. Used 300 grams of cooked beans for the specified 200 g of dried beans (about 2 C). Dough rose wonderfully well, not sure how much of that was helped by the v.w.gluten. Wonderful texture of dough to knead.

I'm looking forward to more bread baking in the cast iron combo cooker.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Potato Rosemary Bread

I was looking for a change from Laurel Robertson's recipes and it came to me when I picked up some fresh rosemary from my in-laws' garden: Reinhart's Potato Rosemary bread. I had made this recipe in the past for a family dinner and it was liked by all.

Starter and biga
Like a typical Reinhart whole-grain recipe, this one also has a biga and starter made a day (or upto 3 days) before baking day. The liquid from boiling the potatoes is used to soak the whole wheat flour for the biga and the starter.

Ingredients for starter and biga

Final dough
On baking day mashed potatoes (boiled the previous day) and fresh rosemary are added to the starter and biga along with more yeast and salt and some olive oil. Optional ingredients are roasted garlic and black pepper and I do plan to make this recipe with garlic at some point.

The usual ingredients + mashed potato and chopped fresh rosemary.

The recipe makes two boules or about 20 dinner rolls. I thought I would try to make one half into a loaf for sandwiches, but the dough was soft enough that it wouldn't have been easy to shape it into a loaf. I believe the potatoes were a tad over boiled and had a higher water content. I should have added more flour but I didn't.

A very soft dough

Ready for the first rise

Well risen after the first (and only) rise

Shaping and proofing
I decided to make a boule with half the dough and shape the rest into dinner rolls. I placed the dinner rolls close enough that they would proof into each other. I kept two of them apart to see if there would be a difference between the ones that stuck to each other and the ones that didn't.

Some dinner rolls and a boule

Proofed with some serious gas bubbles in the boule.

Scored dough. The rolls got four snips each with the tips of the kitchen scissors.

The bread

Out of the oven

Tight moist crumb

The boule sliced well.

Thin crust with some air pockets. Crumb with visible bits of potato.

I used a pan with hot water to generate steam. The rolls were done a little before the boule as expected. They were done in about 35 minutes and the boule took about 50 mins. The two rolls that were not attached to the others didn't get any more oven spring than the ones that were attached. We had some warm rolls with Laughing Cow cheese spread and soup. The combination tasted good. The boule has been frozen for a later time.

Date: Mar 27, 2011
Recipe: Potato Rosemary Bread from Peter Reinhart's book 'Whole Grain Breads'

Flours: Whole wheat
Bread specific ingredients: Potato, fresh rosemary
Sweetener used: None
Liquid for soaker: Potato water

First rise time: 75 minutes
Proofing time: 45 minutes
Comments: There was too much water in the boiled potatoes, I should have added more flour to make up for it. I should also try the recipe with roasted garlic.