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Monday, June 27, 2011

Soda Bread and Yankee Cornbread

Or Bake Sale #1

The summer charity drive at my workplace this year is collecting funds to help those affected by the Wallow Fire in Arizona. To help with this, I decided to bake a few times and have a bake sale. For the first sale, I made the Caraway Soda Bread I have baked earlier. I stuck to the recipe and the results were good.

I also baked the Yankee Cornbread from Laurel Robertson's 'The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book'. The recipe can be found here. I stuck to the given recipe. While pouring it into the cast iron skillet, I realized that it was more than what would fit in the skillet, so I baked the remainder in a smaller bowl. Worked out well.

The soda bread was baked in the cast iron 3 quart deep pan and the cornbread in the cast iron skillet. Both were preheated in the oven. Because I wanted to bake them at the same time, I made up my own temperature adjustments: Preheated to 400º F. Put the soda bread in. It took about 15 mins to put together the cornbread and then the two cooked together for another 25 minutes.

Caraway Soda Bread

Yankee Cornbread

Now I'm thinking of what to bake for the next bake sale.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sour Corn Rye

Or A good sandwich bread after a long time

In looking back through my folders of bread pictures, I saw that I had made this bread from Laurel Robertson's 'The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book' in July 2010. I didn't write any notes then so I don't know what I thought about it, but based on the pictures, the bread didn't rise too much and it was sliced fairly thick. I picked this recipe because I have been wanting to make sandwiches for some weeks now and bread with rye is bound to be more flavorful than whole-wheat-only bread.

The recipe
The recipe can be found here

I made half the recipe and, like a previous bread, wrote down the measurements for half the recipe to avoid mistakes. The 'sour' in the recipe comes from using cider vinegar and yogurt.The recipe calls for cornmeal, I think I've used corn grits in the past. Cornmeal is much finer and blends in better with the other ingredients. The cornmeal is mixed with boiling water first and other wet ingredients (yogurt, cider vinegar, oil, honey) are added to it later. Yeast is mixed with water and put aside. I used slightly lesser quantity of instant yeast and proofed it even though instant yeast isn't usually proofed. The recipe called for first mixing the cornmeal mixture and then the dissolved yeast. I wanted to keep that order of adding ingredients, although in hindsight, it would have been acceptable to add the dry instant yeast to the flours first. The flour mixture contains whole wheat flour, rye flour, caraway seeds and salt. I added two tsp of vital wheat gluten to make 'whole wheat bread flour'.


Three mixtures

After just mixing in

The interesting change in the dough making process is working in about ¼ cup water during the kneading process. The dough is very sticky (doughs with rye flour usually are) and wetting hands with water and kneading makes the kneading easier. After the water has been mixed in, the instructions say to stop when the dough gets sticky. You can't miss this, it's so obvious.

The risings (rises?)

Ready for first rise

Usually the first rise is done in an hour in the warm AZ summer (the book says it will take about 90 minutes). However after an hour, the dough had barely risen. I decided to be patient and give it time and sure enough, after two and a half hours, it had risen as expected.

After the first rise

Rounded and ready for second rise

The dough remained sticky as seen by the hole poked in to test the completion of the second rise.

Sticky dough after the second rise of 70 minutes

Proofing and baking
I was very tempted to bake this one in the cast iron combo cooker but the desire to have sandwiches won and I stuck with the loaf pan. The book recommends the pan be greased and dusted with cornmeal. I skipped this step.


50 minutes of proofing time

Poor slashes in sticky dough

The loaf is baked in a 400º F oven for 10 minutes and then for 55 minutes at 350º F.

Out of the oven

Fairly dark crust

Sliced clean and thin, the way we like it

Good looking crumb

The bread
The bread has a very intense flavor, distinct taste of rye and fairly sour, in a good way. I think the long first rise gave the dough plenty of time to develop the flavors. I was glad it sliced thin, works well for sandwiches. We had some roasted red pepper, tomato and melted cheese sandwiches and they were pretty darn good. No nut butters on this one.

Date: June 19, 2011
Recipe: Sour Corn Rye from Laurel Robertson's book, 'The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book'

Flours: Whole wheat, rye flour, cornmeal
Bread specific ingredients: Caraway seeds
Sweetener used: Honey
Liquid: Yogurt, water

First rise: 157 minutes
Second rise: 70 minutes followed by rounding and 15 minutes of resting
Proofing: 50 minutes

Comments: Used instant yeast (proofed), about ¾ tsp instead of the 1 tsp of active dry yeast recommended. I wonder if my yeast is getting old and that's why it took a long time to rise. Watch for yeast rise in the next bread. Used 2 tsp vital wheat gluten. A little less cider vinegar might be better. Cornmeal is much better in breads than corn grits. Water used to mix cornmeal wasn't really at boiling point, but that didn't seem to adversely affect the bread. Lesson learned: sometimes the dough needs more time to rise and should be given the time even though it deviates considerably from the book or normal rising times.

Baking can be tough when the temperature outside is 108º F and the air conditioning can barely keep the inside temperature at 85º F. Three more months...


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Flaxseed Loaves 02

I made this exact same bread a week ago. It turned out very well but I had not noted the quantities I used very well. This weekend we were going to visit some friends and I thought of baking some bread for them, it was a perfect chance to make the bread again and this time take good notes.

The notes
It turned out I had written down the correct quantities in my previous blog about this bread. This time I used 350 g of whole wheat flour and 100 g of all purpose flour (other ingredients being the same). However, in my focused state to write down the correct flour measurements, I forgot to add salt to the flours. I realized this when I had a ball of dough. So I dissolved the salt in 11 g of water, figuring that it would assimilate better in a dissolved state and kneaded it in as best as I could.  The previous attempt indicated that the dough was a little too much for my cast iron combo cooker, I made two loaves this time, one to gift and one for home.

The pictures

Mixed, but stickier than previous attempt

Well risen

Shaped into two batards, the larger one for the combo cooker

The smaller loaf proofed in a cast iron loaf pan

Proofed, slashed and glazed with sesame seeds

Proofed quite a bit...

...so I reshaped it

Ten minutes after reshaping, slashed and glazed with sesame seeds

In the pre-heated combo cooker, ready for the oven

Out of the oven and looking good

The bottom side

The loaves

The crumb

The bread
The small loaf sliced well but slices were small for sandwiches. We mostly had them with soups. When I first tasted the heel, it was salty, but RH said his slice was fine, the next slice over was fine too. It is highly likely the salt didn't mix very well.

Date: June 10, 2011
Recipe: Rose Levy Beranbaum's 'The Bread Bible'

Flours: Whole wheat, all purpose flour and a little rye flour
Bread specific ingredients: Flaxseeds (cracked)
Sweetener used: Honey
Liquid: Water

First rise time: 60 mins
Proofing time: 50 mins
Comments: Remember the salt at the right time. I think this recipe works better as two loaves. I baked for about the same time as the previous attempt, but because the dough was split, it cooked better. The pre-heated combo cooker seemed to give better results than the cold loaf pan, but placing dough in the hot pan, and then putting the very heavy, hot pan in the oven, and placing the hot lid on it without losing too much oven heat is still scary.


Sunday, June 12, 2011


My first attempt at a stromboli based on articles read online and adapted to a whole wheat dough was not much of a success. I've been wanting to make a good, presentable version since then. I decided to try the recipe from King Arthur Flour's 'Whole Grain Baking' book even though the dough is not 100% whole grain.

I was willing to follow the recipe, this being the first time. However it called for potato flakes or potato flour and I couldn't find either at the local natural foods store. I decided to used a boiled potato. I decided to make only one loaf, which meant halving the recipe. This time I took the effort to write down the quantities for half the recipe instead of trusting myself to remember to do the conversion on the fly.

Leave me a comment if you want the recipe.

I read online that a boiled potato is 75% water and 25% potato starch. So in order to have .675 oz of potato flour/flakes, I used 2.5 oz of boiled potato. The 1.75 oz of water from the potato was added towards the liquid requirement. I added 2.7 oz of water from boiling the potato to make the 4.5 oz of water needed. I believe using the potato water really helped make the dough soft. I think this replacement worked well for the potato flour/flakes. Just took a bit of math.

Ingredients. I used dry milk for the first time.
Orange juice is the other favorite ingredient in many KAF recipes

This recipe used whole wheat pastry flour and bread flour. Other ingredients for the dough were salt, honey, potato water, orange juice, dry milk, butter, yeast and boiled potato

Tiny amount of dough (half the recipe). Very soft.

Nicely risen after two hours

Rolled out into a 10 x 12 inch rectangle

The filling
The filling (half recipe) contained
1.5 T oil
1 clove garlic, minced,
1.5 oz sliced onion (not in original recipe)
5 oz mushroom
5 oz fresh spinach
¼ t salt
½ t pepper
2.5 oz crumbled feta cheese (I used 0.55 oz parmesan and 1.75 oz pepper jack)
1.25 oz pitted sliced kalamata olives (I skipped these)

I was glad I started preparing the filling right after the dough started its first rise because it does take time to put together, cook and then cool. I placed the cheese on the warm filling mix but didn't stir it in. Later I saw that it had melted into clumps, not a big problem, but next time I would mix the cheese in well instead of letting it melt itself. From past experiences making pizza, I knew I needed to strain the liquid in the mixture well before putting it on the dough. I am surprised the book doesn't specify that.

Filling spread on

Long edges folded in to prevent leakage

Rolled left to right

Proofing and baking
It was unusual that the roll was to be slashed before proofing. The slashes allow steam to escape. After 30 minutes of proofing, the stromboli is baked in a 375° F oven for 35 - 40 minutes.

Slashed before proofing

Proofed and ready for the oven

Some of the cheese bubbled and some tried to get away

Flattened out in the middle like the book said it might

6 slices per loaf

Held together well.

The crust was extremely soft and had good give (Oh yes, the dough had help from plenty of butter). The 'slices' were great warmed and even better dipped in home made pasta sauce. RH agreed they tasted good but found them heavy, too much bread and not enough vegetables per slice. I have to agree, but too much bread never bothers me.

Date: June 5, 2011
Recipe: King Arthur Flour's book 'Whole Grain Baking'

Flours: Whole wheat pastry flour, bread flour
Bread specific ingredients: See Ingredients and The filling section above
Sweetener used: Honey
Liquid: (Potato) Water

First rise time: 120 mins
Proofing time: 35 mins
Comments: Potato substitution worked well. Potato flour likely helped the dough. It would be interesting to keep the same potato usage and try to replace some of the bread flour with more whole wheat pastry flour. And maybe some of the butter with oil or reduce the amount of butter? Rolling out the dough to the given size and rolling the filling were quite straightforward. This was fairly simple to make and I hope to make it again, maybe even two loaves, for company.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Flaxseed Loaf

Or Best Looking Loaf To Date
Or June Bread For Dad

After two not-so-successful loaves last weekend, it was good to make two very decent loaves this weekend. The first one, Flaxseed Loaf is from Rose Levy Beranbaum's book 'The Bread Bible'. I've made three-four recipes from this book and they have all turned out well, just that they are not 100% whole grain. The ones I haven't tried are farther away from being whole grain and may not get a chance in my kitchen at all. I've made the Flaxseed Loaf before and remember liking it then.

The Dough
This bread does not follow the soaker or sponge method. It's a straight bread with only one rise, so it's ready fairly quickly. The recipe makes a loaf to be baked in a 9 x 5 in pan, about 2 lb 7 oz. It's a larger loaf than usual. I decided to make it more whole grain than the recipe specifies.

The ingredients

Water, cracked flaxseeds, rye flour and yeast (and honey)

I forgot to add the honey to this mixture and had to add it later. At this point I had to add the whole wheat flour and all purpose flour. I probably forgot to tare my digital scale (I'll never know). I think yeast was the last thing I had added, so if anything I was off by 4 g. The recipe calls for 374 g of all purpose flour and 144 g of whole wheat ( 518 g total). I thought I would even that out a little. I started with 255 g of whole wheat flour and added 100 g of of all purpose. Whole wheat flour would absorb more water, so, really I didn't need to add up to 518. From there on I decided to take it by feel and counted about 61 g of whole wheat flour (316 g total whole wheat flour). As I am writing this, I see that all that didn't add up very well and wonder if I added more all purpose flour that I didn't write down. I also added some w.w. flour during the kneading process that I know I didn't measure. There is a reason mise en place is popular among bakers. I just don't like the idea of having a sink full of dishes to clean later.

A very sticky dough

RLB recommends a 20 minute rest after ingredients are mixed well and kneaded a bit. After the rest, the dough is kneaded for another 5 minutes

Ready for first rise

Nicely risen in an hour

Shaping and proofing
While this bread was rising, I thought I would try to bake it in the cast iron pan-skillet combo instead of a loaf pan. I would also try to use them pre-heated. I shaped it slightly oval, just for fun.

Confused boule / batard

After 52 minutes, the loaf had risen dangerously and the oven still needed 10 minutes to finish pre-heating (400° F). On an impulse I decided to slightly deflate and reshape the loaf. In the next 10 minutes it had risen considerably again.

Reshaped and re-risen


Putting the dough in the very hot pre-heated cast iron pan was the scariest part of the baking that day. I had put some oil at the base before pre-heating after deciding to not use parchment paper at the base. The dough sizzled as it touched the bottom. The long end of the loaf touched the edges and I almost let it drop out of my hands in the end. I put the pre-heated skillet as a lid for the first 25 minutes and reduced the oven temperature to 375° F.

A little too much dough for the capacity of the pan

Best Looking Loaf To Date?

The bread
The bread looked wonderful after 40 minutes. It came right out of the pan, almost like it were floating in it. The bottom sounded hollow. The thermometer read 205° F (the book said it had to be at least 190° F). There were traces of dough on the thermometer and I thought they would go when the loaf cooked some more as it cooled. I wasn't sure if I should have left the loaf in the pan, but I took it out.

Sliced thin.

Decent crumb

I thought the bread tasted a tad under baked, another 5 minutes in the oven would have done the trick.I was misled by the good looking crust. This loaf was given to Dad, so I don't know how it fared on later days and if toasting made it taste much better like the book said would.

Date: June 5, 2011
Recipe: Rose Levy Beranbaum's 'The Bread Bible'

Flours: Whole wheat, all purpose flour and a little rye flour
Bread specific ingredients: Flaxseeds (cracked)
Sweetener used: Honey
Liquid: Water

First rise time: 65 mins
Proofing time: 60 mins
Comments: I was so happy to see the crust when I took the lid off the pan at half time. Just my luck that I didn't write down the measurements precisely. It would be worth trying to use more whole grain. Maybe reduce the total weight and size so it fits in the pan better. Will need to experiment more with using the pre-heated pan-skillet combo. Forgot to spray the loaf with water to create steam within the combo, but the moisture in the dough seemed sufficient. Also, it helped make that crackly crust. Just need to be super careful putting the dough in the pan.