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Monday, September 26, 2011

Whole Wheat Basil Bread

Or Herb-Cheese Bread

This bread was inspired from Beth Hensperger's 'The Bread Bible' book, hence I'm using the name of her recipe. I must have missed it the first time I skimmed through the recipes because it is one of the few 100% whole grain recipes in the book. I also might have ignored it because it requires fresh basil leaves and I don't always have them on hand. But this time I had just got some from the farmer's market, so I was eager to try the recipe. However we were having friends over for dinner, so I decided to use some bread flour to make the bread lighter. Turns out I changed the recipe so much that I need to write it down here so I can reproduce it again. This was the first time that substantial changes I made worked well.

For one rounded loaf (or a 8½ x 4½ loaf pan)

½ C warm buttermilk (105 -115° F)
¾ C warm water
1 Tbsp honey

2 Tbsp olive oil (slightly warmed)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp instant yeast
255 g whole wheat flour (about 2 cups)
130 g bread flour (about 1 C)
1 tsp salt
¼ C chopped fresh basil
4 oz grated parmesan cheese


Mix the first three ingredients. Mix the dried herbs in the warm oil to flavor the oil. Make sure the two wet mixtures are cool enough before adding them to the bowl containing the remaining ingredients. After the ingredients come together, let rest for 5 minutes and then knead for 5-10 minutes until the dough is soft and supple (to use Laurel Robertson's terminology). Cover the dough and let rise about an hour to hour-and-half (until a hole made with a wet finger doesn't fill in). Do not let the dough rise more than double in volume.

1:54 pm: Ready for first rise

3:00 pm: Nicely risen

Gently deflate the dough and round it. Cover and let rise again. The second rise usually takes half the time of the first rise.

3:12 pm: Ready for second rise

3:44 pm: A quick decent second rise

Shape the dough into the desired shape (log shape for a loaf pan). Cover with an inverted bowl and let rise for the last time. I sometimes cover the dough with a damp paper towel to keep the surface from drying out.
When the dough is half-way risen (usually about 20 minutes), pre-heat the oven. If using a cast iron pan, pre-heat it too. When using a cast iron pan, I usually heat the oven to 400° F and lower the temperature to 350° F after putting the dough in.

3:46 pm: Shaped and ready for proofing

4:22: Slashed and ready for the oven

About half way through the baking, at the 25 minute mark, remove the lid covering the pan to allow the crust to brown. In case of a loaf pan, the pan should be rotated 180° to ensure even baking. To test for done-ness thump the bottom of the bread. It should sound hollow. A digital thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf should measure about 200-205° F

4:23 pm: Placed in the preheated cast-iron combo cooker

5:26pm: Nice oven spring

Sliced very well

Herb and cheese specks clearly visible.

The bread
Our guests at dinner loved the bread, so much so that my friend wanted to come by to watch me bake it again 5 days later (following post) and we baked a loaf for each of us. RH loved the bread too. It was really quite yummy. We had some of it warmed and just by itself, and some of it with soup. 

Date: Sept 11, 2011
Recipe: Adapted from Whole Wheat Basil Bread from Beth Hensperger's 'The Bread Bible' book.

Flours: Whole wheat, bread flour
Bread specific ingredients: Parmesan cheese, fresh basil, herbs (dried thyme, oregano)
Sweetener used: Honey
Liquid: Water, buttermilk

Comments: Will have to make this bread with all whole wheat (or maybe spelt?) flour although it will most likely not taste as good. Sigh. But I was quite pleased with myself for successfully modifying the recipe to make something that worked well together.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Polish Buttermilk Rye

I was looking for something that used buttermilk that wasn't from PR or LR books. I found a recipe called Polish Buttermilk Rye here and thought it was interesting, even though instructions were for machine mixing and it used bread flour.

As the detailed instructions are available on the original webpage, here is my attempt in pictures. I made only one loaf worth, ie. half the recipe. I didn't end up using all the bread flour, in hindsight I probably should have. Compared to the pretty pictures in the original recipe, my loaf looked quite different.


Wet ingredients ready to mix into the rye flour

1:12 pm: Ready for the rye 'paste' to rise

2:59 pm: After nearly two hours, the dough had flattened,
but hadn't risen a whole lot

3:22: Bread flour and caraway seeds mixed in and kneaded

3:52: Decently risen

3:54 pm: Shaped, but didn't manage a smooth surface

4:14 pm: Proofed and ready for the oven

5:04 pm: Not a lot of oven spring

Dull crust but sliced decently

Tight crumb at the bottom

The bread
The bread didn't slice very thin, but it tasted good. We had it with soup and soy slice - roasted red pepper sandwiches.

Date: Sept 3, 2011
Recipe: Polish Buttermilk Rye from this website.

Flours: Rye flour, bread flour
Bread specific ingredients: Caraway seeds
Sweetener used: Molasses and sugar
Liquid: Buttermilk

Comments: The recipe lists ¼ C water (for two loaves) in the ingredient list but doesn't mention it's use later. I skipped the egg wash which would explain the dull crust. Should have used all the bread flour which would have helped stiffen the dough and get a smooth surface during shaping.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Anadama Bread with Cheddar Cheese

This was the September bread for my father-in-law. I have Beth Hensperger's 'The Bread Bible' book checked out from the library. Only a handful of recipes are 100% whole grain, but many of the others are interesting and worth an attempt with modifications to use more whole grains. This recipe is called Anadama Bread with Tillamook Cheddar Cheese and recommends Tillamook mild cheddar cheese. What I had at home was not the famous Tillamook brand and it was medium, not mild. The recipe uses all purpose or bread flour for the flour. The measures are given in cups and not by weight. So there was a some room to make changes and also to test the 'right-feel-of-the-dough-consistency', that is supposed to come to a baker after baking bread for a while.

I made half the recipe, one 9 x 5 loaf pan worth. I decided to make a round loaf in the cast-iron combo cooker.


Cornmeal is cooked in water until bubbly and thickened. The cheese, honey and butter are stirred in and the mixture is allowed to cool. Yeast is dissolved in warm water. Flour and salt are mixed in the large bowl. For the 3 - 3¼ cups of bread flour, I used 180 g of whole wheat flour and 214 g of bread flour. (about 1½ cup each)

Ready for mixing

I let the dough rest for 5 minutes after getting the ingredients together before kneading for about 7-8 minutes. The dough was fairly easy to knead inspite of the gooey cheese mixture.

1:04 pm: Ready for first rise

2:06 pm: Well risen (touched the covering lid and flattened)

The recipe does not require a second rise, but I decided to do it.

2:07 pm: Ready for second rise.

The recipe suggests flattening the dough, spreading melted butter and then sprinkling some sweet paprika before rolling the dough jelly-roll style. This would result in a hairline-swirl in the crumb. I skipped this step.

2:36 pm: Shaped

3:08 pm: Proofed, slashed, ready for the oven

3:56 pm: Looking good

Sliced well with an even crumb

The bread
Mom and Dad (in-law) liked the bread. The flavor of the cheese was very subtle, in a good, not-over-powering, way. This surprised me because it seemed like a lot of cheese (1 C / 4 oz) to add to a loaf of bread.

Date: Sept 3, 2011
Recipe: Anadama Bread with Tillamook Cheddar Cheese from Beth Hensperger's 'The Bread Bible' book.

Flours: Whole wheat, bread flour, cornmeal
Bread specific ingredients: Cheddar cheese,
Sweetener used: Honey
Liquid: Water

Comments: Using bread flour makes the bread making easier and fun because a good rise is almost guaranteed. It's definitely good to try again, but a similar recipe I made later (look out for that post soon), would be a better option for a bread with cheese. I don't have comments about how well this bread lasted, but I know the receivers thought it was delicious.


Monday, September 12, 2011

Walnut Oatmeal Bread

This bread was baked nearly three weeks ago, I have baked 3 other loaves since, but I have been lazy about updating the blog.

This bread is from Laurel Robertson's 'The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book'. The basic recipe (Oatmeal Bread) has instructions to use steel cut oats or rolled oats. I had made the steel-cut oats version in the past and liked it, so I tried the rolled oats version this time. There are two variations to the basic recipe: walnut-oatmeal and sunflower (seed)-oatmeal. I made the walnut-oatmeal version this time but I will definitely the sunflower seed version soon.

The oatmeal is cooked well (with some salt) and set aside for several hours or overnight. Mixed into it is honey and oil. Yeast is mixed in warm water (in the measuring cup in the picture). The flour is all whole wheat flour.


Stiff dough when ingredients are brought together

The recipe says: "Even if the dough seems very stiff, don't add more water just yet: the flour will absorb water from the oatmeal very slowly, so the dough softens as you work". I let it sit for 5 minutes before the 10 minutes of  kneading and sure enough, it came together very well.

2:35 pm: Ready for first rise

3:36 pm: First rise is done

3:39 pm: Ready for second rise

4:29 pm: Second rise is done

The walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped fine, are added before shaping.

Walnuts spread onto the dough

Actually I am not sure how I got from the earlier picture to this stage.

4:50 pm: Ready for proofing

5:34 pm: Ready for the oven

A decent loaf

Decent crumb with a distinct ring of walnuts under the crust that would fall apart a bit.

The bread
I like oatmeal and I like walnuts, and this bread didn't disappoint. I had most of it with almond butter.

Date: Aug 21, 2011
Recipe: Walnut-Oatmeal Bread from Laurel Robertson's book, 'The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book'

Flours: Whole wheat, cooked rolled oats
Bread specific ingredients: Walnuts (toasted and chopped fine)
Sweetener used: Honey
Liquid: Water

Comments: It's been fairly long since this bread found it's way to our stomachs and I don't remember what I might have wanted to write here about the experience. I guess the lesson to learn is to post more promptly.