Sep 29, 2012

Semolina Rounds with Black Sesame and Golden Flax Seeds

This is a lovely bread. The yellow color from the durum flour is so appealing. I love the flavor.

I found this recipe in the book, Amy's Bread, and I have made it several times. It's one of my all time favorites. The loaves are gorgeous. The original recipe calls for just the black sesame seeds, but I threw in some flax seeds just because.

While coarsely ground semolina flour is easy to find around here, finely ground durum semolina is not, so I buy mine from King Arthur Flour. Another source is Giusto's in San Francisco. I'm sure there are other sources .... In fact, Little India in Artesia is right in my back yard. I've even heard that Costco carries a durum flour called Mumbai Gold. Hmmmm. I'll have to check these out.

Semolina Rounds with Black Sesame and Golden Flax Seeds

Adapted from Amy's Bread. (Get the book, you will love it!)


Makes 14 ounces (more than you'll need)
7 ounces warm water (105 to 115 degrees F
1/8 t. active dry yeast
8 ounces unbleached all purpose flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the yeast in the water to dissolve. Let it sit for about 3 minutes. Add the flour, and mix with the paddle attachment on low for about a minute. Place it into a container and let it rise for 6 to 8 hours, until it has more than doubled. Use the biga while it is still growing and is not deflating. You can retard the biga by letting it rise at room temperature for an hour, refrigerating it overnight, removing it, and letting it sit at room temperature for three to four hours. 

Semolina Round

2 ounces warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
1 tsp active dry yeast
12.5 ounces room temperature water
10 ounces biga
18.35 ounces/520 grams/4 cups durum flour
2 ounces medium ground yellow cornmeal
1/4 C black sesame seeds, or a combination of other seeds
1 T plus 1 tsp Kosher salt
Extra cornmeal for sprinkling

Mix the yeast and the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and let stand for 3 minutes.

Add the rest of the water and the biga and mix with the paddle attachment.

Whisk the durum, cornmeal, 2 T of the seeds, and the salt together.

Add the flour mixture to the stand mixer bowl and mix with a dough whisk or a large spoon until the dough forms a sticky mass.

Knead the dough with the dough hook for 5 to 7 minutes. Add additional flour if needed, but err on the side of less flour. The dough should be soft and supple.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Knead the dough for 2 to 3 minutes more.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl or dough rising bucket and let it rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Divide the dough into two equal halves.

Gently shape each piece into a rectangle and then roll them into cylinders like a baguette. Roll the cylinders under your hands to elongate them until you get a 32 inch rope. Coil the ropes.

Place the loaves side by side on one sheet pan sized piece of parchment (on top of a pizza peel or a cookie sheet so you can transfer the loaves to the oven) that has been sprinkled with cornmeal with 3 to 4 inches between the loaves. Spray the grooves of the loaves with water, and and place the remaining seeds evenly into the grooves.

Cover the loaves with oiled plastic wrap and let them rise for 45 to 90 minutes, until almost proofed, but not fully proofed.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F with a baking stone on the second to lowest rack. Place a broiler pan on the lowest rack and fill a mister with water. Boil one cup of water.

Mist the loaves with water, slide the parchment with the loaves onto the baking stone, and pour the boiling water into the broiler pan. Cover your oven window with a dish towel so you don't break it!

Spray the oven walls and the loaves with water and close the door. Spray again every 60 second three more times, quickly shutting the oven door each time.

Bake for 20 minutes and then reduce the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes more.

Cool on a wire rack.


This post has been submitted to Yeastspotting.

Sep 27, 2012

Chocolate Croissants

Croissants. With batons of chocolate. I made these. Seriously. Yes I did. I can't believe it either.

Croissants. One of the most intimidating doughs.

Hey kids. Guess what? If I can do it, so can you.

These things rocked.

Crispy, flakey, chocolaty. Must make again, and again, and again.

I am sure I made lots of mistakes putting this dough together... and yet, look at this flakey goodness!

Chocolate Croissants

Adapted from and inspired by Girl versus Dough, adapted from How Sweet it Is. Both sites have gorgeous step-by-step photographs. Definitely hop on over to see them.


1 1/2 C warm (105-110 degrees F) whole milk
1/4 C light brown sugar
1 T plus 1/2 t active dry yeast
16 oz to 19 oz unbleached all purpose flour (3 3/4 to 4 1/4 Cups if you don't have a scale)
1 T. salt
3 sticks of unsalted butter, chilled
Chocolate batons or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 egg and a tsp of milk for egg wash

Sep 24, 2012

Basic Sourdough Bread

About two and a half years ago - on a whim - I ordered a sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour. I can't even remember why. I hadn't baked bread since junior high school home ec.

The first few loaves I made tasted great, but they were kind of flat and pale. It took me a couple of attempts before I was able to achieve the "look" I wanted. Once I started baking the bread in a pot, I loved the results.

This recipe is great for beginners. It doesn't require a long rise (the flavor will be very mild) and the recipe also incorporates instant yeast and a bit of sugar.

While I like to make one large loaf from the recipe, it was originally written for two one pound loaves.

Basic Sourdough Bread

adapted from King Arthur Flour

8 ounces (1 cup) of fed sourdough starter. You can even create your own. Here is one method
1 1/2 C lukewarm water (about 95 to 105 degrees F)
2 t. instant yeast
1 T sugar
2 1/2 t. salt.
21 1/4 ounces (5 cups) unbleached all purpose flour

Combine all of the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir until the ingredients come together into a shaggy ball. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a bowl scraper. 
Knead for about seven minutes on low/medium low speed. You can also knead by hand.
Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl or dough rising bucket, cover, and allow to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.

Sep 22, 2012

Summer Berry Turnovers

Getting more brave with pastry. After making these, I told people about how I made pastry with cream cheese thinking how original this was. What was the reaction? "Yes, I do that all the time." Okay, I am a pastry newbie. Don't judge.

Pastry newbies, this post is for you.

This recipe is in The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet. It is one of the first cookbooks I bought when I began to "collect" cookbooks. I think I read about it in Gourmet magazine (miss you Gourmet!). It is part of the Sur la Table cookbook collection. The book has nearly 500 pages of baking lessons, recipes, and photographs. Gorgeous and substantial.

One of the things I love about this recipe is that the author leaves nothing to chance. She actually tells the reader how many pulses it takes for the dough to come together in the food processor. 30 one-second pulses. LOVE.

These turnovers can be made in advance and reheated when needed. They have a "grown up" taste because both the crust and the fruit are slightly tart. While I baked these for breakfast, they would be wonderful topped with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

Sep 21, 2012

BBA Challenge #25 Pizza Napolitana | #26 Poolish Baguettes | #27 Portuguese Sweet Bread

The next three recipes in my chronicle of baking every recipe in Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice.

#25 Pizza Napoletano

Thin crust pizza. Oh yeah.

If you like thin crust pizza, and are willing to get semolina all over your kitchen and oven, make this pizza. Or use parchment paper to avoid the semolina mess. While true pizzaphiles might be able to tell the difference, I was perfectly happy with the pizza baked on the parchment placed on a preheated stone.

The three pizzas in this photo were baked with the parchment method (see this article in Saveur). The other three were made by placing the shaped dough on a peel sprinkled heavily with semolina, topping the pizzas, and then placing them on the stone by jerking the peel out from under the pizza. Let's just say they ended up more like amoebas than circles. Tasty, but not photogenic. There was semolina everywhere.

This dough requires cold flour, ice cold water, and an overnight retardation in the refrigerator. The dough is also very sticky. You shape it by lifting it up and stretching it with your knuckles from underneath the pizza until it gets very thin.

The pizzas are fairly small, about 12 inches in diameter. That is a good thing because stretching a larger piece of dough that thin is probably best left to the professionals. Unfortunately, this makes serving this pizza for a large group of guests difficult, as you have to make the pizzas one at a time.

Nevertheless, I loved this pizza. I had leftovers for breakfast.

I used an uncooked tomato sauce recipe from Nancy Silverton's Mozza and topped them with big chunks of mozzarella that melted while the pizzas were baking in the 550 degree oven. Some of the pizzas were also topped with prosciutto. Once the pizzas came out of the oven, I sprinkled either fresh basil or fresh green onions on them.

The pizza sauce recipe can also be found on Saveur's website.

To find out how other bakers liked this recipe, google BBA Challenge #25, Pizza Napolitana.

#26 Poolish Baguettes

This bread starts with a poolish, which is a preferment (you make it a day before you bake the bread, let it get bubbly, and then refrigerate it overnight).

The dough consists of the poolish, bread flour, and either sifted whole wheat flour or clear flour. OR, you can just use bread flour and add 2 T of whole wheat flour. I happened to have some clear flour that I impulsively bought from King Arthur Flour, so I used that.

The dough requires two rises before shaping. For once, I was able to actually get my baguettes to stand up to slashing! I was pretty proud of myself.

I will make these loaves again, especially when I am feeling defeated by other baguette recipes.

You can find the recipe here.

To find out how other bakers liked this recipe, google BBA Challenge #26, Poolish Baguettes.

#27 Portuguese Sweet Bread

This bread begins with a "sponge," which is a preferment that you let sit until it gets foamy. The dough, along with flour, water, and salt, includes sugar, milk, butter, shortening, eggs, and lemon, orange, and vanilla extracts. The loaves are shaped into boules and baked in pie tins. The crust gets very dark but does not burn. While my reaction to this bread was lukewarm, my grandson said it made "the best French toast I've ever tasted!"

You can find the recipe here.

To find out how other bakers liked this recipe, google BBA Challenge #27, Portuguese Sweet Bread.

Submitted to.....
BYOB 125 x 125

Sep 18, 2012

Whole Wheat Loaves | Tuesdays with Dorie - Baking with Julia

This week the Tuesdays with Dorie baking group is making Whole Wheat Loaves.

While the bread may be called Whole Wheat, it is really half white and half whole wheat. It is a pretty basic bread, except that it calls for malt extract, an ingredient that is evidently used in making beer.
I have both diastatic and non-diastatic malt powder (not sure I could explain the difference without the trusty Internet), so I substituted the diastatic malt powder. It seemed to work. Others used molasses and were happy with the results.

My thoughts on this bread:
  • This bread is soft and somewhat sweet. 
  • The dough rose very quickly but didn't have much oven spring. 
  • If I make this recipe again, I would make dinner rolls rather than sandwich bread. For a light wheat sandwich bread, I prefer Peter Reinhart's. That's just a matter of taste.
  • The bread reminds me of those sweet whole wheat rolls one used to get with lunch at a "healthy" restaurant. Those rolls with bits of rolled oats on top. 
  • It was really good slathered with butter. 
  • The top browned quite a bit, but the sides and bottom stayed pale. The recipe suggests removing it from the pan for the last 10 minutes of baking to brown the sides. I went for the two-toned look. 

To get the recipe, visit the fabulous blogs of this week's Tuesdays with Dorie hosts Michele of Veggie Num Nums and Teresa of The Family that Bakes Together.

Sep 17, 2012

On Baking Bread | And the Bakers who Inspire Us

There is something special about reading bread cookbooks. Here are a few of my favorite quotes.

"And if you're not careful, the bread can take over your life." Nancy Silverton

"What the new, young American bakers have discovered.... is that there are many layers of flavor hidden within the four ingredients of flour, water, salt, and yeast.... using bakers' tricks that are both ancient and modern, layers of flavor emerge as if from one of those magic-eye, three-dimensional, there-it-is, wait-where-did-it-go paintings." Peter Reinhart

"This is the most frustrating and ultimately satisfying thing I discovered: Bread is alive." Nancy Silverton

"If you choose the best ingredients, handle them properly, and learn to understand your dough as it develops, then you are approaching the process as an artisan." Daniel Leader

"In short, to be successful, the baker must be able to think like a yeast spore, and sense things like lactobacilli." Jeffrey Hamelman

"We have so much, too much, that we can buy, yet the basic labor of doing, the making with our own hands, is what enlivens us and makes us feel human." Dan Lepard

"As with anything else worth learning, you get better with practice. Nothing you can buy at a store will give you as much satisfaction." Nancy Silverton

"To find this bread, I would have to learn to make it. Thus began my search for a certain loaf with an old soul." Chad Robertson

"You must use all of your senses to be aware of the dough, the environment, and your own mood." Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree

"Bread is alive. What's more, bread can even seem to have emotional reactions to the way you treat it." Nancy Silverton

"The challenge and the tasty, tangible reward make bread baking a great pleasure to experience - and to share." Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Dupree

I love these quotes... although I don't think I've mastered the art of thinking like a yeast spore, and sensing things like lactobacilli!

These photos are taken with a 60mm f/2.8 macro lens at aperture 3.5, shutter speed .002s, ISO 800.
I am participating in My Diverse Kitchen's Exercise in Food Photography #5: Adding some life to your photograph!

Sep 14, 2012

Friday Cocktail | Ginger Martini

Cheers to Fridays! I'm off until Tuesday. In fact, I'm taking every Monday off in September. I'm trying to burn my excess accrued vacation before the end of the year. Plus my son just slayed a scary looking spider out on the front porch. Seem like good reasons to say "cheers."

This drink is very refreshing. Perfect for a ridiculously hot day like today.

Ginger Martini

1 part ginger liqueur - I like Domain de Canton
1 part fruit flavored vodka - I prefer plum, pomegranate, or peach
1 part fresh lemon juice

Pour the ingredients over ice and shake or stir.
Strain into a martini glass that has been chilled in the freezer.


Sep 13, 2012

Panettone | BBA Challenge #24

One of the advantages to being about two years late to the BBA Challenge party is the ability to read every participant's blog post for successes and failures. Let's just say, it was really difficult to find any post that displayed any enthusiasm about the success of the panettone recipe in Bread Baker's Apprentice.

So I cheated.

Yes, I admit it. This was the first of my two real BBA Challenge violations (more on the other one in a later post). Thank goodness there aren't any BBA Challenge enforcers out there. Or BBA probation.

I used the recipe from Peter's Artisan Breads Every Day. Hey. Same author! From what I understand, in each book, Peter often perfects the recipes he has developed for earlier books. Not really cheating, right?
By the way, this is an absolutely wonderful book that lays out how to create fabulous breads using the slow ferment method. If I had to recommend just one book to get someone hooked on bread baking, this would be it.

Panettone is a Milanese Christmas bread that is baked in panettone papers or molds. You can also use muffin tins and popover pans. I used two 5 1/4 inch panettone papers. The size was perfect for this recipe. If you buy the 7 inch pannetone paper, just make one large loaf.

This bread has an airy and layered feel, and you can peel off thin ethereal pieces of it to eat.

Sep 9, 2012

Parmesan Pull-apart Bread

Parmesan Pull-apart Bread

This month's Twelve Loaves challenge is bread with cheese.

Both my sister and I were given two cookbooks, one from 1978 and another from 1981. One is called "Come for Lunch," and the other is "Come for Dinner." Remember those spiral bound collections of personal recipes put together to raise money for a school or a charity? That's what these are.

Sep 4, 2012

Nectarine Upside-down Chiffon Cake | Tuesdays with Dorie, Baking with Julia

Picture this dripping with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream
Do not let the term "upside-down cake" turn you off. This cake is different.

While Dorie Greenspan, the author of the book, Baking with Julia, describes the cakes in this chapter as "everyday delights" and "simple sturdy cakes," the recipe for this cake was three pages and required 15 ingredients. Holy mise en place, Batman!

This cake consists of a lemon chiffon cake, a toasted almond and oatmeal streusel filling, and nectarines  (or other fruit) that caramelize in brown sugar and butter while the cake bakes. Even though the cake contains one-half of a cup of fresh lemon juice, the lemon flavor is not very pronounced at all.

A chiffon cake is leavened by an egg white meringue into which you fold the rest of the whisked ingredients. The batter is very light and airy and the cake is too. It's sort of a cloud-like coffee cake.

I used white nectarines. Yellow might be prettier, but these were ripe and juicy.

This is a large cake. It is supposed to be baked in a 10 x 3 inch springform pan. I didn't have one, so I used a 10 x 3 inch cake pan I already owned, sprayed it heavily with Bake Klene ZT, and lined the bottom with parchment. I flipped the cake onto my cake stand (I actually put the cake stand upside down onto the cake pan and flipped the whole contraption) and it worked just fine... no sticking at all.... thank goodness... I'm trying to kick my bakeware habit.

To make this cake, pour melted butter into the bottom of the cake or springform pan, press brown sugar into the butter, and press nectarines into the brown sugar.

Make an almond-oatmeal streusel. The recipe called for un-blanched almonds. Mine were slivered  and blanched, but I toasted them first and they worked just fine.

Make the batter. In one bowl combine egg yolks, lemon juice, oil, flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. In the bowl of a stand mixer, create the meringue. Carefully fold the the ingredients together to create a light and airy batter. Spread one half of the batter over the nectarines, sprinkle the streusel over the batter, and top with the rest of the batter and smooth.

The recipe calls for a 45 to 50 minute baking time, but I baked mine for 55 minutes because it was still jiggly like a cheesecake at 50 minutes.

When I took the cake out of the oven, it was three inches high.

After twenty minutes, it had shrunk. As long as it shrinks evenly, it's fine. If it collapses heavily in the middle and not the sides, it might be under done.

This is my very first chiffon cake. Would I make this cake again? Yes! The only thing I would do differently is halve the amount of sugar that is in the caramelized nectarines. I might leave out the streusel too to get a different effect.

To get the recipe, visit the fabulous blogs of this week's Tuesday's with Dorie hosts, Marlise of The Double Trouble Kitchen and Susan of The Little French Bakery.

Sep 2, 2012

BBA Challenge #22, Pain de Campagne, and BBA Challenge #23, Pane Siciliano

Installment number eight on my year of baking my way through Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. One French bread and one Italian bread.

BBA Challenge #22, Pain de Campagne

Pain de Campagne is French "country bread." The recipe for Pain de Campagne also typically contains a small amount of whole grain (wheat, rye, or cornmeal) flour. It can be shaped into roles, epis, boules, batards, etc. and is baked in an oven on a stone and with a steam pan. In the book, Peter Reinhart, says he learned the formula for this recipe from Professor Raymond Calvel in France. This is the same professor with whom Julia Child consulted for her bread chapter in her second volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking

This bread requires a pate fermentée, which is a pre-ferment made up to three days before you make the bread. It's a smaller piece of dough which is allowed to develop flavor over time. It's made from flour, salt, yeast, and water, allowed to rise, and then refrigerated. 

I shaped my dough into one big boule and let it rise in a brotform. (You can also use a well-floured cloth-lined deep bowl to proof the bread if you choose to make a boule.) Then, I cooked it in a preheated cast iron combo cooker turned upside down. I removed the hot pan from the oven, dumped the bread into the frying pan, slashed it, covered it with the deeper pan, and put the whole thing in the oven. After twenty minutes, I removed the larger pan and continue to bake the bread. This captures the moisture from the dough to create a steam oven without the steam pan. 

When I removed the bread, the thin, crispy crust crackled and "sang." 

Would I make again? Yes

Google BBA Challenge #22 for other bakers' experiences.

BBA Challenge #23, Pane Siciliano

This bread requires three days to make:

  • Day 1: Making the pate fermentee.
  • Day 2: Building the dough, shaping the loaves, and refrigerating overnight. 
  • Day 3: Proofing and baking.
This bread contains 40% semolina flour, which is a grainy yellow high-protein wheat that has a really nice, sort of nutty flavor. The finished loaves are supposed to be shaped like an S. I'll need to work on my shaping skills. The recipe calls for three loaves, but I made two larger loaves. 

I sprinkled toasted sesame seeds on one loaf, and black sesame seeds on the other. 

Would I make this bread again? Definitely. 

Google BBA Challenge #23 to see other bloggers' experiences. 

Participating in Bake Your Own Bread. Click the logo below to learn more.

BYOB 125 x 125