Sunday, April 13, 2014


Hier geht's zu deutschen Version diese Posts

Alsatia is famous for its happy marriage between French and German cuisine, as shown in Choucroute, Zwiebelkuchen and Alsatian Apple Torte. It produces top Rieslings, but brews lots of beer, too.

It's also home of one of my favorite authors: Tomi Ungerer, known for his quirky, illustrated books for children and adults, whose heroes are no mild mannered goodie-two-shoes, but usually just the opposite - like the stubborn little tom cat in: "No Kiss for Mother".

And even in his wonderful illustrations for a book of German folk songs ("Das grosse Liederbuch") he always manages to smuggle one little nasty detail in his otherwise idyllic scenes and landscapes.

Like me, Tomi Ungerer loves cats and good food, and is no tee-totaller. And maybe Mother Paw even might have got a kiss for this bread (topped with a juicy mouse.)

Jacquy Pfeiffer, also from Alsatia, and one of the Top Ten Pastry Chefs of America, published this recipe in The Art of French Pastry, a high-calorie cookbook that makes you gain weight by just looking at it -  and sigh wistfully.

The potatoes add moisture to the loaf, and the beer crust, together with the "old" dough, gives it a unique taste - and an attractive tiger pattern.

Since the breads are quite small, I recommend baking a whole batch of them.

 BreadStorm-Users (including the free version) can download the formula here.

PAIN À LA BIÈRE - BEER BREAD   (adapted from Jacquy Pfeiffer*)
(4 small loaves)

Pâte fermentée
200 g bread flour
   4 g/1/2 tsp salt
0.8 g/1/4 tsp instant yeast
126 g/1/2 cup water

Final dough
 60 g instant potato flakes (or 130 g mashed, unsalted, cooked potatoes)
200 g water (to soak potato flakes, if using)
all pâte fermentée
250 g bread flour
170 g rye flour (whole or medium)
  10 g salt
  4 g/1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
240 g water

50 g rye flour
90 g beer
2 g salt
1 g/1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
rye flour, for dusting

*For this recipe I combined two slightly different formulas, one (not in great detail) from a magazine for professional bakers "Modern Baking", the other from Pfeiffer's book. A Fresh Loaf member, who had participated in one of Pfeiffer's baking class, gave me the description of how the dough consistency should be.

DAY 1:
Stir together all ingredients for pâte fermentée and mix on low speed for 1 minute, adjusting flour or water, as needed, so that dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff.

Knead on medium speed for 4 minutes, dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky, and register at 77-81ºF/25-27ºC.

Transfer dough to lightly oiled bowl, rolling it around to coat with oil. Cover and ferment at room temperature for 1 hour, or until it swells to about 1 1/2 times its original size.

Knead lightly to degas, cover and refrigerate overnight (or up to 3 days).

Pâte fermentée means "old dough"

DAY 2 :
Remove pâte fermentée from refrigerator 2 hours before using.

In a small bowl, mix potato flakes with water. Set aside.

Combine all dough ingredients (except potatoes) in mixer bowl. Knead on low speed for 3 minutes, add potatoes and knead for another 3-4 minutes (dough should be a bit sticky, if necessary, adjust by adding teaspoons of water). Set speed to medium-low and continue kneading for another for 2-3 minutes (dough should be still somewhat sticky).

Time for the dough to rest

Place dough in lightly oiled bowl, roll around to coat, cover, and let rise for about 1 1/2 hour, or until almost doubled. It should be very soft and still a bit sticky.

Pre-shaped into taut balls

Transfer dough to a floured work surface and divide into 4 pieces (àbout 315 g). Cup each dough piece with your hands, and, while pressing down on it, turn it around clockwise, until a taut ball is shaped.

Not exactly an Alsatian beer - but good!

Cover pre-shaped dough pieces and let them rest for 20 minutes. In the meantime, combine ingredients for beer crunch in a small bowl.

First fold top side to the middle...

....then 2 sides to make a triangle

Fold each dough round from 3 sides to the middle to make a triangle. Place on parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down. Generously spread beer paste over loaves, also from the sides, then dust with rye flour. (Don't cover, or the foil will stick.)

Brush triangles with a thick layer of beer paste

Proof breads at room temperature for about 1 1/4 hours, or until they have almost doubled in size. The crust should show distinct cracks.

Preheat oven to 445ºF/230ºC, including baking stone and steam pan. 

Bake for 10 minutes, steaming with 1 cup boiling water, then rotate breads 180 degrees and remove steam pan. Continue baking for about 15 minutes more, until breads are dark golden brown, sound hollow when thumbed on the bottom, and register at least 200ºF.

Let cool on wire rack for at least 1 hour before cutting.

The beer bread freezes well. Wrap in foil and place in ZipLock bag in the freezer. Let thaw, then crisp for about 1 minute in preheated oven at 445ºF.

My first trial at the Beer Bread - no tiger crust, yet
Completely re-written and updated (first posted 12/2011)

Submitted to "Yeast Spotting
and Panissimo:  Bread & Companatico                                       
                           Indovina chi viene a cena 


Saturday, April 5, 2014


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Our ABC April project came just in time to alleviate a bout of winter blues. While my mother in Hamburg told me about blooming forsythias and crocuses, we hunkered down for yet another blizzard.

Usually not the greatest fan of sweet breads, I even might have skipped Hanaâ's pick, 100% Whole Wheat Cinnamon Swirl Bread, but there is something warm and soothing about cinnamon, and, looking at the snow outside, it was:


Looking out into our snowy garden
King Arthur's original recipe uses a few tricks to temper the somewhat harsh taste of 100% whole wheat: a small preferment, and orange juice.

I know that whole wheat mellows considerably by long fermentation, but with only a quarter of the flour in the starter, most of the wheat didn't have time to undergo this softening.

And would half a cup of orange juice (though it would add a nice flavor,) really be able to fix the problem?

Using milder white whole wheat was an option, but I had plenty of regular whole wheat in my pantry, so that was my obvious choice.

I decided to give the whole procedure a makeover, working with my preferred stretch and fold (plus overnight rest in the fridge,) to allow for a longer fermentation and mellowing of the wheat.

With this method I could also safely reduce the amount of yeast. What I didn't cut down on was the sugar - 100% whole wheat needs the full dose.

One more finishing touch: I thought the sweet, cinnamon infused bread could benefit from having a little nutty bite, so I added some walnuts.

And the result? The bread was wonderful! Wheaten goodness without a hint of harsh or "too healthy" taste, pleasantly sweet and cinnamon-y. Just what the doctor prescribes for late winter blues.

  BreadStorm-Users (including the free version) can download the formula here 

Wheaten goodness, mellow and cinnamon-y

100% WHOLE WHEAT CINNAMON SWIRL BREAD  (adapted from King Arthur Flour)

28 g/1 oz/1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
46 g/1 5/8 oz/1/4 cup potato flour (or 1/2 cup instant mashed potato flakes)
425 g/15 oz/3 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
6 g/0.2 oz instant yeast
113 g/4 oz/1/2 cup lukewarm water
113 g/4 oz/1/2 cup lukewarm milk
113 g/4 oz/1/2 cup orange juice
71 g/2 1/2 oz/5 tbsp. melted butter
9 g/0.3 oz/1 1/2 tsp. salt
35 g/1 1/4 oz/3 tbsp. sugar
85 g/3 oz walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 egg, beaten (for brushing the filling and shaped loaf)
67 g/2.4 oz/1/3 cup sugar
7 g/0.2 oz/2 tsp. cinnamon
11 g/0.4 oz/1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
sugar in the raw (for sprinkling)

Stir all dough ingredients on low speed for 1 - 2 minutes (or with a wooden spoon) until all flour is hydrated and a shaggy mass forms. Dough will be sticky. Let it rest for 5 minutes.

Knead on medium-low speed for 6 minutes (or by hand). Dough should still be somewhat sticky.

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled work surface. With wet or oiled hands, stretch and fold (S&F) 4 times at 10 minute intervals (see here how this is done), stretching only as far as the dough allows, don't tear at it.

After the last fold, place dough in an oiled container with lid, and refrigerate overnight.

Dough waiting for the next S&F

Remove dough from refrigerator at least 2 hours before using. It should have grown about 1 1/2 times its original size.

Cinnamon filling

For the cinnamon filling: whisk together sugar, cinnamon and flour in a small bowl.

My dough was quite elastic and easy to roll out

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled work surface (or use a lightly floured silicone mat). Roll into a long, thin rectangle, about 16" x 9" (40 x 23 cm).

Brush dough with egg and sprinkle with cinnamon filling

Brush dough first with egg, then sprinkle evenly with filling.

Beginning with a short side, gently roll the dough into a log. Pinch seam and ends closed. Gently shape it into a smooth 9" (23 cm) cylinder, and place it in lightly greased 9" x 5"(23 x 13 cm) loaf pan.

Brush the loaf with some of the leftover egg and sprinkle with raw sugar

Brush loaf with leftover egg, and sprinkle with raw sugar. Cover, and let it rise until it has grown over the rim of pan by about 3/4"/2 cm, about 90 minutes, and stays dimpled when gently poked with a finger. (Don't forget to preheat your oven).

The loaf has grown about 1 1/2 times its original size

Preheat the oven to 350°F/175ºC.

Bake bread for 10 minutes. Lightly tent it with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 45 - 50 minutes (check the browning - I removed the foil during the last 10 minutes.) It should be dark golden brown and register 190°F/88ºC on a instant thermometer.

Turn loaf out onto a wire rack to cool.

Stored in a paper bag, the bread keeps 3 days fresh. It also freezes well.

Not a hint of spring  - even Ruffi the Ruffian feels the blues

If you would like to join the Avid Bakers and take part in the monthly challenge, check here. New members are always welcome!

Submitted to Yeast Spotting
and Panissimo:  Bread & Companatico                                       
                           Indovina chi viene a cena 


Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Unlike in his native Ireland, in the US Saint Patrick is a much celebrated man. He creates an opportunity for well-nourished Americans to feel like their poor Irish immigrant forefathers, eating cabbage-y dishes with boiled potatoes, washed down with a beer that is know for being "good for you".

The patron saint of Ireland enjoys special popularity because the anniversary of his death is exempt from Lenten fasting - a suspension his followers interpret as invitation to unlimited alcohol consumption.
St.Patrick - cause of devout imbibing!

Since I, naturally, embrace everything that is "good for me", and strictly abide by the motto: "Life is uncertain - eat the dessert first!", baking cupcakes with Guinness (to find my inner Irishwoman) was a natural conclusion.

And, to make it even an even more boozy Irish themed dessert, I wanted some Bailey's Irish Cream on top!

I changed Laura's recipe for Guinness cupcakes a little, substituting some of the white flour with whole wheat, adding a bit espresso powder for a deeper chocolate flavor, and (as a physician) reducing the amount of salt a tad. 

Instead of buttercream, I chose a (lighter)
Cream Cheese Frosting, adding a little less sugar - it should keep its shape, but didn't have to be stiff.

When I pulled the cupcakes out of the oven, I was a bit concerned about their softness (even though the needle came out clean). But after cooling, a few hours later, they had enough structure to be frosted.

A day later, the flavors had blended, and the cupcakes tasted so delicious that I would have drunk green beer and eaten corned beef with cabbage without any complaint.


Cupcakes  (adapted from Tide & Time Blog)
(enough for 13 Cupcakes)

95 g/3/4 cup all purpose flour
30 g/1/4 cup whole wheat pastry
200 g/1 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda (4 g)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 bottle Guinness (about 170 ml)
113 g/1 stick butter
32 g/3/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Natural Cocoa)
1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder
1 egg
77 g/1/3 cup sour cream

Bailey's Irish Cream Frosting   (adapted from
139 g cream cheese, softened
36 g butter, softened
180 g powdered sugar (1 1/2 cups)
36 ml/ 2-1/2 tbsp. Bailey's Irish Cream
Preheat oven to 350ºF/175ºC. Line muffin cups with paper liners. (You have batter for 1 cupcake more than 12.)

A whisk works well to mix the dry ingredients

In medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Bring Guinness and butter to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Let cool slightly.
Stirring dry ingredients into chocolate mixture

In bowl of a (stand or hand held) mixer, beat egg and sour cream. Add Guinness-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat until just combined. Add flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until combined.

Fill paper liners up to 3/4 with batter

Fill cupcake liners up to 3/4 with the (rather liquid) batter. Bake cakes, until a needle, inserted int the middle, comes out clean, about 17 minutes (the surface will be quite soft, and finger pressure will leave a dimple!)

Even when done, finger pressure will leave dimples (bottom left and right)

Let cupcakes cool completely on wire rack (after 5 minutes, lift them gently from the molds).

Bailey's Cream Frosting

For the frosting, blend together cream cheese, butter, and Bailey's in a medium bowl. Gradually add powdered sugar, mixing well after each additon after all is incorporated.

Pipe frosting on cold cupcakes (or spread with small offset spatula or knife). Decorate with cocoa or chocolate sprinkles.

Bailey's Cream Frosting: the dot on the i

The cupcakes taste best, when they have sat one day. Stored in a cool spot they keep fresh for several days.

Monday, March 17, 2014


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Plötzblog is one of Germany's best bread baking blogs. When Lutz Geißler (author of "Das Brotbackbuch") invited us to his blog event blog-experiment: "Wir bauen uns ein Brot" (Let's build a bread), I was intrigued.

Of course I wanted to attend the very first "Bread Olympics"

Each participant has to bake a loaf, roll or small bread with these ingredients and these amounts:
  • 450 g (90%) wheat flour Typ 550 (or bread flour)
  • 50 g (10%) whole rye flour
  • 10 g (2%) salt
  • sourdough and/or yeast
  • water
And that's it: nothing else should be added.

But there are no restrictions on how to make your bread - method, level of hydration and leaven are entirely up to you.

This challenge was hard to resist, especially since the best of all husbands was still traveling all over Vietnam, and, after sanding and re-oiling all my kitchen counter tops, I could do with some entertainment.

My husband, indulging in imperial dreams in Vietnam

I knew at once what kind of loaf I wanted to create - a French bread, made with Forkish's minimalistic method, and baked in a Dutch oven. I'm really enthusiastic about how you can bake a fabulous bread that is "pinched instead of kneaded."

So I opened my BreadStorm program, entered the ingredients, and started to play around with hydration levels and percentages of pre-fermented flour.

I also had to take into account the amounts of flour in my refreshed levain - 5 g bread flour and 2 g whole rye flour - and deduct them from the total.

BreadStorm-Users (including the free version) can download the formula here 

Whether my Pain au Levain de Seigle will win at the Plötziade, or not - it definitely was a winner for me. I enjoyed its aromatic taste, crackling crust and open crumb so much that it went straight into Karin's Bread Hall of Fame!

Still a bit warm - I couldn't wait any longer!


1. Step-Levain (Refreshing)
10 g mature starter (what you have at hand)
40 g water (90ºF/32ºC)
40 g bread flour
10 g whole rye flour

2. Step-Levain (after 24 hours)
12 g levain (1. step)
47 g water (90ºF/32ºC)
47 g bread flour
12 g whole rye flour

Final Dough
338 g water (90ºF/32ºC)
398 g bread flour
36 g whole rye flour
10 g sea salt
118 g levain (2. step)

7:00 - 9:00 a.m. Feed your mature starter (step 1) (With such a small amount the hydration level of your starter doesn't really matter.) Cover and leave for 24 hours at room temperature.

Ripe levain, showing the typical sponge structure under the surface

7:00 - 9:00 a.m. (24 hours after refreshing the starter)
Mix 2. step-levain, cover, and leave for 7-9 hours at room temperature.

Mixing flour and water until all flour is hydrated

2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
In large bowl, mix flours and water by hand, until all flour is hydrated. Cover, and let rest for 30 minutes.

Add salt and levain to flour mixture

First pinching the dough...

...then folding it. (The last 2 photos are from other, similar breads)

Prepare bowl with water (to make your hands wet). Sprinkle salt over flour mixture and add levain.

With (wet) hands, fold dough from sides over to the center, then, working like a pincer, pinch dough several times, alternating with folding, until dough is smooth, about 5-6 times. (DDT: 77º-78ºF/25º-26ºC.)

After folding place dough ball back into bowl

Fold dough 3 times more, twice at 20 minute intervals, the last time before going to bed. Leave, well covered, at room temperature overnight.

The dough has tripled overnight

After 12-15 hours the dough should have tripled. Prepare a very generously floured rising basket.

Transfer dough to a floured area on an (otherwise unfloured) work surface. With floured hands, gently fold sides towards the middle to make a round. (The flour "skin" on the underside prevents sticking.)

Folding the dough from the sides to the middle

Then flip the round gently over, seam side down, onto the unfloured area. With floured hands, pull dough ball towards you, until you have a medium-tight boule.

Place dough round, seam side down, in proofing basket, sprinkle generously with flour, cover well, and proof for about 3-4 hours.

3/4 hours before baking, place Dutch oven (with lid) on the middle rack, and preheat oven to 475ºF/245ºC.  Place a piece of parchment paper on the counter (for the bread transport).

Finger poke test: a dimple that doesn't fill up again

The dough should at least double in size, use the finger poke test to decide whether it is ready to be baked.

Finger poke test:
Gently press a dimple with your finger in the dough - it should still be a bit elastic, but not fill up again, and stay visible. 

Cutting parchment paper to make a sling for the bread

Place bread on prepared parchment paper, smacking the banneton energetically on the counter! Cut paper around the bread, leaving 2 long pieces as handles, to make a sling. (Clipping the paper prevents creases from cutting into the bread.)

Using a paper sling makes transferring the bread to the hot pot easy

Remove hot Dutch oven from oven, and put bread (with paper) into it. Replace the lid.

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid, and bake it for 20-25 minutes more, or until bread is medium to dark brown (internal temperature 210ºF/99ºC).

Tilt Dutch oven to slide bread out (the paper might now be too brittle to serve as sling), and let the loaf cool on a wire rack. Let the bread rest for at least 20 minutes before slicing - even if you, like me, have a hard time to wait!

A very tasty bread!

Submitted to Plötzblog
and Panissimo:  Bread & Companatico                                       
                           Indovina chi viene a cena