Friday, July 3, 2015

KARIN'S FEINBROT - GERMAN EVERYDAY BREAD




When I moved to Maine in 2001 - to get even with the guy who had sold me a houseful of furniture, but refused to give me a rebate - I knew I would be in big trouble. And I was right!

After two days my stomach started complaining, and my brain kept sending "gag" signals, when I walked the supermarket aisles and encountered nothing but shelf after shelf of "Wonderbreads".

Poking one of those proudly-called rye, multigrain, oat nut, or wheat breads with my finger, I found no resistance. I could squeeze them through their plastic bags, and they would spring right back to their original size when I let go. Even toasted, they retained their squishyness and would not support butter or jam without getting soft and soggy.

Eating two warm meals a day was another thing my stomach refused to accept. German families usually have bread and cold cuts either for lunch or for dinner. German schools don't offer lunch, and Mother cooks at home.

As a working mom I used to view this daily cooking as a chore, and bad idea - until my daughter went to Bangor High, and had to eat at the school cafeteria (this experience turned her into a cook, and gave birth to a career as chef!).

Finally, I couldn't take my stomach's growling anymore. I started seeing bread mirages by day, and dreamed of crusty loaves by night. So I went on a quest for German everyday bread, Feinbrot.

Bread selection in a German bakery

The first step was, of course, to find a recipe. That was, in 2001, a big hurdle. No one in Germany baked Feinbrot at home, you could get several varieties in every bakery and supermarket.

My baking books and the internet offered only recipes for specialty breads, but not for the simple loaf I was looking for.

Feinbrot is usually baked with medium rye flour, but I was lucky to find whole rye, if any.

Homemade wheat sourdough
And how to make sourdough? I didn't have the slightest idea! But then I found a recipe for Pain au Levain, made with sourdough, in the "French Farmhouse Cookbook".

Full of enthusiasm I mixed my first starter from the scratch, and, also, as backup and for comparison, another starter from a store bought package.

My first two breads, twin loaves from the two different starters, resulted in two almost identical bricks!

Stubbornly, I kept on baking, producing more bricks on the way - my husband suggested having a supply next to our bed in case of a home invasion - and experimented with different amounts of rye, wheat, temperatures and baking times.

After several weeks (and bricks!) my homemade starter was way ahead of the store bought mix, both in flavor and activity. Slowly, by trial and error, I figured out what bread flour/rye ratio worked best, and which temperatures and baking times delivered the best results.

An open house tour with my daughter at the New England Culinary Institute in Burlington, Vermont, left me green with envy. Valerie was going to learn how to make baguettes - from a real French pastry chef! I went home, and, since I couldn't be one, at least I could buy "The Bread Baker's Apprentice".

Reading Peter Reinhart's instructions I was struck by an epiphany! I had always (as stated in my recipes) just placed a cup with cold water in the oven. Though my bread had the right taste and the right crumb, the crust was rather chewy and thick. But now I learned how to set up my oven for hearth baking - with baking stone and STEAM!

With the discovery of steam, my humble Feinbrot was transformed! Flavorful, a bit tangy, with a thin, crisp crust, it tastes good with cold cuts, but also with honey or jam.

We especially like it with Fleischsalat, the typical German meat salad, made with ham and pickled cucumbers!

Feinbrot tastes great with Fleischsalat!


GERMAN FEINBROT

SOAKER
192 g/6 3/4 oz whole rye flour
64 g/2 1/4 oz whole wheat flour
4 g/1/8 oz salt (1/2 tsp)
195 g/6 1/2 fl oz water

STARTER
195 g/7 oz whole wheat mother starter (75%) *)
200 g/7 oz bread flour
120 g/4 fl oz water, lukewarm (1/2 cup)

*) The mother starter can be unfed, from the fridge. If you have a white starter, adapt the flour amounts accordingly. But don't use an unrefreshed rye starter - the bread will be too sour!)

FINAL DOUGH
all soaker and starter
56 g/2 oz bread flour
10 g/1/3 oz salt
1 g ground bread spices (anise, caraway, fennel, coriander **)

**) For easier use, put equal amounts of anise, caraway, fennel in a spice mill, and give it a couple of turns. I like to make some breads with coriander only, therefore I use a separate mill for it.

DAY 1
Evening:
In two separate bowls, mix soaker and starter. Cover, and leave at room temperature overnight.

The starter is ready when it's nice and spongy

DAY 2
Morning:
Mix together all ingredients for final dough, 1 - 2 minutes at low speed (or by hand), until all flour is hydrated, and a coarse ball forms. Knead 4 minutes at medium-low speed (or by hand). Let dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead for 1 more minute.

 After 4 hours the dough is swollen with plenty of gas

Place dough in an oiled container, cover, and let rise at room temperature, approximately 4 - 5 hours, or until it has grown to about 1 1/2 times its original size.

Place bread, seam side up, in floured rising basket

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface. Shape it into a boule, and place in floured banneton, seam side up.

Proof at room temperature for about 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 hours, or until bread has grown about 1 1/2 times its original size, and a dimple, made with your finger, comes back a little bit, but remains visible. (Don't forget to preheat the oven!)

Sufficiently proofed - finger poke test positive!

Preheat oven to 500ºF/260ºC, with steam pan and baking stone.

Turn bread out onto parchment lined baking sheet (or peel to bake directly on the stone). Score.

Place bread in oven, pouring a cup of boiling water into the steam pan. Reduce temperature to 475ºF/246ºC, bake for 10 minutes, then lower oven temperature to 425ºF/218ºC.

After 10 minutes, remove steam pan, rotate loaf 180 degrees for even browning, and continue baking for another 20 minutes, or until crust is deep golden brown, bread sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and internal temperature registers at least 200ºF/93ºC.

Let bread cool on wire rack

BreadStorm users (also of the free version) can download the formula:
VARIATIONS:
Feinbrot with spelt:
Replace rye and whole wheat flours in soaker with 256 g spelt flour, use only coriander instead of spice mix.

Feinbrot with oat:
Replace rye in soaker with oat flour.

Feinbrot with nuts:
Add a handful of toasted nuts to the dough (I like it with whole hazelnuts).

Wholesome - but not holey!

Updated and completely rewritten post (first published 10/31/10)

Submitted to Yeast Spotting


Sunday, June 14, 2015

BRITTA'S DOUBLE POTATO LOAF FOR GÖTZ - BREAD FROM THE LOWER RHINE

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When I - driven from a real "Breaking Bad Bread" experience - challenged my baking buddies from The Fresh Loaf, Facebook and several congenial blogs to create a "Bread for the Knight with the Iron Hand", I promised myself to try all 30 loaves over time.

One of those congenial blogs is Britta's Brot vom Niederrhein - Bread from the Lower Rhine.

Britta, 35-year old process engineer and mother of two, named her blog after the lower Rhine region of North Rhine-Westphalia/Germany, where she lives and works.

Britta: "Others knit to relax, I bake!"

"It is pretty here, prettier than many believe. Industrial culture has its charm, the view from a heap to the blast furnaces, chimneys, and the Rhine with its many green meadows and sheep is really pretty."

Zeche-zollern-2004.jpg
The Lower Rhine with its industrial culture has its own charm - coal mine Zollern in Dortmund
Niederrhein Landschaft Natur Schafe 100330-029.jpg
Idyllic contrast to heaps and chimneys: sheep grazing on the Rhine meadows
                                                                                      
She finds baking and process engineering have a lot in common: a technical process turns the raw materials into products - only her cakes and breads rise much faster than the industrial plants she is building.

Birthday cake for little pirates!
With fond childhood memories of baking cakes with her grandmother, Britta wanted her kids to have the same experience.

Soon she progressed from simple everyday cakes to more elaborate ones, like the Pirate Ship Cake for her son's 7th birthday.

And she finally ventured into the realm of home-baked breads. But not without side effects on her married life!

"My husband got used to a fridge and kitchen counter full of (on average) seven pre-doughs on weekends".

He also has to live with the fact that she can't leave the house, because her doughs are just ready for the oven.

"Or, alternatively, listen to detailed instructions, so that HE can put the breads into the oven, at the right moment, the right temperature, with or without steam!".

The bread is made with cooked and raw potatoes
Britta started blogging to save her own recipes and show some of her breads and cakes to other enthusiasts. 

She also wants to help people with diverse food intolerances (like herself) to make delicious pastry, since that is "less easy to find in stores than bread".

Britta's Kartoffel-Weizen-Roggen-Brot intrigued me - she didn't only use cooked potatoes, but added raw potatoes, too.

It is made with two preferments:  a salted sourdough (Monheimer Salzsauer, 2% salt) and pâte fermentée, so that very little additional yeast is needed, and the aroma has time to develop overnight.

Medium wheat flour (Typ 1050), very popular in German breads, is not easily available in the US, but you can use a bread flour/whole wheat mixture instead (see my flour "translation").

German potatoes normally have thick skins, and need to be peeled. Thin skinned US potatoes can be used with their skin. Reserve the cooking water - you will need some to add to the dough later.

We liked the Double Potato Loaf a lot, it was very moist and flavorful, with a subtle hint of earthiness from the raw potatoes.

Moist and flavorful, with a hint of earthiness

BRITTA'S DOUBLE POTATO BREAD FOR GÖTZ VON BERLICHINGEN 
(adapted from Brot vom Niederrhein)


Starter (Monheimer Salzsauer)
90 g medium rye flour
90 g water
18 g rye mother starter (100%)
2 g salt

Pâte Fermentée
52 g bread flour*)
48 g whole wheat flour*)
70 g water
0.5 g instant yeast (or 1.5 g fresh yeast)

Final Dough
200 g starter (all)
170 g pâte fermentée (all)
400 g raw potatoes, grated
220 g cooked potatoes, riced or mashed (reserve cooking water!)
50 g medium rye flour
199 g bread flour*)
181 g whole wheat*)
5 g/1 tsp. molasses
13 g salt
1.5 g instant yeast (or 4.5 g fresh yeast)
more water as needed (I added 40 g potato cooking water)

*) Original recipe: medium wheat flour Typ 1050)

DAY 1
(10:00 - 12:00 am)
Mix all starter ingredients, cover, and leave for 16 - 18 hours at room temperature.

Mix ingredients for pâte fermentée at low speed for until all flour is hydrated, then knead at medium speed for about 6 minutes (DDT: 77-81ºF/25-27ºC). Cover, and leave for 1 hour at room temperature, then place in refrigerator for at least 12 hours (overnight).

You can see the little potato pieces in the dough

DAY 2
Knead all final dough ingredients for 4 minutes at low speed, then 8 minutes at medium-low speed, adding some of the potato cooking water as needed (dough should be very soft and sticky). Let it rest for 40 minutes, with one stretch & fold after 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 482ºF/250ºC, including baking stone and steam pan.

Nicely risen dough
Shape dough into a round and place, seam side up, in a floured rising basket.

Sprinkle with flour, cover, and proof for about 45-60 minutes at room temperature, or until it has grown 1 1/2 times its original size (finger poke test: a dimple should remain visible).

Turn bread out onto a parchment lined baking sheet (or a peel to bake directly on the stone). Score.

Place bread in oven, steaming with a cup of boiling water poured in the steam pan (or whatever steaming method you prefer).

Bake for 15 minutes, remove steam pan, rotate the loaf, reduce heat to 400ºF/200ºC, and bake for another 30 - 40 minutes, until it is dark golden brown and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom (internal temperature: 200ºF/93ºC).

BreadStorm users (also of the free version) can download the formula:


Submitted at Yeast Spotting

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

CRACKLE COOKIES - A FUDGY CHOCOLATE FIX


After missing the ABC-Bakers' May challenge - I made the Brown Butter Banana Bread, but went on my trip to Germany before I could post it - the June project, Tender Loving Crackle Cookies came just right to cure my baking withdrawal symptoms.

Three weeks without touching a mixer or kneading a dough!

I rarely bake cookies other than around Christmas - except, the famous NY Times Best Chocolate Chip Cookies''. The crackled cookies looked really attractive, so I decided to give them a try.

Maine's own Allen's Coffee Brandy

To enhance the chocolate flavor, I added 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, and, being a Mainer, for good measure, threw in another 1/2 teaspoon of Allen's Coffee Flavored Brandy. Otherwise I didn't change the recipe.

Christina's cookies are perfectly risen small mounds - mine, alas, turned from nice little balls
into this:
Flounders!

They spread like flounders, especially the ones I shaped last! 

Who was to blame? I found the answer on David Lebovitz' blog:

Overworking the dough? No, the butter shouldn't be cut in, but well combined with the flour. 

Slippery, greasy baking sheet? No, I lined it with parchment paper.

Flour too soft? No, King Arthur's AP has enough gluten.

Sugar too fine? No, I used regular granulated sugar.

Remained only one culprit: temperature! The recipe calls for only cooling the dough half an hour before shaping, it doesn't mention a second chilling period after shaping.

Even if you work fast - to roll the dough into "perfect little balls" you need to handle it, and it will warm up during that process. Therefore, placing the sheet with the cookies for 15 minutes in the freezer before baking should firm them up and do the trick!

Place the shaped cookies for 15 minutes in the freezer before baking!

I have to admit - at first I wasn't too smitten by my ugly cookies. I often find that, right after baking, cookies don't taste that great, but develop their flavor over time, so that they taste better the next day.

The Crackle Cookies had an intense chocolate flavor, a delicate texture, and were so moist that my husband called them "fudgy". Unlike me, he is no great fan of dark chocolate, anyway, so he left the hard work of disposing of them to me. GOOD FOR ME!


CHOCOLATE CRACKLE COOKIES  (adapted from Christina Marsigliese's "Scientifically Sweet")
(16 - 18 cookies)

71 g all-purpose flour
25 g Dutch-process cocoa
1/2 tsp espresso powder
115 g sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
42 g cold butter, cut into pieces
85 g finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp coffee flavored brandy (optional)
1 cup powdered sugar, for rolling

For chocolate lovers!

Preheat oven to 375°F/190ºC. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place powdered sugar in a small bowl.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Rub butter into dry ingredients until mixture resembles fine bread crumbs (there should be no butter lumps left!) Stir in chopped chocolate.

Whisk together egg, vanilla and Coffee Brandy in small bowl. Add egg mixture to chocolate mixture and stir with a fork until mixture is moistened and combined. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.

Using small scoop, shape dough into balls. Roll each in powdered sugar to coat, then place on prepared baking sheets 2 inches/5 cm apart. Place baking sheet for 15 minutes in freezer.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until just set but still slightly gooey in the centers..

Let cookies cool on sheet for a minute or so, before, using small offset spatula, transferring them to a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Storage: Cookies keep really well, stored in a tin, at room temperature. Mine tasted still good even after one week.


If you would like to bake along with us - the Avid Bakers welcome new members!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

DAN LEPARD'S ALE-CRUST POTATO PASTIES

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Three years ago, my lovely stepdaughter, Cat, convinced me to join twitter. As if I didn't spend enough time already on my computer!

But it's fun to follow Dalai Lama (whose tweets are not about food, but food for thought), or the The Onion ("Lucrative New Oil Extraction Method Involves Drilling Directly Into Gas Stations!")

Usually I look at tweets from baking buddies, food-magazines, and renowned chefs and bakers like Dan Lepard.

Brown Ale tastes good in and with a pasty!
For many years the author of Art of the Handmade Loaf und Short & Sweet published his recipes in the Lifestyle section of the  Guardian (alas, no more!)

When I saw his Ale-Crust Potato Pasties, I jumped on my bicycle (yes, at the end of November! In Maine!!!) to get local brown ale, sharp cheddar and white onions.

Pasties are meat and vegetable filled hand pies, originally the (easy to carry) lunch staple of Cornish coal miners.

Meanwhile they spread to other places, even Mexico, possibly due to a popular British Comedy-Show about the pasty munching, Newcastle Brown Ale slurping Geordies.

Like with many of Lepard's breads, the dough is minimally mixed, without much kneading. Hands, a spoon or rubber spatula suffice - the butter cubes should remain visible and not melt.

The beer dough is rolled and folded several times, and chilled in between, like croissant dough, to make it nice and flaky.

I spruced up the potato onion filling with a little bacon. The filling would have been enough for nine pasties, so I reduced the recipe amounts accordingly. 

The pasties tasted very good, we were especially pleased with the wonderful ale crust.

These don't last long!

ALE-CRUST POTATO PASTIES (adapted from Dan Lepard's recipe)

 (6 Pasties)

DOUGH
325 g bread flour, plus extra for rolling
175 g spelt flour, or whole wheat (I used spelt)
10 g salt, (2 tsp.)
300 g cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1 cm (0.4") cubes
250 ml Newcastle Brown Ale, or similar

FILLING
2 slices bacon, cubed
265 g white onions, chopped
¼ tsp. salt
15 ml olive oil
65 g water
salt and pepper, to taste
50 ml heavy cream
350 g potatoes, cooked and diced
70 g sharp cheddar, grated
egg, lightly beaten, for egg wash

Mix the dough only until it's clumping
CRUST:
Stir together flours and salt. Toss butter cubes through flour mix. Pour in beer and mix to rough lump (the butter pieces will still be visible).

This is what the dough should look like

Transfer dough to floured worktop and roll out into a approximate rectangle, about 1 cm (0.4") thick.

Even after rolling the butter pieces remain visible

Fold it like a business letter, roll it out, and fold it again into thirds. Wrap dough package in plastic foil and freeze it for 30 minutes. Repeat this double rolling and folding 2 x more at 30-minute intervals. Chill the dough for 1 hour in the fridge.

The dough package needs chilling after each turn

FILLING:
In a saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. Using slotted spoon, take out bacon bits, place on paper towel, and set aside.

Add onions, oil, water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to sauce pan, and bring to a boil. Cook until all water has evaporated, and onions are very soft.

Stir in cream, let thicken a bit (mixture should not have too much liquid). Remove from heat, add potatoes and reserved bacon, season well with salt and pepper, and set aside to cool.

Roll one half of the dough into a rectangle, then cut in thirds

Divide dough in halves. Return 1 piece to refrigerator. Roll other half into rectangle of ca. 23 x 33 cm (9 x 13"), then cut into thirds (a pizza cutter works well), each about 23 x 11 cm (9 x 4 1/3").

Place filling on one half (this is a filling with Christmas dinner leftovers)

Brush dough stripes with water, spoon filling towards one end, covering about half of piece (leave edges clean, otherwise you can't seal them!), and sprinkle with cheese. Fold other half over filling, and seal edges with a fork.

Repeat with other pastry sheet. Chill pasties until firm, at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400ºF/200ºC.

Brush pasties with egg before baking

Brush pasties with egg, and trim cut sides, if necessary (and if you are a neat freak). Place on parchment lined baking sheets and slash tops.

Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate sheet 180 degrees for even browning, and continue baking for another 15 - 25 minutes, until puffed and golden.

Freshly baked pasties

LEFTOVER RECYCLING
Pasties work really well for leftover recycling of holiday dinners. After Christmas I filled pasties with our roasted goose-, red cabbage and potato leftovers including gravy. They tasted great!

FREEZING
Unbaked pasties can be easily frozen (before applying the egg glaze). You don't have to defrost them, just brush them with egg before they go in the oven, and bake them a little longer.

Ale-Crust Pasty with leftovers from our Christmas goose dinner!

This post, first published December 2011, has been completely rewritten and updated.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

KHALID'S GÖTZENBURG-BREAD - WHOLE GRAIN BAKING IN DUBAI


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When I - driven from a real "Breaking Bad Bread" experience - challenged my baking buddies from The Fresh Loaf, Facebook and several congenial blogs to create a "Bread for the Knight with the Iron Hand", I promised myself to try all 30 loaves over time.

Well, let's say, almost all of them: the original 1914 German Army Kriegsbrot I'll better keep in reserve when times get tough.

Preparing Khalid's Götzenburg-Brot, I was struck by the idea to not only present his bread on my blog, but, also, finally satisfy my curiosity, asking my Fresh Loaf friend (username: Mebake) how on earth he came to bake whole grain breads in Dubai.

Khalid bakes whole grain breads - in Dubai!

This is his answer:

It all started with an idea to make a decent whole wheat bread. I wanted to bake a healthy wholesome loaf that my wife and I would enjoy on a daily basis. In Dubai, United Arab Emirates, most bread is mass produced in commercial plants. 

I wanted something different, and so began searching online for recipes, and stumbled upon thefreshloaf.com website. Encouraged by the knowledgeable, kind, and courteous community members of the site, I learned much about bread making including pre-ferments, and the merits of slow fermentation. 

Without hesitation, I joined the community and began baking bread and sharing my results though my online blog. Prior to this point , I had never been exposed to Artisan breads of any kind.

I bought several books, read blog posts, and watched many online videos on bread making. Soon, I felt that bread making resonates well with me like no other hobby I have ever tried before. Furthermore, I was charmed by the idea of baking bread from scratch using basic ingredients. 

With no reference points, and with the help of my keen wife, I started baking feverishly. At times, she would sarcastically call the dough: the “other lady”! as I spent hours and days pouring over the bread books and trying different recipes. 

The early breads were quite sour and bitter, but as I continued to bake on a weekly basis, results where slowly improving until I finally baked a whole grain loaf I could call decent. 

After the successful bake, I began exploring rye, and soon learned to appreciate the subtle earthy-sweet flavor notes of whole grain rye breads. To improve flavor, I bought a German electric mill (Hawos –Easy) and began milling wheat and rye kernels, and using the fresh flours in my bread. The flavor was so exceptional; it was quite a revelation to me.  

Now, I have sacks of 25 kg of flour lying in my house , a  mini old fridge where freshly ground grains reside, and a recently bought 4 tray convection oven to increase my capacity. I’ve also sourced some organic Rye , and wheat flours from a German culinary wholesale distributor in Dubai. 

I have a full time desk job, but bake for a monthly local event that is held in a shopping mall in Dubai: The Arts and Crafts Market.

I hope to start an Artisan Bakery in Dubai in the not too distant future.

Khalid's breads at the Arts & Crafts Market in a Dubai shopping mall

A name (and facebook page) for his bakery exists already: The Golden Wheat Bakery!

Khalid's hearty sourdough has a slight hint of sweetness from soaked, pureed raisins. We liked it a lot, and I'll definitely bake it again.

I made two small changes to his original recipe, adding the raisin puree right away to the final dough (it appeared a bit dry), and baking the bread with steam, since I like the crust to be a bit thinner.


KHALID'S GÖTZENBURG BREAD WITH WHEAT,  RYE & SPELT

Raisin Puree
50 g/1.8 oz raisins
50 g/1.8 oz water, boiling

Levain
25 g/0.9 oz mother starter
106 g/3.7 oz water
60 g/2.1 oz bread flour
44 g/1.6 oz whole wheat flour
30 g/1.1 oz whole spelt flour
15 g/0.5 oz whole rye flour

Final Dough
100 g/3.5 oz raisin puree (all)
280 g/9.9 oz levain (all)
167 g/5.9 oz bread flour
131 g/4.6 oz whole wheat flour
87 g/3.1 oz whole spelt flour
44 g/1.6 oz whole rye flour
242 g/8.5 oz water
12 g/0.4 oz salt


DAY 1
Mix all ingredients for levain, until well combined. Cover, and leave at room temperature overnight.

In small bowl, pour boiling water over raisins. Cover, and let soak overnight.

This lively starter's origin you can find here

DAY 2
Using a blender or immersion blender, puree raisins and any remaining soaking water.

Place raisin puree, flours and water for the final dough in mixer bowl. Mix, until all flour is hydrated. Leave for 30 - 60 minutes (autolyse).

Add levain and salt, and knead at low speed for 5 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then resume kneading for 2-3 minutes at medium-low speed.

Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl

Transfer dough to lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let ferment for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, with 1 x stretch & fold after 60 minutes. It should grow about 1 1/2 times its original size.

Nicely risen after 2 1/2 hours

Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and pre-shape into a round. Cover, and let rest on the bench for 15 minutes, then shape into a boule or bâtard.

Place, seam side up, in a floured rising basket

Place, seam side up, in a well floured rising basket, sprinkle with flour, and let rise, covered, for about 2 hours, or until it has grown about 1 1/2 times its original size (a dimple, made with your finger, should come back a little, but remain visible).

The bread has grown by about 1 1/2 times its original size

Meanwhile preheat oven to 482ºF/250ºC, including baking stone and steaming device (or don't steam, if you like a rather thick crust).

Transfer bread to parchment lined baking sheet (or bake directly on baking stone). Score.

Ready for the oven

Bake for 15 minutes, with steam, then remove steam pan, rotate bread 180 degrees, and reduce temperature to 410ºF/210ºC. Bake for another 25 - 30 minutes, until crust is a dark reddish brown and the internal temperature registers at least 200ºF/93ºC.

Let bread cool completely on wire rack before slicing.

A hearty bread with a slight hint of sweetness

BreadStorm users (also of the free version) can download the formula:

Monday, April 6, 2015

FUDGY, FUDGIER, FUDGIEST - GLUTEN FREE, NO-BUTTER BROWNIES

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This year the Avid Bakers aspire higher baking education by delving into Christina Marsigliese's blog. Though her recipes might be "scientifically sweet", they are not overly sugary - a great plus in my opinion!

I find Christina's scientific approach interesting - she explains, why she adds certain ingredients, and what their properties are. For example, using powdered sugar instead of granulated sugar makes the cake batter moister because it dissolves faster into a syrup. 

But the concept of gluten and dairy free brownies, baked without butter or oil, almost kept me from joining our April project.

My first thought was: "Yuck!" Even my favorite vegan cupcakes (Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World), are made with canola oil.

Luckily, the promise of "fudgy", and my curiosity won me over - the Fudgy No-Butter Brownies are among the best (and fudgiest!) brownies I've ever tasted.

Christina emphasizes on the importance of using the ingredients her recipe specifies - they are there for a reason: natural cocoa for a more intense chocolate-y experience, salt to enhance the flavor, and an extra egg white for structure.

And, though the brownies are not made with butter, they are not really lacking fat: almond meal, the gluten-free substitute for wheat flour, contains enough oil for a smooth bite.

The brownies are really easy to prepare - Christina could have also added no-fuss to her description!

Fudgy, fudgier, fudgiest - among the best brownies I've ever made

The only changes I made to the original recipe: the addition of a bit espresso powder - to boost the flavor even more - and a crunchy almond topping instead of more chocolate pieces. The batter is really loaded with chocolate, and doesn't need more.

My brownies needed quite a bit longer baking time: 40 minutes (instead of 25 - 30).


FUDGY NO-BUTTER BROWNIES  (adapted from Christina Marsigliese's blog "Scientfically Sweet")
(16 pieces)

300 g/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
56 g/ 2/3 cup natural cocoa powder
200 g/2 cups almond meal
½ tsp salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg white
2 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp instant espresso powder
142 g/2/3 cup good quality bittersweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate (I used Guittard)
almond slices, for topping

Preheat oven to 350ºF/175ºC. Line an 8 × 8-inch/20 x 20-cm pan crosswise with 2 stripes of parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides.

In large bowl, sift confectioner's sugar and cocoa, then stir in almond meal and salt, until combined.

Add wet ingredients eggs, egg white and vanilla

 Add eggs, egg white, water and vanilla, and mix until batter is thick and smooth. Fold in chocolate.

Fold in chocolate

Transfer batter to prepared pan, using rubber spatula to smooth the top. Sprinkle with almond slices.

Ready for baking

Bake for about 25 - 30 minutes, or until a shiny crust forms, and a needle comes out clean except for a few moist chocolate bits (my brownies needed 40 minutes).

Easter - and still no sign of spring :(