Saturday, October 25, 2014

Quick photo post of 100% Rye "Black Bread", based on Ginsberg and Berg's "Inside the Jewish Bakery" with inspiration from Joe Pastry.

 "Black" bread baked in open loaf pan.

And one baked in a pullman loaf pan, lidded.  Notice the round holes made from chopsticks for a kind of "docking" are more close in this loaf than on in the open pan.

Sizing up the two loaves....

And the crumb shot.  Bread was tangy, moist, had a nice chew, and sliced beautifully.  Inspired by:

 Joe Pastry  and  Inside the Jewish Bakery

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fasnachtskuchle/Fastnachts/Doughnuts/Fried Doughnuts for Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras

Fried up on Monday, February 20, and Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Whatever you call it, it's a rich bread dough, it's fried, it's sweet.  IT'S A PARTY! 

There are many versions and names of these fried doughnuts and they are all correct.  Depending on your ancestry or geography or morphing of neighborhood cultures all over the USA or in many other countries (Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, etc.) you can find some form of these served up on Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras or Carnival or whatever else it's called: the day before Ash Wednesday. This date changes every year but it's always six weeks before Easter, sometime between February 4th and March 10th.  Growing up, my family per se had no regular tradition for this day, although we had plenty for other Catholic feast days or observances.  I recall on one occasion, though, that my Grandma Pilewski fried up leftover Sweet Bread dough for us.  This was a rare and unbelievable treat: nice warm yeast doughnuts dipped in sugar. 

Years later I had fried up some Sweet Bread dough - must have been for Easter- and my friend Becky happened to taste them.  She said they were just like the fasnacht kuechle that her Mom made for Shrove Tuesday.  That was all the inspiration that I needed to adopt this as a worthy tradition for my family. As I recall, her mom's recipe was similar to our Polish Sweet Bread. 
 Of course, I can't leave well enough alone.  I got to poking around on the internet and was happy to find plenty of references to "Fasnachts" but many of the recipes were from the Pennsylvania Dutch and had potatoes in them.  This site by Susie J had a clear recipe and some history behind it.  The ingredients were the same as Polish Sweet Bread, just in different proportions. I decided to follow her recipe exactly. I made one batch on the Monday before Shrove Tuesday. They turned out tasty, they looked pretty.  I delivered a bag of them to Debbie-My-Egg-Lady for her bread of the week and packed up some for a a few other friends.  However: while Susie J's version tasted good, they were different from what I had been used to. As I continued to taste them, I realized that a certain "yeastiness" was lacking.  I was having some girlfriends over for Fasnachtkuechle and coffee for Shrove Tuesday so I had time to go back to making the Sweet Bread version for them.  I decided it was worth a trip to the bakery to purchase a pound of cake yeast.  I really wanted to determine if the yeast was the big deal.  As it turned out, yes it was!  I played around a bit with the proportions of the ingredients, so I wouldn't follow this recipe for Sweet Bread.  (That will be posted for Easter.)

 1.5 oz cake yeast dissolved in 1/4 c lukewarm water
2 c milk
1/2 c (1/4 #) butter
2/3 c sugar
3 eggs
9 cups or so AP flour
1 T salt
powdered sugar and granulated sugar for dipping


Scald the milk; remove from heat (microwave is fine).  Melt the butter in the hot milk and let cool to lukewarm; stir in the sugar and and eggs and the yeast slurry.  Place half the flour and all the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Pour the wet mixture into the flour and salt and beat well.  Continue adding the flour one cup at a time until you have a sticky dough.  Using the dough hook, knead for a few minutes. It will not be as stiff as a regular bread dough.  Cover and let rise until double.  (This is the equivalent of three packets of yeast, so it should rise in an hour.) Cut the dough into two or three pieces and pat them into rounds.  Roll them out on a floured board to about 1/3-1/2 inch thickness.  Using a pizza cutter (a knife drags the dough), cut into squares or rectangles about 2" x 3" or as you prefer.  Cut them all out before frying; place a towel over them until they are ready to go into the frying pan. You don't have to let them rise a second time before cooking, but it's fine if they do rise. (They will puff up pretty nicely once they hit the hot oil). 

Heat about 2" of oil (I used peanut and vegetable oil because that's what I had on hand) in an electric frying pan or dutch oven or even a wok.  It helps to use a thermometer to make sure the oil stays as even a temperature as possible- you want to keep it between 350F and 375F.  If it's too hot the surface will brown too quickly and the inside will still be doughy.  Don't crowd too many in the hot oil at one time.  Turn them over after a minute or two and fry for another minute or so.  Check one to make sure the inside is cooked.  There might be a white "waist" on the doughnuts as they fry- this is normal.  Sometimes they are so puffy they won't stay turned over once the first side is cooked.  I find it helpful to use a wire skimmer or "spider" to handle them.  Cover cookie racks with brown paper or paper towels and place the cooked fasnachts on them to drain. While still warm, dip some into shallow plates of powdered sugar and some into powdered sugar (or to your preference.)  Cinnamon sugar is good too! You can also put a few at a time into brown paper bags with the sugar inside- close the bag and shake carefully until coated.
And an easy way to transport a whole bunch of faschnachts:  cut open three sides of an unopened box of cereal.  Empty into a container of your choice.  You now have a wax-paper lined box for nestling a LOT of faschnachts.  Gently tape the cover down.  You will be SO welcome at the party!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

"Swope" with PS #9

Baked on February 19

Once in a while it's 4:30 in the afternoon and I decide I want fresh bread for dinner.  On those occasions, there is only one solution: an Irish soda bread.  A few years ago I discovered a delicious version printed on a bag of Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour.  It had the funny title of "Swope Bread" and fit the time frame:  ready-to-eat in under 90 minutes AND I have all the ingredients on hand about 90% of the time.  (The only change I made to the recipe is to use brown sugar instead of white.) The ratio of whole wheat to white flour and a little extra sugar than is usually used in Irish soda breads makes this a little more special. Baking it in a loaf pan also makes it easier to slice. 

It was Sunday; the starter was refreshed and ready.  What to bake?  For fun, I decided to see how the main ingredients for "Swope Bread" would translate to a starter-leavened loaf.


2 c ww flour
1c bread flour
3/4 c low fat buttermilk
1 tsp salt
brown sugar (I think I wanted to use 1/4 c but used 1/2 c by mistake)

*since this was going to be leavened with starter, I omitted the baking soda from the master recipe*

Mixing and Method/Results

Using a stand mixer, combine wet with dry ingredients and add a little extra flour (I used a little extra ww) to make a kneadable dough.  Use the bread hook and knead for about three minutes.  Let rise as usual, shape into one large loaf and bake as you like.  I baked this in one of my fish poachers which I had preheated with the lid at 425F .  It was done in about 30 minutes, but because the dough had so much sugar in it, it was darker on the bottom than I usually like. I should have baked it at about 400F or lower, and maybe left it in about 5 minutes longer.
This yielded about a 2# loaf (I forgot to record the exact weight). I just trimmed off the dark bottom crust.  It was a little too sweet for what I was trying to achieve.  Next time I will only use 1/4 c brown sugar per two cups of ww flour, and I think I'll see what happens if I add 2 tsp soda to this, and maybe some extra buttermilk powder since there is so much water in the starter.  

Still, no one complained, and this loaf went so quickly I only had part of the loaf left to photograph.

Cake Yeast Update & Semolina Sesame Loaves (For Frannie)

Baked on February 17

As I wrote about earlier this month here, I have been tracking the longevity of one pound of cake (or "fresh") yeast that I purchased before Christmas.  My plan had been to bake comparison loaves of Italian semolina (one with cake yeast and one with dried) as a way to discover if there was any discernible difference in taste, texture, or anything else.  Since this is a very basic loaf, I figured this would be a good way as any to perform this test.

My stash of cake yeast was dwindling and it was closing in on two months since purchase. For the last three or four weeks I had been adding a pinch of sugar to the slurry of yeast and warm water just to make sure that it was still viable.  I had never stored cake yeast in the refrigerator this long, and to my surprise, it still smelled pretty fresh. (Cake yeast gone bad smells REALLY BAD.) Well, I had waited one week too long!  The yeast didn't bubble up. Cake yeast funeral took place in my compost heap, where it is supposed to give a good microbiotic boost to the friendly organisms doing their thing out back.

So, there was no no bake-off.  I still made two loaves with dried yeast, but as this is a very basic bread that I make often, I'll be brief.  This is my friend Frannie's favorite, so she got the extra loaf.


2 c. semolina flour (coarser grind, recommended for pasta) 
2 c. bread flour
1 3/4 c warm water
1 T barley malt (syrup, NOT non-diastatic barley malt)
1 1/2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt

Mix a soft dough using your favorite bread-baking method.  For this bread, I make sure I knead using the dough hook for a good five minutes. It is a rather wet dough.

Mixing and Method
Mix, knead, rise, deflate, shape.  Set two lidded baking pots of choice in a cold oven and preheat to 450F for 30 minutes. Carefully tip risen loaves into the hot pans, slash, spritz with water, and sprinkle with white sesame seeds.  Cover with the hot lids and bake for 25-30 minutes.  (I always check the temperature of a loaf after 25 minutes. If it is not yet over 200F, I set the uncovered pan back in the oven for another five minutes and check again.


I did not record the weight of these loaves, but they were probably 1# 8 oz, maybe more, since they had filled out the pans pretty well.  Great, crispy crust with the sesame seeds adding a flavorful crunch.  These loaves went FAST!  Frannie was happy. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Triple-Olive Bread (For Debbie-My-Egg-Lady # 6, 2012)

I found some leftover olive brine that I had frozen.  Time for an olive loaf!


4 c. bread flour
1 1/2 c. rye flour (Hodgson Mills is what I had on hand)
1 1/4 c. warmed olive brine - the juice leftover from a jar of some kind of green olives
about 2 oz cake yeast dissolved in 1/4 c. warm water
4 T olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
6 oz. of kalamata olives, chopped

 Mixing and Method

Mix all but the olives using your favorite bread baking method to make a firm dough. Add the chopped olives during the kneading so they are well-distributed, adding a little flour if necessary. It might be necessary also to taste for salt, as the amount might need to be adjusted depending on the strength of the brine. Let rise in an oiled, lidded tub until doubled. My dough was a purplish-grey due to to the color of the olives.  Divide and shape into 2 oval loaves. (These were set to proof in my oval baskets lined with floured linen towels and covered with same.)
Preheat two small roasting pans with their lids in a 450F oven as loaves rise for 30 minutes.  Slash and carefully place in hot roasters; cover and bake for 30 minutes.

Yield: 3# of dough which I divided into one loaf weighing 1# 12 oz and the other at 1# 4 oz.  (I always like to bake Debbie a loaf that is at least 1 3/4#, so she always gets the bigger loaf.  Also, if I am experimenting, which I was with this, I like to taste the results, even if it means baking up a 3oz roll to do so.)
The loaf looked very nice; texture, crust, etc., were fine.  However, perhaps it was this particular choice of olives, but I wasn't crazy about the overall flavor.  I can't put my finger on it, but this is not a bread that would work for a good piece of toast for breakfast, and it's as though it has too much flavor and so competes with sandwich fillings.  I think it is best put to use with a schmear of cream cheese on it, but otherwise, I am not likely to repeat this one as listed here.  I think I will keep the olive brine for adding interest to rye or pumpernickel loaves and skip the olives. I still might try a loaf using oil cured olives at some point, since they are more like olive raisins and would add a different note than the Kalamata.  Maybe that will be my next variation. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Overnight Baguette Twins PS #8

Started on February 12 and baked on the 13th.

I wanted to work on achieving a nice, skinny, baguette-style loaf.  I had refreshed Pete's Starter and had about 1# of it recipe-ready by Sunday evening.  I decided to go basic: add enough flour, water, and salt; knead and let rise overnight in an oiled, covered tub.


1# refreshed starter (this was more on the "wet" side than on the firm side)
about 2 1/2 c. bread flour
about 1/2 c water
1 1/2 tsp salt

Done.  By the morning, the dough had risen mightily.  I divided it in half and shaped it into long, thin  baguettes. Somewhere along the line I had acquired a double French bread pan- about 18" long and holding two loaves in the "troughs".  It's not bad, but I still prefer using my lidded fish poachers for baking long loaves.  So I decided I'd use the French bread pan for the final proofing of the shaped loaves, as I didn't have baskets long enough to do the job properly.  I draped the bread pan with a floured towel, nestled a loaf on each side, and covered them with the towel overhang.  In the meantime, I preheated the fish poacher with lid as usual, in a 450F oven for 30 minutes.  Just before going into the oven, I let them rest on the breadboard while I did my last minute prep.

Since the loaves were long and skinny, I decided to place them side by side in the poacher. A bit of crowding should insure that the breads rise UP instead of spreading OUT.    I used a razor to dock the loaves: one with a long slash down the middle and three diagonal slashes on the other. I spritzed them with a little water, covered the pan with its lid, and baked for 25 minutes.  Cover off, baked about another 8 minutes until they tested nicely done at 210F. 

I was very happy with these.  Very!  I had some leftover tossed salad in the fridge along with thinly sliced ham, turkey, and baby Swiss cheese.  I cut about a 5" length and proceeded to fill it with these goodies. Since I rarely eat subs, it was a treat. 
30 oz of of the simplest dough yielded two skinny long loaves: just the right size baguettes for subs or whatever else you have in mind.  The crust was crispy and the crumb, soft and tasty.  Mission accomplished!