Friday, October 5, 2012


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts (folgt noch)
It's already October, and still warm and nice. The cats are mostly outside, and Ruffi The Ruffian, our big red tom cat, comes in only when he pleases - he is the only one who can't be bribed by food. 

Roamin' Ruffi, for once at home, resting in his favorite place

My thoughts are already on my upcoming trip to Hamburg, to see my family and friends, and my desk is covered with even more papers than usual: it's high time for the taxes, and I'm procrastinating.

The A(vid) B(akers) C(hallenge) for October was another welcome distraction. We are baking our way through Abby Dodge's "The Weekend Baker", and this month's recipe is "Honey Oatmeal Bread".

  Following Abby's do-ahead option of mixing the dough the day before, then letting it slowly rise overnight in the fridge, was a no-brainer - I do this with almost all of my breads.
You do most of the work the day before, the dough rises while you are sleeping, and, as additional benefit, the taste improves if you give it more time to develop.

I had read about some other bloggers problems with the bread getting too dark in the oven, and there is nothing wrong with your ovens or your baking abilities. The given temperature, 375º F, is simply too high!

According to master baker Peter Reinhart, rich breads with milk, eggs, fat and sugar are best baked at 350ºF, and that works just fine!

Looking at the list of ingredients I stumbled over the staggering amount of sweetener. Okay, this is supposed to be a HONEY oatmeal bread, but 1/3 cup? 

Though I adapted somewhat to Americans' Love of Sweet during my eleven years as a Mainer - I now can eat pancakes with syrup - my stubbornly German stomach still revolts against a really sweet bread.

A bread is a bread - and not a cake! I want to eat it with ham, cheese or salami. And if I want it sweet, I put honey (or jam) on it, not in it. I reduced the amount of honey by half.

From my experience I know that you can safely reduce the amount of yeast in many recipes (even in Peter Reinhart's), especially if you let your dough rise slowly in the cold. 2 1/4 teaspoon/7 g instant yeast are not necessary, 1 1/2 teaspoons/5 g are enough, even for a rich bread like this.

Instead of long kneading I prefer the elegant stretch and fold technique. Even very sticky doughs can be handled - and tamed - with ease, and develop beautifully.

And, instead of brushing the baked bread with melted butter, I applied an egg wash - with more rolled oats as topping.

HONEY OATMEAL BREAD  (adapted from Abby Dodge: "The Weekend Baker")

1 1/4 cups/300 ml whole or 2% milk
             2 oz/57 g old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant)
          3 tbsp/43 g unsalted butter 
        1 1/2 tsp/5 g instant yeast
        2.12 oz/50 g honey
        1 1/2 tsp/7 g salt
   12 1/4 oz/347 g all-purpose flour 
1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tbsp. water, for egg wash
         rolled oats, for topping
Place measuring cup with milk in the microwave and bring to a boil. Stir in oats and butter, and let sit for 20 minutes, stirring once or twice. Stir in instant yeast and honey, until well combined.

Add milk mixture to flour and salt in mixing bowl. Stir on low speed for 1 - 2 minutes (or with wooden spoon) until all flour is hydrated and shaggy mass forms. Let dough rest for 5 minutes.

Knead at medium-low speed for 6 minutes (or by hand). Dough will be a bit sticky, but don't add any more flour (always err on the wet side!)

Transfer dough to lightly oiled work surface. Pat in a rough rectangle. With wet or oiled hands, stretch and fold dough in thirds, like a business letter.

Fold the upper third down...
....then the bottom third up, like a business letter
Then repeat the same stretching and folding in thirds from both sides:

Folding the left side to the right...
....then the right side over to the left
Gather dough into a ball, tucking the sides underneath, and place it, smooth side up, into a greased bowl. Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Repeat these stretches and folds (S & F) 3 more times, at 10 minute intervals.

After each S & F the dough will be smoother
After the last S & F, place dough in an oiled container with lid, and place in refrigerator overnight.

Remove dough from fridge 2 hours before using, to warm up. Lightly grease 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pan.

Transfer dough on clean work surface. Placing your hands in the middle, gently press down to degas. Pat dough into a 7 x 10-inch rectangle. Roll up into a sandwich loaf, pinching seams to seal. Place, seam side down, in prepared loaf pan, then gently flatten with your hands to even it out.

Brush top with egg wash.  Using sharp knife, slash lengthwise. Sprinkle with rolled oats, then gently press with your hands to make sure they stick to the dough.

Preheat oven to 425ºF/220ºC, adjusting rack to middle position. (Steaming is not necessary.)

Glazed with egg wash, slashed and sprinkled with oats
Mist loaf with baking spray, cover, and proof for 45 minutes, or until grown 1 1/2 times its original size. (Poke dough gently with your finger - the dent should slowly come back a little bit, and stay visible, but not fill up again!)

Refresh the scoring if you want the slash to open wider during the bake - I do.

Ready for the oven

Place bread in the middle of the oven, reduce temperature to 350ºF/175ºC, and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate loaf 180 degrees for even browning, and continue baking for another 20 - 25 minutes, until top is golden brown, and it registers at least 195ºF/90ºC.

Remove from oven, turn out onto wire rack, and let cool.

We had the lovely looking loaf, toasted, for lunch. It was still mildly sweet, but its taste blended harmoniously with Black Forest ham, as well as with my Rose Hip Jam.

Next time I bake it, I'll substitute 10% of the white flour with spelt or whole wheat, to add a little more heartiness.

And if you would like to join us, go to Hanaâ's Kitchen, and check out what comes next.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts (folgt noch)

When I made my wonderful rose hip jam a month ago, temperatures were in the eighties, t-shirt weather for weeks, and we even used the air condition in our bedroom - in Maine!

The glasses were sitting on the kitchen counter, waiting to be properly tagged before going into the basement. But my husband, immobilized by his broken foot, needed special attention, and, between baking twice a week for our local natural food store, answering student questions online, and taking care of our undeserving critters, I didn't get to it for quite a while.

After a week or so, I noticed that one of the glasses showed ominous signs of frothy activity. Obviously I didn't fill it quite high enough to establish a vacuum, and, with the prevailing heat as incubator, my rose hip jam had started to ferment.

I was pretty annoyed with myself. Why didn't I pay more attention, and place the compromised glass into the fridge, before it could turn itself into booze?

No help for it, this was a goner, and had to be thrown out..... Or not? Suddenly I remembered my experiences with apple yeast water two years ago. Made from fermenting apples, the yeast water had proved to be a powerful leaven, my bread even grew a horn!

But in the end the apple yeast water died a slow death from starvation in a dark corner of my fridge, all but forgotten, since we preferred the tangier taste of sourdough.

Wouldn't it be worth a try to experiment a bit, and see what would happen if I fed the tipsy jam with  flour?

I measured a teaspoon of jam in a little bowl and added equal amounts of water....

.....and whole wheat flour to the bowl:         

5 g fermented rose hip jam + 25 g water + 25 g whole wheat flour.

Eleven hours later the reddish mixture had become bubbly and spongy, and emitted a wonderful fruity-sour smell. I was very pleased and contemplated my next move.

I wanted to make a fairly simple levain, with a bit of whole grain, but not too much. I expected a rather mild taste, but I didn't want the blandness of an all-white bread, nor a too hearty loaf that overwhelmed more subtle nuances.

So I adapted a recipe for Pain au Levain, made with apple yeast leaven, from Jan Hedh's "Swedish Breads and Pastries". I had made this bread before, with apple yeast water, it had been nice, but rather mild.

Hedh's book is gorgeous, with wonderful recipes, though not without some pesky errata - my first attempt of an attractive looking Levain with Bran and Vinegar had ended in a dense, compact brick - thanks to one erroneous Zero too many in the bran department.

Even though it was already evening, I didn't want to wait, and started with 16 g of my newborn rose hip mother - mother, chef and levain are the classic French terms for the 3 steps to make a leaven - to make the second stage: the chef.

Le petit chef before his rest

I woke up at midnight, went downstairs, eager to see how my starter was doing, and found a nicely grown chef, wide awake, and hungry for more.

A really grown-up chef
After feeding the little guy with more flour and water, I tottered back to bed.

The next morning my levain was fully ripened and ready to go!

PAIN AU LEVAIN  (adapted from Jan Hedh: "Swedish Breads and Pastries")

21 g mother starter (it doesn't have to be rose hip, an ordinary mature wheat or rye starter will do)
   8 g water
21 g bread flour

  50 g chef (all)
  50 g water
100 g bread flour

200 g levain (all)
 16 g spelt flour
 16 g rye meal
282 g bread flour
219 g water
    6 g salt

DAY 1:
1. Mix together all ingredients for chef. Knead for 2 minutes, then let rest for 5 minutes. Resume kneading for 1 more minute. (Dough should be stiff, but not hard, moisten your hands to incorporate more water, if needed.) Cover, and let sit for 4 hours, or until doubled in size.

2. Mix together all ingredients for levain. Knead for 2 minutes, then let rest for 5 minutes. Resume kneading for 1 minute more. (Dough should be stiff, but not hard, moisten your hands to incorporate more water, if needed.) Cover, and let ripen for 5 - 6 hours, or until doubled in size. Knead briefly to degas, and refrigerate overnight.

DAY 2:
3. Remove levain from refrigerator 2 hours before using, to warm up. Cut into smaller pieces and place with flour and water in mixer bowl. Knead for 3 minutes at low speed, then let dough rest for 5 minutes.

4. Add salt and continue kneading for 7 more minutes at medium-low speed. Stretch and fold 1 x, gather dough into a ball, place it in lightly oiled bowl, turn it around to coat with oil, cover, and let rest for 90 minutes.

5. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface, place hands in the middle and push out the air, stretch and fold 1 x, gather dough into a ball, return it to the bowl, and leave it for another 80 minutes.

6. Push out air again, and let dough relax for 10 more minutes. Shape into a round, place in banneton (seam side up), or on parchment lined baking sheet (seam side down).

7. Sprinkle bread with flour, mist with baking spray, cover, and proof for 60 - 90 minutes (in a warm place), until it has grown 1 3/4 times its original size.

8. Preheat oven to 250º C/482º F, including steam pan. Score bread.

9. Bake bread for 5 minutes, reduce heat to 200º C/400º F, and continue baking for another 15 minutes. Rotate bread 180 degrees, remove steam pan, and bake for 20 minutes more, venting the oven once to let out steam in between.

10. Leave bread in switched-off oven with door slightly ajar for another 10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and let cool completely.

I changed Jan Hedh's recipe a bit. Instead of long kneading, I added a period of rest (autolyse) while mixing the dough, thereby shaving off some hands-on time.

A total baking time of 60 minutes, as stated in the recipe, was not necessary, my bread was already done after 40 minutes. And leaving it a while longer in the switched-off oven with the door a bit ajar guaranteed a nice crisp crust that didn't soften soon after baking.

Did it taste like rose hips? No. But is was delicious! And not only that: The best of all husbands found it "the crustiest bread you ever made".  

One question remains: what was it exactly that gave the bread its marvelous lift? The rose hips? The apples? Or the red wine the jam was made with?

Rugosa rose and hips

Submitted to YeastSpotting and BYOB