Monday, April 21, 2014


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Looking for a seasonal specialty for my customers at A&B Naturals, I came upon an Italian Christmas bread, Pinza, that, after crossing the border to Austria, switched holidays - and turned into Easter bread, Pinze.

After a solemn blessing in the church, this lovely Styrian Easter bread (often adorned by a red egg, and cut three times, to symbolize the Holy Trinity) is served with the meat on Easter Sunday.

Steiermark - Styria, home of the Easter Pinze

There are several versions for Pinze, and it is either seasoned with vanilla or anise. The anise can be steeped in wine or cooked in milk to extract its flavor.  

All recipes include lots of eggs and egg yolks, so keep the Lipitor at hand, but I'm sure it is good for you, since it comes with a blessing.

Eggs for 2016 Pinze production

I tried a Pinze version with anise, soaked in wine. Though the bread turned out quite nice, I couldn't detect much anise aroma.

Therefore I decided on Petra's Easter Pinza (from her Chili und Ciabatta blog), substituting some of the white flour with whole wheat.

The bread, made in 3 steps with 2 pre-ferments, was wonderful. The only problem: its time consuming schedule would not work for my little bakery, unless I pulled off an all-nighter. So I turned to my favorite method: stretch & fold plus overnight stay in the fridge.

Eggy goodness
That way I could work the dough all at once, and let the folding and cold fermentation do the rest.

No pre-doughs needed, very little hands-on time, and no standing around, waiting for pre-ferments and dough to rise.

In other words, the baker could hug her pillow, while the yeasties did their job!

My overnight version was just as good as the original, more involved one!

The Easter Pinze is a soft bread with a wonderful flavor. Though slightly sweet, it can be served with Easter Ham, like in Austria. Or, as we did, enjoyed simply with some good butter, or jam.

Almost too pretty to eat - Easter Pinzes

OSTER-PINZE - AUSTRIAN EASTER BREAD  (adapted from Petra Holzapfel's Chili und Ciabatta)
(3 small loaves)

463 g/16.3 oz all-purpose flour
52 g/1.8 oz whole wheat flour
8 g/0.3 oz instant yeast (for a yeast conversion see here)
160 g/5.6 oz milk
70 g/2.5 oz sugar
50 g/1.8 oz egg yolks (ca. 3)*
75 g/2.6 oz eggs (ca. 1 1/2)*
75 g/2.6 oz butter
5 g/0.2 oz salt
4 g/1 tsp. vanilla extract (or seeds of 1 vanilla bean)
15 g/1 tbsp. lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon

*if your eggs or yolks weigh a little bit less than the recipe amount, add some of the remaining egg whites to reach the weight.

Egg wash
1 egg
1 tbsp. milk
1 pinch sugar
1 pinch salt

Heat butter with the milk, until melted (stove top or microwave). The milk should not come to a full boil. Remove from heat and stir in first egg yolks and eggs, then the yeast.

Add egg milk to other dough ingredients in mixer bowl, and mix for 1-2 minutes at low speed, until all flour is hydrated. Let dough rest for 5 minutes, then continue kneading at medium-low speed for 6 minutes. Dough will stick to bottom of bowl, but pull (mostly) back from the sides (don't worry, and don't add more flour!)

Transfer dough to a lightly oiled work surface and, with oiled hands, pull it into a square. Fold dough from top and bottom like a business letter in thirds. Repeat folding from both sides. Cover dough package  (upside down mixer bowl) and let it rest for 10 minutes on the counter.

Repeat stretching and folding 2-3 more times, at 10 minute intervals, until gluten structure has developed, and dough starts to resist the stretching (don't tear it!) After the last fold, place dough, covered, in the refrigerator overnight. (I usually portion it at this point, and put it in individual containers.)

Nicely risen overnight - you can see the gas bubbles on the front side

Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours before using. It should have almost doubled.

Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface, and divide it into 3 equal parts (about 325 g each).

Brush breads with egg wash

Shape pieces into rounds, and place them, seam side down, on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Brush breads with egg wash, spray with baking spray, cover, and let rise for about 60 minutes, or until doubled and fully proofed - finger poke test: a dimple should not fill up. (If breads are not fully proofed, they open too wide during the bake!).

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 375°F/180°C. (No steam).

Re-apply egg wash and cut the Pinze pattern

Re-apply egg wash. Using scissors, make 3 deep cuts into the loaves, to create the traditional Pinze pattern.

Bake breads for 12 minutes, cover them loosely with tin foil, rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees, then continue baking for another about 18 minutes, or until they register 190ºF/93ºC. (Mine took even longer than 18 minutes).

Let breads cool on a rack.

TIP: Pinze keep fresh for 2-3 days, wrapped in plastic foil. You can also freeze them, wrapped in foil and placed in a freezer bag.

Glorious Easter Pinzes

Submitted to      Yeast Spotting
and Panissimo:  Bread & Companatico                                       
                           Sono io, Sandra

Updated 3/27/2016


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.

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                                       
                           Sono io, Sandra 


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