Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

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)

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

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
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

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

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!

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


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Post

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.


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

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

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

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


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

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 :(