Sunday, June 14, 2015


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

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."

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

(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)

(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

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


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:

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!