Friday, December 28, 2012

Please Help Save SFBI!

I recently took an 8-week professional bread baking course at the San Francisco Baking Institute where I learned a lot of invaluable things about the bread baking industry.  There's no school that I've ever been to that was so generous in sharing their knowledge about baking and that made me feel like I was part of a family.  This school is truly world class -- never have I seen such modern equipment being utilized for the students and never have I experienced a school that was super generous in providing the students high-quality ingredients, reading materials, and even food.

It saddens me to find out that the state of California is shutting down this institution while they are in the process of reviewing SFBI's license as a post-secondary institution -- a process that could take months -- which would in turn, impose a huge financial strain on SFBI that could even lead them to close their doors permanently.  I am urging you to help SFBI remain open by signing their petition through this link:

The link also provides a letter template that you could sign and send directly to the Bureau of Private Post-Secondary Education.  

Please help save SFBI!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

ABC: Honey Oatmeal Bread

It's time for another ABC post and this October's bake is The Weekend Baker's Honey Oatmeal Bread which I really, really loved!  This has got to be the best tasting honey oatmeal bread I've ever tried and I especially loved the pronounced honey flavor and sweetness in the bread given the generous 1/3 cup that's in it.  I've encountered many recipes that claim to be honey breads but I always get puzzled why they would even put "honey" in the title when all they make you add is 2 tablespoons of honey at the most.  I'm glad that this recipe didn't skimp on it and it was so easy to make as well.  It's super delicious on its own that I never even ate it with anything else but I bet this would make excellent French toast.  What I also liked about this bread is that it stayed really moist and soft throughout the 2 days it took us to finish it. I think the reason for this was the use of milk to hydrate the flour instead of water.  The next time I make this I'm turning it into dinner rolls and top the surface with oatmeal flakes.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tartine Desserts

October is going to be an exciting month for me as it is the month that I officially begin my 2-month long culinary adventure in San Francisco.  I'm taking an 8-week bread and viennoiserie course at the San Francisco Baking Institute (which I'm surely going to blog about) and part of my itinerary during my stay in this wonderful city is to explore San Francisco's famous culinary establishments and numerous farmer's markets.  One of the bakeries that I'm looking forward to visiting is the renowned Tartine Bakery which is fortunately, just a few blocks from where I am to live in San Francisco.  I own both their books "Tartine" and "Tartine Bread," and all of the recipes that I've made from each were really delicious and most were very easy to make as well.  During the past month, I've been on a baking frenzy and have made quite a few luscious desserts from "Tartine" namely the Banana Cream Pie with Caramel and Chocolate, Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread, Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake and the Lemon Cream Tart which I topped generously with slices of strawberries.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Versailles: My Birthday Cake!

I just celebrated my birthday yesterday and once again, I decided to challenge myself and bake another special cake from the book "Extraordinary Cakes" by Karen Krasne.  I chose this elegant and stunning cake called Versailles for my birthday cake because it contains a huge quantity of a particular flavor I'm obsessed with at the moment -- salted caramel -- YUM!  Ever since I made salted caramel ice cream a few weeks ago I've been craving for it non-stop and this cake definitely satisfies any caramel lover's appetite as you can taste it in almost every layer of the cake -- the creamy layers that top each slice of almond joconde sponge is a salted caramel mousse wherein salted caramel, in its most basic, ooey gooey form is folded into a plain mousse which already creates a fabulous dessert on its own.  Then during assembly, more salted caramel is drizzled on top of these mousse layers giving you a much more concentrated caramel flavor along with each bite of the cake.  And if that's not caramel-ly enough for you, the rest of the salted caramel, which is about 3 or so cups, is spread generously all over this wonderful cake providing a sticky exterior for the crunchy ground pistachio-almond praline to cling on.  For a touch of elegance, the book suggests to encircle the cake with French caramel macarons and a thin ribbon which I did but since I was unable to find caramel ones, I just settled for store-bought butterscotch which was just the right color for this cake as well.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

ABC: Mile-High Vanilla Sponge Cake with Honey-Sweetened Greek Yogurt and Brandied Blackberry Sauce

This month's recipe for the Avid Baker's Challenge is the Mile-High Vanilla Sponge Cake which was one of the cakes that Abby Dodge, author of the "Weekend Baker," fondly remembers eating often during her childhood.  I also have a lot of fond memories of eating this cake when I was a child as my grandmother would bake this every so often and serve it to her weekly mah-jong group along with whipped cream and fresh fruits.  She would even turn the leftovers into other confections which we often snacked on in the afternoons like toasted mamon which is just slices of sponge cake sprinkled with sugar then toasted until crunchy through and through.  The adults would eat this together with their many cups of coffee while us kids enjoyed dunking them in our own tiny mugs of hot chocolate.  On certain occasions, my grandmother would also use untoasted sponge cake crumbs to coat her famous silvanas which everyone in our family loved especially my sister and I who would occasionally sneak in the kitchen to get a few pieces for ourselves LOL.  

TwD: White Peach Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

   It's a shame that this Baking with Julia recipe for what should've been a Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake was chosen for this month's TWD bake rather than last August's as it was around that time that our supermarkets had an abundance of all kinds of stone fruits-- apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, pluots, cherries--you name it, we had it!  The nectarines in particular were really gorgeous; they were large, unbruised, and perfectly ripe which I'm certain would've been amazing on this cake but alas, stone fruit season is no more here in our neck of the woods.  All that remained in the shelves for me to use were four pathetic-looking white peaches that thankfully were somewhat sweet and had their flesh intact but their paleness lent a rather dull, less-appealing color to the caramelized topping of this upside-down cake.  Using nectarines or even yellow peaches would've definitely contributed a much more vibrant and appetizing color.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

#Baketogether Take Two: Rose-Scented Panna Cotta with Lychee Bits and Raspberry Sauce

Given the unbelievable ease and convenience of making Abby Dodge's Panna Cotta recipe for this August's #Baketogether, I couldn't resist trying out another flavor combination that tastes just as summery and exotic as my previous version.  This time, I wanted to put my recently purchased rose water to use so I thought of adding a few teaspoons of it to the creamy base of the Panna Cotta along with bits of canned lychees and a topping of tart raspberry sauce.  The combination of rose, lychees, and raspberries is one of the most interesting dessert combinations I've tried and the flavors somehow meld together into an unsual (but oh-so-good) guava-like flavor.  You'll keep on eating and eating this trying to distinguish the notes of flavor that present themselves in each spoonful you put in your mouth!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pain Francais: A Bread for Julia

To celebrate what would have been Julia Child's 100th birthday, the Bread Baking Babes and Buddies have joined together this month to bake the late culinary icon's Pain Francais (French Bread) -- one of the many recipes popularized by Julia in her book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 2."  This bread, though simple in its make-up, is rather complicated in nature and does require some mastery of French bread baking techniques as well as a higher level of skill in bread shaping; certainly essential if you want yours to look remotely like the breads you'd find in the boulangeries of France (which mine definitely does not :-P).  Julia's recipe is quite informative yet rather lengthy in its 20 pages(!) but Susan of Wild Yeast Blog posted a much simplified version of this recipe here.  Hanaa was also kind enough to send me a very helpful video of Julia making this bread--which I've posted below--during one of her shows that aired back in the 60s (I'm guessing the date but based on her hairstyle, it must've been during that time LOL).  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fragrant Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls

Would you believe that these rolls only made use of 1/8 teaspoon of yeast?  It's not at all the amount of yeast that the recipe called for but more the amount of yeast I only ended up using because of my absent-mindedness and utterly poor mis en place skills LOL.  I'm actually quite surprised that these rolls turned out the way they did--quite soft and delicious actually--as I was all ready to throw the dough into the trash bin or just bake them regardless of my error (and turn them into bread crumbs or paper weights) when I realized more than half-way through bulk fermentation that I had forgotten to add the yeast required in the final dough!  Luckily for me, the dough made use of a poolish, built the night before with a small amount of yeast, which acted like a starter that gave these rolls enough leavening power to turn them the way they did.  It took a loooong time for the rolls to almost double in size though but at least I still got decent bread! 

Friday, August 10, 2012

#Baketogether: Coconut Milk Panna Cotta with Warm Mango-Rum Coulis

It's been a while since I last joined Abby's monthly Baketogethers and this Panna Cotta recipe that she posted for this August's Baketogether was impossible to miss out on because of how easy it is to make--just as easy as making Jell-o in a cup!  One of the things I like about making Panna Cotta is the zero oven time required to whip this up thus avoiding the unpleasantness of being trapped in a very warm kitchen.  Another thing I like about this dessert is that despite its simple ingredients and utterly uncomplicated method, with the right sauce and flavorings, it could be just as rich and satisfying as any of its yolky and custardy, oven-baked counterparts.  The creamy base of the Panna Cotta is really the perfect vessel for holding whatever flavors your heart desires and it pairs really well with almost any sweet liquid addition--my favorite being fruit sauces-- which really makes it the ideal dessert to make for a #Baketogether where everyone joining in is welcome to create their own twist to a particular recipe.    

Monday, August 6, 2012

Diamond Head: Hubby's Birthday Cake!

 I wanted to bake a special cake for my husband's birthday celebration a few days ago and I knew that the Diamond Head cake from the book Extraordinary Cakes would be perfect for this occasion.  Since my hubby loves Mauna Loa Macadamia Chocolates, I was certain that he would love the Hawaiian-inspired flavors of this cake as well.   I also happen to love this chocolate-macadamia combo so I was really looking forward to having a slice of this cake all to myself.  I also found it hard to resist not licking my fingers and baking utensils after making the individual components most especially after I made the ganache, vanilla bean custard and macadamia brittle!  :-)  Actually, the three components on their own already make for a very satisfying treat.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

ABC: Glazed Apricot-Plum Galette

I don't normally see fresh apricots being sold in our supermarkets over here even during peak season so I was all set to turn Abby Dodge's Glazed Apricot-Plum Galette from her book The Weekend Baker into a peach- or nectarine-plum galette instead.  It was such a lucky coincidence though that as I was scouring the shelves for fresh fruits a few weeks ago, our supermarket, to my delight, had an abundant display of very fresh apricots that I couldn't resist buying some right then and there.  Even the plums were rather plentiful so by the time I got home, I had all of the fruits needed to make the galette which is also ABC's recipe for the month of August.  I was a little unsure of how well these fruits would keep in the fridge so I decided to make the galette a few weeks in advance.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Diabetic-Friendly and Gluten-Free Chinese Almond Cookies

 I am thankfully, neither diabetic nor gluten-intolerant but it just so happened that the recipe that caught my attention as I was browsing some of my recipe books was for these Chinese Almond Cookies made purely with brown rice flour, thus becoming gluten-free, and sweetened with only diabetic-friendly coconut sugar replacing all the sucanat/brown sugar originally called for in the recipe.  Since I eat Calrose brown rice on a daily basis, I had a lot on hand and milled my own flour using my hand-cranked grain mill which, by the way, took me what seemed like HOURS to finish.  I thought that milling only 2 cups of brown rice would be an easy task but I underestimated how hard the grains were and was only able to turn the crank close to 5 seconds each time.  The good thing about that snafu though was that I was able to get a good arm workout from it! :-)  If you're also milling your own brown rice flour for this recipe 3/4 - 1 cup of grains would suffice.

The cookies were really delicious with a nice sandy texture from the brown rice and just the right sweetness from the coco sugar.  This was so easy to make too -- well only if you don't count the milling part LOL -- and because of the lack of gluten in the brown rice flour, it's not sensitive to over-mixing as well.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

TwD: Semolina Bread

 This Tuesday's Baking with Julia recipe and the second TWD bake for the month of July is the Semolina Bread by contributing baker Nick Malgieri.   This is the second bread recipe of his that I've made the first one being his Old-Fashioned Raisin Bread which my entire family loved.   I've also made various kinds of semolina breads before but this is the first time I made a version that makes use of only commercial yeast via the "flying sponge" method where all the yeast called for in the recipe is already added to a mixture of equal parts flour and water, allowed to ferment for about two hours, then eventually added to the final dough mix.  I must say that I'm loving this sponge method in bread baking because of how super quick it is to whip up unlike other pre-ferments like a biga or poolish that takes about 12 or more hours to ferment.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Granola Bars with Brown Rice Syrup

The first time I ever ate a granola bar (the commercial kind), I was so put off with its taste and texture that I never touched nor ate a single granola bar since then.  There were just a few things about it I didn't like--the weird chewy texture of it that hurt my jaw, the overt sweetness that made my throat sore, and the combination of flavors and ingredients that just didn't appeal to me.  It basically had this promising look of so much healthy goodness but in reality, it's just a glorified candy bar loaded with so much unhealthy sugars that eating a Snickers bar actually sounds a lot better.  Having that unpleasant taste experience ingrained in my mind, I obviously never felt inclined to make my own granola bars.   But as I was reading the pages of The Green Market Baking Book to look for recipes I could make with the bags of mixed dried fruits I have sitting for the longest time in my pantry, I couldn't help but eye the recipe for granola bars because of all the healthy ingredients that are in it (flax meal, almonds, etc) as well as the replacement of all the unhealthy fats and refined sugars with better ones (which is what the book is all about) like brown rice syrup for the brown/white sugar and extra virgin olive oil for the butter.  I got so curious with this recipe that I definitely had to make it and it certainly helped that I had all of the ingredients already in my kitchen. Well, except for the brown rice syrup which I had to buy at a Korean grocery store that's just walking distance from my house.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Oatmeal Bread

I admit, I was half-expecting these oatmeal loaves (from Hamelman's Bread) to turn out disastrously as I was plagued with so much doubt and uncertainty while I was making the dough.  Whenever I make pan breads, the dough is oftentimes very slack and slightly tacky while this one was actually very stiff (though a little sticky because of the honey) causing me to wonder if I should've added more water to the mix.  After going through a few bread baking failures recently, I didn't want to risk another one by altering the formula even if it meant just adding a little water.  A little dissuaded, I still pressed on though and even did an overnight bulk fermentation which is an optional step in all of Hamelman's straight dough breads.  Come morning, the dough was even stiffer for obvious reasons but it certainly wasn't an encouraging sight for me and I was even tempted to throw all of it away and start all over again.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Pain aux Céréales

This is another delectable bread that I made from The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking which is flavored by a combination of sesame and flax seeds in both the crust and crumb.  The formula makes use of a pâte fermentée, making up almost 40% of the final dough.  Interestingly, the formula also calls for the addition of diastatic malt powder which I believe could have been omitted though it didn't state that this was optional.  I found the bread to be slightly on the chewy side because of the addition of DMP so feel free to use less of it or completely omit it if you don't have any on hand.

Chocolate Mixed Berry Trifle

Taking advantage of the abundant supply of berries in our supermarket, I decided to make a mixed berry version of Rose Levy Beranbaum's Chocolate Raspberry Trifle for a get together I had with my family last Sunday.  The recipe is from her book Rose's Heavenly Cakes and this one is really perfect for all those who love chocolate and fruit dessert combos which everyone in my family apparently does.  I used a combination of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries totaling the same amount of raspberries required in her recipe (sans the topping) which is about 6 1/2 cups.  Everything about this trifle is truly exceptional--the Chambord syrup-soaked chocolate genoise (which I've made before for Rose's Chocolate Raspberry Genoise), the super-rich creme anglaise, the raspberry-flavored whipped cream and even the way the layers are beautifully exposed in the trifle bowl, showing all of these delicious components stacked together into one very irresistible cake.  

Friday, June 29, 2012

ABC: Classic Fruit Tartlets

Whenever I go to upscale pastry shops I always see these charming fruit tarts or tartlets decoratively placed on the shelves of their refrigerated display cases which never fails to capture my attention because of their vibrant colors and attractive shine.  I can't help but pause and stare at them in admiration and appreciate the way the fruits are carefully positioned on top of the cream and how all their lovely colors complement each other.  Needless to say that I got very excited when I found out that this July's bake for ABC would mean making my own classic fruit tart!  I knew immediately that I wanted it to be colorful--using all the berries that are sweet and delicious this time of the year as well as other tart and colorful fruits that I can find such as kiwis.  Fortunately, our supermarket is currently filled with all of these fruits--all very sweet, juicy and fresh.  I especially love how sweet the strawberries and kiwis are right now!  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Seeded Semolina Bread + Sweet Variation

These semolina boules have been on my long list of breads to bake out of the book Tartine Bread and I'm quite pleased with the way they turned out.  I got to practice my shaping techniques and the seeded one has a nicely round shape that I can't help but stare at it in admiration LOL.  The book offers two variations to the formula -- one savory with toasted sesame, fennel and poppy seeds (I used chia) and the other one, a sweet version that makes use of golden raisins and orange rind.  Both are very good but I can't help but wish that I had put a little less fennel on the savory one than what's written in the formula.  OK I wish I omitted the fennel completely.  I guess it's not one of those flavors I'm used to eating especially in bread but I definitely think that it overpowered the delicious flavor of the sesame seeds.  The fennel however, complemented the flavors of the orange and raisins in the sweet variation so it was a perfect match.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

TwD: French Strawberry Trifle

Strawberries and Cream is one of my favorite cake flavors so I was really excited to make this genoise version called French Strawberry Cake with the Tuesdays with Dorie group.  The recipe is from the book Baking With Julia and was contributed by one of my favorite cook book authors, Flo Braker.  I've tried some of her recipes from a few of her cook books before -- all really delicious -- so I had a feeling that this one would be really good as well.  I was particularly interested with the fact that this cake makes use of a genoise base which I knew would soak up all the yummy juices from the macerated strawberries without making the cake soggy -- only delightfully moist and intensely flavored with strawberries.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Team USA's Five Grain Bread

  I love five-grain breads and have been making a lot of them lately two versions of which I've blogged about before (here and here).  This particular one, a version made by Team USA during the 1999 Coup du Monde de la Boulangerieimmediately caught my attention because the generous coating of grains that surrounds the exterior of the loaf made it look so appetizing that my mouth immediately started to water.  I knew just by seeing the pictures of the loaves that they would have incredible flavor especially the coated crust which I expected would turn delightfully crisp and nutty during the bake.  

I certainly wasn't wrong with all of my assumptions about this bread.  It tasted just as good as it looks and the textures of the grains from both the crust and crumb is such a delight on the palate as well.  The crust was perfectly crunchy and the crumb was so moist and tender.  I can even state that this, by far, is the tastiest Five-Grain bread I've ever made.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

ABC: Overnight Brioche Braid

I just adore brioche so I was thrilled when Hanaa selected Abby Dodge's Overnight Brioche Braid for this month's ABC bake.  The recipe is from Abby's book "The Weekend Baker" and I like how she gives suggestions on how to conveniently make this bread by including extra steps -- which is extremely beneficial to people on a time crunch -- like an overnight stay in the fridge during bulk fermentation or during the final proofing of the dough.  Although these steps are optional, I decided to go for the overnight retardation so I could have freshly baked brioche in the morning.  I also read in other bread books that doing this helps develop more flavor and that dividing and shaping the dough while its cold is also more ideal.

I made a brioche cake from Tish Boyle's "The Cake Book" for my bread baketogether (BBT) with Hanaa recently so I was eager to see the differences between the two brioches.  I was very pleased with the outcome of Tish's brioche and I wanted to get the same results with Abby's.  My comparisons may be be compromised though as I used a different flour for Abby's and I recall putting lecithin granules to Tish's brioche which I omitted in Abby's version.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Viking aka Mom's Birthday Cake!

 I love the name of this cake: Viking.  It sounds so bold and strong just like its flavors and for a cake, it sounds completely mysterious too.  I don't think your guests would be able to tell if they call and ask what cake you're serving that night and you mischievously say "Viking."  

"Huh? What's it made of?" 

Well this was the exact reaction I got from my Mom when I called to tell her that her birthday cake (to help mark her 58th birthday) was ready and waiting for her in the fridge.  If I had said that I made "Chocolate Almond Praline Torte" which would be quite an appropriate name for this cake, then that would've been an obvious clue if not a dead giveaway as to the nature of the cake.   

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

TwD: Oasis Naan Two Ways

The first of this month's Tuesdays With Dorie bake is Oasis Naan from the book "Baking With Julia" by Dorie Greenspan.  Oasis Naan is a variation of the Persian Naan recipe found in the book and the two are not much different except for the added toppings of scallion and spices.  

I decided to do things differently and do my own twist to the naan.  I divided the recipe into 2 batches topping the first batch with za'atar and olive oil and the second one with sumac and feta cheese.  I already used these combinations when I made pita breads last Easter and since we all loved it so much, I decided to do the same for the Oasis Naan.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Five-Grain Sourdough with Rye Sourdough

I recently had a charcoal-fed oven made to use specifically for bread baking and I'm thrilled with the results that I got when I baked Hamelman's Five Grain Sourdough with Rye Sourdough with it.  After pre-heating it for more than an hour with a good amount of charcoal, I slid the unbaked loaves right in, closed the door and waited for the oven to do its magic.  I got mixed results using this oven though, the first batch I made (Hamelman's Whole Wheat Multigrain) had good oven spring but they flattened eventually during cooling.  Having already made a few loaves with this oven, I know now that the key is to really heat up the masonry for at least an hour or even more which will ensure even heating of the bricks resulting in proper convection, radiation and conduction.   

Friday, May 25, 2012

THB: Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake

My second bake with the The Home Bakers (THB) group is the Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake from the book "Coffee Cakes Simple, Sweet and Savory" by Lou Seibert Pappas.  The recipe originally calls for the batter to be baked in a 9 inch springform pan but I decided to halve the recipe instead and baked it in a 7 inch springform.  It turned out really cute and just the right size for us.  I was hoping that my cake would look similar to the cake's photo which also happens to be the cover photo of the book but mine turned out a little darker.  Should you wish to try this recipe, Yvette of Bizzy Bakes posted it in her blog.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Five Grain Levain

I try to avoid buying multigrain breads from bakeshops around here because I've always been dissatisfied with the flavor and texture of the loaves I end up with.  Most of the time they're bland, dry or have this very rough feel on the palate.  Ever since I started making my own multigrain breads though, the first being Peter Reinhart's Multigrain Struan from his book "Whole Grain Breads," I realized that it's quite possible for any avid home baker to make flavorful multigrain breads that could surpass any commercial variety as long as you use the best ingredients and the proper techniques.  I'm thankful that there are great bread books out there that provide exceptional formulas as well as thorough  instructions that are geared towards the home baker and whatever simple equipment they may have in their kitchens.  Hamelman's book "Bread," though not a book dedicated solely to whole grains, has a comprehensive list of formulas containing whole grains and this Five Grain Levain bread is one of the healthiest and certainly the tastiest from that list and it thrills me to think that I made these myself in the comfort of my own kitchen! 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Brioche Cake with Caramel Custard Cream

My fifth bread baketogether (BBT) with Hanaa is a brioche-based cake filled with yummy caramel custard cream from Tish Boyle's book "The Cake Book."  I just love how versatile brioche dough is--you can turn it into hamburger buns or dinner rolls, fill it with something savory or sweet or even turn it into fried confections like beignets or donuts.  And brioche as a cake?  Well, it's simply out-of-this-world!  It's so wonderful to eat a "cake" that's not so sweet yet still has that decadent buttery goodness and tender albeit slightly chewy crumb that normal butter cakes have.  And the soaking syrup flavored with vanilla or your favorite liqueur just enhances the delicious qualities of the brioche even more placing this cake a notch above being just a casual coffee cake (though I ate this for breakfast yesterday) LOL.  The caramel custard cream is really just a lightened pastry cream with the added step of caramelizing sugar beforehand which lends a wonderful flavor to the cream but I think blending dulce de leche into the cream would be a good alternative as well.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cheese Bread

Among all the levain breads that I made from Jeffrey Hamelman's book Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes, this Cheese Bread was the most successful one so far. I got really good oven spring and oven bloom during the bake and the loaves had a very crisp and crackly crust that they sung!!  I'm pretty pleased with the flavor and openness of the crumb as's definitely a must to use really good cheese -- I think any hard cheese like Parmesan, Asiago, and Gruyere would work really well.  Given this bread's very good results as well as all the other successful bakes I had from Bread, I might just bake through the entire book!  I'm actually (unintentionally) just a few recipes away from completing the chapter on levain breads and the process of creating these loaves in the few months since I started on this book has really helped me understand the complexities of sourdough bread making.  Hamelman's book is definitely one of the best if not THE BEST book you can get your hands on if you really want to understand baking with wild yeasts.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

ABC: Dark Chocolate and Orange Scones

This month's recipe for ABC is for yummy buttery scones found in Abby Dodge's book The Weekend Baker.  Scones seem to be a very popular breakfast item the world over but I must say that I've baked and eaten scones only once in my life (many years ago) and this would be the second time since then.  Abby's recipe certainly showed me how easy they are to make by giving steps that you can do in advance like creating a big batch of scone mix by combining all the dry ingredients and storing them in a large container ahead of time where you can simply get a portion from it to make a single batch of 8 scones.  She also provides a few flavor options which all sound really delicious as well as a recipe that only makes a single batch which is what I used here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sweet Saffron Bread

This Sweet Saffron Bread is one of the most delectable breads I've ever eaten.  The lovely aroma of saffron and the sweetness of dried currants that plump up and turn juicy during the bake is a really wonderful combination and something that I will surely crave for again and again.  Despite its somewhat complicated looks, this bread, from Dan Lepard's book "The Art of Handmade Bread," is actually a very easy bread to make thanks to his thorough instructions and minimal kneading technique.  There's absolutely no need for a mixer and the duration of the kneading is only for about 10 seconds each cool is that?!  All of the breads in his book seem to benefit from long rests as opposed to thorough kneading until a desired gluten development is achieved.  It's not quite the popular no-knead method of bread baking but it's very close to it.  

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Olive Levain

I think I've already made around 6 breads from Hamelman's book Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes and so far, I've not been disappointed with any of them.  This Olive Levain bread is definitely the tastiest one out of the 6 that I made and I regret only making one loaf instead of two.  I've developed this habit of halving bread recipes that make 2 or more loaves (especially if I'm a little uncertain about how they would taste like) and if I only knew that we would be finishing this within mere minutes, then I would've made two or even four loaves for that's really that good!  But since this bread includes, as Hamelman puts it, "high-octane" ingredients like kalamata olives, it would be extremely expensive to make 4 loaves at once given that I would have to buy a pound of olives just for them!  So I guess it will only be 2 loaves max the next time I make this LOL.  Hamelman did mention though that the amount of olives in the recipe can be decreased by about 20% which would still give the bread a distinct olive flavor.  Well, since I was baking this for our own consumption I didn't bother lessening the olives and went for the full amount which was 4 ounces for half the recipe.  I think you can even play around with the flavor of this bread by using a variety of olives or even the ones that have stuffing in them like anchovies, peppers, etc.  I'm going to try that next time.

Monday, April 16, 2012

THB: Cheese-Swirled Chocolate Bundt Cake

Early last month I made black-bottom cupcakes for ABC which were moist and intensely chocolatey cupcakes with luscious cream cheese and chocolate chip filling -- a variation of Abby Dodge's Emergency Blender Cupcakes recipe found in her book The Weekend Baker.  I was very pleased with this recipe because it was so easy to make yet had such a rich flavor that you wouldn't think that it only took a couple of minutes to whip up.  This month's first ever THB (The Home Bakers) recipe is for Cheese-Swirled Chocolate Bundt Cake from the book "Coffee Cakes" By Lou Seibert Pappas -- a cake very similar in concept to the black bottom cupcakes that I made wherein the same cream cheese and chocolate chip mixture is sandwiched between thick chocolate batter but this time, baked in a bundt pan instead of cupcake molds.  I changed things up a bit this time though by adding dulce de leche to the cream cheese filling and omitting the chocolate chips.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Peach Tatin Cake

This Peach Tatin cake is from Tish Boyle's "The Cake Book" and is one of the many cakes I intend to bake from her book as each recipe I've read so far just sounds absolutely mouth-watering.  This is supposed to be her cake interpretation of the French dessert Tarte Tatin which is an upside-down tart with caramelized fruits but of course when turned into a cake, it becomes another wonderful version of my much-beloved upside-down cake -- I think the numerous posts I've made on upside-down cake is further testament to my love for this oh-so-comforting cake.  I just love how fruit (my favorite thing to eat) is the main star of the show and just by changing the fruit or the combination of fruits, you feel like you're eating an entirely different cake altogether. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Della Fattoria's Rustic Roasted Garlic Bread

The current bread book that captivates me so much right now is Maggie Glezer's "Artisan Baking"-- a paperback version of her award-winning book "Artisan Baking Across America."  This is not just a compilation of bread formulas like most bread baking books are but is more like a travel journal of sorts, where the author transports you to a particular place and time, vividly and eloquently describing her wonderful experiences in various artisan bakeries (both big and small) across the United States as well as her trips to the wheat fields that nurture the very heart and soul of bread baking -- flour.  Glezer, as she narrates her stories, has this amazing talent of making you feel like you're actually there, right in her shoes, talking to the local artisan bakers, witnessing their bread making skills and best of all, giving you a chance to taste what she's tasted through the well-written formulas in the book.  What makes this book even more noteworthy is the beautiful collection of photos that provides a little peek at this somewhat clandestine world of artisan baking in the US.  

Thursday, April 5, 2012

ABC: Buttery Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls

This month's ABC recipe is for buttery pull-apart dinner rolls, one of the yummy breads you can find in the Weekend Baker by Abby Dodge.  This was actually my second attempt at making this -- the first one (a chia seed variation) ended in disaster as my BM cooked the dough during its first rise instead of just proofing it LOL.  Good thing I only made half the recipe so at least not much was wasted.  For this second attempt though, I decided to make the full recipe.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

TwD: Pizza Rustica

Another Tuesday with Dorie post from Dorie Greenspan's book "Baking with Julia" and the second recipe that forced made us whip up our very own pie dough.  It turned out to be quite an enjoyable process for me though as making the lattice (criss-cross) pattern and border crust was rather fun even though I didn't really do a great job at the weaving part LOL.  This week's hosts are Emily of Capitol Region Dining and Raelynn of The Place They Call Home.  Should you wish to try out this recipe, go on over to their blogs and the recipe should be posted there.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I've always wanted to make ciabatta so I was thrilled when Hanaa suggested making this for our fourth BBT and even shared this ciabatta recipe by Daniel Leader which can be found in his book "Local Breads."  I've been reading a lot of blog posts about making ciabatta doughs and most have mentioned how difficult they are to handle due to their very high water content so I knew that I would be relying on either my bread machine or the KitchenAid to do all the kneading.  I settled for the KA as the recipe gave specific instructions for making this dough with the KA even mentioning the exact speeds to use at various stages.  It's actually the first time I've encountered a recipe that calls for mixing the dough as high as speed 10!  I admit, I didn't follow the required speed for fear of overheating my KA but I found that using only speeds 6 and 8 still gave the desired results within the given timeframe -- about 15 minutes for full gluten development.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Semolina Bread with Black Sesame Seeds

Before I even tried making this sourdough semolina bread found in Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes, I first did some research about the differences between semolina flour and durum wheat flour.  What I've learned (in a nutshell) is that both semolina and durum flour are both ground from the endosperm of the durum wheat kernel but semolina is coarser and more yellow while durum flour is a by-product of the grinding of the semolina and has the consistency of regular flour with only a slight yellowish hue.  Many of the books that I've read strongly suggest only using fancy or extra fancy durum flour instead of semolina flour as the latter may not work for a particular bread recipe.  I've read from a few websites though that semolina flour could still yield excellent results in bread making if allowed a lengthy autolyse (about 30 minutes or longer).  Having a few pounds of the actual durum flour that I bought from a local Italian food supplier will delay my finding out if this is true or not though.  For anyone who wants to learn more about durum wheat and its gluten properties, etc this is a great article.     

Maple Walnut Oat Bread

This is a long overdue post of my third bread baketogether (BBT) with Hanaa where we made a Maple Walnut Oat Bread found in the King Arthur Flour website.  The recipe makes one 9 x 5 loaf but I decided to divide the dough in half and bake them together in the pan so I could have 2 mini loaves instead.  Looking back now, I wish I placed only half of the walnuts in one dough and left the other one without nuts just so I could taste the difference.  

I've always associated maple syrup as a breakfast item -- I love it (and usually have it) drizzled generously over buttermilk pancakes or French toast but I'm ashamed to say that they were the supermarket kind -- very far in taste from natural maple syrup not to mention high in bad sugars like high fructose corn syrup.  Luckily, a number of stores here have now started selling natural and organic maple syrup so I bought a small bottle of Spring Tree Grade B maple syrup specifically for this bread and for a few recipes that I found that makes use of a good amount of the real thing.  I admit that I was half-expecting for this bread to taste like maple syrup-drizzled pancakes which wouldn't be a bad thing at all LOL.