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.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Vermont Sourdough with Whole Wheat

I'm starting to get the hang of making sourdough bread and this time, I chose to make another version of Vermont Sourdough found in Hamelman's book which contains 10% whole wheat flour instead of whole rye flour.  The replacement of exactly the same amount of whole wheat flour was the only difference between the two recipes and I wonder why Hamelman had to dedicate a few pages for the whole wheat version where everything (ingredients, percentages, procedure) was exactly how it was written in the Vermont Sourdough's formula.  He could've just mentioned as an aside that the rye flour could be substituted with the same amount of whole wheat flour which also gives the bread a very distinct characteristic despite the very trivial difference.  But according to him, there is an unmistakeable  difference between the two which warrants giving this version a formula of its own.   I'm not a sourdough expert by any means but I was quite curious to see what these distinct differences are but mostly, I just wanted to replicate the same oven spring and open crumb that I achieved when I made the first VS.  

Friday, March 9, 2012

Golden Raisin Bread

Whenever I browse the pages of a new bread book, I always get excited when I find that it contains a few raisin bread recipes in them.  I just love the flavor and sweetness that raisins give to any bread and I would gladly have it it as my only meal of the day -- it's especially nice with cheddar cheese or jam.  Jeffrey Hamelman's book Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes has (much to my delight) a number of bread offerings with raisins in them like a golden raisin and walnut bread that makes use of a yeasted pre-ferment (sponge), a sourdough rye bread with raisins and walnuts, a straight dough version that has golden raisins and pecans, and also this levain version that I made which makes use of a liquid white starter and has quick-cooking oats and lots of golden raisins in it!  I do plan to make all of these raisin bread versions soon but I settled for this recipe as I wanted to make use of my newly cultivated white starter.  I also have never tasted a sourdough raisin bread before so I was really excited and very curious to try this out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Vermont Sourdough

This Vermont Sourdough from Jeffrey Hamelman's book "Bread" would be the first sourdough bread that I've made since I cultivated a levain culture 2 weeks ago.  I used Jeffrey Hamelman's liquid levain formula found in the same book which is of 125% hydration.  I made a stiff sourdough starter before using Peter Reinhart's formula but months of neglect transformed it from a healthy doughy consistency to a greenish icky mush.  I didn't bother trying to revive it as it's fairly easy to make a new one and Hamelman's procedure was for me, certainly easier than PR's.   I had a very active culture from the very beginning and only hit a short time of inactivity when I started feeding my starter with only white flour instead of a combination of white and rye flours.  I also decided to start a rye culture since there were a lot of Rye breads in Hamelman's book that seem really delicious like the rye sourdough with raisins and walnuts (yum!).

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

TwD: Rugelach

The first recipe for this March by the Tuesdays with Dorie group is something that I've never baked before or even heard of until I flipped through the pages of Baking With Julia.  Looking at the ingredients list and procedure, I felt confident that I would bake this without any cinches especially with the cream cheese pastry being really similar to the crust of my pecan tassies which I've made countless times.  Well the mixing part was really easy but this roo-ga-la quickly turned into roo-ga-laaaaahhhh! while I was rolling it.  The crust, even though I made sure it was at least 1/4 -inch thick disintegrated in my fingertips (probably due to very high humidity) and I ended up with a very crumbly and sticky mess. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

ABC: Emergency Blender Cupcakes

I fully intended to bake these cupcakes during the weekend but other things came up (hubby and kids getting the flu) that I had to postpone making these for a couple of days.  Thankfully, these Emergency Blender Cupcakes from Abby Dodge's The Weekend Baker and the ABC recipe for the month of March was super easy to make!  Wow, I don't think I've ever made cupcakes this quick and using only a wire whisk for mixing!

Having no time to make the fudge icing and having too much a lot of cream cheese in my fridge, I decided to turn these cupcakes into black bottom cupcakes instead which was such a great idea because it's such a delicious combination!  I just love the tartness of the cream cheese paired with chocolate...well I just love anything with cream cheese in it!  I think a lot of other flavors can even be infused in the cream cheese to give the cupcakes more oomph like coffee, dulce de leche, strawberries, etc.