Friday, June 26, 2009

Caramelized Onion and Herb Ciabatta - BBA Challenge #7

I've been dreading this bread since the beginning of this challange. The thought of working with a wet dough was a bit intimidating. However, it turns out that it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. Isn't that the way it always is? Let's pretend you said yes. We fear the unknown but once we do it, we wonder what the big deal was.

I had the choice of two pre-ferments to use with this ciabatta recipe... a poolish or a biga. I've never made either one so I chose the first one that appeared in the book. The poolish is made a day in advance and cools it's heels in in the fridge overnight while it develops all that wonderful flavor.

My first poolish. Isn't it cute? It's smells wonderful. ...well, for poolish anyway.
While the poolish was warming up from it's over night stay in coolville, I sliced 4 cups of vidalia onions and put them over medium heat to caramelize.
Once the onions started turning brown, I added a couple of TB of sugar, let them carmalize a little more, than added the balsamic vinegar.

While the onions were carmelizing, I chopped up parsley and basil fresh from my herb garden. I tossed them in with the onions and balsamic vinegar until they wilted. I put the mixture to the side to cool while I mixed up the dough.

The dough was fast and easy to mix. Stir the flour, salt and yeast together, add the poolish and water. Mix for 7 minutes. I had to use the maximum amount of water plus 6 more TBs to get the dough to clear the sides but stick to the bottom as Peter describes in his book.
I poured the wet stretchy dough onto a generously floured table.
I pushed it out into a rectangle, floured the top and made the first stretch & fold. I let it rest for 30 minutes.
The book says to fold the onion mixture in at the second stretch & fold 1/4 at a time depending on how many loafs you were making... Ummm, so he's assuming the dough is divided into separate loaves already. Yet the instruction do not divide the dough into loaves until the shaping stage. What to do, what to do? I decided to divide the dough before the second fold and folded in the onion mixture. In the picture below, I have 1/4 of the onion mixture under the flap and 1/4 on top of the flap. I folded the last flap on top of the onions and let it rest 2 hours
Should I have waited to fold the other 1/4 of the onion mixture in at the last stretch and fold after the 2 hour rest? I have no idea.

One more stretch & folded and onto the couche they go. Don't they look cute?
It was a little tricky getting the dough to the pan after the proofing stage on the couche. Next time I will use parchment paper under the dough before putting them on the couche. Since they were so big I had to bake them separately. One loaf proofed for 45 minutes, the other for 65.
The finished loaf
A crumb shot

and another

This was very tasty and had a great chew.

What I learned:
  • Use more water for bigger holes
  • Use AP flour for bigger holes
  • brush excess flour from dough before stretching & folding
  • Use a parchment sheet before putting them on the couche
  • Cut the recipe in half

For your viewing pleasure, here's someone demonstrating making ciabatta with a different recipe.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

I'd like to thank the Academy....

Forgive me for being so cheeky. This is my very first blog award.

"You like me, you really like me"
LOL. Sorry, I just had to quote Sally Field.

This is so exciting for me!!! Okay, Okay, I'll calm down.

I have to say a special thank you to Patricia at ButterYum for presenting me with this awesome award! I really enjoy her blog and all the recipes she shares. I wish she was my neighbor! Yummo! Be sure to check out her blog for beautiful pictures, yummy recipes and to see her beautiful award.

As part of the award, I'm supposed to list 5 things I love, and pass this award on to 5 of my favorite blogs. (just 5? That's just so unfair!)

Aside from the usual top 3 favorite things - God, Rick and Family, Here are five things I love:

Playing card games with Family & Friends
I love the laughter & conversations that abound

Cinnamon Rolls
making them, eating them, smelling them. It's all good. :-D

I could bake all day. I love everything about it. But my absolute favorite part is sharing the baked goods with others.

My new DSLR camera
What would a blog be without one? Now I just have to learn how to use it.

I'm addicted. I've tried stopping many times but I haven't been successful yet. (I'll be blogging on roasting your own coffee soon. It's so easy. Did I mention I was addicted to it?)

Now it's time to pass this award on to my 5 favorite blogs that I really love (yes, they're all food blogs, what did you expect from someone who loves to bake?):

by Patricia
I don't know if I'm allowed to pick her since she gave me this award but she is one I'd choose. She loves God, has a great sense of humor, takes awesome pictures, and has great recipes. She's great with step by step pictures on how to do complex recipes.

by Heather

I love her quirky sense of humor, her writing style and the subjects she writes about. She is really down to earth and fun. She used to be a newspaper reporter but is now going to pastry school and blogging about it here

by Barbara

She likes taking a recipe and putting her own spin on it. I love that she shares what works and what doesn't in all the recipes she tries.

by Nicole

Nicole has a beautiful blog with fabulous photography, recipes and useful links at the end of each blog. She's also started the Bread Baker's Apprentice bake-off Challenge

The Other Side of Fifty
by Mags
Another wonderful baker and photographer with a great sense of humor.

If you 5 are too busy and don't have time to do all this crazy blog stuff, just enjoy the award and know your blog is wonderful and I have enjoyed meeting you and treasure your blogs and friendship in this blogging world!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Round Challah: BBA Challenge #6 with French Toast Recipe

This bread is a reminder of how God provided for the Israelites during their flight out of Egypt. The history is documented in Exodus, Chapter 16 starting at verse 4. The round shape symbolizes that the world has no beginning and no end. The sesame seed symbolizes the falling of manna from heaven. Covering the challah with a cloth as it is served at the sabbath meal represents the heavenly dew that protected the manna.
Round challahs are most traditionally used for the Jewish New Year, Rosh HaShanah.

This bread is simple to make. Mix the flour mixture with the egg mixture.

After two rises, divide the dough up in the number of stands you need for your braid.

I needed four stands. I divided the dough into four blobs weighing 204 grams each and shaped them into balls

I let the balls rest 10 minutes before rolling them into ropes

I created a tic-tac-toe form with the four ropes

Follow the directions located here for detailed explanation on creating this form

The top of the finished braid

The bottom of the finished braid

After the final rise, I glazed the dough with egg wash and added sesame seeds. One way to attach sesame seeds is to dip your thumb in water, then place you thumb into the seeds, then touch your thumb to the bread.

Here's the loaf ready to go into the oven

Finished loaf fresh from the oven

Sliced Challah.

Since I had it sliced, I made french toast for lunch using my Dad's recipe.

1 egg
1/4 cup of whole milk
splash of vanilla (~1/8 tsp)
sprinkling of cinnamon

Mix everything together.

Dip each side of the bread into egg mixture.

Fry on medium-high heat until brown.
Bon Apetite!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Black Chocolate Party Cake - Rose Levy Beranbaum Bake-off

German Chocolate Roulande
Rose released the BLAD of her new cookbook and our challenge for Father's Day was to cook one of her new recipes using it, the recipes from Marie's Blog, or the Angle food cake .
Many from the group were planning on making the Chocolate Party Cake so I decided I'd do something different with mine. I've never made a cake roll or a roulande so I decided to try it with this cake. This was all about learning after all. (The original cake is supposed to be baked in a bundt pan)

I collected all my ingredients and mixed them together and baked it in a 17 x 12 x 1 inch pan for 14 minutes.

I let the cake cool for 5-10 minutes then rolled it up in a silpat. While the roll was cooling I made Rose's German Chocolate Cake Filling
Then I unrolled the cake... uh, oh. I guess not all recipes are meant to be rolled. Or perhaps I should have used the chocolate syrup on the cake before rolling it up. I wasn't deterred. I spread the still warm filling on the cake, rolled it back up and placed it in the refrigerator overnight.

Hard to believe this was salvageable, eh?

I sliced the roll and syruped each side. It was a good cake before the syrup but the chocolate syrup really set the cake off.

I'll definitely make this cake again.. but maybe in the bundt pan as directed. :-)

This cake's taste is amazing as is the German chocolate filling. Definitely a winner.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Casatiello - BBA Challenge #5

My original plan was to have this bread baked and delivered to my husband's team for an afternoon snack yesterday. But with all the issues I ran into while making the Casatiello, it wasn't ready until lunch time today.

The first issue: the sponge was not real bubbly after the first hour. I waited another hour then proceeded mixing the bread.

Below is the dough after I kneaded in 5 oz of fried prosciutto and 8 oz of provolone cheese.
The second issue: the dough did not increase in size by 1 1/2 times. It was 2 inches short of the mark. I waited another 20 minutes, didn't detect any change, so I shaped the dough and put it in an 8"x3" spring form pan. Since I was running out of time, I placed it in the refrigerator to bake the following day.

Here the dough is ready for it's final rise. You can tell by the height of the collar, I was expecting a big rise. (the idea for using a collar came from At the Very Yeast)

I woke up at 2AM, took the dough out of the refrigerator and went back to bed.
Here it is at 6AM. It rose to the rim of the pan. Not what I would consider 1 1/2 times size increase but I baked it anyway.

I spritzed the top of the dough with water, placed 6 ice cubes in the iron skillet at the bottom of the oven, placed the pan on the pizza stone and closed the door.
The oven spring added another inch or so to the bread.
The last issue: It took 75 minutes to bake! The minimum cook time was 40 minutes and the center was only 90 degrees. After 50 minutes it was at 107, at 60 minutes it was at 136, and at 70 minutes it was at 167. (I tented the bread for the last 5 minutes.)

While delivering the bread to Rick's office today, something strange, sad, yet rewarding happened. As soon as I pulled up in front of Rick's office building, an old noisy car pulled up next to mine. Behind the wheel of the old car was a woman who appeared to be in her early to mid 30s. Children occupied the other seats of her old jalopy. She said they were living in the car and that she just needed something to feed her kids. She wasn't asking for money or for anything for herself but she needed to feed her babies. By the time she finished her story, my husband had stepped out of his office building. I quickly related her story to him. We both exchanged a knowing look, I handed him the bread and he gave it to her. You would have thought we gave her a million bucks. I am still in awe at God's timing. Had things gone as I had planned I would have missed it all. God knew what this lady needed and when she needed it. He took care of her immediate need and he allowed us to be a part of it. Rick returned to the office building empty handed but with a full heart and I smiled all the way home at God's perfect timing. I hope you'll join me in praying for this woman and the many others in her situation.
I have no idea how this tasted but I hope it was grand and that it blesses that woman and her children.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Making Your Own Vanilla Extract

Do you make your own vanilla? I didn't until last year. And WOW, is it ever good!

Most of the recipes I've found for making Vanilla use vodka or rum. When using a light colored alcohol, you get the satisfaction of watching the color change as it is transformed into vanilla extract. That's all fun and good but if you want truly awesome vanilla extract, use bourbon. It adds wonderful flavor to your recipes.

  1. Use six vanilla beans* per cup/8oz alcohol.
  2. Cut the vanilla beans in half lengthwise, leaving about 1 inch connected at one end.
  3. Put the beans into the bottle of alcohol and shake gently.
  4. Cover tightly and store in a cool, dark place for about 8 weeks, giving it a gentle shake about once a week.
*Using a variety of vanilla pods (Madagascar, Indonesia, Tahitian, Mexican) will produce a vanilla extract with a much more complex flavor and aroma. Try using Madagascar pods as a base, adding Tahitian and Mexican pods for additional flavor/fragrance notes.

Vanilla extract matures with age. I waited 5 or 6 months before I started using the bottle below.

**Shake vanilla bottle before each use. Small flecks of the vanilla pods will be in the vanilla extract - they provide additional flavor. They also appear as dark flecks in light-colored food, don’t shake the bottle if you don’t want the flecks to appear.

Other blog sites on making Vanilla Extract:,1713,146191-251198,00.html

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Brioche Cinnamon Rolls - BBA challenge #4

Week #4 in the BBA challenge and we are on page 123 of The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Brioche.
We had three choices Rich man's (87% butter to flour ratio), middle-class (50% butter to flour ration) and poor man's (23.5% butter to flour ratio) I chose the middle-class because in the commentary he states it's perfect for cinnamon rolls. Say no more. I LOVE cinnamon rolls.
The only problem I had with the dough is it kept climbing up the paddle trying to escape during the last 6 minutes of mixing.
I found it helpful to roll the dough out on parchment paper because I could use it to help roll the dough into a log after sprinkling it with the cinnamon sugar.

Cinnamon-Sugar Filling

3/4 cup dark brown sugar (packed, 5 1/4 ounces)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (1 3/4 ounces)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter , melted

Combine sugars, spices, and salt in small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon melted butter and stir with fork or fingers until mixture resembles wet sand.

I baked these at 375 for 20 minutes and frosted them with poured fondant.