Saturday, October 24, 2009

So Simple Pitas

These are truly delicious and easy to make. One little tip, after you take them out of the oven, do leave them wrapped in the tinfoil so they stay flexible as the air leaves them. It takes over half an hour. I did my pitas on a stone the second time and actually found that more convenient. I still put them in tinfoil when I took them out oh the oven. I stole the recipe from Group Recipes and it goes like this:
  • 2-1/2 cups bread flour (I used Heartland Mill Organic Strong High-Gluten), plus more for sprinkling while kneading & rolling out dough
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water (105-110 degrees)

  1. 8 8-inch squares of aluminum foil for baking pitas
  2. In a large bowl combine 1 cup flour with the salt, sugar, and yeast. Add the oil and water.
  3. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for three minutes, then stir in the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time.
  4. The dough should be a rough, shaggy mass that will clean the sides of the bowl.
  5. If the dough is moist, add a small amount of additional flour.
  6. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 6 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
  8. Divide the dough into 8 pieces.
  9. I patted the dough into a circle and used my metal dough scraper to quickly and evenly cut it into eighths (as if cutting up a pie).
  10. Roll into balls, dust lightly with flour, and cover with a damp tea towel. Let rest for 30 minutes.
  11. Use the palm of your hand to flatten each ball into a disk. Finish with a rolling pin, flattening the dough into a disk about 6" in diameter and 3/16" thick. Their thinness is more important than making them perfectly round.
  12. Place each round on a square of foil, and carefully place 3 or 4 of the rounds directly on the oven rack. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes, or until they are puffed.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Rustic Bread

This is a truly yummy bread, especially right out of the oven. It is a fair amount of work but the results are very impressive. This is another one of my shameless steals from the Fresh Loaf.

Here is the recipe

Makes 2 large loaves

1 lb. bread flour (3 1/2 cups)
9.5 oz. water (1 1/4 cups)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

Final dough:
10 oz. bread flour (2 1/2 cups)
6 oz. whole wheat or rye flour or a mixture of them (around 1 1/2 cups)
12.5 oz. water (1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
all of the preferment

Put the yeast in the water and stir. Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl and pour in the yeasted water. Mix until the flour is hydrated, adding more water if necessary. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave the pre-ferment out at room temperature overnight (up to 16 hours... if you need more time before baking put it in the refrigerator).

To make the final dough, combine all of the ingredients except the pre-ferment in a mixing bowl. Chop the pre-ferment up into small pieces and mix or knead it into the final dough until they are thoroughly combined. This is quite difficult to do by hand: Hamelman assumes the baker has a mixer and can mix it for 5 minutes by machine. I mix and knead my dough by hand for about 10 minutes. At the end of that time the new and old dough aren't perfectly combined-- you can still see a few streaks of the lighter colored pre-ferment in it-- but they are sufficiently combined that loaves bake evenly.

Place the dough back in a greased bowl and ferment for 2 1/2 hours, punching down or folding the dough twice during that time.

(Folding the dough consists of taking the dough out of the bowl, spreading it out a little on a clean surface, folding it in thirds like a letter, rotating it 90 degrees and folding it up again, and then returning the dough to the bowl and covering it again. Like punching down, folding degases the dough some, but it also encourages gluten development. More on this topic in a future post.)

At the end of the fermentation, divide the dough into two pieces and preshape each into a ball. Cover with a clean towel and let each rest for 5 to 10 minutes before shaping into the final shape. Once shaped, cover the loaves with a clean towel and set aside for a final rise, approximately 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours.

Halfway though the final rise, begin preheating the oven to 450 degrees. If you are using a baking stone, preheat it as well.

Right before placing it in the oven, score the loaves. Place them in the oven and use whatever technique you use to create stream in the oven (squirt bottle, skillet full of hot water, etc) to encourage proper crust development.

After 20 minutes of baking, rotate the loaves 180 degrees so that they'll bake evenly. Bake until an instant read thermometer reads around 200 degrees, which took approximately 35 minutes for my batard ("football") shaped loaves.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Buttermilk Cluster

It's "Soup Day", the day before Thanksgiving when we get together with a great group of friends for a nice fall hike and some awesome soup. It is traditionally the last outdoor meal of the season and it is always a great time with excellent food. This year I am contributing bread to the cause, including these great little rolls.
These little guys are great with soup or stew, They are a little spongie for soaking up liquid or sauces. The recipe is a straight steal I have to admit, from a site called the Fresh Loaf. Here it is:

Buttermilk Cluster
Makes 12 to 18 rolls, depending on size
6 to 6 1/2 cups (750 grams) bread or all-purpose unbleached flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 envelope (2 1/2 teaspoons) active dry or instant yeast, or 1 15 gram cake fresh yeast
1 tablespoon warm water
1 3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon honey

1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

1-2 tablespoons seeds (poppy, sesame) or grains (cracked wheat, rolled oats)

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Combine the warm water and yeast in a small cup and allow to proof for 10 minutes.

Pour the yeast, buttermilk, and honey into the flour mixture and mix well. If the dough is so dry that some of the flour won't stick, add a bit more buttermilk or water. If the dough is too sticky to knead, more like a batter, add more flour by the tablespoon until the correct consistency is achieved.

Knead by machine or hand for approximately 10 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp cloth, and set aside to rise until the dough has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 to 18 pieces. If you are a stickler you can scale them so that they are even, but I just cut them roughly the same size. Shape each piece into a neat ball and place in a round dish or spring-form pan close together.

When all of the rolls are in the pan, cover again with plastic or a damp towel and set aside to rise again for 45 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425.

Uncover the rolls and brush gently with the egg wash. Sprinkle on the grain topping, if you like. I used cracked wheat, but it may be a little too hard after baking.

Cook for about 30 minutes or until 200 degrees inside.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hamburger Buns

I have been travelling a bit so have fallen off the pace. I'll catch up next weekend. Two weeks ago we had friends over for a burger bar party that my wife concocted. She wanted to have homemade hamburger buns small enough for "sliders", those little burgers that are becoming popular. So I gave it a try and here are the results. I am off to Newfoundland in just a couple of minutes so will post the recipe when I get home. They are very easy and fun to make.