Category: baking

Light “Wheat” Bread


As part of my new found hobby of baking (and the BBA Challenge), I’m trying not to buy store bought bread.  Since I had finally used up all the polenta (so couldn’t make the Anadama Bread), I decided to knock off another formula in the BBA Challenge.


When planning to make the Light Wheat Bread, I decided to get a little adventurous however.  I had a bunch of mesquite flour left over from the Mesquite Chocolate Chip cookies (due to a mistake by the mesquite flour company).  I figured I’d replace the Whole Wheat flour in the formula with mesquite flour.  Other than that, this formula is a pretty typical sandwich bread recipe.  Its actually pretty similar to what my grandpa used to make in his bread machine.  In addition to the usual suspects of flour, yeast, and water the bread has dry milk and honey (or sugar) to enrich the dough.  The mesquite flour gave the bread a very distinct aroma and taste.  I used a local sage honey as my sweetener which complemented the mesquite flour quite nicely.  The bread definitely had an sweet earthy flavor thanks to the mesquite.  It was also denser than I suspect the loaf would have been with whole wheat flour.   I don’t think it took anything away from the bread though.  It was a fun experiment.

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My current KCRW cookbook club selection is The Southern Italian Table by Arthur Schwartz.  While reading through the book after it arrived, I decided I’d take a stab at a sauce that was a fusion of Southern Italian and Spanish/Mexican cuisine.  A ragu with chocolate.  Since I knew I’d be making pasta, I decided it was time to take on Ciabatta in the BBA Challenge.

For the Ciabatta, I started with a poolish the night before.  This would form the basis of the dough the next day.  This is a fairly wet dough, so it can be a little sticky, but it was still pretty easy to work.  I ended up making 3 loaves, though because I only have a round pizza stone, I ended up baking two loaves first, and the last loaf by itself.  This actually worked out pretty well, as I accidentally degassed one loaf while shaping and the extra proofing time allowed it to get back up to a similar size as the other loaves.


All in all, I was pretty pleased on how the loaves turned out.  The crust had a nice golden touch to it, and the bread had good structure on the inside.   My girlfriend and co-workers all really enjoyed it.  It was a perfect compliment to the meal below:


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When I mentioned to folks at work that I was planning on making bagels a few weeks ago, I got a look like I was going to try to reinvent the wheel.  Of course they all wanted to try them as well.

The “classic” bagel, made most famous by the Jewish bakers of NYC, is boiled for a short time before baking.  The BBA bagel formula takes this style of bagel as its inspiration and adds a sponge to get the fermentation process going earlier.  Like most of the formulas in the BBA, this is a 2 day process.  Unlike the other 2 day breads I’ve made so far, you get to do most of the work on day 1 for the bagels.

The bagel dough is very stiff, so stiff that the formula recommends mixing and kneading by hand (so as not to endanger your stand mixer).  That of course is a non-issue for me as I don’t have a stand mixer to use anyway.  After mixing up the dough, you actually get to shape the bagels before putting them in the refrigerator overnight to retard

On day 2 its time to boil and bake the bagels.  I boiled 3 bagels at a time for a minute on each side.  After I had boiled enough to fill a sheet pan, I placed them in the oven per the instructions.  I think for my oven, I needed to bake them longer than I ended up doing.  My bagels didn’t get that nice golden brown color on the top.  They were fully baked through the inside however.  I sampled my first bagel when it was still slightly warm and it was good.  However, the texture and the flavor of these were much better after they had fully cooled.

Oh and those folks at work?  They liked the homemade bagels.

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Italian Bread


Diving back into the BBA Challenge, I started a biga on Monday night.  This was the only one of the 3 pre-ferments in the BBA that I had not used yet.  As this is an Italian style pre-ferment, I chose to make the Italian Bread.

Italian Bread is similar to a French Bread, but with a few extra ingredients.  This dough is enriched with oil, sugar, and dry malt extract (which I happened to have due to my trip to the home brew supply store for beer ingredients last weekend).

As always, I kneaded by hand.  I’m really starting to want to take a class on breadmaking.  I feel like I’m always adding a bunch of extra flour to my dough to get to a tacky but not sticky dough.  I also don’t think I’m always passing the “window pane” test.  I do get a little window pane…but it also tears pretty easily as well.  The dough was within the right temperature range when I left it to ferment.  The other reason I’d like to take a class, is to work on my shaping.  One of these loaves ended up pretty close to what it was supposed to look like, but the other i didn’t quite get my edge sealed so I had a little edge on one side of the loaf.


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French Bread

French Baguettes
French baguettes are going to take some practice.  While the bread tastes fine, it doesn’t have the gassy texture you should have with a good baguette.  Also my scoring lines were apparently not deep enough, as the bread didn’t crack on them.  This however my first attempt at hearth style baking in my oven.  I cooked these on my pre-heated round pizza stone, which is why two of the loaves are shorter than the third.  Maybe the next time I attempt this formula, I’ll have a rectangular stone, so all three loaves can be equal.

French Baguette

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Kaiser Rolls

Bison Burger on Kaiser Roll

My journey through the Bread Baker’s Apprentice continues with Kaiser Rolls (inspired by the pictures of Pinch My Salt and What We’re Eating’s Pulled Pork on Kaiser Rolls).  I considered substituting brown sugar (per the advice of Pinch My Salt) as I was having a hard time finding barley extract powder or barley malt syrup at the store.  When I found it, I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend $5.99 on a 16oz jar of which I only needed 1 1/2 teaspoons of.  But in the end I decided to splurge and get it (figuring I could use it the next time I make the Anadama Bread for instance).

My second bump in the road making these rolls, was that I didn’t have a spray bottle.  This was needed both for creating a little steam in the oven at the beginning of baking and for putting on the seeds on the tops of the rolls.  I ended up using flax seeds instead of the more traditional sesame or poppy seeds.  They fell off the finished rolls easier than I think the sesame or poppy seeds would have, but they still tasted good.

Kaiser Roll

I made these in mind of using for buns for bison burgers.  To match the size of the rolls, I made my patties a little smaller than normal, between a “slider” sized patty and a regular sized patty.  The burgers were kept pretty simple with a single slice of provolone and a piece of lettuce.  They definitely made a tasty MLKjr Day dinner.

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Anadama Bread

Anadama Bread
This bread is described by Peter Reinhart as one of the great New England breads.  The story he relates to the name of the bread is the story of a man who’s wife has left him, leaving behind only a pot of cornmeal mush and some molasses.  He mixes that together along with some yeast and flour and mutters “Anna, damn ‘er!”  It later gets amended to the more genteel “anadama”

For this bread, I used agave syrup instead of the molasses (I had the agave syrup and not the molasses).  It made for very nice sandwich bread, I had roast beef and provolone sandwiches for my lunch for a couple days with this bread.  The next time I make this bread, I think I’ll replace the molasses with the barley syrup I bought for the next bread I’ll be posting about.

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Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies
I’ve had the Super Natural Cooking cookbook by Heidi Swanson (of 101 Cookbooks) for a few years now.  One of the recipes that I marked right away was this cookie recipe.  The only thing holding up a batch of these cookies however was getting some Mesquite flour.  Mesquite flour is made from the pods of the Mesquite (not the wood) which is ground up into a flour or meal.  Of course in the book there are resources on where to order it online, but I never got around to doing that.

This year, as part of my Christmas present, my girlfriend gave me a half pound of Mesquite flour from the Arizona Mesquite Company.  So it was finally time to make the cookies.  Baking with the mesquite flour was fun.  The flour is very aromatic, and while its only a fraction of the flour in these cookies, you can definitely smell its there.  There was one casualty while baking these cookies though.  Breaking from my normal routine of only mixing by hand, I pulled out the electric hand mixer.  Just as I was about done mixing there was a spark and smoke from the inside of the mixer.  The mixer alas had mixed its last.  I guess that’s what I get for trying to use technology while baking.  In the end it was worth it though…these cookies were quite good.
Mesquite Chocolate Chip Cookies

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No-Knead Bread

In the midst of starting to bake through the recipes of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice, I received my second KCRW Cookbook Club Selection, My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method by Jim Lahey.  As I was planning on getting my dutch oven out of storage in Oregon anyway, the bread that inspired this cookbook was very enticing.

I actually ended up making this bread twice before I was satisfied with it enough to post pictures of it.  The first time I made it, I used the same flour I mentioned in my focaccia post, a freshly ground hard red wheat.  I think there were a couple of factors contributing to that bread not turning out as well as I’d have liked.  First, I probably needed a little bit more water in the dough to let the yeast fully do its stuff.  The other problem, the temperature of my parents house.  My parents have one of those fancy programmable  thermostats, and as there isn’t normally anyone home during the day on weekdays, it was set somewhere in the 60s.  This also being a house I’ve never lived in, I didn’t know where the thermostat was to bump it up to a more normal temperature.  That loaf of bread ended up tasting ok, but it was a little dense and smaller than I expected.

Upon returning to LA, I had to try again, this time using actual bread flour instead of the fresh ground red wheat.  The dough definitely ended up doing a better job of fermenting this time and the size while still a little smaller than I expected was better as well.  I also didn’t get it quite shaped in a perfect round, so it looks a little like a waning moon.


After cutting into the bread, I was quite pleased to find the nice gaseous holes that were supposed to be there (and weren’t really there in my first attempt with the hard red wheat).


The bread wasn’t quite as tall as I expected it to be, but when I went back and looked at the pictures in the book, it was pretty comparable to the loaf there.  I was quite happy with the results (and it was wonderful dipped in the Roasted Garlic Rosemary Dipping Oil from the Olive Pit).

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Since I figured I’d have some spare time, I brought my copy of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice with me while visiting my parents over Christmas.  On the drive up to Oregon from LA, a stop in Corning at the Olive Pit inspired my third bread from BBA.  (That and the memory of Nicole’s focaccia.)  The Olive Pit’s Roasted Garlic Rosemary Dipping Oil was just perfect for the herbed oil called for in the recipe.

When I hit up the local grocery store (Market of Choice) to get some bread flour, I discovered something I’d never seen before.  In the bulk section, they had a machine full of wheat berries that would be freshly ground into flour.  Pretty much exactly like the more common fresh peanut butter machines, just for flour.  So I got a bag and set into filling it with around 4 pounds of freshly ground hard red wheat flour.

This was another two day bread, that started with making a poolish.  The poolish is a starter that you allow to ferment ahead of time to get nice start on long strands of gluten.  Because I was using whole wheat flour, without any of the normal bread flour additions, I gave my poolish a little more time than normal.  It also probably could have used a little more water for the yeast to work with.  Nonetheless, the bread ended up turning out pretty good.  It might have been a little denser then it would have been if I had used bread flour, but it was a big hit with the family.

just out of the oven

cut and ready to eat

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