Category: Bread

Adventures in Baking No. 38: Cinnamon Rolls!

Adventures in Baking No. 38: Cinnamon Rolls!

Cinnamon Rolls with a twist, of course. I had a few hours to myself on Monday and wanted to make a sweet bread. Then it hit me: cinnamon rolls!

Except I’d just made gingersnap dough, and goodness, the ginger had tasted amazing. Craving that gingery sharpness and some chocolaty sweetness, I decided to add both to my cinnamon rolls.

In short, I was improvising! Frankly, it was the most fun I’ve had baking in a long time – not that I’m implying that the other times I’ve baked weren’t fun. It’s just that improvising – having no idea what will happen – is more entertaining. I could end up with something delicious or something disgusting, and when I generally know what’s going to happen for most of my day, that uncertainty is a wonderful, exciting luxury.

So I mixed my ingredients together – out of order, of course, because I’m horrible at reading instructions – to form an enriched dough. Then I let it prove for about 90 minutes, keeping myself busy with making basic brownies while I waited.

Because I’d chopped the butter into the dough by hand rather than use the food processor (I hate the food processor), there were still little pieces of it in the dough.

Once it had proved, I pressed the dough out into a rectangle.

Now, here’s where I messed up – twice! First, I read the instructions wrong and thought I needed to slather the dough with 3/4 cup of softened butter, not the 3/4 of a stick that it specified. Second, I forgot the butter. I just left it out. I was so excited to add the cinnamon sugar and the ginger and the chocolate chips that I just forgot to add the butter. I didn’t even realize until I’d already rolled up the dough and pinched the seam, so I couldn’t even fix my mistake!

My filled dough – it was smothered in cinnamon, ginger, cocoa powder, chocolate chips, and sugar!

I really freaked out at first, because I thought I’d left out 1 1/2 sticks of butter. I relaxed a little when I reread the directions and saw that I’d only left out 3/4 of a stick of butter – but I only relaxed a little. That’s still a sizable amount of butter I forgot!

Alas, I forged ahead. I figured it’d probably still be okay, so I formed the dough into a ring and let it prove. This was NOT the shaping instruction provided by the recipe, but I decided I didn’t care and wanted to make a wreath rather than individual rolls.

really improvised on this one.

After another 90-minute rise, I slashed the dough at semi-regular intervals and twisted to separate the segments.

My slash-and-twist technique only kind of worked; some portions were still kind of flattish.

Then I baked it for 40 minutes. Afterwards, I realized I should have given the wreath an egg wash to get a nice brown sheen; however, the bread still looked pretty festive (despite the chocolate leaking out the sides).

My filling really oozed out of the bread while it baked, but it was still tasty!

I improvised a glaze while the bread was baking out of powdered sugar, water, meringue powder, and vanilla, and once the bread was cool enough I piped it messily across the top! I was actually pretty proud, because the bread looked fancy! (Which, as everyone knows, is highly unusual for me.)

IMG_1703 (1)
I just kind of drizzled it all across the slashed parts in a haphazard fashion, and it came out looking okay! I call that a win.

When I cut into the bread, it had a nice crumb and beautiful swirls of filling.

My bread had nice swirls and a soft crumb (with airholes!).

Plus, my filling tasted amazing: the ginger and chocolate went really well together and added wonderfully contrasting notes of sharpness, spiciness, and sweetness. I will definitely improvise a variant of this again!

Adventures in Baking No. 34: Honey Spelt Bread!

Adventures in Baking No. 34: Honey Spelt Bread!

Recently my sister gifted me a (fabulous) new cookbook: America’s Test Kitchen’s Bread Illustrated! All of the recipes look amazing (and are beautifully illustrated with wonderfully informative pictures), but one in particular caught my eye yesterday – Honey Spelt Bread! This was because I picked up some spelt flour in the store a month or two ago, and I’ve been searching for an occasion to use it – here was my chance! Who doesn’t like spelt and honey?

(On an unrelated side note: apparently, if you run out of light corn syrup because you’re awful at restocking your baking supply cabinet, you can substitute honey in its place! I’ve been using honey for the past week, and honey tastes even better in baked goods than corn syrup does, and I totally recommend using this substitute!)

First, I soaked my spelt flour in water overnight. The recipe called for whole spelt berries but also allowed for the substitution of spelt flour. So, I rolled with it, weighed out my ingredients, and combined them in a bowl before letting them sit at room temperature until the next morning.

When I quietly padded into my kitchen the following morning, I made my sponge out of bread flour, yeast, and water. Then I let it rise for the next 5 hours and 40-something minutes before I became impatient and proceeded with the recipe. (America’s Test Kitchen had specified letting it rise for 6 hours, but honestly, how much was 20 minutes going to affect the rise?)

My sponge rose beautifully! (Side note: doesn’t it look like pumice?)

Next, I mixed the sponge, spelt flour, and the rest of the ingredients together to form my dough.

I mixed my spelt flour into the ingredients by hand. It was very sticky work.

I was supposed to knead it in a stand mixer with a dough hook; however, my infirm mixer lacks a dough hook and (frankly) probably couldn’t handle the dough anyway, so I kneaded it by hand.

This turned out to be a TERRIBLE experience. The dough was a sticky batter; it was like trying to knead brown slime – similar to that kind you make at home or at school for science experiments, with the glue and the fun colors.

My dough was so sticky as to leave HUGE spots on my table!

Except no fun colors could be found here; there was only frustratingly goop-y dough.

I think I kneaded it for 20 minutes (without adding flour; I didn’t dare to add more for fear it would change the chemistry of the bread), and NOTHING CHANGED. I mean, the texture was the exact same – no smooth, elastic dough resulted. It was supremely annoying. Eventually I just called it a day and let it prove.

Then I shaped the bread into a loaf, following the cookbook’s mildly weird shaping instructions, and let it rise again before slashing the top and baking for 40 minutes.

The loaf was supposed to be a diamond-shaped cob; surprisingly, my version was only mildly misshapen compared to the pictures!

(On the subject of slashes: I tried out a fun, decorative pattern after reading a recent email of King Arthur Flour’s, and I think it turned out pretty well! If any of you (my lovely readers) decide to make bread, go find a fun way to decorate your bread! You won’t regret it.)

By the way, the instructions for baking were weird. I mean, I was supposed to put my lava rocks in the oven while it preheated and pour my boiling water into my lava rocks instead of into a pan.

Key word: lava rocks. Who the heck just has LAVA ROCKS in their kitchen? I mean, seriously? I want to know! Who just has lava rocks sitting around?

I know I don’t, or else I wouldn’t be baking – I’d be seeing what cool things I could do with lava rocks.

The inside of my bread had an irregular, semi-open crumb, so I call this venture a success!

Anyway, the crust was nearly burned when I took it the bread out of the oven, which was my fault for walking away and failing to check how brown the crust was around the thirty-minute mark. However, the crumb was wonderful, the shape was fine, and it tasted great! I probably won’t make this again anytime soon (at least, not until I get a dough hook), but I recommend getting this cookbook!

Baking Chronicle No. 29: Pane Bianco!

Baking Chronicle No. 29: Pane Bianco!

“Pan-ay whats-it?” was my first reaction when I read this recipe on King Arthur Flour’s website. (According to Google Translate, it means white bread in Italian.) But after reading it, this recipe (found here) looked too fantastic to pass up.

Basically, the recipe is an enriched bread filled with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, and cheese (I used Parmesan, because I use Parmesan whenever possible). The fun part comes in shaping (I mean, who doesn’t love that infinity shape?!?), but the bread tasted fantastic, too, and I would totally make it again.

First, I made the dough. I combined the flour, yeast, salt, and water with the other ingredients (most notably the egg and the milk, which make the dough enriched). The instructions said the dough should be soft and smooth – which it wasn’t.

My dough wasn’t really coming together that nicely, so I added a little more liquid to make a softer dough.

So, I decided to trust my instincts and add a little more water. Then I kneaded it some more and let the mix rise for 3 hours (but a substantial amount of that time was spent in the refrigerator, in order to slow the rise while I ran errands). After that, I flattened the dough (which hadn’t really risen much) into a ginormous rectangle and gathered together my filling.

I flattened my dough into a large and extremely uneven rectangle. (Who really needs rulers or tape measures, right?)

Next came the super-fun part: filling and shaping! I drained the tomatoes (they were packaged in oil), washed and chopped the basil, and spread them across the dough. Then I sprinkled garlic and cheese on top and rolled up the rectangle into a log.

My filling, spread haphazardly across the dough

Afterwards, I cut the log down the middle and shaped it into a loose “S” before folding the ends underneath the center, pinching the bottom seam, and letting the bread prove for another hour.

This is probably the most fun I’ve had shaping bread. It’s just such an interesting shape!

After that, all I had to do was bake! I preheated the oven, transferred the dough onto a baking sheet, and popped the Pane Bianco inside. Once it had baked for 45 minutes (it was a little light in color, so I baked it for longer than the recommended time) and cooled for 10, I cut inside:

FullSizeRender (4)
My bread had a nice crumb structure and an awesome marbled inside!

It looked beautiful! I really loved the pockets of ingredients and the fun colors. The bread tasted great, too – cheesy, soft, and with a nice flavor from the blend of tomatoes and basil. I really enjoyed this bake!

(It’s the 29th baking post, and I still have no sign-off. Ideas? (In case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m in desperate need of assistance.))

Baking Chronicle No. 27: Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels

Baking Chronicle No. 27: Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels

So last night Sophronia and I decided to make soft pretzels using King Arthur Flour’s Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels Recipe! (Here is the link.)

Basically my entire household plus Sophronia ADORES soft pretzels, and on top of that, the recipe only takes two hours to make, so we were sold. (Our other option was to make French bread, and we really didn’t want to wait five hours to eat.)

First we made the dough – we combined our flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and warm water in a bowl and mixed the ingredients by hand. Then we kneaded the dough until smooth and elastic before letting it rest for 30 minutes.

While the dough rested, we prepared the baking soda bath.

(Okay, you may be thinking to yourself: Baking soda bath? What? But the truth is, bathing pretzels in baking soda and water for 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on the water temperature, gives the pretzels their nice, shiny brown color once they’re baked!)

The fizzy baking soda bath! I’ll look up why it fizzes and get back to you

Boiling some water, we added baking soda and watched it fizz (chemistry!) before turning off the heat and letting the mixture cool. After the dough had proved for long enough, we shaped the dough into pretzel balls (who doesn’t love pretzel bites!) and bathed each bite in the bath for 1 minute and 30 seconds.

The proved dough, right before it was shaped

Next, we rested the dough for 10 minutes before sprinkling with salt and baking at 475 (475!) degrees Fahrenheit for 7 minutes. Then we brushed the pretzels with 3 tablespoons of melted butter and popped them into our mouths straight from the oven.

The finished pretzels, fresh out of the oven! I nearly dropped the pan because it was so hot, even through the oven mitt!

The pretzels were exactly like the article described – ethereal! They tasted AMAZING; they were beautifully soft, salty, buttery, and delicious! I am definitely going to make this recipe again and I highly recommend this recipe!

(I mean, seriously: fast AND scrumptious? It’s begging to be baked!)




Baking Chronicle No. 25: Chocolate-Hazelnut Brioche Buns!

Baking Chronicle No. 25: Chocolate-Hazelnut Brioche Buns!

After my long hiatus, I’m back with an awesome (and tasty) experiment of mine, Chocolate-Hazelnut Brioche Buns!

My basic thought process was that I wanted to try making brioche, and I needed to use the hazelnuts in my pantry. To finish, I just added chocolate (for obvious reasons), and this post’s bake was born!

First, I made the brioche recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Bake Everything. Brioche, an enriched French bread, was pretty easy to make. Basically, I combined all of my ingredients (by hand, since I have a permanent grudge against my food processor) and proved the dough. The one notable difference from other breads I’ve made, though, was the presence of three (three!) eggs and almost one whole stick of butter!

My brioche dough, dotted with butter!

Next, I chopped and toasted my hazelnuts and mixed them with chocolate chips to create the center of my buns. Then, after my dough proved for about three hours, I shaped the dough into 12 rolls. (In hindsight, I should have made 16, as directed, but I really didn’t want to clean the other muffin pan, so I just made 12 really large buns.) Flattening the dough, I filled the centers with hazelnuts and chocolate, folded the edges over, and pinched the seams closed. Then I let my brioche rise for another hour!

One of my rolls right before I finished shaping them. My dough was wet, so I had to use a lot of flour to handle it!

The one step I almost forgot was egg-washing the buns. (Egg washes give bread a nice, shiny crust.) I remembered, though (thank goodness for reading the directions!), and separated an egg before mixing the yolk with some milk. Next, I brushed my buns with the mixture before baking for about 25 minutes.

My buns REALLY rose right before I baked them!

Half-way through the bake, the kitchen already smelled AMAZING (which, as all bakers know, is a really good sign). I couldn’t wait to try one! After ensuring that my brioche was baked by tapping the bottom, I took them out of the muffin pan and let them cool for about 10 minutes before cutting one open.

My middle held together! I was really happy about it, because I wasn’t really sure it would work!

My brioche had wonderful air holes, a rich taste, and (shockingly) a center that held together! There were no gaps in the crumb structure, and the chocolate tasted magical in the middle of the delicious bread. The hazelnuts added a nice crunch, but probably should have been toasted for longer than two minutes!

Overall, this bake was successful! I will definitely make brioche again in the future (but perhaps not with semi-raw hazelnuts)!


Adventures in Baking No. 24: Baguette!

Adventures in Baking No. 24: Baguette!

On Thursday I made another foray into the world of bread-making when I baked the baguette recipe from How to Bake Everything!

Baguette is one of my favorite breads. If I’m honest, I could probably devour an entire baguette by myself – I just love the soft crumb and the crunchy crust. So I really wanted this bake to taste good, because nothing is better than a great loaf of bread.

First, I combined my yeast, salt, flour, and water to make the dough before letting the mixture rise. After a three-hour-long first prove, I shaped the dough into two baguettes, slashed them, and formed a makeshift couche for the baguettes to rest upon.

File_002 (20)
My dough as it proved

(Couche is a French word that means “bed”. In baking, it refers to a cloth that’s shaped in such a way that allows baguettes to hold their long, skinny shape as they prove.)

File_003 (18)
My shaped and slashed baguettes rising inside my makeshift couche (also known as an apron!)

Forty minutes later, I preheated my oven to 465 (!!!) degrees Fahrenheit. (Why the exclamation points? Because 465 degrees is unusually and extremely hot for an oven!) Then I carefully transferred my baguettes onto a pan and baked them (with steam, of course) for 20 minutes.

When I took the baguettes out, they were a beautiful golden brown color, but the color on the bottom was a bit pale. The thermometer, however, declared them finished when it read their internal temperature as 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and after letting them cool, I tried a piece.

File_001 (22)
My baked baguettes, fresh out of the oven. The stick inside the far baguette is my thermometer 🙂

The bread was wonderfully soft inside, with a strong, crunchy crust. There were beautiful air holes and a good crumb structure. The only problem was the taste – for me, it was a bit too bland (I think I didn’t add enough salt). I made an herb butter to go with it, which made the baguette taste sublime, but I really wish I’d added dried rosemary or basil into the bread itself. I will definitely make baguettes again, though, so next time I’ll experiment with flavors!

Baking Chronicle No. 19: Orange and White Chocolate Golden Bread Buns!

Baking Chronicle No. 19: Orange and White Chocolate Golden Bread Buns!

First, that’s way too long of a name for a dressed-up bread roll. I’ll come up with something better if I make it again.

Second, I made these yesterday because…I felt like it! The best reason to bake anything!

Basically, I remembered that people had paired orange and white chocolate together on The Great British Baking Show (specifically, I recalled Ruby’s peacock from Bread Week in Series 2), and I decided that I’d make an orange and white chocolate bread! Then, because I wanted to make smaller portions, I made rolls!

To begin, I made the Rich Golden Bread recipe from How to Bake Everything (with the added orange flavor guesstimated by yours truly) – I combined my flour, yeast, salt, sugar, eggs, orange zest, orange extract, cold butter, and warm milk to make a cohesive dough. Then I kneaded it for about 2 or 3 minutes, until it came together, and let it prove for 3 hours (two of which my dough spent in the refrigerator).

File_006 (4)
My dough before the first prove

Next, I divided the dough into twelve roughly equal balls and let rise for another twenty minutes. In the twenty-minute gap, I melted my white chocolate and refrigerated it until it was cold but still in liquid form.

To finish shaping, I rolled my balls out into circles, dolloped some white chocolate in the middle, and folded the edges to the center and pinched the seam to form a roll!

File_005 (6)
My shaped rolls

Finally, my bread moved onto its second prove (I let it rise for about 75 minutes, until it held my fingerprint when I poked it) and then I baked it after brushing each roll with an egg-white wash!

File_004 (10)
My rolls just before I popped them in the oven!

(I used egg whites because I had leftover egg whites in my refrigerator and I really didn’t feel like making meringues.)

I baked them for approximately 25 minutes, until the crust was golden brown and the internal temperature of the rolls reached 210 degrees Fahrenheit (as specified by the recipe).

File_003 (13)
The baked rolls

Then I free-styled an orange glaze using orange extract, milk, powdered sugar, and meringue powder; I spread it onto my rolls after they’d cooled for approximately 10 minutes.

File_002 (16)
My orange glaze! Which, miraculously, dried into a hard-crack glaze – thanks, meringue powder!

At long last, I could try a roll! I tore one open and saw a beautiful crumb with flecks of orange and a large space where the white chocolate had melted into the bread. I didn’t mind, though – the white chocolate taste was still apparent, and so was the orange! The two flavors were subtle and mild, but delicious, and I definitely enjoyed eating my rolls!

File_001 (18)
I tore open a roll and felt extremely pleased with the bake!