Posts Tagged ‘bread’

To Your Health

100% Whole Wheat

Bread class this week was a trip down a path a little more ascetic than usual, with a pair of 100% whole wheat loaves and a double of compact spelt ones to keep them company.

Even though the 100% whole wheat was quite dense, the addition of vital wheat gluten helped to make it relatively springy, though nowhere near the unnatural bounciness of a loaf of one of those grocery store spotted foil bag wheat breads.


The spelt, on the other hand, never really rose up much, but its flavour is peerless.  I’m envisioning using the second flat loaf for a round of hors d’oeuvres crostini, since the first one went to work with the Everyman and a few jars of jam.

One of the things that I’ve been able to do since I started taking bread classes again is to build up quite a reserve of fancy loaves in our freezer.  At this very moment I have 5 or 6 ready to spring into action, and all they need is 10 minutes in a 350* oven to make them taste just like new.  It’s the dirty little secret of the bread baker’s world, but bread tends to be frozen a lot more often than you’d think.


Bread Porn 2.0

I know.  It’s been a long time.  I shouldn’t have left you without a few eats to tempt you.

So, how’ve you been?

Me?  I’ve been swell, if more than a little tired as of late.

It occurred to me that perhaps it’s about time to share with you what I’ve been up to these past 10 weeks…

As I think I mentioned the last time I stopped by, I’ve been in school.  What I didn’t say was that I’ve been working towards my artisan baker’s certificate!  I’m doing this on top of my boring day job, and after a week or two, I began to wonder how so many people manage to do this without burning out or breaking down.  Needless to say, I was on the cusp of both of those options for a while, but, as the weeks have passed, I’ve slowly but surely been working my way into a routine and now it’s almost getting to feel normal.

Allow me to take you through a retrospective of the delicious things I’ve churned out over the past 10 weeks;


Mana’ From Rana


Though I’d heard of the middle eastern spice mix za’atar many times before, it wasn’t until earlier this year that I truly started to see its potential.

Za’atar is a blend of spices generally comprised of sumac, toasted sesame seeds, thyme, cumin and salt, though recipes differ depending on where in the middle east they come from. Back when I was reviewing Good Food For All for Taste T.O. one of the dishes I sampled was a za’atar-spiked chicken burger, which (incidentally was fantastic) left me with a cupful of the blend to continue using afterwards.

But as much as I enjoyed using za’atar in western preparations, it wasn’t until a Lebanese friend educated me about her culture and food that I learned some of the ways that they would use it traditionally.  One afternoon when we ordered food from a Lebanese restaurant, I fell head over heels in love with a flatbread-like object called manakeesh.  Slathered with labneh and sprinkled with za’atar, it was a doughy delight unlike any I’d ever tasted before, sort of like a cross between a pizza and a toasted bagel slathered with cream cheese.  Ever since that moment I have craved these za’atar and labneh manakeesh on nearly a weekly basis, but the restaurant is a fair distance from my house.

But on Meatless Monday this week I decided I wanted to make something to accompany our asparagus, fig and parmagiano salad, and I happened to have a ball of my frozen pizza dough on hand, so I thawed it out and stretched it into a large round.  It didn’t take long to connect the dots and add the strained yogurt that I normally eat for breakfast and a liberal amount of za’atar to the unbaked pie.  A quick rest in the oven was all it took for it to get puffy and golden brown.  It wasn’t a purist’s manakeesh by any stretch of the imagination, but man, it was still freakin’ gold.

I think Rana would be proud.


The Unsung Hero Of Saturday Morning Breakfasts Of Yore


There are a lot of things I don’t remember about my childhood.

The names of favourite candies, toys, friends and places, etc elude me, owing (I assume) to me having blocked out a fair number of memories after my parents got divorced.  Or maybe they just weren’t worth remembering… who can say?

At any rate, one thing I do remember is learning to make galette.  The provenance of said recipe is debatable depending on whether you ask me or my dad.  I seem to recall being gifted with it after going on one of those super boring but educational field trips that are all too common during your formative years; the ones where you learn how pioneers darned socks and churned butter, etc.  My dad, on the other hand, seems to think this recipe came about during the years I was in Brownies (the Canadian equivalent of the Girl Scouts and younger feeder group for the Girl Guides of Canada).  Both stories are plausible, but where the recipe comes from doesn’t really matter.

In either case, once my dad got hold of the recipe, it became a tradition in our small household, one that he also recalls from when he was a boy and my grandmother would make galette for her 12 hungry children.

Every Saturday morning hence, my dad would get up, put on his stovetop espresso pot and start to work on making galette.  The quick bread ingredients were all tossed together in a zippered plastic bag and then water was added to moisten them, then the bag was sealed and passed off to me for a good bit of kneading.  Once he thought the ingredients were suitably combined, the bag was turned inside out and the contents mooshed onto a foil lined cookie sheet.  After 20 minutes or so of me impatiently peering into the oven, he’d deem them to be ready, and I’d eagerly split mine apart, not minding that I was burning the tips of my fingers.  I’d generously cover both sides with margarine (the only thing my dad would keep in the house) or occasionally jam and then dig in until my belly was contented and full.


I’m Kind Of A Big Deal (I Kid, I Kid!)



On a weekend not too long ago, I was interviewed by Dakshana Bascaramurty for my take on the whole artisan bread in 5 minutes a day/no knead trend.  A few days after that happened, a photographer from The Globe & Mail showed up at my door to take pictures of me making bread for an hour while posing in all sorts of unnatural ways.  Because I’ve hated being photographed for a very long time (thanks to my Dad and his incessant cameras), I felt like I was incredibly unphotogenic that day.  So I was really glad when I saw that they decided to only use a picture of my hands kneading dough.  But what lovely hands they are (sic)!

Who’da thought I’d ever be on the other end of an interview?  Not me!  It’s really quite a strange feeling being on the non-inquisatory end.  Most of the time I sat there hoping I wasn’t making myself sound like an absolutely idiotic ass.  Now that I’ve read the story, I’m fairly comfortable that I didn’t, but I’m sure that some people will disagree.  Ah, well.  My opinion and a buck might get you a coffee these days, and being a free country, I’m entitled to it.

Anyhoo, if you’d like to check out the story, the article can be found here.  In case you were wondering, the baguette I decided to make for the shoot was a porky red fife number I invented myself.


I Dream Of Bread-y

Cheddar Onion Buns

There’s been much baking going on around these parts lately, and between it and spring gardening I haven’t had much time for anything else.

That being said, I thought it would be fun to show you what sort of yummy stuff has been baking up around here.

Above, we have a gooey delicious tray of cheddar onion buns.  It might not look like it right now, but that tray is bursting at the seams with 36 tasty buns.


Next, an airy dome of brioche-like bread called pandoro with a light, lemony flavour and a delicate, tight crumb.


Tittle Hee Hee

Loafy Boobs

The other day I made what is possibly the best tasting bread that looks like boobs that I think I’ve ever made.

Not that I’ve ever made bread that looks like boobs before, but, ah well, you get what I’m saying!

Marvel at the beauty that is brioche a tete above.  Aren’t they just the yummiest looking things you’ve ever wanted to rip into?  Well, since we don’t have taste-o-vision here, you’ll just have to take my word for it, but suffice it to say they didn’t last very long.


Isn’t She Lovely? Isn’t She Wonderful?


This is a 6 strand braided challah, doubled over to technically make it a 12 strand.

Isn’t it beautiful?  I made it all by myself.

That is all.


The Resurgence Of No Knead Bread


I’ll be honest.

I’ve been categorically ignoring the whole no knead bread trend since I first heard about it back in 2006.

It became quite the internet sensation at the time, died down and now seems to be making the rounds again, due at least partially to Cathy Erway’s new book about not eating out for 2 years, I assume (which includes her riff on the recipe).

As someone who loves cooking and food as much as I do, I can say with alacrity that I’ve often thought of no knead bread as the lazy person’s shortcut, aka baking for dummies.  If you asked my mother, she’d probably cluck her teeth and mutter something under her breath about it being the cowboy way.  Beyond that, even though I start by mixing 90% of my breads in a stand mixer for at least part of the process, I can’t imagine giving up the interaction with the elementalness that is bread just to make life “simpler”.

But, when I saw Erway’s recipe for parmagiano, peppercorn and potato no knead bread, I made an exception and decided to try it.  At the time I had no knowledge of what made her recipe differ from the standard no knead bread, so I followed everything to the letter except for 2 things.  I subbed in a cup of whole wheat flour to surreptitiously improve its healthiness and instead of cracked black peppercorns, I mixed up a blend of 5 different ones that I’ve had lurking in the kitchen, including Muntok, Sarawak, Malabar, Tellicherry and Moula peppercorns crushed in a tea towel with a mallet.


Tomato Slippers

Delicate Slippers

Aside from my timtana experiment last week, I haven’t really done a whole lot of bread baking yet this year.  I’ve been more than a little preoccupied with work, planning our vacation and things of a more pastry-ish nature, so when I decided to make bread again this week there was a fair amount of anticipation on my part.

I once read that the word ciabatta loosely translates to mean “carpet slipper” in Italian.  Given their delicate dough and diminutive stature I can’t really say I’m surprised, though I’m not sure what about carpet slippers is supposed to make them sound appetizing or appealing, despite the fact that they are.

Coincidentally those small, squat rolls are some that I enjoy preparing (and eating) quite a bit.  Of course because I am merely an honorary Italian, I make no bones about putting my own little twists into the bread that I’m baking, and on Family Day yesterday I decided to enhance the ciabatta with a healthy dose of homemade tomato conserva.

Aerated Biga

I began the night before by mixing up a biga (sourdough starter) by combining flour, water and a small amount of yeast and then letting it ferment on the counter.


A Flour By Any Other Name Could Still Be As Sweet

A First Look At Timtana

A couple of weeks ago, I entered and won a contest over at Kitchen Therapy that netted me a free bag of a new gluten free product called timtana.  Timtana is a milled all purpose flour ground from timothy grass, which is completely gluten free but full of lots of good for you nutrients like fibre, protein, calcium and iron (you can read more about it over at Kitchen Therapy if you’d like).  A company called Montana Gluten Free graciously provided the bags of flour for the Kitchen Therapy giveaway.

As I’ve previously mentioned, my mother in law is allergic to wheat, so I often keep an eye out for new developments in gluten free products, and have a whole drawer in my freezer devoted to the various alternative flours that I use when baking for her.  Over the years I’ve found that while gluten free baking is not easy, once you know what you’re doing improvisation is possible.

A 3 pound bag of timtana flour arrived at my door a little over a week ago, and has been sitting on my counter waiting for inspiration to reach out and strike ever since.

While an original idea has yet to take shape, in the interim I decided to use Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio app and the basic bread dough formula for a first pass.

The proportions are simple and include 3 parts water to 5 parts flour, plus a little bit of salt and yeast thrown in for good measure.  Because timtana is gluten free, I also opted to toss in a bit of xanthan gum (the gluten free baker’s friend) for some extra leavening power.


Unintentional Blasphemy

Wee Loaves

A little over a week ago, Larbo over at This Little Piggy posted about his discovery of Fergus Henderson’s trotter gear (a gelatinous porky broth made with (what else?) braised trotters.

Until I read Larbo’s post, I’d never heard of this magical liquid before, but had often contemplated the versatility of a pork-based stock.

There are plenty of recipes out there for beef, chicken, veal and vegetable variations, so why not a similar frenzy for pork, I wondered.

After ruminating on Larbo’s post for a little bit, I started to consider the possible uses for trotter gear.


Comfort Food Times Two

Soup And A Bun

As I mentioned to DMSinTexas the other day, I spent the better part of an afternoon this weekend flipping through How To Cook Everything Vegetarian in an effort to get inspired.

After a bit of random perusal I gravitated towards the soup chapter, which coincidentally is one of my most favourite kinds of vegetarian meals. As much as I generally love poring over a good cookbook and becoming immersed in it, I’ve come to realize that the only time I cook from a recipe is when baking is involved, and even then I’ve taken to winging it more often than not. Of course, since I have such difficulty following a recipe, I didn’t make anything from the book that day, but it did set a few ideas whirring around my brain.

So, it should come as no surprise to my readers that the first recipe I did make was not technically a vegetarian recipe at all (if only because it contained no vegetables) but rather a bread recipe.  With the aid of a little advanced planning, I managed to turn out a fairly decent version of Bittman’s overnight French baguettes.

But, before any of you start getting indignant and accusing me of copping out and picking something that is only inherently vegetarian, allow me to explain;

I picked the baguettes because a) they’re a pretty decent litmus test for the general usability of a cookbook’s recipes and b) I needed something to mop up the vegetarian soup I decided to invent.