18 November 2010

An Experiment in Breadmaking

Having not royally screwed up any of the last few batches of bread, I decided to experiment in the hopes of fixing the situation. I was not successful. That is, to say, I was successful in making good bread but not in failing.
Raisins really pop in a hot oven, its impressive
I based my recipe on the "Lean Bread" from Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday as seen before, but I wanted a few modifications. I really liked the polenta-grind cornmeal from the Struan I cooked as it gave the bread a bit of toughness and chewy. Given that, I was biking home on my way to make the bread when I passed by a coffee shop I frequent. They server donuts there in a rotating variety of flavors, and one of my favorite is the cornmeal cherry. And so it was set - I would make cornmeal cherry rolls.

Except I didn't have any cherries (dried or otherwise) and the closest grocery store was closing in five minutes. I did have raisins, however. You can find the recipe at the end of this post, but first a bit on what I would fix with it next time.
What the rolls looked like inside.
For one, the dough looked pretty good on first mixing, achieving that "shaggy ball" Reinhart talks so much about.
The shaggy ball
However, the stretch and fold steps felt far too much on the watery side - the dough was far too easy to stretch and flattened out immensely when I let it sit. For reference, this is what it looked like after overnight refrigeration:
Notice how it has spread out flat to fill the available space. It also had not risen much, but enough to go forward with the dough. I made rolls the usual way - oiled work surface, floured hands, shaping with the palm of my hand. Everything looked fine when I set the dough to proof
Rolls ready to proof for two hours
Rolls after one hour
They had completely lost their shape and were very sticky to the touch. I whipped out a cutting board, floured the hell out of it, floured the hell out of my hands, and rolled them around a bit before shaping them again. This second working probably saved the shapes:
Post second working/shaping
That means I either needed a little less water or a little more flour in the base recipe. I thought the cornmeal would soak up water like flour, so I replaced flour 1:1 with cornmeal. Given how watery the final dough was, and the amount of flour I added in while working the dough, my guess is a good ratio would be more like 1:1.5 (that is, if you remove 10g of flour, you can add in 15g of the cornmeal). However, a dough this liquidy can make rolls so it didn't really ruin my plans. If you wanted to make a loaf, definitely up the amount of flour by 20g or so.

Cornmeal Raisin Rolls (makes 8-ish rolls)

  • 310g unbleached bread flour
  • 255g warm-ish water
  • 30g polenta-grind cornmeal (coarse ground cornmeal)
  • 15g-ish raisins
  • 7g salt
  • 4g yeast

The night before:
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stir with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Let rest in the bowl for 5 minutes, uncovered, at room temperature. Lightly oil a work surface and your hands and do the stretch and fold method 4 times, giving a 10 minute rest between each iteration. To stretch and fold, plop the dough down on the surface and pull the dough out from the top, folding it back over itself. Repeat on the bottom, left, and right. Put it back in the bowl and cover for 10 minutes before repeating. After the 4 iterations, cover and place in the fridge overnight.

The day of cooking:
2 hours before cooking the dough, remove it from the fridge. Flour a work surface, flour your hands, and form rolls with the dough ball allowing a layer of flour to get worked into each roll. Put parchment paper down on a baking sheet, flour the paper, and place the rolls on it.

1 hour before cooking the dough, if the rolls have sagged, gently work them again by flouring a work surface and your hands. Make flat palms and put a hand on each side of the roll, and rotate it gently. Place back on floured parchment paper.

30 minutes before cooking, heat the oven to 450 degrees (you can also use the hearthstone/steam burst baking method, but I didn't).

Cook the rolls for 10 minutes, rotate the pan, cook for 5-8 more minutes. Turn off the oven, but leave the rolls in for another 5 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes or so before serving unless you want to burn yourself.

15 November 2010

Simple Vegan Pancakes, Improved

An improvement to the vegan pancake recipe I've posted before, along with more photos. This adds a banana to the batter itself and some honey to sweeten the deal. The banana alters the taste a bit, but mostly serves to increase the creaminess of the finished pancakes. The end result are very fluffy pancakes that are similar in texture to the buttermilk pancakes I grew up with.

Ingredients you will need (to make 4 pancakes, enough for 1 person with a small side)

  • 1/4 cup pastry flour
  • 1/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • tiny pinch of sea salt

1) Cut the banana in half and mush it with the back of a spoon into a paste.

2) Stir in the rest of the ingredients, saving half the other half of the banana for later.

3) Place two spoonfuls (ish, about 1/4 of the batter) into a frying pan on medium low. Flip the pancake when bubbles form in the center, like this.

4) Let cook about ten more seconds, remove from heat. Top pancakes with remainder of banana, sliced.

11 November 2010

Con-Struan the Yeast Label Wrong

Okay, I can't believe I just made that pun.

No, wait, I can.

First off, the final product:
Loaf of Struan bread, for my toasting pleasure
Now, tell me if you can spot any problems in this photo:
Ingredients, going left-to-right, top-to-bottom: bread flour, buttermilk, oat bran, cooked brown rice, polenta-grind corn, salt, yeast, water, rolled oats, brown sugar.
Here are some problems: the honey in the recipe isn't pictured (but I did still use it), my photo composition (especially w.r.t. colors) could use some work, you can't see that the bowl on the bottom left is full of water, and the yeast pictured is "Active Dry", not "Instant" as called for by the recipe.

The last one is killer. Turns out active dry isn't quite as effective as instant yeast (research says its about 25% dead weight, so the 9g called for in the recipe should have been about 11g or 12g). Also, you are supposed to wake it up more than simply mixing it in with warm ingredients. By giving it a bath. Man, I don't want to give my yeast a bath. I just want to throw it in with some flour and make magic.

But you couldn't tell anything was going wrong at first - I mixed all the ingredients together as instructed and it formed a nice shaggy ball:
The flour on top is for kneading the dough, which I dutifully did. Then, there was the stretching and the folding, as outlined in many previous posts. After that 45 minutes of work, I was left with this beautiful specimen:
"Great work, Mikey!" I thought. Except when I checked in on the dough the next morning, I was greeted by... a ball of dough that hadn't risen the least bit. Like so:
I still had a day and a half before I planned to bake it, so I thought to give it time.

Time was not what it needed.

It needed me to read directions properly.

I talked to a coworker more versed in bread baking than I; she recommended I work in a little bit of yeast that I had woken up via bathing, and then let it rise a bit. That sounded like a lot of work, so I did something that was less work instead. The 2 hours of room temperature proofing called for by the recipe? I did that in my oven (which is gas, so it maintains a nice temperature of maybe 10-20 degrees above room temperature). That got it to perk up a bit, rising to maybe 125% of its original size. I then let it proof for another 30 minutes on the counter while the oven heated before baking.

It didn't quite save it, as you can see from the sliced picture above. It is quite dense, but nowhere near as dense as the breadtastrophe of yore. Also, I ate the heel without any peanut butter or other accoutrements and I found it delicious. Hopefully it passes the coworker test tomorrow. It certainly passes the "good lookin" test.

08 November 2010

Buckwheat Fuckup

I mean, the name kinda says it all and I was none-too-careful when measuring the ingredients. It went something like: start sauteing some garlic; when it browns, throw in the firm tofu. Spray with Sriracha an amount you think you can handle. When things start looking done, add in soba noodles and sliced zucchini, plus some additional oil and some vinegar. Let it cook on medium-ish for five minutes, stirring constantly. Consider adding additional Sriracha; actually add in additional Sriracha; regret it immediately. Try to rectify it by adding a dash of sugar and salt. Call it tasty enough and decide you can't fuck it up anymore than you already have.

Oh, maybe I forgot to mention the first fuckup? I wanted to give it a little something to cook in besides oil. So I surveyed the kitchen and it went something like this: Vanilla soy milk? No, too sweet. Coconut milk? No, did that a few days ago. Olive oil? No, too much oil? Mustard? See that Sriracha? Ketchup? Too easy? Balsamic vinegar? I think I read that vinegar goes in Asian cooking, what the hell why not... oh whoops that smells not like what I'm trying to cook at all. Oh well, add some sesame seeds, turn off the heat, mix one more time, and serve.

It actually tasted great - I think the vinegar mostly cooked off because the heat was up a bit. Should you cook it? Probably not. You aren't me.

03 November 2010

Breadtastrophe Rematch, Round 2 (Spoiler: Victory by KO)

See previous post here for recipe info, etc. I envisioned this dough being perfect for tiny sandwiches, adorned with fancy meat and cheese, so I formed it into rolls. Slightly large rolls, placed a little too close together on the pan for baking. So they baked into each-other and I had to pull them apart post-baking. Still delicious though:
You can see the marks from pulling them apart

Almost everything went right. The amount of rosemary was about perfect for a hint but not a blast, the inside of the dough had pockets galore after baking, nothing scorched or undercooked. The pre-worked dough was bubbly like woah. The sea salt sprinkling was also pretty light which was complete guess work. This is what it looked like, removed from fridge in the morning:

Bubbles! (No Buttercup or Blossom, sorry)
I did learn a few lessons from the dough/cooking. When adorning with herb toppings, put it in post shaping right before you proof (let sit) the dough. I instead saved them for the very end, right when you would score the dough before putting it into the oven. Otherwise, it doesn't really stick in and flakes off with the lightest touch, ruining my five-pointed rosemary stars. Or it could be that it just won't work without pressing it in.

Also, when stretch-and-folding a dough in the bowl instead of on a separate surface (as I did with this batch), you should probably re-mist the bowl with oil after the last iteration before refrigerating. The dough had to be peeled away from the metal, probably ruining some airpockets in the final product.

02 November 2010

Call it "The Peanut Butter Suffusion"

Using my newfound Copious Amounts of Free Time™, I used a weeknight to try creating a recipe based on things I enjoy. For reference, here are some things I enjoy: peanut butter, ginger, sesame seeds, puppies, and programming languages. You can't cook with the last no matter how delicious a Haskell Curry sounds, and cooking with the penultimate isn't something I'm quite prepared for. So how did it turn out? Tasty, but could use a bit of refining. See for yourself:
(There is rice under the tofu)
How to recreate it, assuming you want one meal and not quite enough leftovers for lunch the next day (I haven't tested this yet but it looks like a small meal).

Tofu and Sauce:

  • 12 oz firm tofu, cubed and pressed
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter (salted)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (although any milk will do here)
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp freshly ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes (adjust to spice level, this is "basically nothing")
  • olive oil
Broccolini and rice:
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rice
  • 8-10 pieces of broccolini
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
Cooking instructions:

Assuming your rice will take 40-ish minutes, start cooking the rice. Mix the peanut butter, almond milk, and honey together until it blends into a consistent texture. Stir in the rest of the seasonings (sesame seeds, ginger, chili flakes). Put aside.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. In a frying pan, add some olive oil and brown the tofu over medium-high. The goal is to give it a slight crispness on each side, but not to deep fry it. As it is browning, . Once happy with texture, reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the peanut butter solution. You can let this sit for a bit while you do the next step.

On a baking sheet, lay down the broccolini so it isn't touching. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle salt on the tops; flip over and repeat on the other side. Cook on the top shelf of your oven for about five minutes, then shut off the oven and let it sit for five more minutes inside the oven. The goal is to lightly scorch the heads and cook the rest of it thoroughly, giving it a crunch on top.

Serve the tofu over rice with the broccolini on the side.


This will create a delicious meal, although the sauce did not quite work as intended - I envisioned something with more liquid, but I created something a little firm. It did brown nicely with the tofu leading me to believe I didn't make a mistake. So, the rating is "delicious, would cook again". However, you could always add more milk or some water to the recipe. You could also up the amount of sauce created, as this was only enough to coat the tofu and not the rice.

01 November 2010

Breadtastrophe Rematch, Round 1

I wanted revenge on the lean bread for the failure of last time. I haven't baked it yet (cold fermenting for a few nights first), but I may have bested it. Which is easy, really, considering I royally screwed the recipe up last time. It called for "Unbleached White Bread Flour" which I translated into shopping terms of "Unbleached White Flour."

Not the same thing.

For the rematch, I decided to spice up the recipe with rosemary - equal parts rosemary as salt, 7g in this case. Upon mixing the dough, I knew it was going to turn out right.
Dough, post mixing, pre stretch-and-fold
It has a much wetter texture, good amount of shag, and a really good feel in the hand. I proceed to do the stretch-and-fold on the dough four times, and there is a definite transformation of the dough during the process (unlike the previous attempt). It comes together and gets loads of taffy-ness, looking more like a ball of dough and less like a potato mash, but it still has all the gooeyness you look for.
Dough, post stretch-and-fold
Guess that extra gluten is useful after all, but the final verdict will come in a few days. I plan on making single-serving sandwich rolls, topped with some ground sea salt and rosemary before the bake. Call it a bastardized, simplified Rosemary Diamante.