Lispian Random meanderings on whatever catches my fancy

Lispian
Baking Bonanza

I was under the weather much of the period before Christmas, during Christmas and after Christmas. To add to my joy I seem to have come down with the flu, ruining the start of January and my return to the office where I get to do some wickedly cool work on data analytics. In all, 2012 sucked health-wise and I remain under the care of a physician. I’m truly thankful for the Canadian medical system since me seeing specialist upon specialist has not required a single dollar outlay from the family, a family that had 2 kids in university most of that time — my eldest graduated recently! Yay!

Dealing with my medical issues meant I didn’t have as much time to bake as I’d like, but I tried to sneak it in now and again. The beauty of baking breads, pastries, etc. is that the longest part is the waiting. The actual manual work is a few minutes here, a few minutes there. And even if you feel horrible you can still get some stuff done.

What I’ve done from November through early January is experiment. Below you’ll find some of what I’ve been up to and my thoughts. I’m not going to go into details regarding the recipes other than indicate how I morphed them from the typical standard most bakers know to what I ended up with.

I’m going to do this backwards, starting with my most recent adventure.

Challah

photoOne of my specialists enjoys baking as much as I do. He’s had trouble doing Challah and I can sympathize. I never seem to get it quite right. My latest experiment is provided in the pictures. I stupidly misread the weight of the loaf and made one HUGE loaf instead of 2 properly sized ones.

The recipe I used is from Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman. A fantastic book that I got for Christmas. I’ve enjoyed reading it and was looking forward to trying some of the recipes. This is the first one I tried. And it has a problem, but it just might be me: it’s insufficiently sweet and a tad too dry.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I’m not one for overly sweet breads but challah should be somewhat sweet. I used the proportions Hamelman’s book recommends, but I found it a bit under-sweetened. But it did come out beautifully. When I try next time I will make the following adjustments:

  • Use maple syrup instead of sugar, but increase the amount by 10% (or perhaps honey, which is probably more traditional).
  • Use butter instead of vegetable oil. I find vegetable oil is bland and the bread is listless. The use of butter would most probably be closer to what a true challah should be like and also add a much richer taste and texture to the crumb.
  • Ensure I make 2 smaller loaves :-).

Challah pre bakeBefore baking the loaf looked wonderful so I knew it would come out wonderfully. The texture of the dough was quite good and it means I’m quite hopeful the other recipes in the book will turn out better and that the taste issue is more a personal thing than a problem with the recipe per se. After all, everyone has a different idea of how much sweetness is sufficient!

 

Croissants

Maple CroissantsI simply love making croissants. They are definitely worth the effort. And those that think it’s a hard thing to do, ignore those individuals. It’s really not that hard to do. It just requires time (mostly waiting) and a desire to work with the dough properly, mostly meaning working with it when it’s cold and refrigerating it if it appears to be getting too warm.

 

Batch of Maple CroissantsMy kids love when I make croissants and so I try to make them fairly regularly. But, as I’ve been in an experimental mood, I decided to try something a bit different. For the regular Le Cordon Bleu recipe for croissants I substituted maple syrup for the sugar, lowering the amount of water in the recipe accordingly. The results were fantastic. I even tried adding some cinnamon sugar to some of the recipes and that also turned out divinely. Highly recommended.

Now, someone looking at these pictures might believe they’re over baked. I don’t think so. They are darker than the blonde croissants many people see, but to me those are underdone, greasy messes that don’t deserve to be called croissants. Furthermore, using maple syrup gave them an additional darker shade.

Maple Croissants proofingI also love how they poof up when proofing. There’s something wonderful about watching dough proof, almost as nice as getting to eat it thereafter! :-)

None of these contained the cinnamon sugar, I forgot to take a picture of those. But it was a simple cinnamon sugar mixture that was shaken over the dough when it was in triangular form and then rolled into the classic croissant shape.

Next time I’m thinking of rolling the croissant in the cinnamon sugar as well and seeing how it turns out. But what I really want to try is baking cinnamon sugar twists, which were a type of donut sold at Tim Horton’s for years. Sadly, they no longer sell them but instead sell muffins and bagels and stuff I have little interest in.

As you may have guessed, I adore cinnamon.

Sandwich Loaf

French Bread as Sandwich LoafPain de mie is the classic French sandwich loaf. But I’m not really that fond of it. It’s excellent compared to typical sandwich bread from the grocer, but compared to a good French loaf it sucks. So, my goal was to see what would happen if I take a slightly more hydrated French loaf recipe — for a baguette, actually — and bake it in a pan. Well, if I say so myself, the results were spectacular!

As stated above, the major change was a bit more hydration which I figured was necessary since the bread would bake longer in a pan that it would as a French loaf or baguette. But I was also counting on it having a slightly no-knead-like quality by having it bake in a pan, covered on 3 sides. What I didn’t expect is what happened when I actually baked the bread.

For the main rise I formed the dough into loaves that were the length of the pans and then dropped them into my ungreased non-stick baking pans. I brushed the tops with butter and let them rise until the just got to the top of the pan. I then brushed them with butter one last time, slashed the tops and fired them into the oven. The bread was baked at 385F for about 40 – 45 minutes or until the internal temperature hit 200F.

They came out fantastic. But what was best was that the butter dripped down the inside side of the pans and onto the bottom of the pans and fried the dough. The sides and bottom were crispy and delicious, with a fried in butter beauty that is indescribable. I tried the recipe again with olive oil instead and it worked even better. I use Carapelli extra virgin olive oil because I love the peppery taste and it worked wonderfully with the recipe. Either way would work fine, but going forward I’m sticking to olive oil. Everyone raved about the bread.

Finally, a new mixer!

Bosch Universal MixerThe final thing I want to mention is the new mixer I got for myself. For those that read this blog they know that my KitchenAid mixer died and KitchenAid wasn’t about to fix it, even though I only use the mixer about once a week. That means I used it maybe 60 times before it failed. Had I used it daily it would have failed after 2 months. But using it only on weekends means it failed after the one year warranty. I was upset. I called KitchenAid. I got no useful help. I ordered parts and fixed the damn thing myself. It worked, but it still sometimes made noise so I decided that I’d get a proper mixer that can handle the load, something with the reliability and attention to engineering detail that KitchenAid had decades ago. After a bunch of online research I bought myself a Bosch Universal Mixer. And man, does it work great!

I wouldn’t even attempt to do 2 – 3 kilos of dough in the KitchenAid, but the Bosch just does its job. And, the gluten development is much much better with the Bosch. My loaves all come out vastly better.

Now, it did take a bit of getting used to. The Bosch requires (recommends?) that you dump the liquid ingredients in first, then the dry … but not all the flour, maybe 1/2 at most. You then pulse the motor a few times and then turn it to setting one so it starts kneading the dough. You then add the remaining dough a cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the bowl. It’s like some kind of magical way of dealing with humidity levels. I always measure everything in grams so it was eye opening to see that some days I needed a few teaspoons more of flour and other times a few teaspoons less. This made making the doughs a lot easier. Of course, the aforementioned wouldn’t work for some super hydrated doughs, but it has worked perfectly well for brioche, high hydration baguettes, the challah above, etc. So it’s pretty good in general.

KR4_LG1Like the KitchenAid, once all the ingredients are in you let the mixer do its job for a few minutes and then let it rest. I let it rest in a separate bowl but mostly because I find dealing with the oddly shaped Bosch bowl a hassle. It’s my only complaint. That central shaft is hard to work around, especially with my huge hands. It’s why I quickly get it out and into a standard mixing bowl once it’s done mixing.

I also got a stainless steel bowl at the same time — including as part of the package from Bosch that I got from CA Paradis. It also came with a blender attachment, but I’ve not used that yet.

Of course, I’ve only used the Bosch for a few weeks but I believe it comes with a 3 year warranty so I’m already ahead of the game. But if it makes even a squeak back it goes. Of course, everyone who’s bought one of this latest generation swears by it. Some don’t like how it works, but I’ve not read that anyone’s had problems. And that’s the key. I don’t want to buy another mixer. I just want one that works!

Next Baking Adventures

The next thing I want to do is try the challah again and make the pan loaves again. I also want to redo the loaves from Dave’s Killer Breads as they all came out great, though my KitchenAid struggled. Since Dave uses a Bosch in his videos, I should be able to get better results even though my initial results were great.

I also want to make larger batches since the web sites I frequent claim it’ll handle 7kg (15lbs) or dough! Of course if I make that much I either have to freeze it or give it away to friends and neighbours. But I’ll deal with that issue once I have the time to deal with that much dough since 15lbs would result in 21 baguettes, for example! Woah.

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