BBA#43: ROASTED ONION and ASIAGO CHEESE MICHE

Photo courtesy of  PJG, thanks!

With this bread, I completed the BBA CHALLENGE!


For a PDF version, click here (breads are ranked from one to five stars)

A big thank you to Nicole for setting up this event, and of course to Peter Reinhart for his wonderful book.  I’ve had it many years, but never imagined that one day I’d say that “…I baked them all!”

ROASTED ONION AND ASIAGO CHEESE MICHE

This last bread took 3 days to prepare.  The sourdough sponge, made on the first day, was mixed and shaped on the second day, and  after a night in the fridge it was topped with roasted onions and grated asiago cheese, then finally baked.   I made a half  recipe, which was still  enough for one  big round loaf.

The onions can be prepared the day before…

and added to the bread 30 minutes before baking ….

The dough contains a lot of grated asiago cheese,  so each bite acquires its sharp flavor, mellowed  by the sweet roasted onions.   What a beautiful combination!

You can check the Roasted Onion Asiago bread made by Oggi (the first baker to complete BBA Challenge) by clicking here….

Our five favorite breads from the challenge were:
Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedo
Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche
Vienna Bread
New York Deli Rye
Potato Rosemary Bread

To all my virtual fellow challengers baking along this tasty path, have fun with it.   I’ll be watching and cheering for you!  😉

BBA#42: POTATO, CHEDDAR AND CHIVE TORPEDO

With my heart beating fast in anticipation, I am thrilled to say:   forty-two breads down,  ONE to go!

This bread is definitely one of my favorites, for several reasons. First,  it uses a sourdough starter, which already makes me pretty excited about it.  Second, it contains potatoes, a great addition to this kind of bread,  as they give it moisture and a texture hard to reproduce in any other way.    Third, it takes cheese rolled in the middle of the loaf.  No need to explain the positive aspects of this.  Too obvious for words.   Did the recipe rise to my expectations?

Oh, YESSSS!  😉

This was not a difficult bread to make.  Because the dough takes a mixture of sourdough starter and commercial yeast, it rises quite fast: the whole process – from mixing the dough to baking – took just a little over 3 hours!   I used the full amount of potato water called for, hoping for a more open crumb.   Instead of kneading, I folded the dough twice, at 20 and 40 minutes, then allowed it to rise undisturbed for another hour.

Here are a couple of shots from the loaf right after shaping, and before going into the oven.

I am sure I’ll be making this bread again and again.  At first, my husband said he would prefer it without chives, but after a few bites,  he agreed that they add a special flavor, quite unique.  This is an impressive loaf, that would be perfect with an Italian-inspired meal.

Please visit these links to see my fellow friends who already baked #42:

For Oggi’s blog, click here.

For Paul’s blog, click here.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event, Special Holiday Edition.

BBA#41: WHOLE WHEAT BREAD

With only two breads remaining at the end of the BBA Challenge, I was hoping for something wonderful to say about Reinhart’s version of whole wheat bread.   But unfortunately, this bread fought hard for last place with the now infamous 100% sourdough rye.

I wasn’t the only participant to have problems with this recipe; you can jump to Oggi’s blog for her comments about it.  At some point I’d like to improve at breads with low to no white flour, because they consistently provided lessons on humility.   So, without further ado, here are the proofs of my crime, with apologies to Mr. Reinhart.

The dough was sticky, grainy and generally unpleasant to work with. The crumb was tight, as expected for this variety, but the taste was just plain bland.   Even my husband, who eats all my failures with a smile (while saying that I’m too hard on myself…violins playing, please) told me “if a bread isn’t even good with butter and this awesome fig jam, then something’s seriously wrong with it”.

I will be making croutons… (sigh)

Life goes on, so does the challenge. I’m anticipating the final two breads, which look like masterpieces… Stay tuned!

BBA #40: WHITE BREAD

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge brings us to White Bread, offered in three variations – I picked number 2, just because I like even numbers (they are never lonely…)

It is a very simple dough to prepare: buttermilk, flour, yeast, oil, one egg. I halved the recipe (our freezer is already overflowing with bread), and folded the dough instead of kneading it. You can shape the bread in many ways, take a look at the gorgeous dinner rolls made by Oggi (click here . )   I opted to make hamburger-style buns, brushing them with egg wash and sprinkling sesame seeds on top.

They turned out pretty nice, and tasted delicious!

Coming up next:  Whole Wheat…   I am looking forward to making it and comparing with my favorite sandwich bread, Light Whole Wheat, number 18.    Stay tuned…

MEETING PETER REINHART


When I learned that Peter Reinhart was teaching some classes on Artisan Bread Baking in Texas, I had to enroll. I chose the Jan 31st event at the Central Market in Plano, TX, which is normally just a couple of hours from our home. Unfortunately, fate delivered an ice storm across my path just three days beforehand, making the driving pretty scary and quite a bit longer.

Still, I left early and managed to arrive an hour early at the Central Market, where I immediately saw Mr. Reinhart talking to his associates outside the beautiful classroom. I’d brought the book with me, hoping for his signature, but at first I couldn’t muster the courage to talk to him. It often happens when I’m confronted by people whom I admire: 90% of my composure disappears, leaving me to stumble on embarrassingly short sentences that may or may not make sense.

A past event comes to mind: the day that I met Francois Jacob, the 1965 Nobel Prize winner for his incredible work on the regulation of bacterial genes. In 1994 I was in Paris working at Institut Pasteur in the lab of Dr. Maurice Hofnung, one of Jacob’s students. Maurice had himself received an award from Legion d’Honneur, and Jacob was in attendance to celebrate the occasion. I was lucky enough to be a witness!

The large dining room was filled with small, elegantly set tables, at one of which I sat and waited. Suddenly, Dr. Jacob entered the room. We all felt expectation and tension in the air, until in slow, surreal motion he approached my table and sat down right across from me! We shook hands, exchanged the mandatory “Enchante / Enchantee,” and I spent the rest of the meal as a nervous wreck. But, it was worth it!

Those memories flashed through my mind in the Plano classroom, debating if I should talk to Mr. Reinhart. I finally convinced myself: “if you survived a meal with Francois Jacob, you can make it through a conversation with Peter Reinhart…” 😉 So, I got up and tracked down my bread guru. After accidentally breaking a glass full of water and ice with my handbag, and pulling a huge handle off the glass door as I left the room (I’m a walking disaster, in finest form), I met Peter in the hallway outside.

Mr. Reinhart is a wonderful, personable man, who immediately put me at ease. He’s impressed by the BBA Challenge, and was eager to discover any breads that were particularly tricky, or failed to meet expectations. I mentioned my trauma with the infamous 100% rye, and he wasn’t much surprised by my troubles. He then talked about the method of folding the dough a few times instead of extensive kneading. In fact, that point was the focus of his lecture.

The venue was perfect: TV cameras positioned over the workspace, two flat screen TVs projecting the event on both sides of the room. Organizing and teaching the class wasn’t trivial. Mr. Reinhart worked non-stop shaping several breads, as well as baking breads that were shaped beforehand in three large ovens, each with idiosyncrasies: too hot, not hot enough, uneven heat. It was the kind of stuff that really happens, and nice to see how a professional deals with it: zero hyperventilation.

We tasted samples of each bread – starting with thumbprint jams, then French bread, crumb cake, sticky buns, challah and chocolate babka (everyone’s favorite!).

If you’re a novice bread baker, I recommend that you attend one of Peter’s classes. But, if that’s not feasible, then his new book (Artisan Breads Every Day) is a great alternative. It’s quite instructive: – clear, detailed descriptions of how to make a starter, to maintain it, and the most important thing: to get the most of your bread dough by folding it.

I was thrilled to see Mr. Reinhart explaining the method in his new book, because I’m also a huge fan of this approach, having used it in many of the BBA recipes.

The icing on the cake was meeting a bunch of wonderful people attending the event, friends I’ve met through cooking forums online (Sharon, Cindy, Amy, and Dona), and two bloggers who are also fellow BBA Challengers: TxFarmer, the outstanding baker who keeps a blog in Chinese, and Stacey, with her beautiful blog Magnifico, who traveled all the way from Arizona to be in Peter Reinhart’s class!

A fun day, worth the dreadful drive…. and yes, I got my book signed, with Peter’s legendary motto:

May your bread always rise!