Another example of a recipe that blew the doors of the competition once I spotted it at The Fresh Loaf forum. They highlighted this bread on their front page, since it is so unique and gorgeous. My starter was eagerly waiting for a chance to shine, I had wheat germ in the freezer, the only departure from the original recipe was the use of sage instead of rosemary.   Not for gastronomic preference, but because a “certain dog” – who used to wander the streets of Hollywood – destroyed our rosemary plant. The dog has a good lawyer, and is presently free on bail.

(adapted from Ross’ recipe at The Fresh Loaf Forum)

150 g starter (white, 80% hydration)
335 g  water
490 g bread flour
20 g toasted wheatgerm
2 Tbs  fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
9 g  salt
Mix all ingredients, except the salt, until they form a shaggy mass, no need to worry with kneading yet.   Let it rest undisturbed for 40 minutes at room temperature.

Place the dough on a lightly oiled surface,  open flatten it out slightly, sprinkle the salt all over, and knead a few times to distribute the salt.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, let it sit for 1 hour.    Knead by stretching and folding a few times –  it will feel very smooth and easy to fold – put back in the bowl and let it rise 1 hour.   Repeat the stretch and fold one more time, cover the dough and let it rise for 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, place it in a floured banetton type container, cover it and place in the fridge overnight.

Remove from the fridge 1 hour and 30 minutes before baking.  Bake in a 450F oven, using your favorite method to generate steam.  After 20 minutes, reduce the temperature to 425F, and bake for a total of 40-45 minutes. If you baked the bread covering with a roasting pan, remove the cover after 30 minutes.

Let it cool for at least 2 hours before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

What a delicious loaf of bread this one turned out to be!  I used very little sage because it is such a strong-tasting herb, so its flavor was barely noticeable.  This bread would be great at a Thanksgiving dinner.  The wheat germ lends a bit of moisture to the crumb, allowing it to last longer than your regular sourdough.

The crust, hearty and crunchy, was covered with those tiny blisters that make the baker very happy.  Inside, the crumb was open, airy, and light. Cannot ask for much more than that…  😉

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting, please make sure to stop by and marvel at her weekly display of breads. I know my Friday is not complete without it!

ONE YEAR AGO: Polenta-Crust Tomato Loaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Watermelon Granita

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I’ve wanted to make crumpets from scratch for the longest time! I love the fact that they are full of tiny holes, smoother and creamier than regular bread, perfect to slather with butter or jam, or top with a poached egg and indulge…   Recently  I took a major step in the right direction, by getting crumpet rings (remember?).  And tried not one, but two recipes, one leavened by sourdough starter, and the second a more authentic version, with commercial yeast and baking soda.  Both methods produced completely different types of crumpets, and I favored the non-sourdough version.  I know, who could imagine that?   😉
                                                      (click to enlarge)

(From Andy’s blog at The Fresh Loaf forum)

250 g bread flour
5 g salt
15 g yeast
275 g water
0.75 g bicarbonate of soda
70 g water

Add the flour and the salt to the bowl of an electric mixer, and mix on first speed for a minute.  Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water.  Combine the yeast with the flour/salt and beat on first speed for 2 minutes.  Scrape the bottom and the sides of the bowl, and beat on second speed for 6 minutes.   Cover the bowl and let it sit on a warm place for 1 hour.

Heat a griddle to 390F (200 C).  Dissolve the bicarbonate in the cold water and mix this solution to the batter.  Use right away, pouring a small amount of batter in well greased crumpet rings.   Cook for about 8 minutes on the first side, until bubbles form and the batter seems almost dry on top.   Remove the rings – carefully, they are hot! – and flip the crumpets, cooking for no more than 2 minutes on the second side.   Cool on a rack, and enjoy!

to print the recipe, click here

(from The Sourdough Companion)

125 g all purpose flour
175 g water
12.5 g sourdough starter

125 g all purpose flour
175 g milk
300 g preferment (all the amount made)
5 g salt
5 g bicarbonate of soda

Make the preferment and let it sit at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.

Next day, mix all the ingredients for the batter, and let if sit for 4 hours undisturbed at room temperature.  Heat a griddle to 390 F (200 C).  Pour small amounts of the batter in greased crumpet rings, and cook for 8 minutes on the first side, remove the rings carefully, and flip them to cook on the second side for a couple of minutes.  Cool on a rack, and enjoy…

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Both recipes are pretty straightforward, with little hands-on time required. The traditional method allows you to have crumpets ready in about 1.5 hours, versus a little over 4 hours for the sourdough variation (not counting the pre-ferment prepared the day before).   The next sets of photos give you an idea of how different the batters looked right before cooking, and how the authentic version gave a more hole-y texture in the crumpets already during cooking.

A few pointers for success:

1. Do not fill the rings more than halfway, because if you do, the holes will close when you flip the crumpets.  It is tempting to add more batter, but resist the urge to do so.  Also, it will be harder to cook them through if they are too thick.

2. Do not cook them on a griddle that is too hot, or you will have a hard crust at the bottom and the crumpets won’t cook uniformly. Better to keep a lower temperature and cook longer.

3. Do not cook the second side longer than 2 minutes, or you might end up with an English muffin!   😉

4. Grease the rings again for each batch of crumpets, so that they are easily removed.  Crumpets are fragile, if they stick to the ring their shape can be compromised.

5. The rings are hot, and stay hot for a while once you remove them from the griddle.  It is easy to forget about it as the second batch gets going (sigh).

In my second attempt – the traditional recipe – things worked a lot better, and even the crumpets that were a bit too thick and “lost the holes” on the surface after flipping, revealed a wonderful crumb structure…

You don’t need rings to cook English muffins because they hold their shape well, but they are a must-have for crumpets.  You can of course improvise using empty, clean cans of appropriate diameter.  This would be a fun weekend project, kids would love to help you out…

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: Sweet Emergency

TWO YEARS AGO: The Bread We Love

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I’ve made it before during the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge, but was not very happy with the way it turned out.   Hard to believe that it took me 17 months to bake another batch, but time tends to fly by me.   November?  Are we in November already?  What happened to 2010, that started just the other day?   😉

Ciabatta, take two: the recipe from  “The Italian Baker” calls for a mixture of flour, water, and yeast made the day before (the “biga“), and used as part of the final dough.  A total fermentation time of 3 hours allowed us to have the bread in time for lunch, as it bakes very quickly, less than 25 minutes.   I am quite pleased with this recipe, I suppose that it would work even better in a real oven, but my Breville rose to the challenge!

(from The Italian Baker)

for biga:
1/8 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup + 1 Tbs water at room temperature
1 + 1/4 cup all purpose flour (165 g)

Dissolve yeast in water, add the flour and form a sticky dough.  Leave it covered at room temperature for 16 to 24 hours.

for the final dough:
2.5 Tbs milk
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
5.5 ounces water (1/2 cup + 1.5 Tbs)
1/2 T olive oil
1 cup biga (250 g)
250 g all purpose flour
1/2 Tbs salt (7.5 g)

If kneading in a mixer, stir the yeast in the milk  and let it stand for  a  couple of minutes in the bowl.  Add the water, oil, the biga, and mix to incorporate, dissolving the biga in the liquid. Add the flour and salt, and mix at low speed for a couple of minutes.   Change to the dough hook and knead 2 minutes at low speed, and 2 minutes at medium speed.  Finish kneading by hand on a well-floured surface, but adding as little extra flour as possible.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and leave at room temperature for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Divide the dough, which will be very soft and bubbly, in two equal pieces.  Place each half on a well floured piece of parchment paper, and shape each as a cylinder, keeping the seam side down.  Stretch it gently to give the ciabatta overall shape (a rectangle of 10 x 4 inches), and use the tip of your fingers to make deep dimples all over the dough. Cover with a damp towel and let them rise for 1.5 to 2 hours.

Bake in a pre-heated 425 F oven, spraying the bread with water three times in the first 10 minutes.   Total baking time should be 20 to 25 minutes.   Cool the loaves on a rack, and…


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Carol Field advises against kneading this dough by hand, because it is very hard not to add more flour to prevent it from sticking.  However, if you are familiar with the way a high hydration dough behaves,  go ahead and give it a try.  Keep in mind that the less extra flour you add, the better.   She also keeps the seam side up during rising, which forces her to invert the dough on the baking sheet (or stone).  I prefer to shape them seam-side down, then transfer them gently to the oven with the parchment paper still underneath. I think that this method minimizes deflating the dough.

We enjoyed our ciabatta with mozarella and ham for lunch, and at dinner it complemented spaghetti with meatballs that shall be the subject of a post in the very near future (they were AWESOME!)…

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…

ONE YEAR AGO: Lamb Stew with Parsnips, Prunes and Chickpeas

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