We got off to a good start in January with our 2011 bread baking adventures. I’ve got a lot of recipes I want to try, and some new cookbooks to check out. The cold snowy weather helped too. When it’s really cold I’d much rather stay inside, get the oven going, and bake some bread!
I made this Pain de Campagne using Peter Reinhart’s formula from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The dough had an overnight ferment in the refrigerator, which resulted in a great flavor. I formed the dough into batards for the final rise. The slack, wet dough spread more sideways instead of going up, but other than that the bread was great. For a rustic country bread made mostly with unbleached flour, this recipe is a keeper.
Another thing we tried for the first time was making some snack crackers using the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes (HBinFive) whole wheat Master dough. We rolled the dough out as thin as we could directly on parchment paper. For one batch we brushed on olive oil and sprinkled the dough with white and black sesame seeds. For another batch we brushed the dough with melted butter and then added cinnamon sugar. Both versions were pretty tasty, but my wife and I agreed the results weren’t really worth the effort. The thin, crunchy grissini she makes with this same dough is easier to make and tastier. That didn’t stop us from eating all the little crackers though!
Another new recipe we tried was this Cracked Wheat bread from HBinFive. I love using cracked wheat in breads, and this dough had a full cup of it (about 14%). We made this into several breads. I managed to turn out a halfway decent looking epi loaf with it. I need more practice with my snipping and shaping, but I’m getting better at it.
I also made a boule shape with the dough. The cracked wheat really makes for an interesting taste and texture, especially on the surface of the bread. This loaf had a nice open crumb and a great taste.
My wife couldn’t wait to make some grissini with this dough. Of all the doughs she has used for these crispy breadsticks, the Cracked Wheat is now our favorite. She rolls the dough out thin (about 1/8 of an inch), then cuts it into narrow strips using a pastry cutter.
After cutting into strips, she brushes them with olive oil (sometimes flavored with garlic and herbs) and bakes them on a baking sheet until brown and crispy. There are never any leftovers when she makes these!
Our featured bread for January wasn’t really new to us. That’s the Chocolate Espresso Whole Wheat bread, also from HBinFive. My wife made this last year when she was baking her way through the book. This time I made up a full batch of the sinfully decadent dough that is made with whole wheat and unbleached flours, eggs, cocoa, strong coffee and semisweet chocolate chips. This time I used some of the King Arthur Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa, and it resulted in a deep, dark colored dough.
I made most of this batch into muffins, some of which I took into the soup kitchen to share with the other volunteers. Made into muffins, they look a lot like chocolate cupcakes. But they are really little mini brioches, chocolatey but not too sweet. You’d never know they have whole wheat flour in them! I brushed the dough with some egg wash and sprinkled a little raw sugar on top before baking.
I also made a loaf out of this batch. I had a little more than two pounds of dough (2.25 pounds), which was likely a tad too much for the 8.5″x4.5″ loaf pan, because the top cracked during baking. That didn’t affect the flavor any, and I’ll make this bread again, but put a little less dough in the pan.
I hope you enjoyed a look into what breads we were baking in January. I’m not sure what we will bake in February, but I am sure we will have a lot of fun baking and eating them all!