Normandy Apple Bread

Trying to catch up on the breads I missed over the last few months while moving across the country, I chose to do the Normandy Apple Bread from our February list over at MellowBakers.com.

Again, this bread took a bit of pre-set up preparation although not as convoluted as yesterday’s Aloo Paratha. The ‘unusual’ aspects of this bread was the need for apple cider and dried apple slices.

Try as I might, I haven’t been able to find apple cider around here, although I’ll use the fact I’m not familiar with all the stores in this area yet. Maybe I passed by it several times without noticing. So instead, I found some natural apple juice, the kind that hasn’t been filtered and is slightly cloudy with a little bit of apple sediment at the bottom. It’s pretty tasty as juice so I hoped it would work well as cider substitute.

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Pain de Mie

Pain de Mie is a very fancy French term for “plain white sandwich bread” – you know, the type you buy in the cello package at the grocery. It’s a close relative to your basic Wonder bread. Translated, it means “Bread of Crumb” which indicates it’s all about the white soft stuff inside and the crust is minimal and soft. For this recipe, we are using enriched ingredients such as butter, sugar and milk powder, all of which help to create the soft crust and creamy taste.

Is it just like “wonder” bread? Oh no, it’s not. It’s miles better.

The other name for this bread is “Pullman Bread” which is a reference to the Pullman Pan it is usually baked in. This is a straight sided, square and lidded pan that produces a square and soft crusted bread:

Because the bread is sealed into the pan on all sides, the crust doesn’t get a chance to get thick or crispy in the oven’s heat. This limited amount of crust, again, put the bread’s focus primarily on the white crumb inside.

Not owning one of these babies myself (they run about $40 – $50, a bit pricey for me) I decided to make do with my normal loaf pans and see how thing would turn out.

This bread was part of the Mellow Baker’s January Breads line up which I missed because we were still living in the trailer, having just moved across the country. Now that we’ve found a house to rent with a pretty nifty kitchen, I can get to some of these missed assignments and do a bit of cath up.

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Pane Al Fromaggio

… or more simply Cheese Bread, as it’s actually called in Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes This is bread #21 in the Mellow Baker’s Challenge to get through all 84 recipes in the First Edition book. Yes, we’re now at about the 1/4 mark. If you have the book and want to give it a go, it can be found on page 180 from the Levain section (page 190 of the 2nd Edition).

Those of you following along here and on MellowBakers.com will notice that this is in fact a September bread and I’m posting it in mid-October. The reason for the tardiness is that there’s been a refocus in our household of late that’s been taking all our attention; more on that later.

I chose a good Italian Parmigiano Reggiano cheese as the bread’s final flavour can only improve with the quality of cheese you use. The dry Kraft pre-grated stuff would not be a good choice here. An alternative, to save a bit of money, would be to mix the Parmigiano with some Asiago or whatever grateable “dry” cheese you prefer.

Let’s get started…

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Soft Butter Rolls

Easy, simple dinner rolls. Quick to make and lovely to bite into. This is what I was looking forward to when I started into the Soft Butter Rolls, one of the September Breads from the Mellow Bakers challenge. You can find this recipe on page 326 of Jeffrey Hamelman’s book Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes.

(Yes, this post is late seeing as I’m finishing it up in October. But then, we’re MELLOW bakers for a reason!)

Looking over the recipe, it seemed to be the case. However, looking over the posts other bakers had put up as they were pumping these guys out, it seemed there were a few steps one needed to be wary of. I took these into consideration and went ahead; I’ll point out where one needs to divert from the recipe a little. Nothing major, however.

Let’s start with our Mis en Place. Or actually, let’s not and cover what that is and why you would want to do it first.

What is a “Mis en Place” anyway?

Mis en Place (pronounced “meez awn plass”) is a french term meaning “Put in its place” and refers to the setting out of your required ingredients, all measured and ready, before you start building your bread (or whatever you’re baking or cooking). So you’d go through your recipe, measure and weigh out your flour, water, butter, salt yeast and so forth ahead of time, making sure you aren’t short of anything and everything is right there for you. You’ve seen this on a million cooking shows, the host always has everything ready and pre-measured.

Why do it? To avoid surprises mid-baking and the potential of missing an ingredient if you are in the habit of scooping or spooning out as you go along. Did you add those three teaspoons of butter already? Did you forget to put in your salt? If the salt is still on the counter then it’s easy to see you did not. If the little salt bowl is empty, it’s easy to see you did. If you normally pour it into the bowl from the container, you may not recall.

And yes, that does happen. I’ve had it happen, other big-time bread folks mention it’s happened to them… No one is immune from the “did I or didn’t I?” slip up. A momentary distraction, you lose your flow and now you miss an important ingredient. It may not be until you server your fresh loaf that you suddenly realize that bread with no salt can be incredibly odd tasting.

It also lets you confirm you do in fact have that cup of buttermilk on hand so you don’t go to the fridge and suddenly realize you need to rush to the store when you’re halfway into mixing the dough. All in all, it’s a simple way to be prepared so you can focus on simply putting your dough together.

And here’s the Mis en Place for our rolls:

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Rye with Caraway: Learning when to say when.

I’ve noted here and elsewhere that I will include recipes even when they go wrong so as not to give the impression that I am some expert (so not true) and never have a failed bread.

This would be one of those times when something goes wrong.

MellowBakers.comOh, this is MellowBakers.com’ 19th bread from Hamelman’s book “Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes“. For those who didn’t know, we’re a bunch of crazy breadheads who decided to do all 84 recipes in the book but in a casual, relaxed, dare I say “mellow” fashion. If you’re a bit bread crazy too, join us, jump in at any point and play along. Or just read up on our adventures, lots of talk, lots of photos and links to members’ great blogs too.

Now I’ve done this bread or at least a couple of recipes very close to this bread before and they came out very nicely. The very similar 40% Rye with Caraway based on the Back Home Bakery recipe, for example. This came out so nicely, I’m using photos of that bake as the main graphic for the site.

That looks like I know what I’m doing, doesn’t it?

Let’s put that theory to the test, shall we?

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