Funky AND impressive looking while still relatively easy to put together, this is a tasty treat you can serve guests or family and pile up the accolades. And it makes the house smell great.
As there are several blogs out there with the step-by-step in photos, I’ll simply leave you to visit them to see the process; I’m adding lots of yummy photos and links at the end. The recipe below should still be a great guide to making this a go-to treat in your own home. I’ve included a gram and ounce conversion based on volume equivalent tables I’ve been able to find online.
3 1/2 C
All Purpose flour (2 3/4 C + more as needed)
2 1/4 tsp
instant dry yeast (one pkg.)
pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temp. (weight without shell)
TIP: To get cold eggs from the fridge to room temp quickly, place them in a bowl and cover them with ‘almost hot’ tap water before getting on with other prep. By the time you need them, they’ll have warmed up significantly.
Let’s start by pointing out that my oven is still very questionable. I had noted that when the oven hit it’s desired temperature – quite accurately, I’ll add – it decided that’s all it needed to do. It no longer kicked in to keep the oven temp at that level. So without knowing, the oven temperature would drop and drop and drop, all while the digital readout still said “450°F” as the inside plummeted to 350°F.
“I’ve baked a few things” said Punkin, pulling a Shepherd’s Pie from the oven a few days ago, “I think it’s OK again. I suspect it’s your steam that’s causing the problem.” OK, so maybe the steam is playing havoc with either the thermostat inside the oven or the actual chips inside the oven controls. So I figured, after a few weeks of not baking and staring to have serious withdrawals, I would give it another go.
Gathering all the required supplies I then set off to make this loaf, hoping the oven had got over its little fit. I would also steam the bread by putting it under pans to trap the water instead of steaming the oven cavity. That will rule out the “steam in the works” problem.
I had a long weekend, being just before Easter, so I decided to try some of the breads in the Mellow Bakers Hamelman Challenge that I had passed over while moving across the country over the last few months. Looking thought the list of bread we had scheduled, I saw that Ciabatta was one of the breads from December; this would then be this weekend’s bread. There were three varieties offered: Ciabatta with Stiff Biga, with Poolish or a with Olive Oil & Wheat Germ. Based on the descriptions in Hamelman’s book Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes, I chose the Poolish version as it hinted it would be the most flavourful because of the longer pre-ferment of the Poolish.
Ciabatta is one of the more popular Artisanal breads in North America, after the standards like French and Italian. According to Jeffrey Hamelman, it got its popularity boost when it won first place in the prestigious bread competition in Paris, La Coupe du Pain (look this up) and has since been produced and enjoyed by bakers and bread fans alike in North America .
Its thin, crispy crust and soft, holey texture and milder, pleasant taste makes it a good accompaniment to many meals, allowing it to reach more tables than other exotic breads.
The fact it is a very wet dough may detract home bakers from attempting it but you should think of it as a small challenge and give it a go; it may be on the opposite end of bagels and their very stiff dough but the results working with this 80% hydration dough is well worthwhile. And really, it’s not all that much more challenging than most bread recipes you might do.
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 as a plausible excuse. 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.
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.