Posts Tagged ‘scary step involved’

FFwD: Chocolate Eclairs

These were so good! I really enjoyed having Dorie hold my hand through this whole recipe. I just love how her descriptions gave me a great sense of how my various ingredients were coming together! Here are a few pictures of the process.

For the chocolate filling: whole milk, egg yolks, cornstarch, bittersweet chocolate, sugar, salt and butter.

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BBA#7 – Ciabatta

On to the next recipe in the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. Ciabatta. I loved the ciabatta. I loved it so much that I have made it three times in one week!! It is amazing. I made one recipe using the left-over poolish from the Artos bread. Since I only had a portion of the poolish dough I had to calculate the percentages of the other ingredients in order to scale them down to for the amount of poolish I had. Math is hard but after crunching the numbers I think I figured it out. I was pretty concerned about handling a wet dough (had read from other folks on The Fresh Loaf how difficult it could be) so I was quite nervous to start, but in the end I figured -What’s the worse that could happen? rock hard bread?  dough on every surface of the kitchen? waste of good flour and yeast? Out of those options only the last one really made me pause. So the geek in me decided that I wanted to know what the cost of the ingredients would be if I messed this up and I made a spreadsheet. By calculating the cost of the bread flour, yeast and salt per oz. I figured out that I was risking about $2.16 worth of ingredients if the whole thing went down the tubes. That was a risk I was willing to take – since the upside promised to be yummy, chewy, tasty ciabatta. With all that business out of the way I got to work.  

The ingrediant line-up: 


 Salt, yeast, bread flour, poolish (frozen and then thawed in the refrigerator for about three days), and water.  


 My mise-en-place, for approximately 2/3 of a batch.

I started off adding all the ingredients in my mixer bowl and then used my dutch whisk to stir until a shaggy ball of dough formed – the dough was pretty dense and I really had to put some muscle into the mixing but it seemed to work. Then using the dough hook, I let the mixer knead it for about ten minutes.


 I scooped the wet dough onto my “bed” of flour on my work surface and then tried my best to follow the stretch and fold technique that PR describes in his book on page 138.


 After the first stretch and fold I set a plastic bin over the top to keep it from drying out while it fermented the first time. It took about 30 minutes before it doubled in size.


 I stretched and folded again…..


 And let it sit a for about 90 more minutes. While waiting for it to ferment the second time, I prepared my couche which I had ordered from King Arthur Flour when I started this project. It had never been used before, so used so I sprayed it with a little oil and heavily floured it to avoid any stick-age if possible. This is one baking tool that will get better over time (kinda like a well seasoned cast iron frying pan).


 Once the dough had doubled again, about 60 minutes later, I used my bench scraper to carefully divide the dough into four pieces. My goal was to make a sandwich type roll so Andrew could take them for lunch.

As soon as I transferred the dough to to couche I turned my oven to 500 degrees to preheat. This would allow time for my baking stone to get as hot as possible.


 I let the dough proof for the last time in the couche and then very, very gently (I didn’t want to deflate those air bubbles) picked up the dough pieces and laid them on a sheet of parchment paper. Each one was carefully streched and folded one last time before I slid them on to the preheated baking stone.  


 I used the same steam bath method that I used to steam the challah, and after about 15 minutes I rotated the loaves to make sure they were browning evenly.


 After about 25 minutes, I used my digital probe thermometer to see if they had reached 205 degrees and they were done! I pulled out the loaves with a pair of tongs and set them on a rack to cool. They looked really great!


 But would the crumb have those coveted holes????


 The next morning I sliced one open and took a look.


 Mostly small to medium holes, and one or two large ones, but that’s about it. The best part was the taste – it was amazing. The wheat was complex and it just tasted like really great bread should taste. The crust was crunchy but not so hard that it hurt to chew. Overall it was really satisfying. 



 I was hooked! I knew those four small loaves weren’t long for this world  and I was curious to see if I could notice the difference between the poolish version and the biga version listed in the BBA. There was only one way to find out – I started off a mixing a biga the very next day.

The biga is a portion of the total flour, water, and yeast that is mixed, kneaded,  and then allowed to ferment in the fridge for a few days. This allows the enzymes  a little more time to break down the sugars in the wheat and really helps develop the flavor.


 After about 48 hours, I took the biga out of the fridge and cut it into about 10 small pieces to help it come to room temp a little quicker. While this was happening I weighed out the additional flour, salt, yeast, oil and water for the second portion of bread.

I made one small change to the flour. Several of the other BBA’ers mentioned that using All Purpose (AP) flour would result in a slightly softer crumb. So in this batch I added half of my normal bread flour and half of all purpose flour, just to see if it made a difference.


 Just a quick reminder – oil and water do not mix. This picture sort of reminds me of one of those old lava lamps, yes?


 Ok, so here is the dough. So far I have mixed those biga pieces into the rest of the ingredients above, stretched and folded, and allowed to rise the first time.


 I had plans to take a loaf to a friends house for dinner and I wanted to take a loaf into work so I divided the dough into two pieces of somewhat equal weight – I had to eyeball this because weighing it on the scale would have deflated my dough for sure, and that was something I wanted to avoid at all costs. In to the oven on to the hot baking stone again and here is what they looked like when they came out of the oven….


 Real ciabatta – would you look at that!!!  And what about those holes?  Take a look….


That is a success if I’ve ever seen it! Yay for ciabatta!

Next up: Cinnamon Rolls (Sticky Buns/Rolls) or whateva they are called.

Note: Oh yeah, I’m headed off for a week on my grandparents houseboat at Lake Powell. I will be baking the next recipe on location – without my Kitchen Aid. Now that is the real challenge!


Wow, ok. Where to start? Several weeks ago when I signed up to do this crazy challenge I skimmed through the first few recipes to see what we would be baking in the next few weeks. The recipe started off nice and easy with Anadama bread, which for me, was the first time I shaped loafs and baked them in loaf pans. New, cool, and turns out – pretty easy. Week number two was a new challenge because while I had shaped and baked batards and boules in the past, I had never incorporated fancy designs or added fruits or nuts or anything else that would be odd to knead in. Turns out that was do-able, and fun also. BUT, week three had me scared for a whole ‘nother reason. You had to BOIL the bagel dough! I could not imagine how it would be that the dough wouldn’t just become waterlogged, fall apart and disintegrate into the pot. I needed guidance stat.

So in the few weeks I had before the bagels were due, I read every post that my fellow Challenge Bakers wrote about bagels. Again and again. Some had amazing success and some had some minor issues. Those that had problems were so helpful. I could learn from their trial and error, and I did. It was with equal parts amazement and relief when I opened the oven to pull out the bagels that I could see that I had done it! It was a great feeling! So with out further a-do. The bagels……

 First the Usual Suspects:

Unbleached bread flour, non-diastatic malt powder, vital wheat gluten, water, yeast, and salt

Unbleached bread flour, non-diastatic malt powder, vital wheat gluten, water, yeast, and salt

Day 1 – we need to make a sponge first, so take water, yeast and flour and mix until the consistency of muffin batter. I also added a small amount of vital wheat gluten to my bread flour. The recipe calls for high-gluten bread flour and since I had just purchased 25lbs of bread flour from King Arthur, I decided to just add about 1 tablespoon vital wheat gluten to each cup of flour I used. This was to ensure that my dough would have a high enough protein content for a nice chewy bagel.

Flour, yeast, water, and vital wheat gluten

Flour, yeast, water, and vital wheat gluten


Gluten strands

Gluten strands

I let the sponge hang out on the counter for a couple of hours. It had started to bubble and had about doubled in size. At this point, I added my bubbling sponge to the rest of the flour/wheat gluten, salt, yeast, and malt powder – except yeah, I somehow forgot to add the malt powder…the single ingredient that makes a bagel taste like a bagel. I hadn’t realized this yet, so I mixed the ingredients and let the KA start mixin’ away.

Could not have done it without my Kitchen Aid

Could not have done it without my Kitchen Aid

I was nervous about burning up the Kitchen Aid since there were reports of a few bagel bakers who had overheated their machines because the bagel dough was so stiff. I started it on the lowest setting and watched it like a hawk. Even though I have the Pro 600 I didn’t want to take any chances.

Hand kneading is the only way I can really tell if the dough is right.

Hand kneading is the only way I can really tell if the dough is right.

After about 10 minutes of mixing I could tell it was pretty close, so I took the dough out of the mixer and kneaded by hand for about 5 minutes just so I could make sure that the dough was the right consistancy.

I tried the window pane test:

The window pane test

The window pane test

I had window pane happening! This picture is brought to you with help from my wonderful photographer/boyfriend, Andrew. He went to put the camera away and i turned back to my counter and to my horror realized that the bag of non-diastatic malt powder was UNOPENED!! What! No, say its not so….ruin, total ruin.

Did I toss the whole batch and start over? Skip it? This is why my bagels were going to fail and I had been so careful, sigh.

After a minute of hemming and hawing I decided to try and just mix in the malt to the dough a little at a time. It stuck to the counter and clumped in the dough. Not good. I sprinkled a few drops of water and mixed some more, repeat about three times and finally – finally I could tell it was incorporated. I couldn’t see any clumps left and the dough felt right again despite the added water. I decided to just move forward with my fingers crossed and see what would happen.

Pre-shaping into rolls

Pre-shaping into rolls

I split the dough into 4.5 oz chunks – or as close as possible and pre-shaped them into balls and them let them rest for about 20 minutes. This rest time alows the gluten strands to unwind a little bit and soften so I can shape them into bagels. If there was no rest period, the dough would be very elastic and want to shirink back to its previous state.

After 20 minutes passed, I started rolling the dough into a long rope, wrapped it around my hand and then secured the ends with a little water. Repeat 12 more times.

rollingthe wrap technique

securing with waterta da

After 20 minutes you take a bagel and drop it in a bowl of lukewarm water. If it floats it is ready to go into the fridge for the night.

It floats - ready to be put to bed

It floats - ready to be put to bed

I covered them with oiled plastic wrap and stored them in the fridgerator overnight. This overnight step is one of the special things that Peter Reinhart adds in his reciepe. Putting the dough in a cold place overnight allows the enzymes to break down the flour and develops additional flavor in the dough.


The next morning, I took the bagels out of the fridge and prepared a big pot of water to boil. I added a couple tablespoons of malt poweder and baking soda to the water which should allow my bagels to develop a nice browning in the oven and that bagel shop shine. I dropped in the bagels three at a time in the boiling water and let them cook each side about a minute and a half.


Into the boiling water with baking soda and malt powder

 After they were boiled, I placed them back on the parchment covered trays to be topped.


I used a strainer to fish the cooked bagels from the pot

 I used several bagel toppings – just what I had on hand really. I used parmasan cheese, flaky salt, cinnamin sugar, seseme seeds, and cheddar cheese.

Toppings buffet

Toppings Buffet

Bagels get their toppings

 Next up the oven: I baked them in a 500 degree oven for about ten minutes total. I turned the tray after 5 minutes to make sure they were browning evenly.

500 degree oven for 10 minutes

500 degree oven for 10 minutes

When they were ready to be pulled out of the oven, I carefully placed them on a cooling rack and did a second round of the boiling, topping, baking routine for the second half of the batch.


Pipping Hot


Cooling down

At this point I was really excited!!! They were still puffy and yummy looking – I had made bagels! The last step, and true test, was how did they taste.

But- before we get to the taste – lets take a look at these beautiful bagel babies.

Basket o' Bagels

Basket o' Bagels

Cheddar Bagel

Cheddar Bagel

Parmisan Cheese Bagel

Parmisan Cheese Bagel

Plain jane bagel

Plain jane bagel

Flaky Sea Salt

Flaky Sea Salt

My favorite - Cinnamin Sugar

My favorite - Cinnamin Sugar

And finally the taste test:

The Ends

I will absolutely make these again!

Next up in the Bread Baker’s Challenge: Brioche