Mini-Wreath Loaves with Bread Flour

With holidays coming up, these are very festive…

People often ask us why we only used all-purpose flour (where we called for white flour) in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Why not “bread” flour, which is higher in protein and is often considered traditional in bread?  Well, not in all traditions. French baguettes, for example, are typically made with lower-protein flour for a more tender, and less chewy crumb.  And we knew most of our potential book users already had all-purpose flour in the house.  But sometimes, a stiffer dough is desirable, like when something really needs to hold its shape, like these wreath-shaped, well… bagels.  You can always swap bread flour into our recipes that call for all-purpose, just by adding a little extra water (details below).  

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Pan-banging Sugar Cookies from 100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen!

These sugar cookies are courtesy of our friend and colleague, Sarah Kieffer, who’s been part of our BreadIn5 family since 2012. You can grab the recipe for these on The Vanilla Bean Blog by clicking here, or you can buy the whole book that it comes from, click here! The year our pizza book came out, Sarah photographed an event where Zoe was doing a demo. We saw the shots on her website, and they were terrific. I’d been looking to scale back my own blogging, so I had coffee with Sarah. We hit it off right away, and I decided to turn over my part of the bread-blogging to Sarah, so this post is part of my way of saying THANK YOU for that. Eventually Sarah started doing Zoe’s too.

Here’s what impressed me: I’ve been tinkering with photography since I was 12, in my own darkrooms and then using color labs, but I struggled to create great shots for our website, because this isn’t the easiest craft to master. Well, Sarah mastered it. Juggling hobbies and avocations with the demands of caring for young children (sound familiar?), she bought a good camera and taught herself digital photography and food blogging, with phenomenal results. In addition to blogging on BreadIn5, Sarah shot and styled some of the photos in our later books. Through all this, she was perfecting a very fun and delicious cookie-baking technique. Her pan-banging chocolate chip cookies became an internet sensation, and were covered in the New York Times. She has two books of her own now; this week releasing 100 Cookies: The Baking Book for Every Kitchen. It’s available on Amazon and everywhere else.

More beautiful cookies from Sarah’s book (and of course, all photos are by Sarah Kieffer):

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Brownie Cookies

Video: secrets of baguettes on the gas grill for summer!

OK, first the disclaimer, I did not bake the breads above, this is from an old post I did after a trip to France, where these loaves were bought and eaten.  I also need to admit that it looks like I bit the perfect tip off the baguette on the right (I did, on my walk back from the boulangerie–bakery).  Truth moment, even though you can bake baguettes in your gas grill (and I’ll prove it in a video below), they won’t look quite like these. No matter, they’re still delicious. Read on–click “more” below…

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Health questions?

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When we wrote our books, we were aware of the controversies surrounding food consumption and its effect on health, and over the years we’ve received many questions related to health claims made in the media and in popular books. The answers are complex and the science is often inconclusive. Given that, we don’t make any specific health-promotion claims about the breads in our books. When we first wrote Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day in 2009, we knew that it’d generate lots of questions. Below (scroll down), you’ll find part of the introduction to that book, which addresses the state of the science related to nutrition and bread ingredients. In Healthy Bread, we baked with lots of whole wheat and other whole grains, and had a whole chapter on sourdough baking. But bread is a carbohydrate food, and the best advice that scientists give us is this: don’t binge on it. Eat bread and other energy-rich foods in moderation or you’ll gradually gain weight and put yourself at risk for diabetes and other chronic conditions. That’s the best science-based advice we can give. Two specific topics on which we get a lot of questions here on the website:

Sourdough? Are there health benefits, compared with breads made with commercial yeast? Short answer: the science is far from clear on this, and mainstream researchers aren’t promoting sourdough as having any particular health effects, despite it’s natural bacteria and yeast, and supposed effects on acid balance or glycemic index–the evidence just isn’t there. Like all breads, sourdough loaves are a carbohydrate food, and should be eaten in moderation. The main reason to eat sourdough is its wonderful flavor, and that’s the thinking that drove most of the choices in our books.

Gluten-free? We wrote Gluten-Free Bread in Five Minutes a Day primarily for people with celiac disease, a well-documented medical condition that may affect as much as 1% of the population. People with celiac cannot eat bread made from wheat or anything with gluten. For other folks who feel better when they don’t eat wheat or gluten, the science is newer, and less clear. We can’t make any claims about health benefits of gluten-free bread, other than that it’s the only option for celiacs. There’s no credible evidence suggestiong that everyone needs a gluten-free diet.

Read on for some basics on bread ingredients, from the introduction to Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (copyright 2009, 2016, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois):

1. Whole grain flour is better for you than white flour: Because whole grains include the germ and the bran, in addition to the starch-rich but fiber- and vitamin-poor endosperm whole grain flours bring a boatload of healthy substances into your diet, including phytochemicals (beneficial plant chemicals), vitamins, and fiber. Those are pretty much absent from white flour. Iron, niacin, folic acid, riboflavin, and thiamine are added back in enriched commercial white flour, but no other nutrients—so whole wheat delivers more complete nutrition than enriched white flour. But there’s more—because bran and germ in whole grains dilute the effect of pure starch in the endosperm, the absorption and conversion of starches into simple sugars is slowed, so blood glucose (the simplest sugar) rises more slowly after consumption of whole grains than it does after eating refined white flour products. Complex, high-bran carbohydrates are said to have a lower “glycemic index,” a measure of how fast your blood sugar rises after eating a particular food. The evidence for better handling of blood sugar, better digestive function, and heart health convinced the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make two recommendations in their current guidelines:

  • Consume a high-fiber diet, with at least 14 grams of dietary fiber per 1,000 calories consumed in an ideal-calorie diet each day. For a 2,000-calorie diet (appropriate for most women), that means about 28 grams of fiber a day. For a 2,500-calorie diet (appropriate for most men), that means 35 grams a day). 100% whole wheat bread contains a little less than 2 grams of fiber per slice if you cut a thin 1-ounce slice, and 3 to 4 grams if you cut a 2-ounce slice. White bread contains a quarter of that.
  • Make sure that at least half of your grain intake is whole grain.

2. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils are better for you than saturated and trans fats (like butter and hydrogenated oil): Switching to these oils or other heart-healthy fat sources can benefit those with high blood cholesterol.

3. Low-salt breads will benefit people with hypertension, heart failure, and kidney failure: This applies to all our breads—they all can be made with less or even zero salt, though the flavor will of course be different.

4. Nuts and seeds contain heart-healthy oils: Though they’re concentrated calorie sources, nuts and seeds are rich in vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fats (monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats).

5. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources for protective phytochemicals and vitamins: In Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, we have a whole chapter of breads enriched by fruits or vegetables, which are fiber-rich and loaded with vitamins and antioxidants.

And one final word of advice about diet and health: Please don’t obsess about food. This is supposed to be fun. If you can put some healthy ingredients into your bread and you like the flavor, do it. Most of all, enjoy your food!

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Meet the Authors: Three Twin Cities events in November & December

November 29, 2018, 4:00 to 8:00pm – Jeff will again join forces with New York Times food writer Martha Rose Shulman, this time in a one-hour flatbread class focused on everyone’s favorite food group: cheese–and how to use it in flatbreads and dessert. It’s a benefit for Minneapolis’s Legal Rights Center, a non-profit legal organization dedicated to diverting kids from the criminal justice system and into restorative justice programs. Click here to view the invite and register electronically or by phone: LRC-Invite2018

 

December 1, 2018, 1:00 to 3:00pm – Jeff will be signing books at Magers and Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis’s finest independent bookstore (3038 Hennepin Av.), with samples of brioche or other enriched holiday treats from Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

 

December 11, 2018, 6:00 to 8:30pm – Zoe and Jeff will be doing three 15 minute demos, and then talking bakeware at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul (877 Grand Av). It’s $45, and it includes a glass of wine and a copy of Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Register here…

 

 

Hanukkah panini: Jeff’s new favorite Holiday tradition

About unorthodox Holiday traditions (for me, Hannukah)–how about panini? Any time of year is the right time of year for one. We’ve done two grilled sandwich posts here on the website. Now, our official panini post isn’t quite right for Hannukah (there’s ham in it, but you can leave it out, of course). Our other grilled sandwich post is more American style than Italian–also fantastic. (more…)

Jeff’s doing a benefit class for Minneapolis’s Legal Rights Center on November 30

Jeff will join forces with New York Times food writer Martha Rose Shulman to create perfect pizza crust and imaginative toppings (guess who’s doing which), in a benefit for Minneapolis’s Legal Rights Center, a non-profit legal organization dedicated to diverting kids from the criminal justice system and into restorative justice programs. The baking demo will be from 4:00pm to 5:30pm on November 30, 2017 ($150 donation to LRC). After the demo with Jeff and Martha, starting at 5:30pm, it’ll be an evening of great conversation with great Twin Cities cooks and foodies who’ll be in attendance, including Lucia Watson (founder of Lucia’s restaurant and cookbook author), Beth Dooley (Twin Cities food writer and cook book author, and Matt Morgan (chef from The Bachelor Farmer, Heartland, Aquavit, and Chef’s Taverna). There’s an additional $100 donation if you choose to stay after the demo.

Click for more information and to register…

How & When to Swap Bread Flour for All-Purpose in Mini-Wreath Pain d’Epis

People often ask us why we only used all-purpose flour (where we called for white flour) in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  Why not “bread” flour, which is higher in protein and is often considered traditional in bread?  Well, not in all traditions. French baguettes, for example, are typically made with lower-protein flour for a more tender, and less chewy crumb.  And we knew most of our potential book users already had all-purpose flour in the house.  But sometimes, a stiffer dough is desirable, like when something really needs to hold its shape, like these wreath-shaped, well… bagels.  You can always swap bread flour into our recipes that call for all-purpose, just by adding a little extra water (details below).   (more…)

Holiday Gift Ideas for Bread Bakers!

All of our books are available on Amazon, so click on the book-images to the right (or on our home page) to go there. Plus, here are the products we’ve used, tested, and love:

oven-thermometerOven thermometer… so important for getting the perfect crust and crumb.

 

baking-stoneFull-size baking stone… same! There are even super-small ones that fit in a toaster oven (college students have made our loaves in dorm rooms). Cast-iron “stones” are also great, and more durable.

digital-scaleDigital scale

 

pizza-peelPizza peel… for free-form loaves, pizza, and flatbread. This one’s wood, but there are also nice options in composite material.

danish-dough-whiskDanish Dough Whisk… to more easily hand-mix our doughs.

 

dough-bucketDough bucket… Amazon sells the lids separately, but this price is much better than what you’ll find it for in kitchen stores. Many more baking products…

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