Crazy for Fresh Doughnuts!

doughnuts

This weekend I made a batch of chocolate filled beignets for a dinner party. The next morning the oil was still on the stove, albeit cold and I had brioche dough left in the bucket. My boys were waiting for something to eat and the coffee machine was doing its magic. In as much time as it would have taken me to make oatmeal I whipped together a batch of warm fresh doughnuts. The boys were thrilled and my coffee had the perfect companion! (more…)

Sunny-Side-Up Apricot Pastry

Sunny-Side-Up Apricot Pastry

(photo by Mark Luinenburg from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day)

In Minnesota for the past week it has been a little too gray for my taste. The one consolation to all the cold and snow we get around here, are the endless clear blue skies. They are rather remarkable and make the winters tolerable. When they refuse to show themselves through the clouds I go cold. This means I need a little something to brighten up my day. Something sweet! Something easy and quick. Sunny-Side-Up Apricot Pastry (p. 225) will do the trick. A combination of buttery brioche, luscious vanilla pastry cream and tangy sweet apricots.

If you have a batch of Brioche dough at the ready then these treats go together in a short time. Perhaps more than 5 minutes but some indulgences are worth the few extra minutes.

One other thing drives me crazy about January, the lack of fresh fruit. Not that Chile isn’t willing to produce and ship anything your heart desires, but it just isn’t the same as fresh fruit from the farmers market or the pick-it-yourself farm. But this is a craving and one that I can’t wait until summer to satisfy. So I admit I went to Lund’s and bought a can of Apricots and went on my merry way toward happiness.

…and don’t forget to use a real vanilla bean in the pastry cream. If you’ve never used one before click here and I’ll show you how! (more…)

I love New York: in search of great bread

New York’s a great bread town; its best bakeries are really world class.  But if you start sampling restaurants not neccesarily known for their bread, it gets kind of variable. It’s a real disappointment to sit down to a week of great restaurant meals in one of the world’s great food cities, and find that only one of them is accompanied by good bread (pictured above; a Turkish pita with black and white sesame seeds at Zeytin Turkish Restaurant and Bar, on the Upper West Side). Zeytin’s pita, done by a bakery service, has been a bread high point of a nine-day stay in the Big Apple.

But at a fantastic little French-Algerian place, the baguette was comically dismal– it actually CRUMBLED when pressed in the hand (don’t ask about the mouth). This restaurant takes itself very seriously (the terrific and authentic couscous was $38 a plate). Why the gap between food and bread? We all need to complain more (like New Yorkers, which is exactly what our hosts did the next night, when faced with overtly stale Italian peasant bread at their reliable Midtown trattoria where they are well-known to the staff). Alas, there was no fresh bread in the restaurant at 10:30 on a Wednesday.

So for great restaurants with lousy bread, I’m proposing B.Y.O.Bread rules. Make your own and bring the stuff. It will raise eyebrows and consciousness. Meanwhile, here’s a pita recipe that WON’T puff, in the style of Greece or Turkey. (more…)

Yeast: Can it be decreased in the recipes?

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Short answer:  Yes!

Our method is super-fast because it’s based on stored dough, not because we use a full dose of granulated yeast in the recipes. In the 2007 edition of our first book, we used full-dose yeast (which was 1 1/2 tablespoons for four pounds of dough) because we knew that many of our readers would want to use the dough within a few hours of mixing it. For our 2013 update of that book, we decreased our full dose of yeast to 1 tablespoon, because our testing showed that the extra half-tablespoon made little difference. We’d still consider that a full dose of yeast in a four-pound batch, and you can decrease to 1 tablespoon in any of our recipes, from any of our books. But if you have more time for the initial rise, you can decrease it further–by large margins.  Half-doses, quarter-doses, and even less will work.

Why use less yeast?  Experienced yeast bakers sometimes prefer the more delicate flavor and aroma of a dough risen with less packaged yeast. Traditionally, it’s felt that rising the dough very slowly, with very little added yeast, builds a better flavor. So this is an option to try when you have more time:

I tried it two ways, first halving the yeast (1/2 tablespoon), and then dropping it way down, to 1/2 teaspoon. Both worked, but they work slowly. For the 1/2 teaspoon version, you need to give the dough 6 to 12 hours to rise. The 1/2 tablespoon version needs something in between (about 4-5 hours). You don’t need to increase the resting time after the loaf is shaped. Active time is still five minutes a loaf, it’s just your passive resting and rising times that really escalate when you go to the low-yeast version. If you use cool or cold water with a low-yeast preparation, you’ll need 18 to 36 hours for the initial rise.

So if you’ve hesitated to try our method because you like your loaves risen long and slow, give this approach a try.

Low yeast/slow rise with egg-enriched breads: Readers have asked us about the food-safety issues in trying low yeast/slow rise at room temperature with egg-enriched doughs.  Raw egg shouldn’t be left out too long at room temp. How long is too long? US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is very conservative on this question; they say 2 hours is the max (click here and scroll down for their detailed recommendations). Understand that this would make it impossible to rise a cold-started egg-enriched dough fully at room temperature (though we’ve found that two hours on the counter is enough even for a 33% yeast reduction; the problems start when you make more significant reductions, which would require 8 to 24 hours on the counter). The risk is salmonella and other food-borne illnesses. Even though eggs in baked breads are fully cooked, the USDA is clear on this– 2 hours max.  They’re a very conservative organization– for example, you basically can’t eat hamburger with any pink in it, according to USDA.

To stay in compliance with USDA guidelines for egg-based doughs, refrigerate at 2 hours regardless of whether the batch has fully risen.  Then, allow the rising to complete at refrigerator temperature (18 to 36 hours).

More in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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Roasting “Sugar” Pumpkins for Bread Recipe

oatmeal pumpkin bread ingredients

It is nearly Thanksgiving and there are pumpkins in everyone’s shopping cart, generally in a can. If you want a real treat, that is easy and will have you wanting to skip the canned isle in the grocery store, try roasting your own pumpkin. Baking the pumpkin caramelizes the sugars and makes for a sweeter puree than boiling. You’ll want to start with a “pie” or “sugar” variety and avoid the BIG Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins which are great for carving but are too watery to eat their flesh. Once you have roasted your pumpkin you can use 1 cup for Oatmeal Pumpkin Bread on p. 100 of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, the rest is for your favorite pie recipe. (more…)

Zoe’s Mom Bakes Bialys

mom’s bialys

When Jeff and I started to write Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day I sent the “master” recipe to my mom. It was, in my mind the ultimate test. Not because my mom has been baking for years and would be hyper critical, quite the opposite. You see my mother has many, many talents, but baking is not one of them. Or I should say it wasn’t until now. I sent her the recipe and waited. A couple of days later I got a hysterical call from her and she was slathering butter all over her first loaf of bread. She had just taken it out of the oven and despite our recommendation to let it cool she cut into it when it was still warm. She was talking to me between bites and was so proud of herself. (more…)

Grissini– Olive Oil Breadsticks

Hmm. What to do with that leftover prosciutto? Better wrap it around some Italian breadsticks (grissini). Grissini are infused with olive oil, but since the oil infuses just as nicely when drizzled over the unbaked sticks as when mixed into the dough, you have a variety of choices of which pre-mixed dough to use– you don’t have to use an olive oil dough (even our olive oil dough will need additional oil). This batch was made with a basic peasant dough (page 46), but as below, it works nicely with any of the listed ones.

Immediately after being photographed, the grissini consented to being wrapped with strips of prosciutto and consumed with white wine.

Makes a generous handful of grissini

Use any of these pre-mixed doughs: Boule (page 26), European Peasant (page 46), Olive Oil (page 134), Light Whole Wheat (page 74), or Italian Semolina (page 80)

1/2 pound (orange-size portion) of any pre-mixed dough listed above

Olive oil for drizzling, preferably extra-virgin, dispensed from a small-tipped squeeze bottle

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. A baking stone is optional, but if you’re using one, allow for a 20 minute preheat, otherwise 5 minutes is adequate.

2. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat, or simply grease it well with olive oil.

2. Take a small piece of dough and gently roll it into a ball. Gradually stretch and roll the ball on a lightly floured wooden board until you achieve sticks with a diameter of about 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Lay them out on the prepared cookie sheet with an inch or so between each stick.

3. Generously drizzle a stream of olive oil over each stick.

4. Bake near the center of the oven for approximately 6 to 10 minutes. Grissini are done when they are nicely browned and beginning to crisp (they will firm up when they cool). Serve plain as an hors d’oeuvre or with one half wrapped with a prosciutto strip.