New York Deli Rye Bread

I decided to make New York Deli Rye Bread to make sandwiches out of my homemade corned beef. I was excited. This gave me a reason to buy rye flour, which I’d always wanted to buy. This also happens to be my first purchase of non-wheat flour since I began doing serious cooking and began this blog in 2010. (I bought other various starches several years ago, but they don’t really count.)

Schnucks only had 2 kinds of rye for me: stone ground rye flour or light/white rye flour. Frugality won me over, and I bought the larger, better deal per pound bag of stone ground rye flour. Should be fine, right? Well, behold – my recipe called for light rye flour. Oh well. I forged ahead anyway.

This rye bread is a sourdough bread, and as such, it takes about 4 days of planning to make it. Or at least, I started on a Thursday to bake a loaf on Sunday. First, I had to revive my dried-out sourdough starter. I mixed it with equal parts flour and water and left it out, covered, on the counter overnight to let it come back to life. I fed it again in the morning, encouraging it to still be alive. On Friday evening, assured that my sourdough was still alive, I fed my sourdough starter so it would be ready for Saturday, when I actually started the actual dough.

New York Deli Rye
New York Deli Rye – you can see specks of onion if you look closely

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Poulane-Style Miche – the largest loaf of bread ever

While I was thinking of my food plans for this year, I was struck by the desire to make the loaf of bread from the cover of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. It was the largest loaf of bread I’d ever seen – and I could potentially make it!

I found the recipe for the Poulane-Style Miche online as well. I’ll summarize the bread-making process here, but Jude’s blog post has much better (and more) pictures that I can take.

This is a country-style, whole wheat bread. The original recipe uses sifted whole wheat flour, but Reinhart himself recommends a mix of whole wheat and bread flours, which is what I used. The blog I link to above used white whole wheat flour, which I also recommend for this recipe because regular whole wheat flour, as I used, makes it a heavily- and heartily- flavored loaf.

This is a sourdough bread, so it takes a while for the dough to make. I was supposed to make this bread over two days, but I didn’t have enough time to finish it in time for dinner on the second day, so my bread-making process spanned three. Remember that although it takes you three days to make, you’re making four and a half (4.5!) pounds of bread. So you’re really netting 1.5 pounds of bread per day of work. That’s not so bad… right?

Poulaine-Style Miche, on a 12-inch pizza pan for reference. This is a 4.5 pound loaf of bread.

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Rustic Sourdough Bread – take 3

As I experimented with bread-making last year, I tried to make Rustic Sourdough Bread from the King Arthur Flour website – twice. I knew back then that I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I’ve definitely made bread-baking progress since then.

What went wrong with my first two tries? A few things went wrong with my first batch. My kitchen was too warm; I didn’t add enough flour to my bread; and I let the dough rise way too long. There was nothing in particular wrong with the second batch, except that it was the palest bread I’ve ever made. I think I sprayed too much water on it before I baked it.

I should note that this time, I decided to weigh all the ingredients. I have a digital scale that measures in ounces. I halved the recipe so I’d only make one loaf, so I used 4 ounces of sourdough starter; 6 ounces (3/4 cup) water; 1 teaspoon yeast; 1/4 ounce sugar (which I also weighed); 1 1/4 teaspoon salt; and 10 ounces of flour, a little under the amount called for. I added a little more flour to the bread as I kneaded and shaped it.

For this third attempt, I know how to shape bread. I have a better sense of how bread dough should feel, and how sticky or tacky it should be. I was home for the evening, so I wouldn’t mess up on the timing of the bread. I decided not to try to proof my bread in the oven, which might make it rise too much. If the bread wasn’t ready to bake at night, I would just refrigerate it and bake it in morning.

Rustic Sourdough Bread

The dough was easy to make. I mixed the dough together with a spoon. The ingredients weren’t really well-combined until I started to knead it by hand. I didn’t knead it very long – just a couple of minutes until the dough was smooth. I did windowpane it, and the dough was fairly see-through at that point. I preheated the oven briefly, but rather than put the dough in the warmed oven to rise, I just set it on top of the warmed stove.

After an hour and a half, I turned the dough out onto parchment paper on a baking sheet and gently shaped it into a loaf. I actually did it more like how I would make a baguette than an oval like the instructions said to. I patted it out (gently), made a crease down it lengthwise, and folded the dough over that crease like a letter. I sealed the seam into the dough and turned the dough over so that it was seam side-down. I again preheated the oven briefly to warm up the stovetop and set the baking sheet with the dough on the stove to rise again.

After about an hour, I went to bake the bread. I preheated the oven and peeled the plastic wrap off of the dough. I sprayed the loaf with water and made 2 gashes in the dough. I baked the bread on the baking sheet at 425F for about 25 minutes. At that time, it looked done.

Just look at the open crumb on that slice of bread. Delicious!

I was really happy with how this bread turned out. I think I sprayed a little too much water on it, which is why it didn’t develop the dark brown color that I wanted; the bottom of the loaf was a beautiful reddish brown, though. The outside wasn’t as crusty as I would have liked, but it still was chewy and delicious. The inside had a great chewy crumb, and the crust tore apart from the inside relatively easily. The bread had a nice flavor from the sourdough, but wasn’t overly sour since it had the shorter fermentation times of a yeasted bread. I ate it with soup and on its own, and it was still really good a day later. It didn’t dry out or get stale, and I didn’t have it wrapped the entire time.

Definitely make this bread if you like using sourdough starter, but don’t really want something that’s too strongly flavored. Based on my results this time, I also recommend trying this bread if you’re still trying to get the hang of baking with your sourdough. Sure, it took me 3 tries to really like this bread (although the second batch I made turned out okay). This recipe is fast enough that even if you don’t get as satisfactory a result as you’d like, you haven’t spent too much time on it. In addition, I think you get better results with this recipe if you weigh the ingredients rather than measure them. If you do measure them, go easy on the flour at first, since it’s easy to add flour but impossible to remove it once it’s in the dough.

Sourdough Ciabatta Rolls

I needed to feed my sourdough starter after storing it in the fridge for a month. Since Alex isn’t eating bread with me at the moment, I need to experiment with making individual rolls or smaller loaves of bread that I can polish off myself. This time, I decided to make Sourdough Ciabatta Rolls.

I’ve learned a few things from my experience making these rolls, but they’re actually things I should really know by now. Really, I should really follow directions exactly if I’m going to make bread. I’ve made some excellent bread by following directions very closely. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to do things a little differently, only to realize after the fact why it didn’t work out that well.

For this recipe, Susan mixes the ciabatta dough by hand. I opted for my stand mixer and dough hook because I was a little lazy and originally didn’t feel like getting my hands dirty. Honestly, I don’t think that was a major problem with my method of this recipe – it’s not why it didn’t turn out that well. I think I did over-knead it in the mixer, though. I didn’t add all of the water at first, and I couldn’t tell how developed the dough was with such a slack dough. I eventually decided to add the rest of the water and let the mixer incorporate it into the dough.

The next step is where I messed up with my bread. I was supposed to put it in a bowl; dump it out onto a floured surface at 30, 60, and 120 minutes to fold (knead) the bread before storing it in the fridge overnight for a longer fermentation. I didn’t feel like the mess of dumping such a wet flour out onto a floured surface, so I decided to put the dough in a large plastic container and do the folds directly in it, without turning the dough out. As I think about it now, it’s obvious that (some amount of) flour would be incorporated into the dough in the process of turning it out onto a floured surface 3 times. I just didn’t think about it at the time.

So, my ciabatta dough was excessively wet, more like a batter than anything else.

After it sat in the fridge for about 12 hours, I pulled it out to warm up. After a few hours, I turned the dough onto a floured surface so I could dust it with more flour and cut it into pieces. I didn’t have to stretch out my dough because it just spread out into the appropriate size on its own. I cut it into 12 pieces, but they were uneven so I combined the small pieces to yield 10 rolls total. I used a spatula to move them onto floured Silpats, which I would also bake them on; I didn’t want to chance moving them and having them become even more misshapen. The dough was so incredibly slack still that I folded it over onto itself to try to yield larger rolls without degassing the dough. The dough still oozed together as it rose for 2 hours.

Even if I hadn’t made the mistake of not incorporating enough flour into my dough, I would have been a little disappointed in my final product because I overcrowded my oven and didn’t create enough steam at the onset of baking. I had great luck when I made the French Bread before Christmas. I tried it again this time, but didn’t do it how I should have.

I had 2 baking sheets of dough and wanted to bake them at the same time. I also only have 2 baking racks and didn’t want to place a pan of water on the floor of my oven. When I preheated my oven, I also preheated a metal pan on the bottom rack so that I could pour water in it right when I started baking. However, I also planned to remove the pan once baking started so I could get the second pan of bread in the oven. Doesn’t it make sense that I would have problems if I made steam in the oven only to immediately remove the steam from the oven? Once the bread was in, I also sprayed water inside the oven (avoiding the oven door) to create steam, but it really wasn’t sufficient. My bread didn’t rise like it should have as a result, and it also didn’t brown like it should have. I baked the bread for a little longer since the rolls were a little bigger and I wanted them to brown more.

My rolls didn’t look pretty. They were flat and misshapen. They were pale, except along the outside edges where they browned excessively. But they actually tasted pretty good. Although thin, they had a great texture in the center. They were chewy and had some good-sized holes given their height. I don’t have any pictures to show you – trust me, they were ugly. You’ll just have to take my word on it.

So far, I ate 3 of the rolls and froze the rest so I can have bread whenever I’m ready for it. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe again once I’m through with those. I really liked the texture, so I want to master this bread. I think I’ll really enjoy it once I can make ciabatta at the right height and with a good crust.

338: Ultimate Sourdough Baguettes

I wanted to make bread to go with my soup and use up some of my sourdough starter, so I finally decided to make Ultimate Sourdough Baguettes.

Generally, I’ve been making sourdough bread by weighing my ingredients, but that wasn’t an option this time. I didn’t have the full 2 cups of starter that the recipe called for, so I made two-thirds of a recipe. I also think that this is where I ran out of yeast, so I didn’t use all of the yeast that the recipe called for. I also omitted vital wheat gluten. [This makes it sound like a whole bunch of changes…]

I combined the ingredients in the stand mixer, and let it do its thing. I added all of the flour I needed, and may or may not have added a little extra. [It’s hard to remember since I’m writing about this two and a half weeks later.] I let the stand mixer knead it in a couple of stages, letting the dough rest after 5 minutes. I put the dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise for a few hours in the oven.

After the dough was doubled, I divided it into 2, and then divided one of those into two. I wanted to make two baguettes and one thicker Italian-style loaf. I roughly shaped the very slack dough. I hadn’t looked up the instructions on how to shape baguettes, so they didn’t look very pretty. I placed the two baguettes on one pan and the larger loaf on a second pan to rise. I covered them plastic wrap and let them rise in the oven again.

The recipe said to brush the loaves with an egg yolk mixed with water; I decided to brush them with a leftover egg that I’d used to brush something with earlier, but didn’t bother to mix it with water. I sprinkled pepper on one baguette, sesame seeds on the other, and left the larger loaf unadorned. I sprayed them with olive oil and baked them for about 20 minutes at 450F. I had misgivings, but I returned them to the oven to broil them for a few minutes to try to get a darker crust (as per the recipe).

Ultimate Sourdough Baguette

These were okay. I wasn’t too thrilled for a few reasons. First was my lack of shaping ability. These loaves were incredibly flat, probably because I didn’t shape them. Second, I wasn’t in the mood for the black pepper or sesame seeds, although those added a nice flavor overall. Third, I should have added the egg yolk glaze as it was called for, rather than using the whole egg, since the whole egg gave the bread too strong of an eggy flavor. The sourdough starter made the flavor of the bread intensify over time… making it more and more of a sourdough bread.

I think that I should have been more conscientious with this recipe. I should try this again at some point, using the correct glaze, the proper amount of yeast, and a good shaping technique. I think this recipe works, but I can’t say right now that they’re the “ultimate” sourdough baguette.

315: Ginger-Pecan Sourdough Biscotti

I was intrigued by the recipe for Ginger-Pecan Sourdough Biscotti the first time I saw it. Sourdough in biscotti? That didn’t sound right.

I wanted to make it because it was unusual. When I went to try the recipe, though, I was stymied because it called for 50% hydration starter, rather than the 100% hydration starter that I use. As I’ve gotten more familiar with sourdough and my starter, however, I realized that it wasn’t going to be too difficult to transform my 100% starter into a starter where I only added half as much water. After I was done using my regular starter over the weekend, I took a separate piece of it and started feeding it an equal amount of water, and twice as much flour. After a couple of days (4 feedings), it was still acting like starter, just not spreading out so much in the bowl that I keep it in to feed it. It was time to make biscotti.

I weighed out most of the ingredients, so I can’t attest to volumetric measurements here. I used a full teaspoon cinnamon (still didn’t register as 2 grams on my scale), and the appropriate measurements elsewhere in the dry ingredients. I didn’t have enough brown sugar, so I used 2/3 brown sugar and 1/3 white. The butter equaled half a stick (1/4 cup). I think that the pecans equaled about a cup, and I’d guess that the ginger did too. I used my candied ginger in this.

I mixed together all ingredients above the sugar until I could windowpane it, and then I added the sugar in 4 stages. My butter wasn’t perfectly soft, so the biscotti dough may have gotten a lengthier workout than it should have. The dough was pretty tacky after I was done mixing it. The ginger and pecans were incorporated quickly, and then I spooned it onto the parchment paper to form a log. It was pretty sticky so it didn’t spread out too much after the log was formed.

I baked the dough for 35 minutes, sliced it, and placed it back on the baking sheet to bake at 250F for 50 minutes, until they were dry. I let them sit out overnight as well without being covered because I took them out of the oven right before bed.

Ginger Pecan Sourdough Biscotti

These were really good. I liked them a lot more than I expected, since I’m not always a huge fan of spiced cookies. The ginger and pecans gave the biscotti a great texture and delicious flavor. These were hard, but not so hard that I couldn’t bite them. I think they would stand up to dunking, but they could also be eaten on their own. They were sweet, but not overwhelmingly sweet. Spicy, but not overwhelmingly spicy. I think these would be fantastic biscotti to include in gift baskets. I’d definitely make them again.

313: Sourdough Pizza Crust (King Arthur Flour)

I decided that I wanted to try sourdough pizza again. I’ve had trouble finding a pizza crust that I like – one that can stand up to the can of pizza sauce and the amount of cheese and topping I put on it. I had hopes that the Sourdough Pizza Crust recipe from King Arthur Flour would be up to the task.

I mixed together the ingredients in the stand mixer. As soon as the dough came together I saw that it wasn’t as wet as the one on the King Arthur Flour website. The website will give you ingredients by volume or by weight, but volume is the default. I was okay with measuring out a cup of starter and 2.5 cups of flour, but I think that my scoops of flour were a little more dense than they had anticipated. I used a 1/2 cup scoop to measure it instead of the 1/4 cup scoop I normally use, so the flour may not have been as sifted as it normally is. I kneaded the dough together gently by hand and then let it knead in the stand mixer. Even after 7 minutes (the recipe’s recommended kneading time), the dough wasn’t elastic at all. After I handled it a little more with my hands, I could windowpane it the tiniest bit. I decided that it would be okay not kneading it more because (I thought) letting it rise would allow the gluten to develop more and even things out.

I let it rise for about 2.5 or 3 hours over the oven (which was running), and spread it out in the pan in 2 stages. I flattened out the dough and stretched it to the sides, then covered it and let it rest for 15 minutes. After it rested, I patted out the dough all the way to the sides of the 14-inch pizza pan and made an edge with it. I covered it and put it in a warm oven to proof a little more, for about another hour.

I prebaked the crust for 8 minutes at 450F, then added the toppings and baked another 12 minutes, until I liked the way the toppings looked.

This was really good. The crust was thick and chewy. I was able to pick it up, which I can’t do with a homemade pizza. It had a sourdough flavor, but it went really well with the tomato sauce, mozzerella, and bacon. I wouldn’t want to make this crust to make a white pizza or something more lightly flavored. It was pretty good reheated as leftovers the next day, too. I was pretty satisfied with this pizza, and I’d make this again if I need something to make with my sourdough.

304: Roasted Potato Sourdough

I’ve wanted to make Roasted Potato Sourdough since the first time I saw the recipe. I knew that I was going to start it too late to eat it on Sunday, but I decided that I didn’t want to keep looking around for a different sourdough recipe to settle on.

This bread is a sourdough bread that has chunks of potatoes roasted with garlic and olive oil in it. Doesn’t that sound awesome? Of course, that means the first step is to roast the potatoes. I used Russet potatoes, rather than the ones that she originally used. They had to cool completely before I put them into the dough, which I took care of by cooling partway and then sticking them in the fridge to cool them off faster.

I didn’t think about the fact that I would be making 3 or 4 loaves of bread with this recipe until after I’d already started mixing the dough together. I mixed sourdough starter and white and whole wheat flours with some water, about 350 milliliters. I wasn’t quite sure what she meant by a “medium dough consistency,” but in any case I decided that my dough needed more water. I added another 100 or so milliliters, but adding water after a dough forms is a very messy process. It doesn’t mix in particularly well; the dough just sloshes around as the stand mixer tries to mix it. I think I probably used about 1 3/4 cups water total.

I let the dough rest for 30 minutes, and I liked the consistency it was. I added the salt, but it didn’t really seem to want to mix in immediately (since I’d basically already kneaded the dough). I had to turn the dough a little by hand in the stand mixer to get it in a better position to mix in. Also, I didn’t have to mix it much at all to get it to windowpane properly since I’d mixed it so much before letting it rest. The potatoes also didn’t want to mix in immediately. I’m sure that the stand mixer was mashing some of the potatoes as it ran, but I think that folding the potatoes into the dough by hand may have been an easier way to incorporate them. I had to stop the stand mixer a few times to turn my dough and to try to get the potatoes on the bottom of the bowl to be folded into the dough.

I heated the oven for 1 minute and put the dough in there to rise, folding it 2 times in 2.5 hours.

The original recipe shapes these loaves a little differently. I didn’t have the equipment to shape them as she does [see the original recipe to see how neat her loaves look] or the time to figure out if I could do it similarly. I just shaped the dough into 3 loaves, put them on baking sheets that I would bake them on (since I don’t have a baking stone or peel), and put them in a briefly heated oven to rise again.

I removed them about 20 minutes before their resting time was over so that I could put a pan of water in the oven and preheat it. I baked them for 10 minutes, removed the pan of water, and baked them another 20 minutes. I left them in the oven for 10 more minutes with the door ajar.

Roasted Potato Sourdough

This bread was really good. I took a loaf to work on Monday and it received a lot of compliments. I didn’t have to bring any home, which of course is the best compliment I could have. The roasted potatoes were delicious in it and gave the bread a hint of garlic flavor. It was a lot of fun to have the potatoes to bite into.

Alex didn’t get to try any until Tuesday. He said that the bites without potatoes were fine, but were just bread. He enjoyed the bites that had potatoes much more. I did too, except that after a while (we ate this bread throughout the week) I got tired of eating cold potatoes. Yes, it helped if I heated up the bread, but the potatoes got a little dry. This might have been avoided if I’d gotten the potatoes a little more golden when I’d baked them (or if I’d used a different variety of potato). The bread was still soft on the inside throughout the week, and it had a great texture.

The crust tasted good on this bread, and it baked up rather nicely. They’re some of the prettier loaves of bread I’ve made.

I enjoyed this, particularly for the novelty factor of taking this bread to work and telling people that it was sourdough with roasted potatoes in it. I’d definitely make this again, but I’ll scale back the recipe so that I only make one loaf next time.

276: Sourdough Grissini

Although I eat a lot of bready things, I generally don’t eat a ton of bread on its own, and it’s hard for the two of us to eat even a loaf of sourdough bread without having a specific plan for it (like BLTs or bruschetta). Even so, I try to feed my sourdough starter every weekend – I store it in the fridge – to keep it healthy. I was pretty excited to make Sourdough Grissini so that I could use some of that starter for something different, rather than making sourdough pancakes and waffles all the time. We may not eat too much bread, but we do like snacks.

It had been a while since I’ve mixed a bread dough together by hand. I used to enjoy hand-mixing, but lately I’ve grown attached to my stand mixer. I decided it was a good time to try it again, given that the instructions called for mixing by hand. My dough seemed very sticky and wet. I’ve mixed some wet doughs with the stand mixer (like the Norwich Sourdough, from the same site, that I made a few weeks ago), but not by hand. It was so wet that I decided to try just kneading it in the bowl. I know, it wasn’t proper technique, but I also like keeping my kitchen surfaces clean, and I wanted to keep my pastry cloth clean to stretch out the dough later. I was also afraid I would add way too much flour to the dough if I kneaded it on another surface. I tried folding the sides of the dough inward, like a tri-fold, but really I just swirled the dough along the sides and bottom of the bowl in toward the middle, trying to move the dough as much as possible. I think this took about 7 minutes until the dough seemed to windowpane slightly, rather than just tear.

I let the dough rest for 2 hours, making tri-folding the dough twice at both the 40- and 80-minute marks. Making the folds was much easier (less sticky, in part because I made sure my hands were wet) than kneading was.

I divided the dough in three, weighing them to make sure they were even. I floured my pastry cloth and patted/stretched the dough out into a 12×4 inch rectangle. In retrospect, stretching the dough was probably counterproductive since it made the dough uneven thickness in places. I brushed the dough with olive oil and sprinkled with seasonings. My pizza cutter was in the dishwasher, so I used a knife to cut the dough into 16 strips. I didn’t cover the other dough as I worked, but it was still wet enough that it didn’t dry out.

I stretched some of the grissini out before I put them on a baking sheet, which means that they were uneven thickness in places. Also, I didn’t have large enough baking sheets to accommodate all of the little breadsticks, so one set was stuck on a smallish baking sheet. This really only meant that some of them got stuck together. I baked 2 sheets at the first time, and the 3rd sheet got to bake on its own. I baked the first set for 25 minutes, and the second for 27 or 28; none of the batches got particularly brown.

Sourdough Grissini with Sesame Seeds

I made three kinds: one with sesame seeds, one with salt and pepper, and one with salt, pepper, and fennel seeds. All tasted pretty good, although Alex and I agreed that we liked the batch with fennel best. This isn’t a particularly good picture, but this was the best-looking batch of grissini. All of the sesame seed batch were a relatively uniform size, so they cooked evenly. Some of the other batches were particularly brown and crisp where the dough was ultra-thin. I think that’s probably about how all of the grissini should have been throughout. As I eat them tonight, I think that the most-browned portions taste the best. They’re by far the most crunchy.

That said, they all taste okay. A few of them seem a little chewy, and I can’t decide if that’s because I should have baked them longer, or they’re getting a little stale already (I forgot to package them up last night). The batch that I baked for 28 minutes turned out the best overall, and I may have baked them longer if I hadn’t gotten the dough thickness uneven.

To sum up: bake until very, very brown, and use fennel seeds because they’re extra delicious. I’m pretty happy with my first try at making these, and I think I’d try making them again. The recipe was pretty straightforward, and I think they’d be easy to make regularly once I get the hang of shaping them. It’s also something different to do with sourdough starter other than making bread or breakfast.

274: Sourdough Waffles (2)

What to do with sourdough starter when I already had plenty, yet wanted to be sure to feed it so I could use it the next day? I knew I had a few other waffle recipes that required me to make the batter the night before, so I’d be able to use up some starter and feed it for the next day. I decided to make this Sourdough Waffles recipe since it took a little more sourdough starter than the other recipe.

This batter took butter (I used oil), milk, sourdough starter, salt, brown sugar, and flour. It rested for about 12 hours overnight before I added eggs and baking soda to finish the batter. I used 2/3 cup batter in my waffle iron, and this made 6 waffles.

Sourdough Waffles

These were pretty good. They were not as light or bready as the last sourdough waffles I made, but I liked them that way. These waffles had a little more heft to them, and seemed much more like standard waffles. They were a pretty golden color. I’m not sure, but I may have liked this recipe better than the Old-Fashioned Maine Sourdough Waffles that I made the other day (Alex definitely liked these better). I also expect that these will be better as leftovers than those were. I’d definitely make this recipe again.