The Hoppy Okapi

A 2012 Pacific Crest Trail Adventure

Honey Whole-Wheat Bread February 27, 2010

Filed under: baking,bread,home — Amanda @ 22:32
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Honey Whole-Wheat Bread

Whether due to pure tastiness or a boost of nostalgia, this is probably my favorite bread recipe. I learned to bake bread by helping in my Grandma’s kitchen on the weekends when I was young, and this is the whole wheat recipe that we made. I think it can be enjoyed even by people who don’t typically like whole wheat bread – only about a sixth of the flour in the original recipe is whole wheat, and the honey and sugar give it a pleasing sweetness.

The recipe also has a distinctive secret ingredient: Cottage Cheese!

Cottage Cheese!

The original recipe, which makes two standard-size loaves of bread, calls for:

  • 1 1/2 c water
  • 1 c cottage cheese
  • 1/2 c honey
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 5 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 2 packages dried yeast
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp salt

Since both of my loaf pans are larger than standard size, I multiplied the quantities of everything but the yeast and egg by 1.5 so that I had enough dough to rise above the tops of the pans. (I probably could have done *1.33, but 1.5 was easier.)

Recipe Card

First, combine the water, cottage cheese, honey, and butter in a saucepan. Heat over medium-low heat until the butter is just melted.

Butter, honey, cottage cheese and water in sauce pan

To avoid killing the yeast, you’ll want to make sure the temperature of the cottage cheese mixture is below 115 F. If you keep the heat low enough so that the butter melts gradually, it should be fine – mine came out at 108 F.

Testing the cottage cheese mixture's temperature.

While the cottage cheese mixture was heating, I put together a mise en place with the remaining ingredients:

mise en place

I wanted a slightly higher percentage of whole wheat flour than the recipe called for, so I increased the whole wheat flour by 1 1/2 cups, and decreased the all-purpose flour by the same amount. In the mise en place I’ve set aside a quarter of the of AP flour for kneading; the rest of the flour (whole wheat + AP) is mixed together in the large bowl.

Also, a note about the yeast – you’ll see various advice about how long yeast will last past the expiration date. I buy mine in bulk from King Arthur Flour and store it in the freezer. The package I currently have was originally purchased over four years ago – October 2005!  – and it’s still going strong. So even if you only use yeast a few times a year, buying in bulk and storing in the freezer may be more convenient and cost effective than buying individual packets.

My yeast - purchased in 2005!

I combined the flour mixture, yeast, sugar and salt into a large mixing bowl, then added the cottage cheese mixture and egg. I mixed these until combined, then turned out onto a kneading mat and added half the reserved flour:

Bread dough, first mixing

Bread dough - kneading in reserved flour

After I kneaded in the portion of reserved flour, I split the dough in hlaf to rise in separate containers. For the standard size recipe you can divide the dough later, and probably by hand instead of weighing the portions, but I had a large batch of dough and a fun kitchen scale, so I weighed it out:

Bread dough after first knead

As you can see in the next picture, my dough weighed 2.6 kilograms – about 5 3/4  pounds!

Weighing the dough

Half of the dough - 1.3 Kg

I put each half of the dough into a mixing bowl, covered them with plastic wrap, and let them rise for about 2 hours (until approximately doubled in size).

Dough covered for first rise.

After the first rise, I took each piece of dough, deflated it, and kneaded in its half of the remaining flour.

Dough after first rise

Half the dough after second knead

I then returned the dough to the mixing bowl, and let it rise again until doubled, about 1.5 hours:

Dough after second rise

I then shaped the dough into cylinders to fit the loaf pans, covered with plastic wrap again, and let rise a final time while I preheated the oven to 350F:

In loaf pans before final rise

After about 40 minutes, the dough was well clear of the pan rims:

Dough after final rise

I then put it in the oven at 350F; my large loaves took a little over an hour to bake thoroughly, but standard size loaves will likely finish sooner and should be checked after 45 minutes.

The finished bread had a rich brown crust – the dark spots are the cottage cheese curds – and the crumb was similar to a dense sandwich bread – not spongy, but soft and close-crumbed, with a thick, slightly crispy crust.

Honey Whole-Wheat Bread

The crumb shot!

The sweetness of the bread doesn’t pair well with some savory applications – I wouldn’t make a fried-egg or pastrami sandwich with it, for example – but this bread is perfect with peanut butter and jelly, or toasted with butter and/or jam.

This is my fourth submission to YeastSpotting, the inspirational weekly compendium of bread baking blogs hosted at the Wild Yeast blog.

 

Adventures In Sourdough VIII: San Diego Bay Sourdough Starter January 3, 2010

Filed under: baking,San Diego,sourdough — Amanda @ 19:37
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Number 20 on my semi-neglected 101 Things list: create a sourdough starter from scratch. Last month, with cool weather and nice breezes flowing in from the bay, I decided the timing was perfect. Eschewing the more complicated-sounding grape-containing starter in my Nancy Silverton book, I looked to The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum for guidance.

Mmmm, sourdough

Mmmm, sourdough

The recipe recommends organic rye or whole wheat flour to start off with, as those apparently have the most wild yeast cells already and the least chance of contamination. My supply of rye flour (organic? not sure – got it from the bulk bin at Henry’s) was running low, so I supplemented with some pumpernickel flour (whole-grain rye, essentially) to get up to four ounces flour. To this I added four ounces cold water, then took my measuring cup outside and covered it with plastic wrap.

After two days, I brought the proto-starter inside to start the feeding schedule. The starter did not smell very good at this point – sour and fermented, yes, but not good; in the absence of any visible signs of spoilage I simply blamed the odor on the rye flour and continued with the feeding schedule, throwing away half of the starter and adding 2 ounces each of bread flour and water. The next morning, I was happy to see air bubbles – it might actually be working!

After three days: air bubbles!

I fed it again, with 2 ounces each water and flour, and the next morning I was rewarded with more signs of life – the starter had more than doubled in size overnight, so I was pretty confident that it would soon be viable for baking.

Day four - more rising power!

I fed the starter for three more days, discarding part of the original each time to keep the volume manageable, then poured about 1 cup into a quart-sized jar for refrigerator storage and gave it an extra feeding.

San Diego Bay Starter - ready for refrigeration

I had about 1.5 cups of starter left, so I started a simple bread recipe based on the San Francisco Sourdough recipe in Ed Wood’s Classic Sourdoughs. I added 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water to the starter, then let it rise for about 4 hours at room temperature, at which point it had doubled in size:

Bread dough after initial rise

I then dissolved 1.5 teaspoons salt in 1 cup water, added this to the dough, and then mixed in 3 cups of flour one at a time. I then kneaded in one more cup of flour, and formed two round boules:

Sourdough Boules, after kneading & shaping

I let the loaves rise for about two hours before slashing and baking at 400°F, spritzing the oven three times in the first five minutes of baking to help the crust formation. After about 45 minutes, success! The first loaves from my new sourdough culture were complete!

Sourdough bread from new starter

 

Adventures In Sourdough VII: Sweet Potato Bread October 25, 2009

Filed under: baking,bread,sourdough — Amanda @ 15:48
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Sweet Potato Sourdough fresh from the oven!

Sweet Potato Sourdough fresh from the oven!

It had been a while since I used my sourdough starters, so I recently spent two consecutive weekends nursing them back to health and baking some bread. The first week, I made a no-frills slow-rise white bread, but last weekend I made something a little bit more exotic – sweet potato bread! The recipe I used is called “Pumpkin Bread” in the La Brea Bakery Bread cookbook, which admits to the intentional misnomer because “pumpkin bread” is more marketable than “yam bread”. (I remain utterly confused as to whether I’m technically using sweet potatoes or yams, but I’m going with my personal convention: dark orange = sweet potato, yellow = yam.)

IMG_3810This is actually the first time I’ve used the Breads from the La Brea Bakery book (I’ve probably had it for eight years or so!), partially because I have so many bread cookbooks (but I still really do need the ones on my Amazon wishlist!), and partially because I’ve finally become confident enough in my sourdough bread-baking to improvide freely where the sometime complex recipes don’t quite work for me (or even just to take a shortcut!).

"Pumpkin" Bread recipe from Breads from the La Brea Bakery

"Pumpkin" Bread from Breads from the La Brea Bakery

This recipe, for example, called for roasted pumpkin seeds and wheat germ – I didn’t have those on hand, so I just ignored them. Also, my starter reched peak activity a few hours before I was ready to bake, so I took the amount of starter called for in the recipe and borrowed some of the water and white flour called for in the recipe to feed the starter and keep it happy until I was ready to use it.

Very Active Sourdough Starter

Very Active Sourdough Starter

My variation of the “Pumpkin” Bread went thusly:

1) 8 ounces active starter; add 4 ounces cold water and 4 ounces bread flour; let stand several hours at room temperature

2) Oven roast 2 medium sweet potatoes at 400 degrees F for one hour; cool, peel and mash; measure 10 ounces for use in the bread, make sure they are room temperature or cooler before continuing.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

3) Combine 7 ounces whole wheat flour, 14 ounces bread flour, and one teaspoon ground cumin in a mixing bowl (you should also add one tablespoon salt to this mixture, but I forgot and had to knead it in later).

Weighing whole wheat and bread flours

Weighing whole wheat and bread flours

4) Combine starter mixture, 8 ounces cold water, and mashed sweet potatoes. Add flour mixture one cup at a time, mixing thoroughly.

Mixing in the flour

Mixing in the flour

5) When too thick to mix by hand, transfer to kneading surface and knead in the rest of the flour, adding more if necessary. If you forgot to add the salt earlier, sprinkle it over the kneading surface and work it in now (it’s non-ideal, but it works!).

the kneaded dough Dough after kneading

6) Put dough in lightly-greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight (the book says 6-10 hours, but I think mine was refrigerated for about 14 hours and still turned out well).

Dough after proofing overnight

Dough after proofing overnight

7) Divide the dough into three pieces, deflate, and form into rounds; let rest 15 minutes.

unevenly separated dough, resting

unevenly separated dough, resting

8 ) Form rounds into ovals, then construct elaborate flour-covered proofing contraption to help loaves retain oval shape during final rise:

"Ovals" rising between loaf pans and towel-rolled kitchen accessories

"Ovals" rising between loaf pans and towel-rolled kitchen accessories

(Alternately, choose an easier shape if you don’t have small oval baskets). I set up my proofing area on my baking peel, covered with a sheet of parchment, for “easy” transfer to the oven. In reality, the loaves were a little too big for that and it wasn’t THAT easy, but I didn’t have to invert the loaves onto the peel before transferring to the oven. I did bake a corner of parchment into the bottom of the smallest loaf, but was easy to avoid parchment-ingestion, so no real harm done!)

9) Let loaves rise for 3-6 hours at room temperature, or 6-10 hours in the refrigerator if you have enough room.

Loaves after proofing

Loaves after proofing

10) Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F at least one hour before baking; I use a baking stone on the lowest rack of my oven. Slash the tops of the loaves, then transfer to the oven; lower the temperature to 450F and spritz the oven with water three times in the first five minutes of baking. After 20 more minutes, rotate the loaves if necessary, then bake an additional 10 minutes and remove from the oven. The loaves will be a lovely roasted orange color (Nancy Silverton, my Los Angeles baking hero, calls it “burnished brown”).

Sweet Potato Bread, finished loaves

Sweet Potato Bread, finished loaves

11) Wait patiently for the loaves to cool, then slice to reveal beautiful crumb, roasted cumin fragrance, and deliciously moist interior. For best results, lightly toast, then slather with butter and sprinkle with sea salt!

Sweet Potato Bread, the Crumb Shot

The Obligatory Crumb Shot

This is my third submission for YeastSpotting at Wild Yeast!

 

Adventures in Sourdough II: Pita goes Poof! December 7, 2008

Filed under: baking,bread,sourdough — Amanda @ 17:51
Tags: , , , , ,

This week I decided to make hummus and tapenade with tuna for my work-week lunches, and so naturally I needed to make sourdough pitas to go with my dips.

Classic Sourdoughs by Ed Wood

Classic Sourdoughs by Ed Wood

This is my first recipe from my new sourdough book Classic Sourdoughs by Ed Wood, and I have to admit that I found the instructions on culture preparation a bit confusing, especially since I’ve been reading multiple sourdough books and blogs lately, and the instructions in the book are unspecific and non-linear at times.  For example, the recipe calls for 2 cups of cold liquid culture, then adds flour and water twice before declaring the culture active, but if I took some of that “fully active” culture and made that my new starter culture, it would have a much lower hydration level than I’m keeping…but if I just take my culture which has been sitting in the fridge for a week and use 2 cups, am I assured that it will be active enough in the specified times? There weren’t any helpful clues about what the dough should look like during each step, so I felt pretty tied to the times listed, and confusion ensued.

The recipe

The recipe

Ultimately I decided to feed my liquid culture on Friday night, let it become active overnight, and set aside two cups of that for the pitas. After putting those in the fridge for a couple hours (during which the volume shrunk so that I had a little less than two cups, oops!), I added a cup of flour and a quarter cup of water, and started mixing:

first mix

Pitas: first mix

I let that sit for twelve hours, during which time it became delightfully bubbly:

pita_bubbly

Pita dough after first proof: bubbly!

I then repeated the flour and water mix:

pita_sponge_2

Pitas: second mix

And let it sit around for eight hours and get bubbly again:

pita_bubbly_2

more bubbles!

First thing sunday morning I added the rest of the flour, plus the sugar, salt and oil, kneaded the dough a bit, and formed it into eight rounds:

pita_rounds1

soon-to-be-rolled pita rounds

Out of curiosity, I weighed the rounds as I was forming them to see how accurately I had divided the dough, and I was pretty impressed! The first six were all pretty close to 6 ounces each (between 5.5 and 6.5 ounces), and then I made a slightly smaller one and had to adjust a little. Pretty good for eye-balling the dough as I divide it though!

My other point of contention with the recipe came at this point. While I can usually depend on Mr. Wood to not lead me astray, the book directed me to roll the dough into 1/4 inch thick rounds and then “form two stacks with the rounds, separating the rounds with waxed paper or paper towels”. My advice: NO!!!! DON’T STACK THE ROUNDS! Maybe there’s a secret trick that everyone knows but me, or maybe in other places waxed paper and paper towels are made with super-ultra-nonstick substances, or maybe a thick layer of flour between each pita and the waxed paper on top of it is implied, but I personally have nearly lost a batch of naan to an ill-advised waxed paper stack, and when I read that the rounds were to proof for another 90 minutes AND that the rounds should be handled carefully because disruptions to the surface might cause the poofy magic to fail, I suspected that many people have suffered un-poofed pitas due to the stacking instructions, and I felt sad for them. (I layed out parchment paper on sheet pans and heat-safe cutting boards, layed two pitas separated by about four inches on each board, and slid the parchment onto the baking stone right along with the pitas.

When at last the oven was heated and it was time to bake the pitas, I watched the first batch anxiously for signs on poofing – I was quite nervous that all my pitas would be flat, but then after about 3 minutes, the first two pitas started to magically expand:

Poof!

Poof!

After the first batch I skipped the baking sheet and put the parchment directly on the stone, but there was no difference in the results. The recipe called for a cook time of about five minutes, when the pitas were both poofed and browned. I had poofiness after five minutes, but browning took another five or six. I thought about taking one batch out after only five minutes anyway, but they looked too anemic, so I left them in the oven…maybe it was the wrong day to bake with the convection feature turned off!

Plenty o Poofy Pitas

Plenty o Poofy Pitas

My crust is crisper than typical pitas, and the pitas don’t deflate into softness when they cool, so I have some concerns about the normalness of the pitas – I have no idea if they’re supposed to be ballooned throughout their lifetime or not. (Two of the eight pitas experienced some poofing failure, possibly from over-handling during the rolling stage – handle your nascent pitas carefully!) They are quite tasty though – we tore into one just before lunch – it was a little bit sour and a little bit chewy (it was a non-poofer). I did a tiny bit of research and found some recently baked pitas at pete-bakes.com, and from Pete’s pictures it looks like perennial poofiness is ok – I’ll take a consensus of one, and call the pitas a success!

 

Adventures in Sourdough: the First Loaf November 30, 2008

The last time I made sourdough bread was probably eight years ago. I had two cultures – one from Bahrain and one from San Francisco – and the bread I made with them was OK but not spectacular, and at some point they got thrown out during one of many our post-college moves, having been long dormant in the fridge for many months. When we lived in Santee, I meant to try starting a culture from scratch, by was ultimately discouraged by the industrial zoning just a few blocks away. Fast forward to August 2008 and the creation of my 101 Things list: I added “make a sourdough starter from scratch” and “cook one recipe from every cookbook I own” to the list, and with two of those books featuring exclusively sourdough breads, it was clearly time to get started again.

Chuck helped jumpstart my sourdough renaissance with a new sourdough bread book and two Italian cultures from Sourdoughs International (which had been the source of my previous cultures as well). I’ve been on a bread-baking kick recently, so I was eager to get started, and I started to activate the culture last weekend:

culture activation - step one

culture activation - step one

I was using a brand new bag of King Arthur Flour and didn’t want to mix it in with the remaining “old” flour I had in my canister, so I weighed the flour throughout the procecss. In the photo above, you can see the foil packet that the dried started came in, and my sourdough crock containing the dried starter, 1 cup of water, and 3/4 cup of flour. After 24 hours, there were a few bubbles and a layer of water at the top before I gave it more flour and water:

starter after 1 day

starter after 1 day

After the first day, the starter was fed every 6-12 hours. At the next feeding, the bubbles were more active:

the starter, it has bubbles!

the starter, it has bubbles!

And then I split the starter into two jars so I had a backup. By the next morning, both we bubbly

sourdough starter, two jars

sourdough starter, two jars

more bubbles

more bubbles

At that point the starters were almost active, so I dumped out about half of the goo from each jar and gave them one more feeding (the activation process feels a little bit wasteful sometimes – I went through more than 3 pounds of flour in the activation & first loaf baking process!) .

one starter with its next meal

one starter with its next meal

I started the activation on Saturday afternoon and the cultures were active by Monday evening. I took one jar our of the fridge on Friday night, gave it another feeding, and awoke early Saturday morning to find it happily bubbling away, overflowing its jar. I was so excited that I forgot to take a picture of the overflowing crock, but here’s the culture I measured out to start my Pane Cafone recipe:

active sourdough culture, ready to make bread

active sourdough culture, ready to make bread

I added 1 cup water and about 400 grams of the 500g called for in the recipe:

starter, water, and flour - mixing is getting tough!

starter, water, and flour - mixing is getting tough!

Then I put the last 100g of flour on my kneading mat and worked it into the dough. After round one of kneading, the dough looked like this:

pane cafone dough, after kneading

pane cafone dough, after kneading

Now, there wasn’t actually supposed to be a second round of kneading, but at that point I thought: “hmmm, it’s a little weird that I didn’t put any salt in the bread…what does the recipe say?

the recipe...oh, look! salt.

the recipe...oh, look! salt.

Ooops! Two teaspoons salt…I guess I should add that.” And so I sprinkled two teaspoons of salt on the mat and kneaded the bread for another five minutes until the salt was pretty well incorporated. It looked mostly the same as after kneading round one, except with some spots of color because I used pink-speckled mineral salt.

The dough was supposed to rise for at least five hours in the initial proofing stage, and by the time we came home from lunch and shopping it had been about seven hours. As soon as we got home I punched it down:

punched-down after first proofing

punched-down after first proofing

And shaped it into a loaf on a flour and cornmeal covered peel.

start of second proofing

start of second proofing

I would have been far smarter to put it on parchment instead of flour, since it was quite sticky and I needed Chuck’s help to get the loaf into the oven. After another three hour rise, it went into the oven as a much larger (and slightly misshapen) loaf:

just after going in the oven

just after going in the oven

After about ten minutes, the oven spring was, as noted in the recipe booklet, amazing:

spring!

spring!

After an hour, I took it out of the oven, beautifully brown and gigantic, with a nice hard crust:

pane cafone, after baking

pane cafone, after baking

A few hours later, we sliced it open and enjoyed some delicious sourdough:

crisp crust, springy crumb

crisp crust, springy crumb

This is definitely some of the best bread I’ve ever made – the crust is wonderfully crisp, the interior is moist and springy, and it has a subtly sour flavor. Since the bread isn’t slashed before baking (an explicit instruction in the recipe), there is a separation of bread and crust from a large air pocket in the thicker part of my loaf, but otherwise I’m incredibly happy with the way this one turned out.

Next week’s sourdough adventures will feature sourdough pizza – apparently pizza dough was one of Chuck’s main motivators in buying me sourdough cultures from Italy!

 

 
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