p3: Cheesy White Loaf Bread

#23, Cheese-ish White Loaf

Garlic-Cheese-BreadI was requested to do some bread baking this past weekend to go with a Chicken Dumpling Soup family dinner. Didn’t feel like doing anything special, just a simple fresh baked, hot loaf Milk Bread would be AWESOME, so I never even thought I’d do a blog post on it. But then the idea got in my head to make it a bit different, try a little experiment if you will. See what happens if I add some cheese in the bread, both directly and sprinkled in before rolling. Sounds tasty, still fits the occasion, and IF it works out well enough then I have an excuse to do some writing. Clearly it didn’t backfire so immensely, so here I am. Didn’t use any special cheese, just some mass-produced shredded ‘monterey-like’ thing we keep in the fridge on hand, but it worked for now.

Recipe
2 tsp/0.22oz Yeast
1 5/8 cups/13oz Milk, Lukewarm
4¾ cup/21.5oz Bread Flour
1½ tsp/0.38oz Salt
¼ cup/1.33oz Powdered Milk
3¼ Tb/1.66oz Sugar
2 large Eggs
3¼ Tb/1.66oz Butter, room temp or melted
½-1 cup Shredded Cheese

Directions

  1. Bloom Yeast in the Milk at least 5 minutes, until soft a starting to lightly foam/bubble20160124_123020
  2. In a stand mixing bowl, mix together the Flour, Salt, Powdered Milk, and Sugar, followed by the yeasted milk, 1 Egg, and Butter20160124_123141
  3. With a paddle attachment, stir on low speed [may want to pulse initially] until it all comes together in a ball
  4. Switch to dough hook, increasing mixing speed to medium, letting it go for about 4-5 minutes until almost completely kneaded, adding any extra flour to make sure the dough clears the sides while sticking just slightly to the bottom of the bowl20160124_123718
  5. When it ALMOST clears the windowpane test, add in about half or more of your shredded cheese, letting it go until fully incorporated20160124_123947
  6. Transfer to lightly-oiled bowl, covering tight with plastic wrap and leaving to ferment 1½-2 hours, or until doubled in size20160124_141918
  7. Remove and shape into a nice, tight, smooth Boule. Mist lightly with spray oil, loosely cover, and let rest on the counter 20 minutes for glutens to relax and more fermentation20160124_142130
  8. Start to shape this into a loaf by pressing and pushing into a large, rectangular shape, pressing down with fingers to de-gas as one does so. Sprinkle thoroughly with most of the rest of your cheese20160124_144303
  9. Roll up, pressing the edge tightly with each turn to stretch the dough taught. Once rolled completely and tightly sealed, transfer to your loaf pan. Spray with oil, loosely cover, and proof one to one and a half hours or until doubled once more20160124_144502
  10. Preheat oven to 350F
  11. Vigorously beat your other egg with a teaspoon of water to make an Egg Wash. Brush this over the top of your risen dough, sprinkling with some more cheese to top20160124_154916
  12. Transfer to oven, baking about 35-45 minutes, turning halfway through, or until deep golden brown all around and gives a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom20160124_163605
  13. Leave to cool for an hour or more on a rack before slicing and serving as desired
  14. Enjoy

20160124_164145What Have I Learned This Time?

That my prediction of what would happen with the cheese-sprinkled-before-rolling technique was spot on; I figured there was a good chance it would create a little gap, so I’m glad I controlled the final amount like I did. That said, MORE CHEESE needed; it sadly didn’t come out as much as I wanted, so I need to add more INTO the dough. It seems like it could easily take more, as the final result even with the ¼-½  cup I had in there didn’t really affect the texture. Obviously a better, stronger flavored cheese would work better too.

There ARE notable results to forgetting the salt… which yes, I accidentally did here. Structure and quality wise it’s just as good, the same. But I did notice that the dough seemed to be ready with its fermenting/proofing periods earlier than stated. Not to mention the bread TASTED rather plain and ‘underseasoned.’ Still good of course, especially with butter and while warm.

20160124_163540Found a decent way to keep the bread warm for an extended period if needed [such as waiting for dinner]. Loose aluminum foil wrapping and inside the warm oven, actually didn’t negatively affect the product, at least not in any significant way that I noticed.

And finally, there actually IS such as a thing as too much dough in these recipes for my loaf pan; I probably should have cut a bit off for a separate bake like I usually do. Clearly one can see the overextending sides, which still baked up nice and well, but interestingly enough I found issues removing it from the pan for the first time. Some of it stuck to the sides and bottom, thus I didn’t care as much about cutting into it while still hot as the solidity was already ‘compromised,’ though questions still about as to how much this issue had to do with the cheese inside. Either way, good to know that I SHOULD ensure it keeps to the similar limit as I’ve randomly done before.

Any Thoughts?

The crust was awesome. Even after sitting it out for a while it stayed nice and crunchy. And the cheese sprinkled on top! Truthfully it was sort of right at the edge of ‘too much,’ and certainly wasn’t like ‘extra cheese’ and more like ‘cheezit/baked cheese cracker’ flavors, which is fun as a crust.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

Seems to prefer the comfortable ‘safe zone’ in this relationship and isn’t quite ready for kinky experimentation… YET.

p2: French Sea Salt Caramels

The Sweet

4293852900_16753e7c6f_oSo my recent job, if I haven’t already mentioned, has kept my schedule notably busier and with less time to devote towards planning and developing the many recipes on my list. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying to do them all, of course, it just may take much longer than I thought… though luckily it should clear up a bit more in a few months. Every now and then I get a chance to go after something small, or something cool that fits a little request… more often than not, it’s been the desserts lately. What can I say, guess I like baking and such. For this past weekend, I took about an hour to make a little bite that Buzzfeed paired with Cheese Souffle: Salted Caramel pieces.

Did you know there’s an actual REASON that Salted Caramel hasn’t been used and popular until our recent 20th century? And no it’s not just because ‘modern chefs are more creative.’ In 1343, a large salt tax was put in place by King Philip VI, making it a luxury that only rich could afford. Thus even simple salted butter couldn’t be used by the masses until Brittany unified with the Kingdom of France. Even then, the ‘staple’ salt, Guerende Sea Salt, was a rather difficult ingredient to obtain [and I’ll admit, I myself just used a simple sea salt that’s in our pantry. We’ve got so many salts as it is, no reason to buy another one]. Thus the overall USE and distinction of it historically as far as pastries are concerned, a craft which focuses a lot on transforming very INexpensive ingredients, would logically take a much longer time to be realized.

In fact, that time came in the later 20th century, with Henri Le Roux, son of one of France’s most legendary pastry chefs. With his continued Swiss educated, he became France’s best chocolatier and caramel maker, ‘inventing’ the little confection midway through the 1900’s. Though it snuck in rather low on our radar, in 1980 salted butter caramel was voted the best candy in France. And now… well, now it’s the over-used dessert addition/focus that some people still use and rave over as if it was 5-8 years ago when the fad seemed to kick in.

That’s not to say it isn’t still delicious; there IS a reason it’s been so popular.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

It is often read with this particular recipe, or really ANY French recipe with such simple components as such, should really be made with the BEST of each ingredient in order for it to come out in that perfect form of buttery-salty-caramel chew. Of course, my idea on making this was rather last minute and I didn’t exactly grab everything that fit that bill. Which I actually don’t mind, since it was my first time attempting the caramel recipe and I don’t want to ruin any awesome ingredients with a minor screwup that masks everything.

20160116_225956That said, I DID have a little bit of leftover Organic Can Sugar that I mixed with my regular sugar, we’ve had plenty fantastic Scottish Butter sitting in our freezer for months now, so I used some of each to help level it up decently.

There’s a rather decent technique I’ve found about for this, one which makes a lot of sense. Let me start off by saying that caramel really IS quite simple; you cook the sugar until it turns color, not too much, and then add in your cream and butter. That said, one usually has to be careful adding in the cream, since he shock in temperature can make the hot liquid sugar seize up and turn solid too fast. It’s fixable, just got to slowly bring it back to temperature, but not condusive and a pain. So, as other recipes have done, one just heats up the cream on the side to a simmer, leave it warm, and add it in like so. This is also a great way to dissolve most of the salt to the mix into the caramel.

Of a quick final note, it’s very important to prepare your pan to pour the caramel in afterwards. Parchment paper works perfectly, though I’ve seen a recipe with aluminum foil too; the main key to it, however, is getting a thin layer of Vegetable Oil brushed along the bottom and sides to ENSURE that no sticking happens. Which is a pain, since with the paper already there it tends to pool. And don’t try to play with different oils unless they’re even MORE neutral in flavor; otherwise you’re getting an olive oil-flavored caramel [which actually doesn’t sound too bad if done right, but not the goal here]. I bring it up mainly since coating the knife or other cutting/handling tools for the finished candy is a great way to keep it clean and easy handling. May just want to pat with some paper towels afterwards to soak up any excess.

Salted Butter Caramels
1¾ cup Sugar
Vegetable Oil
1/3 cup Cream
¾ + tsp Sea Salt
5½ tsp Butter, cubed
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Directions

  1. Place Sugar in sauce pan, moving over medium heat, stirring very often and NOT leaving the kitchen20160116_230959
  2. While this is initially heating up, quick mix the Cream and ½ tsp of Sea Salt in another pan over low heat, bringing to a simmer before removing. Keep warm20160116_230106
  3. Also, line a square baking pan with parchment paper, lightly brushing the bottom and sides with Vegetable Oil20160116_230528
  4. Stir more often as the sugar melts, making sure not to let it sit too long and burn while others are still crystallized20160116_231132
  5. When most of it’s melted, stick in a candy thermometer, continuing to stir and cook until the sugar reaches 180C [supposedly 356F]20160116_231334
  6. Briefly remove from heat and slowly, carefully add the warm cream mixture, stirring in until fully incorporated20160116_231626
  7. Return to heat until sugar has come back up to 140C [284-ish F]20160116_231944
  8. Remove from heat again, adding in Butter and Vanilla, mixing quickly until it’s thoroughly incorporated and smooth20160116_232220
  9. Pour the caramel into the parchment-lined baking pan, sprinkle the remaining sea salt over the top20160116_232530
  10. Leave to cool for about an hour or more
  11. Upturn onto the cutting board, taking a knife to cut into the desired piece sizes. If still rather sticky, coat the knife blade with some of the vegetable oil every now and then20160116_235716
  12. Transfer to bags, wrap in wax paper if needed/desired, and enjoy20160117_000330

My Thoughts

Of course it didn’t come out as I wanted. I could see even before it was fully cooled that this caramel would be much firmer than what should have been achieved; instead of that soft, stretchy, tender little chew, I got a hard and crunchy-chewy toffee-like creation. Not that I mind in general, it’s still quite delicious to suck on; creamy-buttery richness with that almost-burnt sugar mixed in. Perhaps not in a perfect blend, again not ALL the ingredients were of anything more than average/cheap quality, but it succeeded where needed. Well, it needed more salt, could only taste it IF sucking vs chewing, and then only in the fir half minute. I’m debating if it’s just the result of not using a classic big-grained French sea salt, which may have more compact flavor too, or if the recipe needed more… I blame the recipe.

As for why the sweets didn’t turn out as desired in consistency, I have two main theories. Either I may have cooked the sugar a bit hotter than called for at one or two periods, very possible though I’m pretty sure it didn’t get THAT much higher than the recipe called for, or the recipe really needs to have notably more butter and cream added into it. My money is on a combination of the two.

Possible Pairings

cremant-de-bourgogne-4278-1-2Not the kind of recipe that usually comes with a whole glass of alcohol to ‘pair’ with, but assuming one DOES want to imbibe while chewing on a [properly] soft and salty-creamy piece of cooked sugar heaven, I could think of a few tasty options.

The first thing that comes to mind is Bubbly; just a simple glass of that delightful drink that never really needs to be fully figured out as to why it tastes good with anything. Since there’s no real confining aspect to the candy that requires distinct characteristics in its partnered drink to balance out, besides the sweetness itself [the saltiness is already being handled by its own sugar content], we can revel in the option of that most celebratory of wines. A Champagne or nice Cremant de Loire/Bourgogne/Alsace wouldn’t be out of the question. The beautiful complexities of a good bottle can be easily featured under the simple candy, any toasty/buttery notes compliment the buttery/creamy aspect of the caramel, they’re even paired often with local seafood dishes so it works with the salt aspect on a secondary level. The one thing I WOULD make sure to try and do, if possible, is to get a Demi-Sec [the sweeter styles of French bubbly], just to make sure the balance is right.

B9315771956Z.1_20150107133802_000_GIS9K0B6R.1-0Many a sweet, fortified, and aged wine will shine here, much like the delectable muscat-based creations from the south of France. Though in this category I can’t think of anything better than a properly thick, brown, caramelly ‘Sticky’ from Australia. Or, as they’re technically known as, Tawnies, influenced by aged ports and one of the best things to ever come out of the country in my opinion.

Of final note, any Aged Spirit would also be on my list, a-la Whiskey. The vanilla and caramel flavors picked up from the toasted oak will compliment these flavors greatly, and high-alcohol actually helps pair with various difficult food concerns. Very ‘heavy’ meals, fatty, acidic, but especially SWEET things can be cut or balanced next to a good spirit. If I had to pick one thing, though, I’d definitely have to go for a GOOD quality, special Rum. Aged well and from a proper estate, they’re flavors are amazing and encapsulate the epitome of ‘sugar’ complexities. They even make some in the French Martinique. Just saying.

p3: Challah

#22, Challah

saffron-challah-loavesThere are two classic breads whenever one looks into the ‘enriched varieties;’ you know, the ones that have extra butter, milk, and/or eggs to make a richer and tender-crispy product. Of course Brioche is the first, and I gotta love making and eating them. Then there’s Challah, the braided wonder famous for its importance in Judaith traditions, eaten purely on the Sabbath. I mean, unless you’re like me and just want to eat it whenever you want. For instance, when I need something awesome to make an Almond French Toast for my Mother’s Birthday Brunch. I’ve bought it before from a store [and lucky for me I didn’t realize they only sold it on Friday, which is the day I HAPPENED to make it in and got the last loaf], but now I get the chance to make it myself!

Note that the recipe which follows will be for a simple 3-braided style loaf shape; there are quite a few others, including 4-braid, 5, and even higher which all have their own specific techniques to making the braid. I’ll probably try them out in the future should I ever attempt any other challah or braided loafs [hopefully!], but just letting you know for now.

I’d write more but I’ve been so busy with other things lately I don’t have anything else I really want to say here…

Recipe
4 cups/18oz Bread Flour
2 Tb/1oz Sugar
1 tsp/0.25oz Salt
1 ½ tsp/0.18oz Yeast
2 Tb/1oz Vegetable Oil
2 whole/3.3oz Eggs
2 whole/3.3oz Eggs, Yolks and Whites separated
7/8 cup/7oz Water, Room Temp
Sesame, Poppy Seeds, or anything else desired for Garnish

Directions

  1. Combine Flour, Sugar, Salt, and Yeast in bowl of stand mixer20160102_112732
  2. Separately, mix Oil, the 2 Eggs, 2 Egg Yolks, and Water until consistent, pouring into the dry mixture20160102_112841
  3. Mix on low speed, with paddle attachment, until everything congeals and forms into a ball; add more water if needed20160102_112854
  4. Switch to dough hook and let mixture run on medium speed around 6-8 minutes, adding more flour if sorta sticky, until it forms a smooth, supple mass and passes the windowpane test20160102_113626
  5. Roll into ball and toss in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and bulk ferment 1 hour20160102_113750
  6. At that point, punch or knead the dough down to de-gas, reforming into a ball and returning to covered bowl for another hour or until doubled in size20160102_135231
  7. Divide dough into 3 equal pieces, form into a Boule as shown Here and let rest on counter about 10 minutes20160102_135634
  8. Roll out each ball into as long and thin of a log/strand as desired, simply making sure that it’s somewhat thicker in the middle and thinner on the ends20160102_141810
  9. To shape loaves, lay each strand parallel to each other, and ideally vertical to you to discern a ‘right and left’ side. Take the end of the outer right leg, crossing it over the one to the left so that they’re crossed in the middle and the end is between the other two. Now take the outermost left strand and cross it over the now middle strand. Repeat where the end of the outer right is going over the middle and then with the left, until the ends meet up20160102_142156
  10. Do the same pattern with the OTHER half, only crossing underneath instead of over. Finish by pinching the ends closed20160102_142410
  11. Take egg Whites, beating well until frothy to make an egg Wash
  12. Transfer braid to parchment-lined sheet, brushing with wash and lightly spraying with oil before giving a loose cover of plastic or cloth. Proof 60-75 minutes or until doubled in size20160102_143244
  13. Preheat oven 350F
  14. Brush loaf once more with a coat of egg wash, sprinkling with Seseame/Poppy Seeds [or in my case, crumbled almonds]20160102_154743
  15. Bake for 20 minutes, turn 180 degrees, and then 20-40 minutes more depending, until it’s achieved a rich golden brown color and sounds hollow when thumped20160102_163051
  16. Remove and cool on rack at least an hour before serving. Enjoy

20160102_163120What Have I Learned This Time?

Apparently I need to find instructions on bread braiding that actually goes into proper detail on it. As you can see from my pictures, my loaf didn’t quiiiiiiieeete come out as pretty as a classic braid does… it has a cool shape, mind you, but not a proper braid. Figured out the reason though; the book I based this off has you label the ‘ends’ of each dough log 1, 2, 3. It says cross 3 over 2, then 1 over 2, then repeat. What it DOESN’T say is that when you cross one over the other, it then turns into 2 and the numbers switch so it’s always 1-2-3. So I kept trying to cross things over the main one and it didn’t turn out well for half the loaf.

Also, need to find a better way to make those dough logs/ropes… god it didn’t want to co-operate at all…

Any Thoughts?

20160102_175244I wish I hadn’t forgotten to take pictures of the awesome-as-hell Amaretto French Toast that I made with this… I mean damn it was good. Though, on its own, having a bite with just that bit of toasted almond on top was just nutty goodness. Oh, and I absolutely love this fresh from the oven; the crust is delightfully crunchy and toasty, perfect with that slightly-enriched center. I forgot how much lighter it was compared to brioche, so a bit of butter definitely brings it to awesome heights [I don’t care if it’s kosher or not! And I’m too lazy to find out!]. I sort of want to make it again as a fun all-purpose bread, especially to practice my braiding techniques, and use different oils and things to see how it affects the final outcome.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

The dough? Yes. In fact, I think it loves me like family now. The whole braiding technique thing isn’t impressed though… I’ll have to bring it chocolate and flowers next time.