p3: Focaccia

#19, Focaccia

Ffocacciainally! It’s taken some time to build up the desire to set about making this, since there’s surprisingly more steps and factors with making it than I actually expected, but I’m finally getting to go for what is ultimately my absolute favorite bread: Focaccia. No matter what I can think of, how it’s baked, what it’s flavored or stuffed with, when it comes to eating hot and crispy, as-is, there is no bread that beats that rich and crunchy flavor/texture, fatty personality, and especially that extra addition of garlic/herb personality that is this classic Italian creation.

The book offer two methods to produce this so as to get the ‘perfect honeycombed texture,’ one being to rely on an overnight Poolish dough to use as a starter, while the other starts from scratch but leaves the bulk fermentation to occur in the fridge, stretching it out over a looooong period of time overnight, thus developing more of those flavors and ideal textures we want in our final bread. I’ll be doing the latter, since it seems more rustic and natural to the region… and I feel if I WERE to use a starter for an Italian bread, it should be biga, not poolish… but that’s probably a stupid reason.

Of course it’s not focaccia without oil and toppings! You always want to start off with an herb/garlic/spiced oil which is used to cover and push into the dough during the shaping/fermenting/proofing stages; this mass of Italian fat gets sucked straight in to give that almost buttery flavor and texture we so crave. After that though, one can basically put about anything on it they want; it basically is the Ligurian cousin to the Neapolitan Pizza. But there are rules! As things go, there are three designated times in which one can put toppings on top of their dough, mainly depending on what kind of ingredients they are. Those toppings are as follows:

Pre-Proof toppings: done right after the night of fermentation and a bit of extra oil adding/shaping, these include sturdy items that can stay out for hours as needed, like Nuts, Fresh/Dry Herbs, Sun-Dried Tomatoes [or other dried things], sautéed Mushrooms/Peppers, Roasted Garlic, etc.

Pre-Bake Toppings: as the name suggests, right before popping in the oven. These are mainly your really Moist Cheeses [goat, blue, fea, mozzarella, etc], Fresh Tomatoes/Veggies, Coarse Salt/Sugar and other Spices, etc.

During-Bake Toppings: halfway through cooking, you can add harder, melt-focused cheeses like Cheddar, Parmesan, Swiss, etc so they don’t burn from a longer, high temperature bake; and also any potential sauce one might want [I assume adding earlier would have it soak in more, which wouldn’t mainly be the goal for most].

I myself went with an Herb Oil that infused garlic and a lotta dried basil I had left over from my herb pots, some really good oil-packed Italian Green Olives I got from work, some Pine Nuts we had in the pantry, and Lemon Sea Salt that I got as a gift from the sister and want to put to more use! Should turn out quite num!

2 cups/16oz Water, room temp
2tsp/0.22oz Dry Yeast
5 cups/22.5oz Bread Flour
2tsp/0.5oz Salt
6Tb/3oz Olive Oil + ¼ cup
¼ – ½ cup, or more, Herb Oil


  1. Mix Water and Yeast, leaving to bloom at least 5 minutes20150927_134626
  2. Mix Flour, Salt, and 6 Tb Oil in stand mixer, adding in yeast and water mixer before turning on low until it all comes together in a big, sticky ball20150927_134808
  3. Switch to dough hook and knead 5-7 minutes, give or take, until it’s smooth; it will still be sticky, and should clear the sides of the bowl but still stick to the bottom, may still need to add extra flour20150927_140517
  4. Sprinkle clean counter with a 6×6” square of flour and transfer the dough on top, using a scraper/spatula dipped in water. Generously dust top with more flour and press into a rectangle. Let rest 5 minutes20150927_140603
  5. Pick up by the ends, letting the dough naturally stretch until about doubled in size. Lay back down, fold each end over ‘letter style,’ spray with oil and give another generous flour dusting, let rest for 30 minutes, covering loosely with plastic wrap or a towel20150927_140832
  6. Repeat twice, letting it rest another 30 minutes after the second time and a full hour after the first; the dough should swell and almost double in size after each, and especially the last, time20150927_140938
  7. Line sheet pan with parchment paper, pour remaining ¼ cup olive oil on bottom, spreading it around evenly before placing dough on top.20150927_153426
  8. Pour over half the amount of Herb Oil you’re using [don’t be afraid to go up to if not over ½ cup in total, it will absorb it all easily], and press into focaccia with just the tips of the fingers, using the motion and pressure to spread it as far to the edge as you can, ‘dimpling’ the surface20150927_153541
  9. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and move to refrigerator overnight20150928_114713
  10. Remove, pour remaining herb oil over top and dimple it in, which should fill the pan completely with bread now. Sprinkle with any desired ‘Pre-Proof Toppings,’ making sure to lightly press in any that need it, and leave to proof, covered with plastic, until doubled in size/1 inch thick, up to 3 hours20150928_141145
  11. Preheat oven to 500F
  12. Place any ‘Pre-Bake Toppings’ on your bread and slide pan into the oven, immediately turning down to 450F and leaving for 10 minutes20150928_142312
  13. Spin pan 180 degrees, quick sprinkle on any last-minute ‘During-Bake Toppings,’ and leave an additional 5-10 minutes, or until evenly golden brown20150928_143420
  14. Remove and slide onto a cooling rack, leaving at least 20 minutes to cool before slicing… I personally can’t claim I was able to wait before cutting off a small corner
  15. Enjoy!

Herb Oil
3-4 Fresh Garlic Cloves20150927_135333
½ cup Fresh or ¼ cup Dried Herbs of your choosing
½ Tb Kosher Salt
½ tsp Black pepper
1tsp-2Tb additional Spices, if desired
¼-½ cup Olive Oil


  1. Chop Garlic and Herbs, toss in sauce pot along with Oil and Seasonings
  2. Heat to 100F, take off heat and let slowly cool. Reserve for use

What Have I Learned This Time?

20150928_143433I don’t care what the book says, Pine Nuts are a big no-no with this kind of focaccia recipe; unless you’re making a small-ish loaf that only takes up to 10 minutes to back, those bastards gonna burn.

Once again, I seriously need to double-check and plan some details out more; not only did I put it in the oven after only 2 hours of proofing instead of 3, which I don’t think actually affected it but is still something I shouldn’t have done, and I didn’t notice that it said 5-10 minutes after baking after turning, thought it was just a full 10; thus the noticeably darker-than-desired top areas. Actually, I just looked over the recipe a third time, and realized I missed the bit where I was supposed to turn the oven down to 450F after starting. God I feel stupid. And why on focaccia!? I love it so much… I don’t want to make it suffer, I swear!

Dimpling technique and what it’s used for; the actual effect of letting the non-compressed parts rise and poof and brown while any of the excess air is pushed out. It’s an interesting effect to see, considering no other bread I’m aware of actually applies this technique; if anything I’d say it’s heavily visual but does make a distinctive eating texture for the final product, not sure if I’d like it so much if it was an even, risen landscape.

It really can soak up a lot of oil, and I think I’m definitely going ¾-1 whole cup of the herb oil next time, just to see how it’d end up! I did at first think there wasn’t enough, when it was hot, but interestingly the rich fattiness of the oil came out more when cooled, another learned item; but I still wanna see how far it can go!

Speaking of which, it tends to soak through the paper bag I keep my bread in for storage; after a few days it sorta looks like a philly cheesesteak to-go bag.

Any Thoughts?

20150928_143943I’m rather sad that I didn’t complete it ideally, it deserves more respect than that… especially since the dough was doing really well all the way to the proofing stage! God, almost nothing in bread-making feels worse than putting all the effort to making a dough that looks really good and almost perfect and then screw up the baking… though at least it wasn’t that big of a screw up. It still tasted awesome, the inside was soft, flavorful, oily in all the right ways… mmmmm. Didn’t go in the toaster all that well, but I wanna find a good way to transform… maybe buttered, insides of course, and griddled, like grilled cheese? That’s an obvious.

Can’t wait to try different toppings too. I really wanna get some slices of tomato and chunks of goat cheese on before-bake, get that roasted tomato-cheese pizza feel… ooooh! Speaking of which, I so have to use this for pizza one day, press it into a pan or something, cuz it totally has that distinctive buttery, crunchy-soft-ish chew type sensation of the typical Dominoes/Pizza Hut crusts, and deep dishes.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

It’s recognized my nervousness with sticky doughs and has responded slightly in kind… plus I think it’s perturbed that I didn’t pay enough attention to it while baking.

p3: Tuscan Bread

#16, Tuscan Bread

I haven’t done a hearth bread in a while, so I think I’m due, especially after the recent decision to actually follow through with cooling my main finished loaves to completion before slicing for proper textural results. Searching the book for a decent one, however, has had me come to the understanding of how few my options are becoming for ‘new’ breads I can make that don’t require the extra-long and special processes that Rye bread creation requires, or basically the needing of a ‘barm’ (will discuss when I finally get into ryes). Certainly I’m at the point where I’ll need to make some official decisions soon, whether it’s revisiting recipes or finally delving into the more continuous-intensive process of having to use and refresh the living starter culture.

bread-2That aside, I did find one intriguing thing that stood out, a simple recipe to re-try the hearth technique that also offered a distinctly unique personality: Tuscan Bread. It’s a very simplistic bread recipe… and I mean VERY simplistic. This is one of the only breads that is completely Salt-free; likely developed by poorer Italian families who couldn’t afford the expensive seasoning back in the day. This thus leads to a bread that is rather ‘bland’ compared to others, which is why the Italians often load it with super-flavorful pastes and other toppings. Also, since there’s no salt, the yeast isn’t kept in as much check, allowing it to ferment and release as much gas as fast as it wants, which is probably why they also employ another interesting technique. Instead of a pre-ferment, the mix of yeast and flour and water and such done the night before to develop flavor, it utilizes a past of flour and boiling water left overnight. If a pre-ferment was used, it’d likely eat through almost all the natural sugars before making the dough itself the next day, giving us no doubling action. The paste is much more bland, but still allows for some flavor release from the starch gelatinization; or at least that’s the idea. We’ll just have to see how it turns out!

1 ¾ cups/14oz Boiling Water
4 2/3 cups/21oz Bread Flour
2 ½ tsp/0.28oz Active Dry Yeast
½ cup/4oz, ish, Room Temp Water
2 Tb/1oz Olive Oil


  1. Pour Boiling Water over 2 cups/9oz Bread Flour, stir vigorously until it forms a thick, consistent paste20150824_024057
  2. Let cool, cover, and sit overnight at room temperature20150824_120403
  3. Mix Yeast and ¼ cup/2oz of Water, let sit 5 minutes until bloomed20150824_120120
  4. In stand mixer bowl, with paddle attachment, mix Olive oil, remaining flour, yeasted water, and paste together on low, adding as much additional water as needed to bring everything together in a soft ball/mass; it’s okay if it’s a little sticky20150824_120511
  5. Switch to dough hook, kneading on medium for 6-8 minutes until tacky and passes the windowpane test, sprinkling in any extra flour as needed20150824_122600
  6. Oil bowl, transfer, and cover with plastic, bulk fermenting 2 hours until doubled in size; if doubled early, punch down and let re-double20150824_151156
  7. Line sheet pan with parchment paper, evenly sprinkle with Semolina or Cornmeal
  8. Divide dough into 2 pieces as desired. Carefully shape each into Boule or Batard forms, handling gently to avoid degassing20150824_152142
  9. Move on top of cornmeal pan, mist with spray oil, cover loosely plastic wrap and let proof 60-90 minutes, until nearly doubled in size20150824_162610
  10. Prepare oven for ‘special hearth baking.’ Place two cups of water in steam pan, move into oven with baking stone and heat to 500F20150824_164352
  11. Lightly mist dough with water, sift with flour, and score the top with a razor in desired pattern
  12. Slide bread onto baking stone, close, and wait 30 second. Spray the inside oven walls with water, shut door, and repeat twice more in 30 second intervals, turning the oven down to 450F after the third misting
  13. Bake 10 minutes, remove the steam pan, and rotate loaves 180 degrees20150824_172556
  14. Bake 10-20 minutes longer, until loaves turn deep golden brown and sound hollow when thumped
  15. Remove, cool over rack at least an hour, or enjoy a smaller loaf piping hot with butter20150824_171515
  16. Slice and enjoy

What Have I Learned This Time?

S20150824_192610ofter, stickier doughs do seem to produce a more idealistic result, or at least it seems to have a better chance at it, so I’m going to continue trying not to be so cautious of leaning towards that way from now on. Besides, once it bulk ferments with some of that oil covering, it’s just about as easy to handle as not-so-sticky dough.

Apparently there are plenty hearth bread recipes, not just the really long and unmanageable baguettes or other weird shapes, where it’s okay to cook the bread on parchment paper while it’s on the baking stone, if not even the sheet tray on top of the baking stone. Applying this to more recipes will make the transfer much easier and faster, again minimizing oven temperature reduction as much as possible, and I don’t have to worry about deforming my shapes as I fail to slide them from a metal pan even with all the damn cornmeal I sprinkled on its surface.

If there are any other recipes that call for the ‘2 cup water steam bath,’ it’s okay to let the oven stay at its highest temperature for a while to better hold its heat. My worry was that all the water would evaporate and I’d run out, but after the initial 10 minutes there was still probably ½-1 cup left in the pan.

If choosing to bloom the yeast in water, don’t do it in ALL the water from the recipe; I’m rather sure I initially over-moisturized. Next time the yeast is just going in half, supposing I’m making that adjustment to the recipe myself, and the rest is only added to the point of balance. Truthfully I worry that I may have eliminated the chance for the olive oil’s flavor to be detected by having to add in what amounted to quite a little bit of extra flour.

Any Thoughts?

Never have had I had a bread that, even when fully cooked, is so distinctly ‘flour-y’ in flavor. You really can TASTE that flour paste made the day before, almost as if one mixed in mashed potatoes… but flour. Ultimately reminiscent of a cross between those cottage loaf breads, my favorite kind from the store, and a classically crusty baguette/roll. It emphasizes itself even further after leaving the bread alone to cool, which I’m not sure how I feel about that; but this ‘extra plain’ flavor does allow that particular toasty sweetness the browned crust develops to actually be tasted a bit more. It’s a shame that it doesn’t keep that delightful crunchiness it has right out of the oven, but most hearth breads don’t; letting it rest without touching has it go chewy, probably from the extra steaming. But still glad I left a giant round to cool off all by itself, now it’ll actually last and in the ideal ‘bread state.’

20150825_120635Surprisingly, doesn’t impress me that much as toast, but it does make a damn good grilled cheese…

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

Currently putting up a fight but it seems to submit a little more-so in the end.

p3: Potato Rosemary Bread

#7, Potato Rosemary Bread

20150525_112834I wish I had a garden; and I mean like a full, landscaped garden, with rows of stuff, and every year I’d pick new and different crops to grow, looking into the GOOD seed shipping companies based on natural, ancestral varietals (as opposed to plants and seeds developed and owned by Monsanto and who knows what other corporations)… god that would be great. And we have quite a few areas in the yard it could work, but that really takes a huge amount of time to do right (by my standards), not to mention we’re definitely in an area that requires some notably wildlife combative strategies.

Oh well, maybe later in life, or a retirement project. But I can’t be too sad, we still have big pots on the deck for Tomatoes! Last year I started using one or two pots for peppers, and now I’m getting back into herbs. Which really excited me since I got the chance to get some fresh Rosemary growing and available, which is easily my favorite herb next to tarragon (none available btw… the bastards).

potato-rosemary-bread-slicedPlanted last week, it gave me a nice opportunity to go for a more fun recipe on this occasion, Potato Rosemary Bread, or ‘Panmarino’ for the Italians. Being popular for both loaves, buns, and dinner rolls (which I may have to consider someday for holidays… or specialty burgers…), the potatoes supposedly help make the dough particularly soft and tender while flavor is added by the intense herb and the use of a pre-ferment. In this case, Biga, the third of the main three (including Poolish and Pate Fermente) which I finally get to use. Though this will be the first time where I have to adjust the recipe; previous pre-ferment recipes used the exact amount that was written down in the book, while this one only uses a fraction, 7 oz of finished biga instead of the base recipe that yields 18. So the recipe I’m providing here is a scaled down version, and I’ll make sure to use the full exact one on a future Italian bread from my book that requires it.

T20150525_144428here are a couple other things I decided to try out with this too. First off, as the recipe called for cutting the fermented dough in half before shaping (for bigger loaves), I wanted to try out my experiment for actually doing this BEFORE fermentation, separating the dough into two separate bowls, to see if it didn’t hurt the dough and, ultimately, helped to keep in more gas that would have been lost via later cutting.

20150527_080149Secondly, though the recipe doesn’t state the possibility, I don’t feel like cooking both loaves off at once, so I’m gonna leave one in the fridge, not just overnight but for TWO days (meeting a friend later and I thought they’d appreciate some good fresh bread). I really want to see if I can notice a flavor change from the slow proofing (being put in for storage after shaping) as bread is supposed to from my understanding, and also noting if this is something I can just do with about any recipe I want or if I really need to stick to the ones that talk about it. Boy though, did it get big and fat in there after two days! Look how it ballooned up; and I know that this is NOT a proper form to cook it in, but I decided to bake it like that anyways just for the hell of it, see what the actual result would be.

20150525_115700Finally, since I’m cooking potatoes from scratch, thought I’d take the chance to just use the now flavorful and sorta starchy ‘potato water’ left over from boiling as opposed to just regular water for making the bread. It’s little things like these that make things awesome, much like adding pasta water into your sauce! (if you still haven’t tried this, yet cook pasta with a sorta handmade sauce on a regular basis, then you need to get some things in order)

Well I’m done with that longer-than-usual intro for one of my bread posts, let’s get into the recipe!

1¼ cup/7 oz Biga (recipe follows)
3 cups+2Tb/14 oz Bread Flour
4 Tb/1 oz Garlic, about 1½ – 2 bulbs (opt)
½ tsp/0.13 oz Salt
¼ tsp/0.3 oz Ground Black Pepper (opt)
1¼ tsp/0.14 oz Dry Yeast
6 oz Russet Potato
1 Tb/0.5 oz Olive Oil
2 Tb/0.25 oz Fresh Rosemary, coarsely chopped
¾ cups+2Tb-4 cups/7-8 oz Potato Cooking Water, room temp
Cornmeal/Semolina and Olive Oil


  1. Remove Biga from fridge at least one hour before planning to start bread, cutting into about 10 small pieces and covering with plastic.20150525_105106
  2. While this is going, boil and simmer Potatoes starting from a cold, salted water bath until tender, if not done so already.20150525_115615
  3. Cut top off Garlic, covering in oil and roasting in 350/375F oven until browned and soft inside, if using.20150525_105406
  4. Remove each, mash the potatoes (reserving Potato Water for use) and squeeze out the soft roasted garlic. Reserve for use.20150525_122333
  5. Stir together Flour, Salt, Black Pepper, and Yeast.20150525_122909
  6. Add Big, Potatoes, Olive Oil, Rosemary, and ¾ cup + 2 Tb potato water.20150525_123511
  7. Stir on low speed in electric mixer with paddle attachment for 1 minute, until ingredients form together, adding more water to gather up excess flour and more flour if too sticky.20150525_125010
  8. Switch paddle out with dough hook and knead on medium speed for about 6 minutes, adding more flour/water as needed, until soft, supple, and passing the windowpane test.20150525_125124
  9. Flatten dough on a lightly floured surface, spreading the roasted garlic (chopped or pasted) over the top, folding it in and kneading briefly to incorporate.20150525_125302
  10. Divide dough in two, or how many lobes one is looking to cook, and transfer to oiled bowl, rolling to coat. Cover plastic and bulk ferment 2 hours, until doubled.20150525_144155
  11. Remove and shape, on a lightly floured surface (helps if somewhat sticky or oily), into a boule as detailed Here.20150525_144820
  12. Transfer to a parchment-covered sheet tray that’s been dusted with Semolina/Cornmeal, mist with spray oil, and loosely cover. Proof 1-2 hours, until doubled in size.20150525_145015
  13. Heat oven to 400F
  14. When ready, lightly brush Olive Oil over the top, and lightly score/slice with razor if desired (definitely not required).20150525_164445
  15. Bake 20 minutes, rotate 180F, and then bake 15-25 minutes longer, until rich golden brown and making a hollow sound when thumped. Note this time is for bigger loaves, if cut smaller than less time is needed (but keep same temperature).20150525_172855
  16. Remove, cool up to 1 hour if desired or cut while hot, spreading with butter for easy enjoyment. Also goes good with pasta.20150525_173114

Biga (scaled to fit)
4.38 oz Bread Flour
0.02 oz (a bit under ¼ tsp) Dry Yeast
2.75-3 oz (around 3/8 cup) Water, room temp


  1. Stir together Flour and Yeast, slowly adding in water until everything comes into a coarse ball, adjusting as needed so not too sticky or stiff.20150524_103752
  2. Sprinkle flour on counter, knead 3-6 minutes, until soft, pliable, and tacky.20150524_104246
  3. Oil bowl, transfer dough, cover plastic and ferment 2-4 hours at room temp, until nearly doubled.20150524_133340
  4. Knead dough briefly to degas, return to covered bowl and place in fridge overnight or up to 3 days.

What Have I Learned This Time?

The fact that maybe I should make the effort to knead by hand for every recipe but the most annoying (ie, enriched doughs and other); pretty sure I over kneaded again after taking my eyes off the mixer to do other things, despite the fact it wasn’t for long, because it just got sticky and wouldn’t fix even after adding flour and further machine kneading. The results are still quite delicious, but it’d be nice to have that extra bit of control.

Speaking of over kneading, I think I see a commonality of results, aka the notable effect of it, between the two doughs I know I’ve done it to. The crust on both this and the Anadama both had a certain kind of thick, layered hard flake crustiness to it. Though that could just be a coincidence among both breads, it will be interesting if this result comes again in the future with other potentially over-kneaded projects.

Got a better idea and feel scoring bread, such as how deep for the ideal look, and a definite reminder on what kinds of bread this is really made for.

So far the results for pre-fermenting dough division seem quite positive! Boules seemed quite gassy for their consistency, though that probably isn’t ideally desired for this bread. I have high hopes for future projects in this sense!

The extra two days did seem to improve the flavor a bit, the final bread reminding me very much of one of my favorites, focaccia (so a little more richness and flavor depth). It is quite noted though that, unless a recipe states the ability to do this (like with enriched doughs), the dough will very likely need de-gassing at least once during this, so trying to keep a proofed shape is often unlikely. As such any future attempts I make at this will probably be just putting bulk-fermented (or pre-bulk-fermented), non-shaped dough in the fridge.

Potato bread doesn’t taste that much like potatoes… hmmmmm… further experiments must be done! (and fun, more intense potato-based recipes explored)

Any Thoughts?

My rosemary smells a bit like sage… huh. Oh, and next time I want a LOT more garlic, kept in chunks somehow… it nummy when done right.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

It’s gone back to full indifference.

p3: Casatiello

#20150425_2354093, Casatiello

So my second choice from last week is up, and it’s introducing a couple interesting aspects to the breadmaking stuff for me. A savory Italian variation of the Panettone (French brioche dessert with dried fruits and stuff inside), Casatiello blends in chunks of cheese and cured (usually) meat such as salami. A good melting cheese is preferred, provolone often being the standard, but I ran across an Italian Fontina which I just thought was perfect. As for the meat, I had to go based on price at Whole Foods, but found something at a decent price and quality; a log of decent looking ‘artisan’ Pepperoni. A section in the book mentioned it as a possibility; well, along with bacon, sausage, other salami, think even bologna… but I like my decision best, at least for now. I do ache to try some other fun combos in the future.

20150426_110605Well that’s the FIRST ‘interesting aspect,’ the second is the fact that it’s often baked inside a bag of some sort; furthermore, for stability purposes, that bag is then place inside a can. It can also be made in a loaf pan, but why do something so boring when we can explore new stuff! It took a bit of work to actually get the right things for me to set it up though; since I was doing this in one BIG loaf as directed, had to go and buy one of those big-ass tomato cans from Sam’s Club (so we now have a bunch of crushed tomato that has to be used in sauce and stew within the next couple of weeks). I also had to figure out a proper bag to use… it mentions those white or brown sandwich bags, but they’re usually quite small, couldn’t quite find the right store for one that was big and ‘flexible’ enough to take it in and fold the collar down.

20150426_145609Then I had an epiphany… of course! Why try finding another bag, or use a big paper shopping bag (which I’d probably have to cut to fit), when I have a perfectly sized bag right at my disposal, and already coated in a bread-friendly layer. That’s right, I emptied out and used my Bread Flour Bag. All I had to do was spray the inside thoroughly with olive oil and cut the top off to just above the dough after proofing (it didn’t really “collar” like I wanted it to, which you’ll see in the directions later), and there we go.

casaOn some research, it does look like it’s sometimes made in a bundt-type pan too with… eggs on top? I think I’ve found a good and fun reason to explore it again in the future.

4 cups/18.25 oz Bread Flour
1 Tb/0.33 oz Dry Yeast
1 cup/8 oz Milk, Lukewarm
4 oz Salame, Pepperoni, Bacon, or other suitable Meat
6 oz Provolone or other tasty melty Cheese
1 tsp/0.25 oz Salt
1 Tb/0.5 oz Sugar
2 Large/3.3 oz Eggs, beaten
¾ cup/6 oz Butter, room temp


  1. Stir together ½ cup(2.25oz) of Flour and Yeast in bowl, mix in Milk to make a batter, cover with plastic and let ferment at room temp 1 hour.20150426_000033
  2. While this goes on, dice Meat and Cheese.20150426_001939
  3. Heat up sauté pan to medium heat, throwing in the meat to cook and render until slightly crispy. Move off heat, making sure NOT to throw any of the rendered fat.20150426_143643
  4. Stir together remaining flour with Salt and Sugar.20150426_144256
  5. Combine Eggs, Sponge, and Flour mix in stand mixer bowl, using the paddle attachment on low speed until it all combines into a coarse mass, adding a small amount of Milk if any loose flour to help gather together.20150426_144622
  6. Let rest 10 minutes for gluten to develop20150426_150510
  7. Divide butter into 4 sections, adding into the dough while mixer is set on medium, scraping side of the bowl down with spatula as needed.20150426_151957
  8. After about 4 minutes, and/or once the butter seems fully incorporated, switch to the dough hook and continue on medium speed, adding any additional flour as needed, until the dough is a smooth and no longer sticky ball (should pass the windowpane test).20150426_152043
  9. Add meat pieces and rendered fat, mixing/kneading until evenly distributed.20150426_152140
  10. Add cheese and mix in until the same, working quick but thoroughly. The dough should still be soft, stretchy, and not sticky; if it does stick somewhat, add more flour.20150426_152420
  11. Transfer to an oiled bowl, turning to coat, cover with plastic and bulk ferment at room temp 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.20150426_173002
  12. Remove onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a Boule, as such:20150426_173147
  13. Determining a ‘bottom,’ grab and squeeze the dough on one end into the center, starting to stretch the other side.20150426_173224
  14. After this, fold one ‘edge’ of the ball into the center. Turn the dough a quarter of the way and repeat, until all four ‘sides’ have been folded in (separately, one can stretch and fold/squeeze two sides, so it turns into an oblong, before turning and doing once more).20150426_173251
  15. Set fold-side down on counter, using the edge of your hand to seal and press the bottom edges further down, stretching the top even more into a smooth, round shape (pieces of meat and cheese may stick and fall out, that’s fine).20150426_173406
  16. Carefully transfer into a prepared (spray oiled) bag and then into a properly sized can for holding, rolling or cutting the top of the bag down to 2 inches above the dough.20150426_173640
  17. Cover with plastic or a towel, proof for 60-90 minutes until it reaches the top of the bags.20150426_190157
  18. Preheat oven to 350F, setting rack to lower third of space.
  19. Place can in oven, bake 20 minutes before turning down to 325F and baking an additional 40 minutes or until 185-190F. Dough will be golden brown on top, and bread will have risen just above the bags.20150426_200205
  20. Remove and transfer to a cooling rack for a bit. Carefully remove the bags from cans (may need to run knife along edge) and cut slits or remove bag to allow steam to escape.20150426_201552
  21. Slice and serve when desired, no butter needed (though it does bump it up to 11).

What Have I Learned This Time?

When dealing with unique baking vessels, such as big cans and/or (most importantly) bags, let it cool at LEAST a few minutes before trying to overturn on a cooling rack/cutting board.


I can’t re-use bags after uses like this…

Either my cooking thermometer is losing its touch and being rather shitty, or I just can’t rely on inside dough temperatures. Which sucks.

If I ever make another cheese-filled bread again in the future, I either need to A: really make sure it’s THOROUGHLY and evenly distributed, or B: (and much more likely I think) mix in a notable amount LESS than the recipe calls for. I think 4oz will be an acceptable amount on my next turn at this guy (and I think I’ll certainly make it again at some point in the future).

Actually, now re-looking over the recipe, I was supposed to Grate it instead of cutting into cubes… think that had something to do with it? (oops)

Any Thoughts?

Fatty pepperoni, a big glob of ooey gooey melty cheese oozing from the middle, and a crusty yet soft, buttery dough surrounding it all… you wanna know what I REALLY made today? Pizza Bread. Hell, tastes just like a certain appetizer from Old Chicago.

Oh, and I’m very happy with how the dough actually turned out while working with it; I can’t claim whether it was truly perfect or not, but it came out feeling nice and smooth, soft, not sticky, completely ideal in what one would expect a dough to turn out. Not to mention that, eaten the next day after cooling down, was actually able to taste a bit of that nice little yeasty flavor in the bread itself. I’m getting there!

I20150426_200618t went quite good with Tomato Soup.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

Currently playful, letting me have some fun with it but giving a big fat raspberry when I think all is right. Like a woman shutting a door after a whole day of fun and ‘teasing’…

p3: Ciabatta

ciabatta#2, Ciabatta

I was between Ciabatta and a savory Panettone (brioche-based cake of dried fruits and stuff for dessert), which I won’t name because I plan on doing it NEXT week. My final decision was based on something huge and monumental; someone else idly mentioning they liked ciabatta in a text. A sign! Or, more realistically, an easy excuse for me to make a choice.

Though I am very glad I went for it, been having the urge to do SOMETHING very classic, traditional, and, most importantly, exploring the use of starter-dough and some other fun techniques. Not sure how I feel about tackling baguettes, or similar breads, but ciabatta will act as a fun mediary to practice with early on. But more importantly, I get to try my hands on POOLISH. A pre-ferment along with Biga and Pate Fermentee, these are mixtures of flour, water, and yeast made at least a day in advance of working on the dough in question. The purpose is two-fold; firstly, it provides an element to help start and facilitate your bread’s fermentation process. Secondly, and even better, is flavor development; but simply, as bread ferments, chemical reactions develop flavor that affects the final taste of the bread. It’s not just THAT it ferments either, but HOW, or to be more specifically how fast. To put simply, based on a generally accepted decision by bakers everywhere, the best flavors usually come through long, slower fermentations that usually happen at cooler temperatures. One can apply this to your bread by ‘retarding’ the dough, or letting it sit in the fridge/cold environment during its bulk fermentation and proofing stages, which will extend the time it takes to prepare by many hours, but is also a good way to set it aside for the day/overnight while, even better, improving the flavor drastically. By having a pre-ferment, made the day beforehand and kept in the fridge, you can easily add this step into the final dough. Oh, it probably helps to create that distinctive structure we know about baguettes and ciabatta vs loaves.

Poolish happens to be the simplest of the three main pre-ferments, basically just making a thick yeast-foamy batter. I can’t wait to try it some of the others; speaking of trying other things, I really wanna see the affects of using milk instead of water, which quite a few recipes here give as a substitute. But let’s stick with basic for now, see the results before experimenting.


Poolish (day 1)
2 ½ cups/11.25 oz Bread Flour
1 ½ cups/12 oz Water, Room Temp
¼ tsp/.03 oz Dry Yeast


  1. Mix everything in large bowl/container until combined into a thick batter20150418_215137
  2. Cover with plastic wrap (or lid), sit room temp 3-4 hours, or until notably bubble/foamy20150418_215221
  3. Move to refrigerator until use, suggested next day but can last for 3 days (3 weeks if stored in freezer)20150419_014801
  4. Remove from fridge at least 1 hour before use so as to warm up20150419_091143

20150419_092250Ciabatta (day 2)
3 cups/ 13.5 oz Bread Flour
1 ¾ tsp/0.44 oz Salt
1 ½ tsp/0.17 oz Dry Yeast
6 Tb – ¾ cup Lukewarm Water
Semolina/Cornmeal for Dusting (if desired)

Directions (assuming Electric Mixer, otherwise use large spoon and hands)

  1. Combine Poolish, Flour, Salt, Yeast, and 6Tb of water in mixer bowl with paddle attachment, turning on low to combine into a sticky ball. If there’s any loose flour, add more water until absorbed20150419_093020
  2. Increase speed to medium for a couple minutes; once thick, switch to dough hook and beat for 2 minutes. It is very important to keep it moist; the final result should pull from the sides but still stick to the bottom of the bowl while mixing. Looking for soft and smooth yet sticky result. It should still pass the Windowpane Test20150419_093237
  3. Generously sprinkle counter work area with flour, transfer dough (suggested to use a rubber spatula/scraper briefly dipped in water). Note that from here on out, one should attempt to apply as little excess force and manipulation to the dough as possible20150419_093606
  4. Dust liberally with flour, pat into rectangle, let rest two minutes20150419_094338
  5. Grabbing each end with flour-dusted fingers, lift up, allowing the dough to naturally pull and stretch from gravity to twice its original length. Fold both ends, one over the other, back into a rectangular shape20150419_094432
  6. Mist with spray oil, dust flour, and cover plastic wrap or towel and rest half an hour20150419_122354
  7. Repeat stretching, fold, and covering and let ferment 1½ – 2 hours until notably swollen20150419_122804
  8. Cut into 2-3 (or in my case, 4) equal sections with water-dipped pastry cutter, taking care not to ‘de-gas’ the dough20150419_123121
  9. Generously sprinkle and roll (using pastry scraper) in more flour. Move onto Couche cloth (described below) and fold in part of the left and right sides to form an oblong shape20150419_123424
  10. Bunch cloth between pieces, spray with oil and dust flour one last time before covering with towel to proof 45-60 minutes20150419_123453
  11. Preheat oven, with Baking Stone/s and Metal Pan inside, to 500F and prepare 1 cup Hot Water and Mister/Sprayer (aka preparing Oven for Hearth Baking)20150419_132517
  12. Transfer dough to sheet pan or wooden peel that’s been generously dusted with Semolina/Cornmeal, using pastry scraper to delicately move20150419_132827
  13. Briefly lift dough from each ends, like with previous stretching technique, so it lengthens a couple inches. Pat gently to keep even top and smooth oblong shape20150419_133040
  14. Very quickly slide dough onto baking stone and dump the cup of hot water into the pan, close door20150419_135304
  15. Wait 30 seconds, open, and mist sides of oven with water. Close and repeat this two more times (thus you’ll have misted it 3 times 1½ minutes after having placed bread in oven)20150419_135421
  16. After third and final misting, turn oven down to 450 degrees, bake 15-20 minutes, turning loaves around after 10 minutes if baking is uneven20150419_140535
  17. When an even dark golden brown, crusty, and the inside reaches 205F, remove and transfer to rack for cooling until use20150419_141258
  18. Enjoy

What Have I Learned This Time?

20150419_141252I learned that I did something WRONG making this Ciabatta; not sure what, the bread turned out very good and tasty actually, but the crumb feels too tight (like a baguette, there should be some notably bigger, random air pockets developed). My guess is it had to do with one, if not both, of two factors: unlike my last dough, where I had too much, I don’t think I had ENOUGH water here. If it were another regular dough, the structure would have been perfect for ideal, but my guess is that Ciabatta and similar need the lighter, moister structure to create more give when the air pockets try to expand while cooking (the firmer and less sticky doughs would be denser, heavier, and thus a tighter final crumb). Secondly, I think my hands may have played around and shaped the dough a BIT too much before the final transfer, letting out some of the trapped gas. I barely did anything, but it’s like with Biscuits; you want to mix until everything is combined, and then STOP, because anything after that just gives it more and more of that unwanted gluten. So it is that I know, now, I really need to stop being a clumsy explorative doof and LEAVE MY DOUGH ALONE. No wonder it doesn’t like me.

20150419_122706Found out how to make a Couche! Normally it’s just a heavy-duty linen cloth used to lay bread on, with layers bunched between each loaf, during its final proofing stage. But if you don’t have that kinda cloth, I’m too lazy to go out and find something proper, just take some sort of tablecloth or similar, LARGE cloth that you’re sure isn’t going to be used for anything, and spray down with oil before dusting with a bunch of flour. After a few uses and re-applying, should mold itself into a proper couche cloth for permanent use.

Got my first run at ‘hearth baking” at home, good thing I’ve got those baking stones. Really sucks trying to do it and take pictures at the same time though, so don’t expect me to do any of that in future posts! Simple ‘bread in oven’ views for you from now on. I got an awesome crust from it (gelatinization principle, I’ll maybe explain it another time), but it got just a bit burnt on the bottom (and top), so I need to focus on it more in the future…

20150419_180910Any Thoughts?

Ummm, I reeaaaalllly liked it in a meatball sandwich. Sliced in half, baked with butter, and stuffed with those giant messy orbs… I have to say, despite how thick the bread was, and rather dense and chewy it is, I’m surprised how well it compressed around the large meatballs with pressure. They ate surprisingly well, and of course the bread tasted awesome.

I wish I could make this kind of bread a lot more often so that I could pull back a bit of fermented poolish or dough (forget at which stage you do that) to work into every new batch of poolish, over and over until I’ve developed one of those generation-developed ‘mother’ starters that’s just got so much flavor and personality to it.

Oh! Last thing, this was the first time I ever made a dough that passed the windowpane test by myself! I know it’s really sad, but ‘tis a big deal for me, I’m happy.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

It seems to be humoring my efforts but still shows little regard for working together with me perfectly to accomplish my ideal interests. Seems a bit cheeky