Baking Day!

I went a little crazy today and baked up a storm. Most of it was done by 1:00 pm too. I was killing three birds with one stone, so to speak. We need bread for the week in the house, I need bread for a dinner tomorrow night and cookies for both tomorrow night and an Oscar party on Sunday. All three cookies required the dough to be refrigerated so I made the doughs yesterday. That left baking three kinds of bread today: a miso-rye boule, a rosemary epi for tomorrow and a wheat sandwich loaf. Sorry Howard, none of them are plain white.

The cookies were: Lemon Sandwich, Oatmeal Crispies & Carob Crinkle.

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Miso Rye Bread

Visit the UPDATED version of this recipe: here.

The mere mention of Miso Rye bread in David Lebovitz’s February 2012 blog entry, Pear-Fennel Soup, got me excited. David linked to Gontran Cherrier’s website, which was where the bread was purchased. Even switching into English on the site didn’t give me much of a clue about what’s in this bread other than the obvious.

A Google search didn’t give me much either, except a miso rye seaweed recipe using only rye sourdough starter. I tried the recipe twice, leaving the seaweed out, but the dough was really wet and hard to handle. The flavors were great, but I wasn’t happy with the texture or how long it took to get a decent rise. If I remember right, the second time I even added yeast and it didn’t rise nicely.
In the end I kind of had to invent my own recipe, taking a little from here and there and settling on a recipe that uses the sourdough starter and yeast. The miso-rye combination is delicious, especially as toast. The bread browns nicely and if you like a dark brown loaf with that little bit of bitterness that comes with it, you’ll be able to easily get that with this recipe.

You’ll need some starter for this, so you’ll need to start at least a few days ahead. I’m a fan of rye starter as it seems to be easier to keep going and handle. The recipe is below.

This is not a good recipe for a beginner bread baker.

Miso-Rye Bread

For the sponge:
1/2 cup warm water (111g)
1/2 cup starter (125g) Recipe follows
2 teaspoons sugar (11g)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (164g)
1/2 c organic rye flour (60g)

For the final bread:
2 teaspoons instant yeast (9g)
1/4 cup warm water (58g)
1/4 cup white or red miso (65g) (lower sodium if possible)
1 teaspoon kosher salt (4g)
the sponge
1 1/4 – 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (188g-148g)
2 – 3 Tablespoons Malted Milk Powder or Barley Malt Powder (optional)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)

water bottle for misting the oven(optional)

The night before or several hours before combine the sponge ingredients together in a bowl and stir with wooden spoon until everything is combined. Feel free to add a tablespoon or two more water if the dough isn’t a bit soft and sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until doubled in bulk. I turn my gas oven on for a minute and then back off and pop it in there. This makes about 85°F environment and speeds things along. It takes 3 hours or so at 85°F. You can test if it’s ready by seeing if a small pinch of it will float in water. If it does, it’s ready. Bring miso to room temperature.

Combine miso & water, whisk until smooth. Put 1 1/4 cups flour in the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl if you’re kneading by hand. Add yeast & malt powder, stir to distribute. Add the miso water mixture and the sponge. Add caraway seeds if using. Put the bowl onto the mixer outfitted with the dough hook. Start the machine kneading. Keep adding flour as needed and keep kneading until you get a smooth and elastic dough. The dough should be a little sticky, but balling up and moving away from the sides of the bowl. I usually knead for a couple of minutes by hand on a floured board at this point.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turn it over once, cover an let rise until doubled in bulk. This takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

Punch down the dough. Optionally, you can repeat the rising. I usually form the dough into a round boule at this point and place it in a rising basket. Mine is a brotform that leaves a nice spiral on the top if flour it with a mixture of 1/2 rice flour 1/2 wheat flour before placing the dough in it. If you don’t have one you can use any bowl lined with a clean lint free kitchen towel (the flour sack kind) that has been dusted with flour. Or you can use the Abby Dodge method: put it into an oiled 8”- 9” cake pan.

Preheat the oven to 425°F with a pizza stone on the lowest rack.

Let the dough rise again until almost double in bulk, 30-45 minutes depending on how warm you kitchen is. It should bounce back lightly when poked. When ready, mist the oven with your water bottle. Dust a baker’s peel with cornmeal and turn the loaf out onto the cornmeal. Make some decorative slashes in the loaf and slide the loaf onto the pizza stone. Bake 5 minutes and mist the oven again. Try not to mist the loaf directly. Another method is to put a shallow pan of boiling water on the floor of the oven for the first 15 minutes of baking, removing it for the remainder.

Lower the temperature to 375°F and bake for 40 – 60 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. It should have a internal temperature of at least 200°F, you can test this with an instant read thermometer inserted in the bottom. It will get quite dark if you cook it longer, but you certainly can if you like it that way. I find darkly cooked bread a little bitter.

Scott’s notes: They do make low sodium miso, try to use that because salt can inhibit yeast. If you’re using regular miso cut down the salt by half. I’m not super fond of the caraway seeds, but some might like. Today when I made this recipe it required quite a bit more flour to get the right bread consistency. When done mixing it should be only slightly sticky.

Update: Recently I remembered that another rye bread recipe I have calls for malted milk powder. I started using it because it adds another flavor dimension which I love.

Rye Starter

3 Tablespoons organic rye flour
3 Tablespoons bottled or distilled water
a jar

I’ve found rye starter easier to get going and easier to maintain. After you get it going you can convert it slowly to a white starter by feeding it unbleached white flour. Always use water that isn’t chlorinated. I use distilled.

• Day 1: mix the flour and water in a jar. Loosely cover.
• Day 2: feed the starter with 2 Tablespoons of rye flour & 2 Tablespoons of water. Stir it all up. Loosely cover. It should start smelling yeasty at this point.
• Day 3: throw out roughly 1/3 of the mixture and feed again. Loosely cover.
• Day 4: repeat
• Day 5: it should be fairly active at this point and ready to use. Keep it going by throwing out roughly 1/3 and feeding. It improves with age.

After your starter is active you can keep in the fridge and only feed it once a week or so.

If at any point the mixtures smells bad, start over. It should smell yeasty and bit sour, but not like ammonia.
You don’t always have to discard part of the starter. If I’m baking the next day I usually don’t. If you’re worried about the waste, it’s probably only a penny’s worth.

If you’d like more detailed explanations and instructions on the starter: click here.

Very Vanilla, Lemongrass Pots de Crème

I cannot deny that our friends hold my cooking skills in high esteem. I am a very good cook. But I do have my days where things don’t go exactly as planned. The resulting food may be fine, but I’m my harshest critic and feel disappointed when things don’t turn out right.

Yesterday was one of those days, on several fronts. My 100% sourdough bread turned out flat and dense. The rolls from the dough were a bit more successful. The dinner I made was Lobster Fra Diavolo with homemade pasta. It was fine, but maybe not the best use of lobster. The spicy flavorful sauce muted the lobster flavor. It was good, but not special dinner good. The pasta was perfect though, so something did go right.

Then there was these pots de crème. I turned my back on the custard on the stove and I came close to having scrambled eggs. I strained and whirled in the Blendtec blender to get back to a smooth custard. The end product was OK, but once again far from perfect. I should have started over. The other disappointment was that the lemongrass flavor was very subtle. Served with lots of sauce and all troubles were effectively covered up. I might try these again with a second stalk of lemongrass or just some lemon extract instead. They do have a really strong vanilla flavor. Abby’s original recipe is here.

Very Vanilla, Lemongrass Pots de Crème

Makes 4 servings and 1 1/3 cup sauce
For the pots of heaven:
1 vanilla bean split or 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or paste
1 cup half & half
3/4 cup whole milk
2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped OR 1/2 tsp lemon extract
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
For the blueberry strawberry sauce:
10 ounces frozen blueberries, thawed
1/4 cup strawberry jam (I use seedless)
1/4 – 1/2 cups (1 to 2 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of table salt
To make the pots:
1. Measure the half & half and milk in separate microwaveable containers.
2. Position the vanilla bean on a cutting board and, using the tip of a sharp knife, split the bean lengthwise down the middle. Slide the edge of the knife down the cut side of each piece of the bean to release the seeds. Add the seeds and vanilla bean pieces to the half & half. Put the chopped lemongrass into the milk. Heat the mixtures in the microwave until very hot, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover and let the mixtures steep 30 or up to 2 hours. The longer the half & half and the vanilla bean and seeds steep, the more pronounced the vanilla flavor. Strain the lemongrass stalks out of the milk and combine with the half & half.
3. Position the oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 325°F. Arrange four 6-ounce ramekins in a baking pan with 2-inch high sides. I use my 8-inch square baking pan.
4. In a small saucepan, whisk the yolks, sugar and salt until well blended.(Don’t let them sit or the eggs will begin to break down.)  Uncover the half & half and, whisking, slowly pour the half and half (with the vanilla bean pieces) into the yolk mixture. Whisk until well blended. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a spoon or heat-proof spatula, until thickened and coats the back of a spoon or spatula (170-172°F on an instant read or candy thermometer), about 4 to 5 minutes. DO NOT LEAVE UNATTENDED FOR EVEN 5 SECONDS!
5. Slide the pan from the heat and fish out the vanilla bean and scrape any custard from the pod back into the custard. Stir in vanilla extract or paste, if using.  Pour the custard into the ramekins (for a super-clean pot filling, I like to pour the custard back into the 2-cup measure and then pour it from there into the ramekins – the pour spout makes it so easy.) Carefully fill the baking pan with hot tap water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins and cover the pan loosely with foil.
6. Bake until the pot de crèmes wiggle like jello when nudged, 35 to 45 minutes depending on thickness of the ramekin walls. Transfer the baking pan to a rack let cool completely. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to 2 days before serving.
To make the blueberry strawberry sauce:
1. Combine the thawed blueberries, jam, 1/4 cup (1 ounce) confectioners’ sugar and the salt  in a food processor or blender. Whiz until pureed and well blended. Taste and add a touch more sugar if needed. Press through a fine-meshed sieve if you want a seedless sauce.
To serve:
1. Spoon a little of the custard out  of the center  -don’t go for perfect – and pour a little sauce into the cavity. Serve the remaining sauce on the side.