homemade bagels

This weekend my grandfather (from my mom’s side) and my grandmother (from my dad’s side) came to visit. For lunch, my grandmother brought two pounds of German deli meat — all some sort of “wurst” — and rye bread for sandwiches, and for dinner made us her household-famous stuffed cabbage, making the house smell so much of warm bacon and sauerkraut I felt as though I was walking through the piping-hot platter itself dressed in a dirndl while simultaneously listening to “yodel-ay-hee-hoo”s in the background. After dinner we played a heated battle-of-the-sexes version of Trivial Pursuit, which only took two and a half hours for the ladies to prevail, and I thought the whole time how wonderful it is to be surrounded by family and home and actually like them, and how things so organic as these are what I love most in life.

This attraction to simplicity permeates into my thoughts about baking as well. I (almost) always refuse to eat dessert if it’s not homemade, and a good chunk of the reason I have been baking bread from scratch is because I am drawn to the idea of taking something so foundational to my daily diet and making it from tangible ingredients that I have personally divided and mixed and kneaded together into an edible (and hopefully delicious) item. I know where it came from and I know of what it is made, and I don’t need any additives or extra stimulants to make it better. Which is why, on any occasion, I would rather play a trivia game at the kitchen table with my 70-something year old grandmother and grandfather than sit on a couch and watch a rerun of “The Office” while eating Ho-Hos (which I would never do anyway, but the principle still stands).

envelope turn

envelope turn, part deux

envelope turn, part... tres

But enough of my rambling. I decided to take a stab at a recipe for a bread I think many of us take for granted when we buy them in those tube bags from the grocery store. When we buy bagels, we forget they are even bread, and we burn them and butter them and slab on top of them so much cream cheese and peanut butter and high fructose corn syrup — I’m sorry, jelly — that they become nothing more than a porous vehicle by which their gooey toppings enter our mouths. I, too, was a follower of this ghastly abomination, but since having bitten into a homemade bagel and undergoing a “bagel awakening,” I doubt I’ll ever go back to eating those oversized, cakey frisbees disguised in bagel form.
artisan bread toppingprebaked bagels
boiling bagelsegg wash
The process of making these bagels was — pardon my French — really freaking hard. Leave it to Rose Levy Beranbaum to make what she calls an “easy-to-read” bagel recipe one of the most confusing and particular recipes I’ve ever attempted (no offense, Rose, but you left me feeling quite daft). I added too much flour to the sponge at the start of the recipe, and in order to fix my mistake I opted out of adding flour when mixing the sponge and the starter in the stand mixer. It worked, but, finicky as these bagels were, the process still resulted in a fairly chewy product. The rounded dough also came apart in the boiling process, so I had to put them back together with toothpicks, which, if the eater was not aware, could have resulted in a terrible bagel experience.

levy's bagels

I must say that the “Artisan Bread Topping” from King Arthur Flour (given as a gift from my sister-in-law — thanks, Natalie!) was the best part of the bagel. Despite the fact that they were mildly overdone, their crusty outsides and soft, peppery insides made them taste fantastic all on their own — no fancy additions, no toppings, just what they were. And that was good enough.

Debrief: I think I’ll try the other method of shaping the bagels (not posted) to see if they come out less chewy. And I’ll leave off the seeds, or use one of the other topping ideas offered by Beranbaum. I learned through this process that I don’t care too much for chewy bagels.

Levy’s Bagels
Courtesy of The Bread Bible

Makes five 4-by-1 1/2 inch-high bagels

Dough Starter (Sponge) Ingredients:
1/2 tsp instant yeast (I converted this to a little less than 2/3 tsp for active dry yeast, as Beranbaum suggests using 1.25 the weight of instant yeast if using active dry)
1 liquid cup plus 2 tbsp water, at room temperature (70 to 90 degrees F)
1 1/2 cups King Arthur high-gluten flour, preferably, or bread flour

1. Make the sponge: In a mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, place the yeast, water and flour. Whisk about 2 minutes, until very smooth; scrape down the sides. The sponge will be very thick. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Flour Mixture Ingredients:
(Optional) 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup plus about 3 tbsp King Arthur high-gluten flour, preferably, or bread flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast (or 2/3 tsp active dry yeast)
1/2 tbsp malt powder or barley malt syrup (I used malted milk powder because that’s all I could find, and it worked for me)
1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

2. Combine and add the ingredients for the flour mixture: In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup of the flour, the yeast, malt, sugar, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture lightly over the sponge; do not stir. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature, or, for the best flavor development, 1 hour at room temperature and then refrigerated overnight, or up to 24 hours. (During this time, the sponge will bubble through the flour mixture in places; this is fine.)

3. Mix the dough: Add the butter if using it (I didn’t) and all but 2 tablespoons of the remaining flour and mix with the dough hook, starting on low speed (#2 if using a KitchenAid), mix until all the flour is moistened, about 1 minute. Raise the speed to medium (#4 KitchenAid) and knead for 10 minutes if using high-gluten flour, 5 to 7 minutes if using bread flour, adding the remaining 2 tablespoons flour toward the end if the dough doesn’t pull away from the bowl. It should be very elastic and smooth and should jump back when pressed with a fingertip. Empty it onto the counter and knead in a little more flour if it is tacky (slightly sticky) to the touch. More flour will make a heavier, chewier bagel, which some prefer.

4. Let the dough rise: Place the dough in a 2-quart dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Press the dough down and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Allow the dough to rise, ideally at 75 to 80 degrees F, or 1 to 2 hours until doubled (this part took about 3 hours for me, and even then it didn’t fully double… hmm). Deflate the dough by firmly pushing it down. Give it an envelope turn and set it back in the container. Oil the top of the dough, cover it, and refrigerate it for at least 4 hours, or overnight for the most flavor. (If you want to make the bagels later, at this point the dough can be wrapped and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping.)

5. Shape the dough and let it rise: Set a sheet of the parchment or lightly floured towel on a countertop near the stovetop. (Alternatively, line the baking sheet(s) with parchment or floured towels and place the shaped bagels on them so you can move them easily when you are ready to boil them.) Transfer the dough to an unfloured counter. Cut the dough into five equal pieces. Allow the dough to rest for about 10 minutes.
(There are two shaping methods here. For the sake of avoiding writing a novel, I’ll only post the method I used.) To develop slightly more chewiness, roll each piece of dough on an unfloured counter into a 12-inch-long rope. Make a ring, overlapping the ends by 2 inches and joining them by pressing down and rolling on the overlap until it is the same thickness as the rest of the dough ring. There will be a 1-inch hole in the center. This technique results in rounder, slightly higher bagels with smaller holes. Allow the bagels to rise for about 15 minutes or until they puff slightly.

6. Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F 30 minutes before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating.

Water Bath and Toppings Ingredients:
2 tbsp molasses or 1/4 cup sugar (I used sugar)
1 tsp baking soda
Glaze and Toppings Ingredients:
2 large egg whites
1 tsp cold water
3 to 4 tbsp poppy, sesame or caraway seeds; kosher or sea salt; minced onions sauteed in vegetable oil; and/or dried garlic chips or dehydrated onions softened in hot water

7. Boil the bagels: Bring a large pot (about 9-by-4-inches high) of water to a boil. Stir in the molasses or sugar and baking soda until dissolved. With a skimmer, transfer the bagels, one at a time, to the boiling water, without crowding them; cook them in batches of 2 to 3 at a time so that they can swim around without touching one another. If they are slightly underrisen, they may sink at first but will then rise to the surface. Boil for 30 seconds to 2 minutes on each side, gently flipping them over with the skimmer; the longer time will make a thicker crust. Remove the boiled bagels, shaking off excess water over the pot and set onto parchment or the unfloured towel to drain, then move them, using a pancake turner, to the prepared baking sheet(s) or peel, after just 30 seconds to 1 minute, so that they don’t stick. The bagels will look wrinkled at this stage. Don’t worry — their appearance vastly improves on baking.

8. Glaze the bagels: Whisk together the egg whites and cold water to break up the whites. Pass through a sieve into a bowl, and brush each bagel with the glaze. Do not let the glaze drip onto the baking sheet or peel, or it will glue them down. Brush with a second coat of glaze and, if desired, sprinkle any topping of your choice evenly over the bagels. (If you are using seeds, lift each bagel with a thin pancake turner or your hand, and, holding it over the pan with the seeds, sprinkle some more seeds on top. This way, you don’t have any seeds that would burn on the baking sheet.)

9. Bake the bagels: If using baking sheets, place one sheet directly on the hot oven stone or hot baking sheet. If using a peel, slight the bagels onto the hot stone. Bake for 5 minutes. Lower the temperature to 450 degrees F and bake for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven, without opening it and let the bagels remain for 5 minutes. Then open the oven door and leave the bagels in the oven for 5 more minutes.

10. Cool the bagels: Transfer the bagels to a wire rack and cool completely.

Extra punches: The bagels keep well for 1 day at room temperature in a paper bag. For longer storage, wrap each in plastic wrap, place in plastic freezer bags, and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw, still unwrapped, at room temperature.

10

IMG_3294

Sometimes, when I’m feeling a little insecure about my current talents, I reminisce about the days when I used to be able to do certain things. Like do flips on a trampoline. Or fit through one of those collapsible play tunnels. Or have enough imagination to act out an entire three-hour scenario of soap-opera proportions with my Barbies.
And sometimes I wish I could do things I’ve never been able to do before. Like run a marathon. Or speak fluent German. Or sustain the energy to write a novel.
Alas, though I haven’t met all of my goals, this week I have been able to cross one achievement off my list: make a pretzel. Actually, a bretzel.
measuring cupsyeast
temperaturedough in food processor
What is a bretzel, you ask? That’s a good question, one I couldn’t answer myself until I looked it up on the glorious World Wide Web. A bretzel — more specifically, a bretzel roll — is a Bavarian pretzel sandwich roll. In laymen’s terms, it’s a yummy, warm bundle of salty, fluffy, pretzel-y tastiness. And a super-easy recipe, too.

separating the pieces

cross bun

The ingredients and process are simple — mix some yeast, water and flour in a food processor, knead the heck of it, shape it, give it a bath, and you’re done! Yep, that’s right, a bath — a foamy pot of baking soda, the pivotal moment when the dough becomes “pretzel” dough. When the little dough babies are plopped into the pot, the steam gives off that very familiar aroma you waft while walking past an Auntie Anne’s at the mall, or a German bakery — whichever is more relevant.

thisclose

The dough was extremely elastic but took forever to knead — at least 15 minutes, and even then it didn’t pass the good ol’ windowpane test. When dividing the dough into rolls I used a pizza cutter to ensure more even pieces, and was pretty impressed with my craftiness. And when the rolls came out of the oven, all warm and caramel-brown with a crispy outer shell and an inner fluffy stuffing, the smell of salt dissipating from the soft crosscut in the center… Oh. They. Were. Heavenly.

Debrief: Though the recipe I found (adapted on the food blog Smitten Kitchen from Bon Appetit) strongly encourages/reminds you not to cover bretzel rolls when you store them, but instead leave them uncovered for up to two days, my rolls were as hard as rocks the following morning. In other words, eat them right when they emerge from the oven doors, or at least within several hours. But I’m sure that won’t be too difficult.
P.S. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Pretzel Rolls
Courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, adapted from Bon Appetit, January 1994

2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 envelope quick-rising yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast, which increases the initial rising time to nearly an hour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about) hot water (125°F to 130°F)
Cornmeal
8 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg white, beaten to blend (glaze)
Coarse salt

Combine bread flour, one envelope (2 1/4 tsp) yeast, one teaspoon salt and one teaspoon sugar in food processor and blend. With machine running, gradually pour hot water through feed tube, adding enough water to form smooth elastic dough. Process one minute to knead. Grease medium bowl. Add dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes (or, with active dry yeast, closer to an hour).

Flour baking sheet, or clear area of counter. Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth. Divide into 8 pieces. Form each dough piece into ball. Place dough balls on prepared surface, flattening each slightly. Using serrated knife, cut X in top center of each dough ball. Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes (in this time, I suggest prepping the water bath and preheating the oven so the rolls don’t rise too much… maybe this is common sense, but I have to remind myself sometimes).

Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal. Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan. Add baking soda and 2 tablespoons sugar (water will foam up). Add 4 rolls and cook 30 seconds per side. Using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to prepared sheet, arranging X side up. Repeat with remaining rolls.

Brush rolls with egg white glaze. Sprinkle rolls generously with coarse salt. Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Serve rolls warm or room temperature.

5

numero dos

In case you live in a bubble and/or somewhere warm like Hawaii or Florida or California (and, in which case, of whom I am green with envy), it is snowing. Yes, those tiny white flakes are falling from the sky and landing in a puffy blanket of similar friends who are all congregating in a slushy mass in an effort to A) make people drive like idiots or B) make people drive like geriatrics (also potentially idiots). I, however, drive perfectly, but that’s another story.
I don’t hate the snow, especially in the season of glad tidings and making merry. It provides a picturesque landscape, a glittering backdrop for a tree twinkling with lights, silvery tinsel and spherical gems doming over bows and wrapping paper. With such a jolly spirit, it’s hard to do anything not festive at this time of year.

fruit!flour
yeast, flour, sugar120 degrees


I chose this recipe because my husband, Elliott, drools over panettone almost every Christmas. He painstakingly compares every store’s version of the loaf until he finds the “perfect” one — a sweet tower of bread studded with ornaments of candied, dried fruits. So when I happened upon a recipe for it in my Food Network Magazine, I thought I’d try to make a panettone that blew away all the other versions.
How silly of me.

pannetone mixture

lightly beaten eggs

The recipe, though seemingly simple, turned out to be a miniature holiday meltdown. First, it was the candied orange peel — I couldn’t find it anywhere. So I substituted dried pineapple for the MIA fruit. Then, while preparing the bread, I noticed a void in the cabinet which honey — honey that I needed for the recipe — usually fills. I also forgot to buy a lemon for the necessary lemon zest, so I had to stop midway through the recipe to buy the missing products. Of course, upon return, I realized I should have bought several lemons for the required 2 tablespoons of zest, and I almost pulled a muscle grating the single lemon until it was completely bare. I managed only to get about a teaspoon, so I used lemon juice for the remaining five teaspoons needed. Whew. Everything was back on track.
Until… until the mixture didn’t rise. It struggled, and puffed up just a hair, and was then defeated. After waiting two and half hours as opposed to the intended hour, I gave up and put the un-risen dough in the loaf pans, and crossed my fingers it would rise for the first time, the second time. It didn’t. After giving up again, I put the pans in the oven and baked them for 50 minutes, when they came out a little overdone. It was a disappointment.

holiday pannetone bread

Though the process was less than a success, the taste of the bread is light, citrusy and delicious. And my husband approves.

Debrief: I’m honestly not sure what went wrong with this recipe. It seems my active dry yeast, which is very fresh, just didn’t work. Perhaps it was due to all of the substitutions I made, but none of them logically contribute to the dough not rising. Hmph.

Holiday Panettone
courtesy of Food Network Magazine

Makes two loaves

Ingredients:
1/3 cup diced candied orange peel (or dried pineapple, which I used and works just as well, though the taste may differ)
3/4 cup dried cherries
3/4 cup golden raisins
3/4 cup diced dried apricots
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk (I used skim, for convenience)
1 stick butter
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp grated lemon zest (or lemon juice?)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix together candied orange peel, dried cherries, golden raisins and dried apricots in a large bowl. Add sugar, active dry yeast, flour and salt. Heat whole milk, butter, honey and grated lemon zest to 120 degrees in a saucepan; stir into the mix. Mix in 2 lightly beaten eggs and vanilla extract; cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Butter two 5-by-9-inch loaf pans or two empty 10-ounce coffee cans and line with parchment paper. Add the dough; cover and let rise 1 hour. Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 55 minutes (or, in my case, about 45 minutes). Cool before slicing.

Extra punches (from Food Network Magazine): For a nut lover, add 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts in place of some of the dried fruit.

1

quick bran date bread

It is Thanksgiving. I won’t exhaust you with all the details of for what I am thankful, but I am indeed thankful for a lot of things this year. Including my husband, for whom I am most thankful, in part for his excellent photography (he painstakingly took and edited almost all these pictures for me).

Another thing I am thankful for is quick breads. I know it may be cheating in the spectrum of bread baking, as most quick breads require nothing more than a mixture to be placed in a tin and baked. It is just that — quick. And though part of me misses the process of letting dough rise, kneading it, letting it rise again, shaping it, letting it rise again… sigh… sometimes it’s just nicer to not have to do all that work.

datesbrown sugar
flourpecans, chopped
I’m also thankful that we randomly had a plethora of dates in our house, inspiring me to bake a bread featuring dates as the star player. It didn’t sound too appetizing at first, what with bran and mushy dates and nutmeats (?) — and to be honest, never looked too much better while preparing the bread — but once it emerged from the oven, the kitchen was enveloped with an aroma of warm, hearty, sweet date-y goodness. And the taste was even better.

baking powder and batter

into the pans

And so I was thankful for the fact that I used the random dates well, that the bread was simple to make and required few ingredients (though some odd, including dates and bran and… once again, nutmeats?) and that I was able to share it with my family, of which I am also thankful. And I am thankful that I also get to share this recipe with you, and though you may initially shy away from it and its apparent unattractiveness, I dare you to pick up some dates and give it a try.

quick bran date bread, details

But, like I said, I won’t bore you with everything for which I am thankful. But thanks for reading this.

Debrief
: Not much to change. This was one of the simplest breads I’ve ever made. Just mix the ingredients, stick in the oven, and voila. Yum.

Quick Bran Date Bread
courtesy of The Joy of Cooking

Makes two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare:
2 cups chopped dates
Pour over them:
2 cups boiling water
In a separate bowl, beat until light:
2 eggs
Add slowly, beating constantly:
3/4 cup brown sugar or 1/2 cup molasses (I used brown sugar)
When these ingredients are creamy, add:
1 cup whole-grain flour (I used whole wheat… is there much of a difference?)
2 tsp double-acting baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
Add half the date mixture and:
1 cup whole-grain flour (or whole wheat)
2 cups bran
1 tsp vanilla
Add the remaining date mixture and:
1 cup or less chopped nutmeats (I used chopped pecans and came to find this was close enough)
Place the dough in lightly greased loaf pans. Bake for about 1 hour.

2

chocolate chocolate chip bread, sliced

I have a confession to make.

Though I truly, deeply love to bake bread and delight in all its complexities, idiosyncrasies, successes and catastrophes, I must admit it is not my first love. You see, I have an indelible sweet tooth. This is no ordinary sweet tooth — oh, no. I am perplexed when I pick up a Glamour or Self Magazine and read their articles titled, “Eat What You Want And STILL Lose Weight!”, only to find that their suggestions span only as far as, “When vexed with a desire for chocolate, have one Dark Chocolate Hershey’s Kiss to diminish the craving.” This advice, however, does not subdue my monstrous sweet tooth. Once I ingest the drop of chocolate, my sweet tooth rears its ugly head and, in full force, demands several more larger portions in order to be satisfied. So when I decided to take on bread baking — a venue that often avoids recipes with heaps of sugar — it was an attempt to find a hobby that perhaps would force my sweet tooth into submission forevermore.

Then I found this recipe. With loaves like these, I will never have the courage to beat down my sweet tooth monster.

loaf pan with cooking sprayunsweetened cocoa
buttahchocolate chips


I needed to make this recipe for two reasons: one, I’ve been dying to make a dessert bread and, two, I had one of those won’t-take-no-for-an-answer kind of chocolate cravings the other day. And so, with the help of my lovely new book, The Bread Bible, I created chocolate chocolate chip bread. Yes, that’s chocolate times deux.

chocolate additionfluffy dough
chocolate bread battercoating the bread with syrup

This loaf is not really a “bread” in the sense of kneading, etc. but it is still a quickbread, and thank God, because this bread is far too delicious to have any sort of patience to eat it. Extremely moist and fluffy, with a Kahlua syrup soaking in from all sides, adds to the density and makes the bread more “grown up.” It was very, very easy to make (I randomly decided while baking the first loaf to bake a second loaf, and by the time the first one finished the second was ready for the oven), and very rich. If you don’t like chocolate, you won’t like this bread, though the bread itself is less fudge-y than you’d expect. Using a stand mixer was useful in this project, especially because the addition of ingredients and the rounds of mixing were important to aerate and “fluffify” the dough. I’m making up words.

Debrief: Next time, I may leave out the addition of the Kahlua syrup in at least one of the loaves (though the Kahlua addition is divine), just to see if the chocolate flavor, unadulterated, becomes enhanced.

finished product

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bread
courtesy of The Bread Bible

Makes: an 8-by-4-by-3-inch-high loaf

Ingredients:
3 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa (Dutch-processed)
3 tbsp boiling water
1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract (do NOT use imitation vanilla extract, or a pox on both your houses!)
3 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (lazy as I am, I used all-purpose flour and did not sift, and survived to live another day)
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp sugar, preferably turbinado (a.k.a. raw sugar — I used regular sugar)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
13 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 tbsp chocolate mini chips or bittersweet chocolate chopped medium-fine (optional) (I used chocolate mini chips)

Equipment:
a heavy-duty stand mixer with paddle attachment or a hand-held mixer;
an 8-by-4-inch (4-cup) loaf pan, or, if using the chocolate chips, an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch (5-cup) loaf pan, bottom greased and line with parchment, then sprayed with Baker’s Joy or greased and floured (if using a nonstick pan and Baker’s Joy, there’s no need to line the pan) (I greased the bottom of a nonstick pan and did nothing else and was fine)

1. Preheat the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F 30 minutes before baking. Have an oven shelf at the middle level.
2. Make the soft cocoa paste. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa and boiling water until smooth. Allow it to cool to room temperature, then gently whisk in the vanilla and eggs. It will be fluid.
3. Mix the batter. In a mixer bowl or other large bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix on low speed (#2 if using a KitchenAid, with the paddle attachment) for 30 seconds to blend. Add half the chocolate paste and the butter and mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. Increase the speed to medium if using a stand mixer (#4 KitchenAid), or high if using a hand-held mixer, and beat for 1 minute to aerate and develop the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Gradually add the remaining chocolate paste in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the bowl. With a rubber spatula, fold in the optional chocolate mini chips or bittersweet chocolate.
4. Fill the pan. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. (The batter will be almost 1/2 inch from the top of the 4-cup pan.)
5. Bake the bread. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 200 degrees F. Tent loosely with buttered foil after 25 minutes to prevent overbrowning. (The bread shouldn’t start to shrink from the sides of the pan until after removal from the oven.)
6. Cool the bread. Set the bread on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the sides of the bread with a small metal spatula and invert it onto an oiled wire rack. Reinvert so that it is top side up and cool completely.
Variation: For an extra-moist cake and a subtle background coffee accent, brush the bread with coffee syrup. To make the syrup, in a small pan, stir together 1/4 cup water and 2 tbsp sugar. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cover and remove from the heat. When the syrup is cool, add 1 tbsp Kahlua. As soon as the bread is removed from the oven, brush half the syrup onto the top. Let the bread cool for 10 minutes, then invert it onto a lightly oiled rack and brush the bottom and sides with the remaining syrup. Reinvert it to finish cooling top side up.

Extra punches (from The Bread Bible): To get an attractive split down the middle of the crust, wait until the natural split is about to develop, about 20 minutes into the baking, and, with a lightly oiled sharp knife, make a shallow slash 6 inches long down the middle of the bread. This must be done quickly so that the oven door does not remain open very long, or the bread could fall. When the top crust splits, it will open along this slash.

3

rye on baking stone

Sigh. It is officially fall.

Every day (almost), I get up and go to work and brew coffee/slice tomatoes/make garlic bread/say to customers, “Have a nice day; please take your number; would you like your receipt?”, and then I leave work and am often tired and slightly cranky, and I see the school bus-yellow, fire hydrant-red and pumpkin-orange leaves holding on for dear life to their brittle branches, shaking fiercely in the icy wind and I am suddenly warm and cozy inside, the way I feel just after imbibing a nice, hot cup of spiced apple cider from my favorite red Target mug.

deli-style rye ingredientescaraway seeds
rye flourdough-covered dough hook
Yes, I know it’s been fall for a while, but I’d been too busy to notice (yes, I am guilty of ignorance) until one day, all of a sudden, I (gasp!) noticed it all around me. It was almost too late — some of the trees were already bare, sloughing off the weight of dying leaves and strengthening their naked bones for what I hear will be a harsh winter. But I did notice, and though I tend to shy away from cool weather (or anything but summer), it currently reminds me of holidays and snowflakes and pumpkin pie, and I am immediately swooned.

This recipe, however, is in no such spirit. Don’t get me wrong, this bread is divine, but it was, thus far, the most difficult recipe to prepare. Don’t let the outward appearances of simplicity fool you — this is a tricky little bread, disguised by fancy terms like “artisan” and “deli-style.” It is my moral duty to forewarn you that, for any amateur baker like me, it is not the easiest of loaves to create.

rye loaves on cornmeal

slashes in top of loaf

The inclusion of ingredients was nothing too shocking, but the actual preparation of the loaves (this recipe makes four 1-pound loaves) — the sticky, shapeless loaves — was a tad stressful. It was a tiresome battle pulling grapefruit-sized handfuls from the main dough, pulling apart the gluey strands and rolling the balls into ovals, all the while yanking the tack from my hands while trying to maintain the oval shape for its cornmeal-covered destination. This resulted in four balls of all different shapes and sizes — anything but “grapefruit-sized” and “oval.”

There was also the steaming technique in the oven, which is something I’ve never had to do before but had heard was beneficial to preventing the drying-out of baking bread. Under usual circumstances, placing a cup of hot water in a pan in the oven is no big deal. Add in the need to transfer sticky loaves from a surface covered in pebbles of cornmeal to a piping-hot baking stone, however (especially when you don’t have a fancy-schmancy pizza peel like they want you to have in the recipe. Pshaw), and you have a MESS.

deli-style rye

The bread only took about 20 minutes per two loaves to bake, but they all finished in different shapes and sizes. But don’t judge a book by its cover — the smell of baked caraway seeds and the taste of fresh rye was enough to make it worth the effort. Though I may not exhaust my effort on this one again.

Debrief: Obviously, as noted above, this was one tough cookie — er, bread — of a recipe. But again, I know not much about baking bread, so for others this may be a walk in the park, and I am glad I experienced the art of artisan bread baking and do not plan to avoid it in the future. Next time, I may bake this bread in loaf tins to give the rye a more useful shape, and to avoid the whole pizza peel thing.

Deli-Style Rye

courtesy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Makes four 1-pound loaves. The recipe is easily doubled or halved.

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds, plus more for sprinkling on the top
1 cup rye flour
5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Cornmeal for pizza peel (or, as I used, cutting board)
Cornstarch wash (Blend 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch with a small amount of water to form a paste; add 1/2 cup water and whisk with a fork; microwave mixture until it appears glassy, about 30 to 60 seconds on high)

1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast, salt, and caraway seeds with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight) food container.

2. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor (with dough attachment), or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with dough hook) (what I used). If you’re not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.

3. Cover (not airtight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.

4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 14 days.

5. On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Elongate the ball into an oval-shaped loaf. Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 40 minutes.

6. Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread.

7. Using a pastry brush, paint the top crust with cornstarch wash and then sprinkle with additional caraway seeds. Slash with deep parallel cuts across the loaf, using a serrated bread knife.

8. Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until deeply browned and firm. Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in baking time.

9. Allow to cool before slicing or eating.

Extra punches: For caraway seed-lovers, an alternative: Caraway Swirl Rye. Follow above recipe as stated, but add 2 tablespoons of caraway seeds. When rolling the grapefruit-sized dough into a ball, use your hands and a rolling pin to flatten the ball into a 1/2-inch-thick oval (avoid using extra flour here or it might remain as a dry deposit in the caraway swirl). Sprinkle the dough with caraway seeds. The amount can vary with your taste; save some for the top crust. Then roll up the dough from the short end like a jelly roll, forming a cylindrical loaf. Pinch the ends closed. Continue following above recipe as stated.

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