Sunday, December 25, 2011

Test-Driving the Pyrex Bake-a-Round

I have taken one giant step forward in my Ongoing Quest to create the perfect round and malty bread, which will sustain me through the winter!  And I also got to test-drive the newly-toivelled Pyrex Bake-a-Round baking “pan.”  (which is really just a tube in a rack)

Here’s the Bake-a-Round, all greased up (with shortening, per the instructions, NOT Pam, though I don’t know why) and ready for action.

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I decided to use this British Malt Loaf Recipe, for authenticity.  I figured it’s from the Flour Advisory Bureau.  Even their name is FAB; how bad could the bread be?  I liked the fact that most of the ingredients were scaled, and quickly switched my scale to pounds and ounces so I wouldn’t have to convert.  I also appreciate its use of the word “whilst.”

(I doubled everything, because it didn’t sound like very much.)

Ingredients for Malt Loaf

(bastardizations of the original, for necessity or preference, shown with strikeout below)

75ml (2 1/2 fl oz) hand-hot water
200g (7oz) brown flour or 100g (3 1/2 oz) wholemeal flour and 100g (3 1/2 oz) strong white flour – I don’t have whole wheat, so I subbed 3oz spelt, 4oz bread, then doubled these to get 6oz spelt, 8oz bread flour.
2.5ml spoon 1/2 tsp) salt
2 x 15ml spoons (2 tbsp) malt extract – YES!!!  I have this!
2 x 15ml spoon (2 tbsp) black treacle dunno what treacle is, but I suspect it’s molasses; I used molasses.
25g (1oz) margarine we’re out of margarine, so I used oil, but ran out halfway, so I only ended up with 1.5oz instead of 2oz of oil.
30g (1oz) dark soft brown sugar we’re out of brown, so I used white and a bit of extra molasses
100g (3 1/2 oz) sultanas  sultanas is British for raisins; I omitted these!
Honey or golden syrup to glaze because I baked this in the Bake a Round, I didn’t glaze it.

Yeast:
2 x 5ml spoons (2 tsp) conventional dried yeast + 5ml spoon (1 tsp) sugar
or 15g (1/2 oz) fresh yeast

or 1 x 5ml spoon (1 tsp) fast action easy blend yeast – YUP, I used regular instant yeast.

How to make Malt Loaf

  1. Stir the dried yeast and sugar into the water and leave until frothy, or blend the fresh yeast with water, or mix the easy blend yeast with the flour.
  2. Place the flour and salt in a bowl, add the sultanas.
  3. Warm the malt, treacle, margarine and sugar until just melted and the sugar dissolved, and stir into the flour with the yeast liquid. (Note: if using instant yeast add to dry flour and warm the water with the malt mixture).
  4. Mix to a soft dough.
  5. Turn onto a floured surface and knead until no longer sticky (about four minutes), adding more flour if necessary.
  6. Shape and place the malt loaf in a greased 500g (1lb) loaf tin. Cover the dough and leave to prove in a warm place until doubled in size - about one and a quarter hours.
  7. Bake at 220°C, Gas Mark 7, for 30 minutes until browned and the malt loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  8. Cool the Malt Loaf on a wire rack. Whilst the loaf is still hot brush the top with honey or syrup.

Actually, I just dumped the wet stuff, yeast, salt, sugar, etc., into the bucket and stirred in the flours until it was kneadable.  I might warm the wet things a bit more first next time.

Makes 1 Malt Loaf

Flour Advisory Bureau
www.fabflour.co.uk

Once mixed, the dough just kind of sat there in the bucket.

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After a LONG wait, I blobbed it into a ball and rolled it up, then jammed it into the tube.  It was easy enough to insert, but didn’t keep its shape – the whole loaf sagged down to the bottom more than I’d expected.

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Oops – forgot to cover the ends with tinfoil, so I did that after a bit.

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Time for baking (still not very risen, but a bit bubbly, at least!

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Popped it into a 425° oven, which turned out to be too hot for a loaf this big and sweet.  After a while, it got very dark, but it still wasn’t done.  After another long while, it got BLACK on the bottom, and was as done as it was going to be, so I pulled it out.

I thought getting the loaf out of the Bake A Round was going to be tricky, but it turned out the loaf wasn’t coming out because I still had the tube in the rack.  Once I lifted it slightly out of the rack, the loaf pretty much slid out, with the help of a silicone splatula.  (splatula = more like a bowl scraper than the pancake turning thing most people call a spatula)

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Looks like a disaster, I know, but – cooled and sliced, it actually ended up tasting delicious.  My mother said, “tastes like it should have raisins in it!”  Thanks for that vote of confidence.  Everybody thought it was very sweet indeed – probably too sweet to serve at supper alongside potato-corn soup, which I did.

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Also, the loaf had a weird “split” down the centre, which you can kind of see here, probably due to the overly high baking temperature.  I would bring it down next time, probably to 400 or maybe even 375, to give it time to rise and bake through without excessive browning.

It didn’t slice particularly well, and I did wait until it was only warm, not hot.  The crust crumbled tremendously.  I think perhaps a bit more kneading next time will give it less cakey crumbliness and more bready strength.  And less sugar, because it really doesn’t need all that treacle/molasses, plus sugar, on top of the malt, unless you want a really festive or breakfasty loaf.

So, to sum up, for the future:

  • no added sugar
  • all white flour to maximize rise / gluten until the recipe is perfected
  • use the full amount of oil
  • knead more
  • longer rise time before forming loaf?
  • lower bake temperature

Nevertheless, I feel good about this recipe.  I really feel like I’m on my way!

(filing this under barley because that’s what malt really is!)

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Baking Toy!

imageActually, this is more than a New Baking Toy – it’s Step 1 in a however-many step plan to bake the perfect Malt Bread, exactly as I remember it from childhood, or as near as makes no nevermind.

Here’s the toy…

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Bought new in box on etsy for not too much money, and shipped BEAUTIFULLY packed – I’m very impressed.

The actual malt bread I’m thinking of is NOT the “malt loaf” popularly known by the name Soreen in the U.K.  That looks icky; it’s full of fruits and whatnot.  What I’m searching for is authentic Canadian malt bread, such as that turned out every day in the Dempster’s factory and sold without a hechsher in supermarkets very near my home.

The bread itself is sweet, but not too sweet.  It has a definite malt taste, and – I’m thinking now – perhaps some molasses as well.  It has a dark colour, but that could easily just be caramel colour… which I don’t have.  Definitely no fruit, no puréed dates or raisins or whatever else British people think belongs in a malt loaf.

As for the Bake A Round, this cool pyrex pan creates perfectly round breads, apparently with a lovely, crisp, artisan-style (shudder) crust. 

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It’s a fascinating shape, although the true malt bread is more like this round, bumpy shape:

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In the U.K., where – again – everybody knows about such things, this is known as “milk loaf.”  And it is baked into those beautiful swirly round lines in a “milk loaf tin.”  Here’s one I found on eBay – at $40, actually not all that expensive.

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But for now, I’m happy with my Bake A Round.  Ted’s off work tomorrow, so I hope I can go toivel it and get started baking delightful, crispy, eventually malty loaves.

(oh, just remembered – Step 1 was actually buying the malt syrup; that’s probably an important one…!)

I should be going to bed…

But isn’t this a beautiful braiding pattern for a round loaf??? image

Definitely something to try next Rosh Hashanah!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sharing the dough!

image Yay!  You may remember this photo from my Rosh Hashanah sourdough Pan de Calabazas this past year.

Well, I sold my editor at the Canadian Jewish News on an article about “kosher sourdough baking” – in which I reveal the stunning truth that “kosher sourdough baking” is pretty much the same as any other sourdough baking.

Read it here.

Scottish Shortbread – so awesome, I had to blog it!!!

DSC01868Forgive me, I know it’s not bread, but it’s that time of year again, when I bake up a storm for the sake of in-laws far and wide – hopefully wide, once they’ve tasted my yummy bakies!

So last year’s shortbreads were GOOD, but I wanted to kick them up a notch.

And, at the recommendation of Shoshana at Couldn’t be Pareve, I invested last week in a little bottle of LorAnn’s Buttery Sweet Dough bakery emulsion

(What a cute store, by the way; they’re on the Internet, but they’re right here in Mississauga, only about 25 minutes away when it’s not rush hour.  I wouldn’t say this is the best baking store in the GTA, but I had a great time browsing when I went in to pick up my emulsions.  Oh, yeah… I also bought some of this Princess Cake & Cookie bakery emulsion.  Oh, and on an impulse, a bottle of this Red Velvet emulsion, which includes the deepest, darkest red food colouring you could possibly imagine, with which I baked the most wonderful pure-buttermilk Red Velvet cake and… oh, never mind; on with my tale.)

So I had the right stuff, with the emulsion, but I wanted a killer recipe to go along with it.

I know REAL shortbread has corn starch.  The corn starch package used to come with this recipe, but that’s what I made last year and it lacked – oomph.  Plus, in cups and I’m a scale snob, so… fuggedaboudit

Found this maple-pecan shortbread bars recipe, thought about it for a second, then thought – nope; I’m looking for authentic.

A pretty obvious Google search yielded this Scotch Shortbread (by weight) recipe from Cooks.com.  But honestly, I don’t trust that site, or any other site that doesn’t have reviews.  Plus, this recipe uses regular sugar, and I really like the sandy, fine, almost melty consistency when I use icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar, to you in the U.S.A.).

At the other end of the spectrum, in terms of reliability, I found this basic shortbread recipe that was very well-reviewed at King Arthur Flour’s website.  If this site was that trust exercise you’re supposed to do when you’re team-building, I would fall backwards into its arms any day. 

But no corn starch!  Waah!  What’s a girl with a craving, I mean, parcels to fill, supposed to do???  Well, duh:  you MERGE the recipes.

I stuck the King Arthur recipe into a spreadsheet and tweeked the Scotch recipe from Cooks.com up and tweeked the King Arthur recipe down until I had a recipe that calls for the same amount of butter as the King Arthur and the same amount of sugar and cornstarch as the Cooks.com recipe. 

Betcha you’re worried I’m not going to share it with you now!  But I am…

AWESOME INTERFAITH IN-LAWS SHORTBREAD (by weight)

227g butter (8oz, 2 sticks, 1 cup) – salted works well for this
113.5g confectioner's sugar (4oz, about 1 cup)
salt, a light sprinkling, if butter is unsalted
85g cornstarch (3oz, about 1 cup)
2 tsp Butter Sweet Dough emulsion (or vanilla extract, or almond, or whatever you like)
170g cake & pastry flour (= 6oz, about 2 cups)
small amount of regular granulated sugar, for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F
  2. Spray a 9” x 13” x 2” (33cm x 22.9cm x 5cm) baking pan with spray oil.  (I used aluminum pans, that’s how I know exactly what size it is!)
  3. Cream butter with sugar in a large bowl until well-mixed.  If using unsalted butter, sprinkle a bit of salt on top while mixing and ensure that it’s well-blended.  The King Arthur folks say, “with no liquid in the recipe, it's impossible for added salt to disperse itself fully through the shortbread dough; you end up with unpleasantly gritty bits of salt in each bite.”  So be it.*
  4. Add cornstarch and emulsion/extract and mix well.
  5. Add flour and mix well.  You should NOT need to add water, but it may take a minute or more for everything to come together.  This is a very stiff, “cookie-dough” type dough.
  6. With slightly damp hands OR plastic wrap over the top, press into prepared baking pan.  My favourite way, once it’s spread out a bit in the pan, is to take another pan exactly the same size (it’s easy if you use aluminum!) and press it on top.  Then, I run my fingers around the inside of the SECOND pan, ensuring that the dough is spread evenly throughout the FIRST pan.  For some reason, you can feel how even it is really well through another pan.  I do this trick for press-in quiche and piecrusts, too.  Peel the second pan off carefully so it doesn’t stick.
  7. Poke the pan full of cookie with a fork in pretty, even rows so it doesn’t blow up like a balloon – or something.
  8. Bake at 300°F for 35-40 minutes.  Don’t let it get brown, but you do want to make sure it’s set properly in the middle, so a degree of golden at the edges is perfect.
  9. Remove from oven and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  10. Allow to cool slightly, but remember to cut it after about 10 minutes, or at least, while it’s still quite warm.  If you wait too long sitting writing a blog post about how amazing it is, and the thing cools off, it will crumble when you cut it.

* I like how they describe the salt I’m throwing in as “unpleasantly gritty” but one person leaving a 5-star rating for this recipe mentions how they love to “add 1 TB chopped fresh rosemary and then sprinkle with a light dusting of sea salt before baking. I love the mix of sweet and savory.”  My salt is unpleasant – hers is somehow artistic because she tosses in a few pine needles?!?

Whatever you do… remember:  baker gets dibs on the less-desirable end pieces!  Save the pretty middle bits for holiday gift-giving.  Or, what the heck, bake up another batch for them… it’s pearls before swine, anyway!

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