OK. So this isn't the Bluebird of Happiness. But I am hoping that at least it might could be the Indigo Bunting of Contentment.
These two most recent assignments point up what I love most about the dough made using the AB/HB in 5 method--its versatility. You have this bucket of stuff in the fridge, Carl Sagan would have pointed out that it is "star stuff" ("The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff"), and you can use it to make sandwich bread one day, pitas the next, then pizza or English muffins or buns or cinnamon rolls or naan or, in the case of this fortnight's assignment, foccacia, bagels and Moon and Stars Bread. (You see, Carl was right!) For this batch of the Whole Grain Master recipe I used white whole wheat flour, both to make it a bit different than the last batch and because I had some flour I wanted to use. If you want to give bread baking a try, the Whole Grain Master Recipe is a good place to start, and you can find the recipe HERE.
The Bagel Assignment was to make Cinnamon Raisin Whole Wheat Bagels. I followed the recipe, but added more raisins. I did this because I am a team player (teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say). From reading the posts from the other members baking this challenge, which are many and varied, one theme has clearly emerged--when a recipe calls for raisins (or craisins or dates or herbs or spices) you always add more. That is just the way we roll.
Now I really like baking bread using the AB/HB in 5 method. I bake almost all the bread we eat. I like making boules, baguettes, sandwich bread, pitas, pizza, English Muffins, buns, cinnamon rolls, knots, foccacia, and flat bread on the grill. I do not like making bagels.
Second, bagels are a mess to make. After forming them and letting them rise, you have to get them into a simmering water bath, and you have to do that without horribly disfiguring them any more than they already are. To do this I placed them on parchment paper to rise, cut the parchment paper around the bagels, and dumped them, parchment paper and all, into the water. By the time the bagels are ready to flip the parchment paper has floated off and can be fished out. All this dunking and fishing, however, means that I get water all over everything, which then mixes with the flour I had gotten all over when everything when I was forming the bagels. And this, of course, makes glue. All over everything.
THEN, you have to put the poached bagels onto a floured kitchen towel to dry off. REALLY. I am not making this up.
This will dry off the bagels. It also infuses the kitchen towel with wallpaper paste. How the hell do you clean that up?? I decided to try using my belt sander to get the worst of the paste off.
Once they have been formed, have risen, have been poached, then dried, then peeled from a sodden kitchen towel, the bagels are FINALLY ready to bake. By now, the holes are pretty much gone, there is flour/water paste all over me and everything else, and the kitchen towel is firmly jammed into my best belt sander. (Maybe the orbital sander would have been better.) But into the oven they go.
My saintly wife (of 35 years next Monday) pronounced them "better than bagels." Is that a good thing? Does that mean that they were not like bagels at all? That they lacked some essence of bagelness? What is the sound of one hand clapping?
I confess. They tasted pretty good. Which for a guy ought to be enough. But I still do not like making bagels.
I do like making foccacia. You just take a hunk of dough, pat or roll it out to about a half-inch thickness, let it rise 20 minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 425, top it with something tasty, "dimple" it with your fingers, drizzle it with some olive oil, and bake it for about 25 minutes. Its shorter rising time makes it pretty quick to make, great for after work or when the day has sort of gotten away from you. The foccacia for this assignment was Cherry Black Pepper Focaccia.
Without giving the recipe away, this version is topped with dried cherries, which have been soaked in red wine and water to soften them, minced shallots and ground black pepper. It was different, and very good (I think I should have used more pepper (see team rules above)). That is what is great about foccacia, you can top it with almost anything.
The final recipe for this assignment was Moon and Stars Bread.
The loaf is formed in the shape of a crescent--the Moon. When I first formed mine it looked much more crescent like. You will just have to trust me on this, I did not get a picture. But my moon "waxed" as it rose. (That is "rose" in the baking sense, not the ascending in the sky sense, which the moon does not really do, but only appears to do as the Earth spins on its axis.)
Then, just before baking, the loaf is sprinkled with sesame seeds--the Stars. In addition to regular sesame seeds I used some black sesame seeds left over from the Turkish Pita, to represent Black Holes--collapsed stars.
This loaf baked up very nicely. I was particularly pleased with the crumb and the holes (not the black ones). I am thinking it might have something to do with the warmer weather giving a better rise.
Well, that does it for this assignment. Check back next time when we do pizzas and pitas.