Mother’s Day Danish Braid

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This weekend I over did it. Not with buckets of dough, but in my garden. I am determined to recreate the organic urban farm I had last year, but this time I am doing it without the aid of a professional farmer. Just me, a bunch of compost/manure and my dad, who happens to be a long time green thumb. I spent 12 hours prepping the beds and getting in some seeds. At the end of the day my right hand (the hand I write with) was so swollen I couldn’t move my fingers, tendonitis. The Dr. says not to use it for 2 weeks ~ 2 WEEKS! (I am typing this with one hand.) In order to do this post I enlisted my friend Jen to help make a Danish Braid. She is a great sport and it turns out quite skilled at modeling/braiding/baking.

The braid is made with the Brioche from ABin5, but you can do this same thing with any of the enriched doughs from that book or HBin5. We’ve done this same technique with savory fillings, so let your imagination go wild and let us know what you come up with.

Happy Mother’s Day! Continue reading

How we measure our flour using the “scoop-and-sweep” method

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When people write to tell us that their dough seems “too wet,” the first question I ask is: how are you measuring?  Because we measured with the “scoop-and-sweep” method, not the “spoon-and-sweep” method.–view the video to see exactly how we do it.

American recipes usually are based on volumes, measured with standardized measuring cups.  If you press down into the flour bin (use a flour bin, not the flour’s bag), you’ll compress and get too much flour.  If you use the “spoon-and-sweep” method, where a spoon is used to gently fill the measuring cup before sweeping, you’ll get too little flour into the cup.  Likewise, don’t “aerate” the flour by mixing it or whisking before measuring; that will lighten the cup.

If you do it the way we tested it (and use flours like the standard ones we tested with), you’ll get results like you see in our photos and videos.  You can also consider weighing flour, using the weight equivalents in “Healthy Bread in Five…” We go through the use of the digital scales (we like the Escali or the Salter) in this post from last year.

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Traditional recipes: How can they be converted to the ABin5 method?

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People sometimes ask us for simple formulas for converting traditional bread recipes to our stored-dough method.  Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to the question.  Developing recipes for our books takes lots (and lots) of trial and error.

If we put our our testing methods and approaches up here on the web, our publisher would kill us!  If you want to try to convert a traditional recipe to our high-moisture, stored-dough method, read through the two books to get a sense of the moisture level that’s needed, then check out the rest of the FAQs here on the website.  Pay attention to our “videos” tab as well.  It may take a bit of work, but you should be able to transform your existing repertoire.

Happy experimenting! More details on our method in The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and our other books.

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Teaching in Upstate NY, come join me!

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Just a quick announcement about some classes coming up in Upstate NY next week. I’m headed to visit my dear friends Suvir Saran and Charlie Burd at their farm American Masala. They have carved out a small piece of heaven in Battenkill county, where they raise hundreds of animals and create the most exquisit foods from the books Suvir has written Indian Home Cooking and American Masala. While I am there I’ll be teaching two classes based on ABin5 and HBin5 at the Battenkill Kitchen on April 23rd and 24th. I would love to have you join me. If you live in the area, or are close enough to drive over for the evening, please come and bake with me.

Some items on the menu: Master Boule, Epi, pita, sticky buns, beignets, pizzas and much much more!

To sign up visit the Battenkill Kitchen website.

Hope to see you there and bring your friends! Zoë Continue reading

Shaping Hot Dog Buns

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Once Little League starts its season I consider it the official Hot Dog opener. I don’t eat many of them, but that is shear will power, because I absolutely love a good dog. My husband and I once stood in like at Hot Doug’s in Chicago for 2 hours just to see what all the hype was about. You know what, I’d do it again, they were fantastic! I’m not a purist either, I like them loaded up with all kinds of business. One of my all time favorites is the really-bad-for-you chili dog we get at the Lake Harriet Band Shell in the summer, complete with fake cheese sauce and salty canned chili. It is just one of my weaknesses!

When I make hot dog or hamburger buns I like to use the Brioche dough from ABin5 or some other enriched white dough that make up a lighter bun. I made these with the whole wheat version and I found them a tad on the dense side, but as you can tell from my confession above, I love a junk food hot dog experience. ;) Use any dough that you like and form it just as I have below. Continue reading

My favorite rye isn’t in our books–here’s how to slash it (careful, it’s sticky)

The rye flour available in supermarkets is delicious, but it’s whole-grain, and that’s not what we grew up with as kids.  Those rye breads from yesteryear were made from “medium” rye (bran and germ-depleted), and the result was lighter.  Bob’s Red Mill and Hodgson Mills rye flours make great breads, but you have to go light with them to re-create what we used to get years ago.

We figured that wasn’t what people were looking for in our books, so we went a little heavier in the recipes we published in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, and of course, with much more whole grain in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  In this video, I’m talking about using relatively little of the Bob’s or the Hodgson product.  Follow the recipe at our Back to Basics post, but subsitute 1/2 cup of rye flour (Bob’s or Hodgson Mills) for 1/2 cup of unbleached all-pupose (in the book, the swap is for a full cup). Then, add 1 1/2 tablespoons caraway seeds to the initial mix.  Everything else is the same (in Artisan Bread in Five, we used a whole cup of rye flour, and it’s also a great result– just different).

To clarify a couple of things from the video:  I said to turn and shape the loaf pulling around on three sides– I meant “on four sides;” turn the loaf in quadrants and pull the top around to the bottom to create a “cloak.”  And of course, rest the loaf on on cornmeal or parchment, not on the board where you shaped it or you’d have to lift the fully proofed loaf, which isn’t a good idea.

20 to 30 minutes before baking time, preheat a baking stone to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C), with a metal broiler tray on any other shelf that won’t interfere with rising bread (do not use glass for this purpose or it will shatter).  Using a pastry brush, paint the loaf with water and sprinkle with more caraway seeds.

Slash at least 1/4-inch deep with a serrated bread knife, making perpendicular, not angled cuts, as in the video. Slide loaf onto the baking stone and pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door.  Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool before slicing, and enjoy!

Suvir’s Lamb Burger on a Sesame Seed Bun!

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Jeff and I are just back from doing a presentation at the Tucson Festival of Books. Nothing like baking bread outside and under a perfectly blue sky to get me in the mood for summer. When we returned to MN the snow was all melted and my grill had reemerged ready for use. Burger time. Many of you have asked us for a bun to match your favorite patty. I like my burgers on a light, vaguely sweet brioche bun, topped with sesame seeds and loaded up with condiments. Others have asked for a bun sturdy enough to hold up to a mega-burger. No matter what dough you choose to use these directions will get you the right shape.

I make a decent burger, but nothing really to write home about. The one I want to introduce you to came from my friend Suvir Saran’s book American Masala. It is a combination of ground lamb, mint, lemon and a kick from cayenne pepper. The burger is so full of flavor and a touch of heat that you don’t need anything else with it, but in case you are like me and want it dripping with a cilantro-yogurt sauce and a bit of crunchy salad for texture I’ve included Suvir’s recipes for those as well. This burger is loved not only by me, but my boys said it was the best I’ve ever made! This recipe first came to fame on the pages of Food & Wine magazine and now Suvir’s lamb burgers are also available through Allen Brothers Catalog. Continue reading

New Video: Shaping the ball from a very wet dough

A number of people wrote in about my February 16th video, wondering whether that whole grain dough may have been a little drier than usual.  It was made using a non-commercial whole wheat flour, so it’s possible.  Just so everyone’s clear that you can successfully shape a nice cohesive ball using stuff that’s on the wetter side, I used a batch that was nearing the end of its 14-day storage period (our dough gets wetter as it stores in the fridge.  The stuff in this video is pretty wet– it’s the Master recipe for white dough, but swapping out 1 cup of whole-grain rye instead of unbleached all-purpose.  Despite this dough’s moisture, I had no trouble forming a ball, and then rolling it out with a rolling pin, my hands, and a dough scraper.  Use enough flour, but don’t work it in (OK, I know I forgot to use the dough scraper in this video– but it’s often nice if the dough is sticking to your work surface).

This dough round was used to make pita bread (see older posts on this: regular pita, and  Turkish Pita.

Cinnamon Swirl French Toast

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It is Sunday morning, the sun is shining, the snow is finally melting and I’m as happy as could be! Seems the perfect time to have a lavish, albeit easy, breakfast. Last night I took out my bucket of brioche dough, rolled in some cinnamon sugar and baked a gorgeous swirly bread. This morning I sliced it, soaked it in custard and made it into sublime French toast. Nothing better than that and with a bucket of dough on hand it is quick and easy.

Here are some other great breakfast ideas from our books/website:

Bacon & Egg in Toast

Homemade English Muffins

Aunt Melissa’s Granola

Almond Bear Claws

Fresh Fruit “Muffins”

Apricot Pastry

Breakfast Pizza

Continue reading

New video: How to shape a loaf (using whole grain dough)

So many of you have asked for close-up video of someone shaping a loaf  (what we called “gluten-cloaking” in the first book).  Doing this quick shaping step is the same with whole grain doughs, but the feel is different– it isn’t quite as resilient.

But as you can see in the video, it’s basically the same process with this 100% whole wheat dough (the honey-enriched variation on page 80 of Healthy Bread in Five Minute a Day).