The Bricks Of Parker House

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From amount of bread posts on here, I think it’s fairly clear that I have a thing for bread.

Not only bread though, all carbohydrates.

Yes. Delicious.

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The thing that is not very known though is that I had a very very deep rooted fear of baking bread.

It all first started when I found out about how the bread in stores is actually frightfully unhealthy and that “brown bread” is actually regular white sandwhich bread with “caramel colour.”

It’s healthy they said.

Har har har.

 

So, the first time I baked bread was this rainy, cold afternoon when the craving to eat warm, soft delicious bread was all I could think of and I happened to find a very promising recipe that told me that I could bake “fresh warm rolls that even a beginner (me) couldn’t mess up and that I could have real, healthy bread in two hours!”

Obviously, I was sold.

What followed was me, hungry and sleep-deprived( because for some reason I cant sleep in when it rains, no it’s not relaxing, Mother Nature, thanks for deciding to throw ROCKS on my roof when I’m trying to sleep :/ ) , grabbing the ingredients  and some extremely expired yeast and baking “Parker House Rolls”.

They didn’t turn out, obviously.

The first sign should have been the fact that the bread refused to rise, but well, I was hungry and bread-wanty.

The rolls turned out to be The Bricks Of Parker House over Parker House Rolls, which was a fail.(clearly)

But they made very good hockey pucks.

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Anyway,

I’ve come a long way since my brick…erm….roll baking days and have learned to check the date on the yeast packets.

I’ve come to love bread baking and love trying out different kinds of bread. Right now, I’m obsessed with working with the sourdough starter!

So tangy! So delicious!

 

Truth be told, this isn’t the fastest bread you’ll ever make.

You’ll have to wait a week for the starter to turn tangy but trust me! It’s worth the wait.

Ooh ooh! You know what else is worth the wait? TOASTING THE SOURDOUGH AND MAKING CROUTONS FOR TOMATO SOUP AND THEN USING THE SAME BREAD FOR GRILLED CHEESE. YES.

 

So anyway, here it is:

Crusty, delicious sourdough.

 

Based on Five and Spice blog’s Perfect Crusty Loaf

 

  • 200 g      (1  cup) recently fed sourdough      starter ( I like using a starter that’s been fed and atleast a week old)
  • 400 g (3      cups) flour
  • 11 g (1.5      tsp) salt
  • 300 g (1      1/3 cup warm  water( not too hot and      too  cold, it should be comfortable,      like bath water)
  • extra      flour for dusting
  1. In a      mixing bowl, stir together all your ingredients till combined. It should      be pretty sticky and wet. On a well floured surface ( not too much, a      lightly floured surface should do. You don’t want to incorporate more      flour into the bread)

Then, knead softly and roll out into a rough rectangle. Now fold in the left side and then the right, like you would fold a letter: Right to left then quarter turn and right to left again. Shape into a rough ball GENTLY and place in a well greased bowl till about doubled in size. Make sure that your bread rests in warm, draft free corner.

  1.  Set a timer for one hour.  After an      hour, wet your hands well to keep them from sticking, gently take the      dough out of the bowl and carefully stretch it and shape it like you did      before( the letter folds) .  Set the timer for another hour, and      after that repeat the stretch and fold.  The dough should get easier      and less sticky to work worth.  Set your timer for one more hour.       Repeat the stretch and fold process and then form into a roughly      shaped ball and place in a greased
  2. Take      another mixing bowl bigger than the the size of the bread dough, and      grease it. Place the dowl in it and over it with cling film and place in      the refrigerator
  3. The next      day (or two), an hour before you are ready to bake the bread, take the      dough out of the refrigerator.  Let it sit  at room temperature for an hour, at this      point it should looked puffed, and if you poke it, it should leave a      little indent, ifit doesn’t , let it rise for another 30-60 minutes or      more. Mine bread always takes a good hour. Now ,while the dough stands at      room temp. ,preheat your oven toits highest setting. Place a dutch oven or      a ceramic pot with a fitted lid inside, basically anything that’ll allow      steam to be generated will do. Put a good layer of cornmeal or flour      cutting board, and gently turn the bread dough out onto it. Use a very      sharp knife to make as deep X on top of the bread. Note that if you don’t      have a dutch oven you can bake it like regular bread, but in the last five      minutes of baking toss in a cup full of ice cubes and shut the door.      This’ll give it a nice crust too.
  4. once the      oven is heated,, take the Dutch oven out and put your bread it, ensuring      the cornmeal side’s down.  Cover the Dutch oven, and put it back in      the oven.  Bake the bread in the pot with the lit for about 25      minutes then take the top off and bake another 10 minutes or until it’s      golden brown and looks crusty too. Then remove from the oven, and turn the      bread out onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely. It’s really      important for it too cool completely because you don’t want to interfere      with the baking process. Enjoy!

 

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The Pretzel Problem

One of my fondest food related memories is eating a pretzel for the first time.
I was 12 and we were on holiday. After a day of fun rides at Disney, we decided to get a little snack and ended up buying soft pretzels and root beer from one of the adorable, little stalls. It smelt incredible, the scent of freshly baked, warm bread wafting out of the little yellow cart and the minute I was handed the buttery, sesame-studded pretzel, I ate it and washed it down with a swig of root beer.
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And it was love at first bite.
That pretzel was insanely delicious and since then, I have been a pretzel-lover. It should be noted, however, that being the bread lover that I am, I would eat any carbohydrate, no qualms whatsoever.
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The issue at hand however, was that upon my return to India, I haven’t eaten a single pretzel that I’ve loved. Nothing ever came close to the buttery, incredible deliciousness that I feel in love with and I’ve been obsessed with perfecting the art of pretzel making ever since.
The issue with all the pretzels I’ve eaten weren’t that they weren’t delicious but instead that they lacked that fantastic, chewiness and that TASTE that makes pretzels so different from regular bread. I needed a good pretzels and a couple of months back I decided to sacrifice any social interaction (and my waistline) till I baked the perfect pretzel at home.
My sanity depended on my ability to find that perfect pretzel.
And a few months back,
I struck gold.

The secret, it seems, to making delicious, chewy pretzels as opposed to bready ones is this:
Ready?

It’s dunking the pretzels in boiling water with baking soda.

This recipe is perfection and shall deliver you to pretzel heaven.
Thank me later.

Soft Pretzels
Adapted from Martha Stewart, Smitten Kitchen and The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature
2 cups warm water (not hot!)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons fat (I’ve used both butter and canola oil)
1/4 cup baking soda (not powder!)
1 large egg
Coarse sea salt (pretzel salt if you can find it)
Vegetable-oil cooking spray
1. Pour warm water and 1 tablespoon sugar into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and stir to combine. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy. If you don’t have a standmixer, you can do it in a bowl.
2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups more flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add another ½ cup of flour and let the machine knead it for 30 seconds. Keep going and keep adding ½ a cup of flour till 4/12 cups are up. Then if needed , ie: if the dough is still very wet and sticky add a ½ cup more. Then transfer to a lighty floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes/10 times or till smooth and elastic.
Note: If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can knead it by hand. Follow the same steps but knead for a 2-3 minutes everytime it says 30 seconds. Also note that you don’t have to knead for 2 minutes by the clock, it may take more time or less. Just knead till the dough feels smooth and elastic.
3.Grease a large bowl with the fat. But the dough in and cover with clingfilm/a damp tea towel and leave in a warm draft free area till about doubled in size.
4. Heat oven to 450°F/200 C. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (parchment paper, ungreased, also works). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove any air bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead gentlty. Split the dough into 16 pieces and cover with a tea towel.
5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. Twist into pretzel shape; and place on the greased/lined baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels. Cover the tray with wrap/a towel.Let the pretzels rest in a warm spot so that they rise a litte, this should take about 15 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, fill large, wide pot with 2 inches of water. Let it boil and add baking soda and the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar to it. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Then take them out with a slotted spoon and transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached ON BOTH SIDES.
7. Beat egg with a spoonful of warm water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt and the sesame seeds. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Eat them warm, served with honey mustard and something cold to drink, preferably Root beer.
Note: the pretzels are best eaten the same day they are made. Do not store them in a container/cover them, they will get soggy.

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