This month’s newsletter is about America’s favorite baking instructor and innovator Peter Reinhart as he offers new time-saving techniques for his delicious breads. His high-caliber doughs improve with a longer stay in the fridge, you can mix once, then portion, proof, and bake whenever you feel like enjoying a piping hot treat!
The Featured Topics are:
- All Purpose Sweet Dough
- Fruit Filled Thumbprint Rolls
- Chocolate Cinnamon Babka
- Keys to a Successful Flaky Biscuit
Peter Reinhart is a baking instructor and faculty member at Johnson and Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was the co-founder of Brother Juniper’s Bakery in Santa Rosa, California, and is the author of seven books on bread baking, including Crust and Crumb, the 2002 James Beard Cookbook of the Year and IACP Cookbook of the Year, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, and the 2008 James Beard Award-winning Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads.
His new book Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day distills the renowned baking instructor’s professional techniques down to the basics, delivering artisan bread recipes that anyone with flour and a fridge can make and bake with ease!
Makes 3 1/4 pounds of dough, enough for about 24 cinnamon and sticky buns or rolls or one full (12″X16″) coffee cake.
There are times when we just want a simple, sweet enriched dough, without eggs but still soft and tender; one dough that can be used to make everything from cinnamon buns and breakfast or tea rolls, to sheet pan fruit and nut squares (like a coffee cake bread). The following dough can do all of the things that we do with rich and holiday breads, but with less work and a few less calories. I wouldn’t exactly call them diet breads or health food – but comfort food – yes, to the max!
NOTE: For sticky buns, be sure to use pans with at least 2″ high walls, as the slurry will bubble and foam while baking and could run out of pan with a shallow rim. The usual amount of slurry is to cover the bottom of the pan to a thickness of approximately 1/4″.
- 8 cups (28 oz.) Unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 2/3 teaspoons (.4 oz) salt (2 1/4 teaspoons if using coarse kosher salt)
- 6 tablespoons (3 oz.) granulated sugar
- 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (17 oz.) milk or low fat milk (lukewarm)
- 5 teaspoons (.55 oz.) instant yeast
- 1/2 cup (4 oz.) vegetable oil or melted butter
- To Taste (optional) zest of 1/2 lemon, or 1 tablespoons lemon extract, or 1/2 teaspoon lemon oil
Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the instant yeast to the lukewarm milk and stir to dissolve, and then add it to the flour mixture. Add the oil or butter, and the lemon zest, extract or oil (if using). Mix on slow speed with the paddle attachment (or by hand) for 30 seconds to1 minute, to create a soft, coarse ball of dough. Switch to the dough hook and increase to medium low speed, and continue mixing for 4 minutes to create a smooth, soft, slightly sticky ball of dough.
Adjust the flour or milk, as needed, and increase to medium speed and mix for 2 additional minutes. The dough should be very soft and supple, tacky but not sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead it by hand for another minute, and then form it into a ball. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, large enough to accommodate the dough when it doubles in size. Cover the bowl (not the dough itself) tightly with plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 4 days.
When ready to bake, remove the dough from the refrigerator 3 hours before you plan to bake it and immediately form it to the desired shapes and sizes. Once the product is shaped, mist the tops lightly with spray oil and cover them loosely with plastic wrap. Proof the dough at room temperature or in a warm oven, as described for each type of product.
Divide the sweet dough (cold, from the refrigerator) into 1 1/2 ounce pieces. Round each piece into a tight round roll, and place the rolls on a parchment lined sheet pan, about 1″ apart. Mist the top of the rolls with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Proof at room temperature for 2 hours, or until the rolls have increased in size by about 1 1/2 times.
Use your thumb, dipped in water, to press out a deep dimple in each roll. Press all the way to the bottom of the dough and rotate your thumb to widen the dimple to about 1 1/2″ across. The roll will spread slightly. Fill the pocket 3/4 full with oven-stable fruit filling (such as canned pie filling, lemon curd, or home made, starch-thickened fruit filling). Bake immediately after filling, in a preheated oven, 400F. They will take about 15 to 20 minutes to bake and the rolls will turn golden brown. Cool the rolls for 5 minutes and then drizzle each roll with the fondant glaze and set aside to cool for another 5 minutes. Serve warm or cold.
- 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional-keeps it smoother)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla, lemon, or orange extract, or 1 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk or water, cold or room temperature (milk makes it creamier and softer than water)
Mix the sifted powdered sugar, corn syrup, and extract together. Whisk in the milk or water, adding in only enough to make a thick but creamy fondant glaze, about the same thickness as pancake batter. If the fondant is too stiff, whisk in more liquid. If the fondant is too thin and runny, add more sifted powdered sugar. The thickness of the glaze is up to you; the stiffer it is the better it will hold its design; the thinner it is the more easily it will spread. Ideally, you should be able to drizzle a slow steady stream off the end of a whisk, spoon, fork, or fingers to create designs that will firm up when the buns cool.
Babka is a rich, yeasted coffee cake bread with an equally rich history of Russian and Polish heritage. The name is derived from the Russian baba, which means grandmother, an appropriate name for this wonderful comfort food (it is also sometimes spelled babke). While it is mostly known as a popular Jewish bread, filled with some combination of chocolate, cinnamon, almonds, and sometimes topped with streusel, it can also be filled with raisins or soaked with rum, as in baba au rum. The dough is rich enough to also be used for brioche and kugelhopf.
- 2 tablespoons (.67 oz.) instant yeast
- 3/4 cup (6 oz.) whole or low fat milk, lukewarm
- 3/4 stick (3 oz.) unsalted butter (room temperature or melted)
- 2 tablespoons (1 oz.) vegetable oil
- 6 tablespoons (3 oz.) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon (.25 oz.) vanilla extract
- 5 yolks (.3 oz.) egg yolks (large)
- 3 1/4 cups (15 oz.) unbleached all purpose flour
- Just under a teaspoon (.21) or 1 1/2 teaspoons if coarse kosher salt
- 1 egg plus 1 tablespoon of water, whisked (eggwash)
Sprinkle the yeast in the lukewarm milk. Stir the mixture with a spoon or whisk to dissolve the yeast. Set it aside for about five minutes before mixing it into the dough.
Cream the soft or melted butter and also the vegetable oil with the sugar using the paddle attachment on medium speed, until smooth (or vigorously beat by hand in a bowl with a wooden spoon). While the mixture is creaming, add the vanilla to the egg yolks and whisk lightly to break up the yolks. Slowly add vanilla to the egg yolks and whisk lightly to break up the yolks. Slowly add the egg yolk/vanilla mixture to the sugar mixture in four installments (as each addition is incorporated, add in the next). When all the eggs are incorporated increase the mixer to medium high speed and continue mixing for another 2 minutes, or until the mixture is fluffy, (you may have to scrape down sides of the bowl with a spatula or bowl scraper, once or twice). Turn off the mixer and add the flour, salt, and lukewarm milk and yeast. Reduce the speed to low and mix for approximately 2 to 3 minutes to make a soft, supple, tacky dough (you may have to switch to the dough hook if your mixer struggles with the paddle attachment; if mixing by hand, use a strong spoon or your hands).
Dust the work surface with flour and use a plastic bowl scraper to transfer the dough to the work surface. Knead the dough by hand for an additional two minutes, adding more flour, if needed, to make the dough pliable. The dough should be a beautiful golden color and feel soft and supple, “like a baby’s bottom” Form it into a ball and place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover the top of the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let the dough ferment at room temperature for about 2 1/2 hours. It will rise somewhat, but will not double in size (if it rises significantly in less time, you can move to the shaping step or place it in the refrigerator overnight to be rolled out the next day).
- 1 teaspoon (.125 oz.) cinnamon (ground)
- 1 1/2 cups (8-12 oz.) semi-sweet dark chocolate chips (or semi-sweet dark chocolate bar or chunks), frozen
- 1/2 stick (2 oz.) unsalted butter (cold)
While the dough is rising, prepare the chocolate cinnamon filling by grinding the frozen chocolate chips or chunks in a food processor until the chocolate is nearly powdered. If you do not have a food processor, chop the chocolate as fine as possible with a knife or pastry blade and stir in the cinnamon. With a knife or pastry blade, cut the cold butter into 8 to 10 pieces, add it to the food processor, and pulse until the butter is evenly cut and dispersed into the chocolate mixture (or, by hand, cut it into the chocolate mixture with the pastry blade to make a streusel-like chocolate crumble).
NOTE: An alternative method, favored by some, is to partially melt the chocolate, cinnamon, and butter in a double boiler or microwave and then form it into a pliable 16″ square on a sheet of baking parchment so that it can be transferred directly onto the babka dough. Both approaches are acceptable, depending on your preference. Set the filling aside at room temperature for later use.
On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the risen dough into a 16″ square, anywhere between 1/4″ and 1/8″ thick. Use a metal pastry blade or a plastic bowl scraper to lift and continually dust under the dough to prevent sticking. Sprinkle the chocolate/cinnamon/butter mixture over the entire surface, breaking up any clumps so that it covers the surface of the dough evenly (leave a 1/4″ border around the full perimeter without chocolate). Roll up the dough like a jelly roll log (or like a carpet) and place it seam side down to make a log shaped loaf. With firm but gently pressure, rock and roll the log back and forth to extend its length a few more inches, somewhere between 18″-24″.
For coffee cake-style, grease a bundt or kugelhopf mold (or a tube pan) with soft butter, vegetable oil, or spray oil (such as Pam). Be sure to also grease the tube. Wrap the log around the tube and press the dough into the pan to connect the ends of the log. For a loaf shape, grease a 5″ x 9″ bread pan, or for a free standing loaf, line a sheet pan with baking parchment or a silpat. Carefully twist the log from both ends without tearing it, just enough to accentuate the chocolate spiral. Then, coil the log into a circular snail shape. Stand the coil on its end, so that the loaf is perpendicular to the counter rather than laying flat. Press down on the coil to compress it into a loaf shape and place it in the pan with the smoothest, domed side up.
Whether in a tube pan or as a loaf, cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for two to three hours, until the loaf fills the pan or is about 1 1/2 (150%) times larger than when first formed. You can either refrigerate it overnight at this point or proceed to baking.
If holding it overnight, remove the dough from the refrigerator approximately two hours before baking to take off the chill.
Preheat the oven to 350F. With a toothpick, poke a few holes in the top of the loaf to eliminate possible air pockets between the layers of chocolate and dough. Brush the top of the loaf with egg wash. If using streusel, top the loaf generously with it (recipe below). Bake the loaf or tube pan loaf for 20 minutes and then rotate the pan and continue baking until the top is a rich dark brown. The loaf will begin to brown quickly because of the sugar, but it won’t burn, so bake until it is golden on both the top and bottom, about 50 to 60 minutes total time (and 15 minutes less for a tube pan). The center of the loaf should register approximately 190, and the sides of the loaf should be a rich golden brown, not white. The loaf will sound hollow when thumped. The sides may feel soft because of the air pockets caused by the spirals. The bread will soften as it cools. Allow the bread to cool at least 90 minutes before serving – best served at room temperature after the chocolate has had time to set. NOTE: These times may vary according to your oven, so please check on the dough regularly.
Options Almond paste filling instead of the chocolate (or simply add sliced almonds to the chocolate filling). Also, 1 1/2 cups of golden raisins or dried cherries or dried cranberries can be added to the dough during the final minute of mixing, along with 1 teaspoon of fresh orange zest. For an added treat, soak the dried fruit in 3/4 cup of rum or brandy overnight, before adding them to the dough, as you might for panettone or stollen.
Streusel Topping (optional)
- 1/2 cup (2.25 oz.) all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup (2.25 oz.) brown sugar
- 4 tablespoons (2 oz.) unsalted butter (cold)
- pinch salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (ground), optional
Pulse all the ingredients together in a a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002I5DMU0/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B002I5DMU0&linkCode=as2&tag=howtocookgour-20″>food processor, or cut the butter into small bits and mix it by hand into the other ingredients, to make a cornmeal-like texture. Keep refrigerated until use.
Below are some other delicious breads Peter made: A creamy moist loaf bread made from his lean dough recipe, Challah (an enriched egg bread) that gives it a beautiful, golden color, and wonderful pecan sticky buns made from the sweet dough recipe above.
- The single most important technique is to use very cold butter and liquid. Some biscuit makers go so far as to chill the flour, but this isn’t necessary if the butter and cream are cold. Using cold ingredients ensures that the butter stays in bits and pieces, which shortens the gluten strands (thus the term shortening, used to describe all solid fats, including butter and margarine). Using bits of cold butter creates weak points in the dough that flake off when you take a bite
- Work quickly to keep the dough cold, but don’t overwork the dough. Gluten is what makes dough tough, and the more you mix the dough, the more organized the gluten strands become. As a general rule of thumb, mix only as long as needed to get the job done. As every great biscuit maker will attest, it’s all in the touch
- The folding technique described in the recipe is similar to the lamination method known as blitz. It creates many thin layers of dough and fat, causing the biscuits to puff up and open like an accordion, creating maximum flakiness
- The oven must be hot in order to trap the butter inside the biscuit and increase the puffing quality. In a cooler oven, below 450F, some of the butter might run out onto the pan, so preheat the oven to 500F, then lower the heat to 450F as soon as you put the biscuits in to bake. (If you preheat the oven to 450F, it will drop to below 400F when you open the door).
- Chilling the biscuits before baking them not only relaxes the gluten, it also minimizes the amount of butter that may run out of the biscuits as they bake
I hope you all enjoyed these wonderful recipes from Peter. In his book he begins with the simplest French bread, then moves on to familiar classics such as ciabatta, pizza dough, and soft sandwich loaves, and concludes with fresh specialty items like pretzels, crackers, croissants, and bagels. Each recipe is broken into “Do Ahead” and “On Baking Day” sections, making every step – from preparation through pulling pans from the oven – a breeze, whether you bought your loaf pan yesterday or decades ago. These doughs are engineered to work flawlessly for busy home bakers: most require only a straightforward mixing and overnight fermentation. The result is reliable superior flavor and texture on par with loaves from world-class artisan bakeries- and all with little hands-on time!
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