Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jim Lahey No Knead Bread Again

I made Lahey's no knead bread again just to reassure myself of using this as default recipe (and that the last successful bake was not just a fluke). The bread is really easy to make and does not take much time. Most of the time spent on waiting as the book indicates, but it is well worth the wait. Couple people who tried this bread agreed the flavor is not as complex as Tartine, and also there is not the same aroma Tartine bread has. So, one thing I did as an experiment was to add Tartine's starter to the bulk fermentation, and the result was an improved aroma and crumb color. 

This is dough after the first fermentation, very relax with gluten.

This is my 2nd attempt. Good crumb structure with lot of air pockets.

This is probably the best one. I also added in Tartine Starter which seems to change the aroma and color of the crumb. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Jim Lahey No Knead Bread

I picked up Jim Lahey's No Knead bread book. As much as I love making Tartine bread, it is very time consuming. I still keep my Tartine starter which by now is about 8 months old, but I have been too busy to spend a whole day making bread. At first glance, Jim's recipe seems to be much easier to make, and most of the time spent is proofing which can be done overnight, so I thought I give it a shot.

When I first read the recipe, I was quite skeptical. How could the bread develop enough tension to rise without any stretch and fold. Since the bread requires at least 12 hours fermentation time at room temperature of ~70F which is perfect for where I live. I mixed the dough the night before, left it to proof at room temperature and baked the next morning.

One minor change from Jim's recipe was instead of doing the second rise in the folded towel, I did my second rise in the basket (Tartine's method). Jim's suggestion for testing that dough is ready to bake is to do 1/4 inch indentation and see if it holds. Mine took about 1 hour to complete second rise at 80F degree. I took the pre-heated cast iron combo out of the oven, flip the dough into the cast iron combo, put back and wait.

The result? OMG it was awesome!!!! Although the bread does not taste as complex as Tartine's recipe and does not have the same aroma, it is pretty darn good. I would have this bread any time. The bread has good, uneven air pocket. This time I also made sure I did not overproof. It did get pretty good rise. Given the time I spent making it and the quality the bread came out, I have to say this will be preferable over Tartine's recipe for me.

The bread tastes good by itself. It tasted similar to Ciabatta. It is even better brushing with olive oil and toast in the cast iron pan to crisp it up. Half the loaf was gone by lunch time. I keep the other half for next day or may be dinner :-) I encourage anyone who like Tartine's recipe to check this one out.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Last weekend, I decided to make focaccia. I normally used Peter Reinhart's recipe from his American Pie book which made delicious focaccia, but a little too oily.

This time, I used the recipe from his latest book, Artisan bread everyday. This is also a no-knead recipe which is very nice. I also used some of the starter from tartine bread to ferment the bread.

The focaccia is proofed in the refrigerator overnight before baking in the 450F degree oven. This one I had to say is much better than the recipe from American Pie book, it is less oily, and I got nice even air pocket. Yum :-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Country Bread Panini

This post is a follow up from the previous one. Tartine has changed their ordering policy. It used to be we can order bread in the morning for pick up in the same day. Now, due to its popularity, the bread has to be pre-ordered 3 days in advance - crazy huh. After my disastrous baking attempt, we bought Tartine bread and make some really great panini.

- Cured meat like salami or prosciutto 
- Pesto
- Fontina cheese
- Arugula
- Butter

Smear the butter on the outside of the bread. Layer meat, cheese, and smear pesto sauce. Then add the arugula. Bake in the panini maker for about 6-7 minutes at high. The panini came out perfectly - yummy :-)

Hopefully next time I can do this with my own bread.

Original Tartine Bread (now $7 per loaf with 3-day advanced order)

Cured meat with fontina cheese

Add pesto and arugula

Bake on 'high' for 6-7 minutes


Third attempt is a failure

My starter has been living happily in the fridge for the past couple months. My sister is visiting so I want to show off the great country bread, but it was a disaster. I screwed up the first loaf with the oven being off after I removed the combo cooker to put in the bread, and the second loaf came out with minimal oven spring, resulting in a dense loaf with large bubble in the middle :-(

I suspect it was the starter losing strength but still couldn't convince myself that was the case here. After a few researches on thefreshloaf.com, I came to two conclusion.
1) Overproofing - I think this is unlikely because I reduced time for both the bulk rise and the basket rise
2) Not enough tension - I think this is the culprit as I also reduced the number of stretch and fold.

Now, I am looking for a redemption. Hope to try again soon and will post the results.

Leavening passed the float test

After the bulk rise

First shaping

After the bench rest

1st loaf - disaster due to oven malfunction

Second loaf - rise but no ear

Finish loaf looks good

Poor oven spring - what a failure

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pizza with cured ham and arugula

This weekend, I made our favorite piizza with cured ham and arugula, so I thought I share some photos here. This time I used a leftover dough from couple weeks ago. I will do another post with the steps to make the dough.

Pizza with cured ham and arugula
For the dough recipe, I used Pizza Neo-Neapolitan recipe from Peter Reinhart's American Pie book. This is a well known recipe which you can search on Internet. I made some minor adjustment for the toppings so it works better in the home oven.

Now, for topping:

- Fresh Mozzarella (drain the juice and pat dry)
- Cured ham, i.e. Prosciutto
- Arugula
- Marinara sauce (reduced)

Some trick for using fresh Mozzarella - it's very wet. Normally I will just use the dry/shred Mozzarella that comes in a bag found in grocery stores. If you just cut the fresh Mozzarella and put on your pizza, believe me it will come out very soggy because the temperature in home oven is not enough to evaporate all those moisture fast enough. In summary, I feel anything wet is the enemy of good pizza baked in home oven.

If you use store bought Marinara, reduce it about 30-40% until you get consistency of a thick sauce.

So, what I did was I just cut the Mozzarella into pieces, and put it on a plate over my oven while I preheat the oven at 550F. The residual heat from the oven will bring out all the juices. Now, you can pat it dry before you top it on your pizza.

Stretch the dough and then to top your pizza, start with the driest ingredients - cheese in this case, then meats, and then the wettest ingredients, marinara sauce. Why? because you want the bottom of the dough to be crispy, and having the dry ingredients as a base of your topping will act as barrier to give the dough time to crisp up before the sauce touches it. If you are like me who doesn't like a soggy pizza, this method will work well.

Many recipes tell you to start with the sauce first. Although it may work, and that's also how many pizzerias do it, remember your home oven can only go 550F vs 800F or more at pizzeria, so some adjustment is necessary because the moisture will not evaporate as fast in your home oven. This minor change will give you a very crispy pizza vs soggy one - your choice.

This time I only have cured beef so I used this instead of Prosciutto


I baked my pizza between two baking stone but I think it does not make much different really if you use one stone. Just put the stone close to the lowest rack and give it enough time to heat up (I pre-heat mine about 1 hour). The pizza should be ready in 6-7 minutes. About a minute before the pizza is done, take it out and top with arugula, and then put the pizza back in the oven and bake for a minute or until fully cook. The arugula will wilt a little bit.

Drizzle Olive Oil

I baked my pizza between two stones, although I found one stone at the bottom works just fine

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Second attempt - Tartine Country Bread

This will be a short post as I just want to update what happenned after my partially successful first attempt to bake Tartine Country Bread

Lesson learned from last time - I think the dough was too overproof and I did not dust enough flour in the proofing basket, so the dough stuck when I flipped it to take it out for baking and I couldn't score the dough as the dough almost couldn't hold its shape.

I also found some great YouTube videos. I couldn't really tell from the book how to properly shape the boule and these videos are great. It gave me much more confident and the dough came out nicely this time.


I planned to bake on Saturday, so I took out my starter (which is the leftover leavaining from last bake) from the fridge and fed it on Thursday morning, the left at room temperature. By Friday morning it became lively and doubled in size, so I fed it again to get it ready to prepare the leavain that night.

For mixing the dough and bulk rise, I followed the same steps as before, except this time I used Kitchen Aid to do initial mixing. Then hand knead after the first rest. Here're the photos of the dough after the first shaping.

First shaping after bulk rise
Then this time I put "a lot" of flour in the proofing basket. Below is the dough after 3 hours of rise of the basket.

Ready for
And this is the final product. This is where I found another issue with this book. Each loaf takes about 40-50 minutes to bake, and the recipe makes two loafs. So, let's say you can get the first loaf proofed just right, the second loaf could be a little overproof. In my case, I had no problem scoring the first loaf but second loaf didn't hold itself as well. I did the classic square scoring. The dough had pretty good oven spring, almost doubled in size. I think next time I will retard the second dough a little bit and see if that will help.

I should mention this time I used a lame bought from Sur La Table, which costs $5, instead of razor blade. I found that with the handle, it is safer as at least I didn't have to put my hand anywhere close to the cast iron skillet.

Another option is to line up parchment paper on a pizza peel, then flip your dough onto the pizza peel, do your scoring, and then slide the dough (with parchment paper) onto the cast iron skillet. I tried that on one of the loafs and there was no change in quality actually.

I think both loafs came out great - better than first time for sure. I still feel this can be improved even more, so hopefully will try that again after we run out of bread. This time I am able to do this along with working in the yards so I didn't feel like I used up the whole day just to make bread.

The next day, as usual, we had panini using the loaf I just made. Smeared the outside with butter, added cured ham, salami, pesto, fontina cheese, and spinach, and baked in panini grill at "high" for about 6-7 minutes.