Tag Archives: sandwich bread

Bread Illustrated or Bread Porn from America’s Test Kitchen

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Japanese Milk Bread that came out a little wonky. My bad!

Nothing beckons like the aroma of bread. Remember the aroma fingers in cartoons? I spent the past week filling the apartment with enticing bread aroma fingers as I began to cook my way through Bread Illustrated, a must-have from the ATK Empire. Subtitled, “A Step-by-Step Guide to Achieving Bakery-Quality Results at Home,” Bread Illustrated is the perfect book for the beginner as well as a great reference book for the advanced home bread-baker.  I have been a bit leery of ATK publications since the departure of Christopher Kimball, but this is a winner.  All the recipes I tried work, but are they bakery quality.”?  Well, no. But they work beautifully in a home kitchen with no special equipment.

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Whole-wheat quinoa bread.

Furthermore, in every case, the recipe from Bread Illustrated produced a better loaf than I’ve ever made in the past.  Japanese Milk Bread (Hokkaido), for example, which appears at the top of the page, misshapen, is a great favorite of mine. (Think Challah without the braid.) The fact that it doesn’t have its usual baby-bottom shape here is not a failure of the recipe, but of my having been distracted. The taste and texture are marvelous.

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Japanese Milk (Hokkaido) Bread

Bread Illustrated is a volume in the very best of the ATK tradition:  sober and no-nonsense, and chock full of essential information presented in a straightforward manner with lots and lots of food science background.  And, of course, “Why this recipe works,” is the introduction to each and every recipe.

I began with breads in the chapter entitled,“Starting from scratch: 12 foolproof breads that teach the basics.”  I was impressed by the approach, and found the recipes are interesting, useful, and, in every case, very easy to make successfully.  If you are just starting to bake bread, you will encounter no discouragement, no brick loaf that will send you back to the store never to touch salt, flour and yeast again.

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Brown Soda Bread

Brown Soda Bread was a revelation. This is a bread that I have rarely ever cared for, at least not without mounds of butter and jam. It is normally dry and grainy and lacking any inherent interest. NOT! This one is absolutely delicious.

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Quick Cheese Bread lasted a single afternoon with Mr. Darcy!

I deliberately tried another bread that has never particularly called to me: Quick Cheese Bread. “Quick” and “cheese” as applied to bread will normally turn me off, because quick breads (breads without yeast) are usually too much like cake, and because I like cheese on top of bread, not in it. But this was a very good loaf, and Mr. Darcy loved it. So that’s that!

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New sandwich bread recipes are always welcome, and I tried four of them:

EasySandwich Bread

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Easy Sandwich Bread

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Easy sandwich bread

American Sandwich Bread

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American Sandwich Bread

Whole-Wheat Quinoa Bread

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Whole-Wheat Quinoa Bread

and my personal favorite, Pain de Mie.  “Mie” means “crumb” in French, so Pain de Mie is literally “crumb bread,” and means “soft bread” or “sandwich loaf.” It is named for its soft crumb, and baked in a lidded Pain de Mie or Pullman pan, which creates the shape and all-over crust. Pain de Mie is Wonder Bread perfected. It has both flavor and texture; it doesn’t tear when you spread peanut butter on it. It can be sliced thin or thick, and eaten toasted or un-.  It is one of the most tasty and versatile loaves on the plant, and did I mention easy?

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Pain de Mie, cooling.

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Pain de Mie, so perfect for sandwiches.

And for those of you who have been waiting for Christopher Kimball to reappear in his new incarnation, here he is at last and it was worth the wait:

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From Christopher Kimball, the inaugural issue of Milk Street Magazine.

I’m happy to report that the magazine is exactly what you’d expect from Christopher Kimball, and even carries his signature bow-tie on the cover. There is no advertising, of course. But don’t give up your ATK subscription; there is no danger of overlap.  Milk Street’s mission is to reach around the world for foods, spices, cooking techniques, and culinary traditions that we have always associated with “ethnic” restaurants, not our own homes, and to make them accessible for us in our own homes, using our existing batterie de cuisine.  In fact, I was amused by the article in this charter issue revealing something that I learned in Spain many years ago — that scrambled eggs (and I would add fried eggs as well) taste better cooked in olive oil than in butter.  So there you go! For those of us who don’t live near Boston and can’t go to the brick and mortar Milk Street Kitchen, Milk Street Magazine is about to change all of our home cooking preconceptions:  fasten your seat belts!

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Portuguese Sweet Bread . . . and French Toast

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Portuguese Sweet Bread

Portuguese sweet bread tastes a lot like Challah, but it’s much easier to make, because there is no braiding.  I haven’t made it in years, but a reader mentioned it recently, and the thought of my apartment being filled with the aroma of vanilla and lemon just made my mouth water.  So, in addition to sandwich bread for Mr. Darcy, I made a loaf of Portuguese Sweet Bread this weekend, using the recipe on the KAF website.  http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/portuguese-sweet-bread-recipe.  Just remember that, like Challah, Portuguese sweet bread dries very quickly.  You want to avoid refrigeration, because it will lose much of its delicate and distinctive flavor and aroma.  Make it for the weekend and use it for French toast.  In other words, use it up!  When Popeye was little, he turned up his nose at my French toast, but when his baby sitter called it pain perdu, he ate it all up!

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At first, the dough looks crumbly, like pie crust, but don’t worry; it comes together beautifully.  Just give it a little time. Here are my two breads rising .

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The dough has been just put up to rise.  The Portuguese bread is in the top bucket.

And, here they are two hours later.

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 Then, they are placed in their respective pans to rise one more time.  Note the shower caps.

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Here they, again,  are two hours later.

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As you can see, the second sandwich loaf is a little low and rather uneven.  I patted it down fairly firmly to try to get a smooth loaf out of it, and I held it back another 15 minutes to give it a chance to rise a little more.

Into the oven they go, and out they come about 45 minutes later.

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Not a total fix for the second loaf, but it was definitely redeemed!

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Taking my own good advice, French toast this morning.  Beat four eggs with 1/4 cup milk and teaspoon of cardamom (think how lovely that will be with the lemon and vanilla of the Portuguese sweet bread!).  Cut a few slices of Portuguese sweet bread in half or thirds.  Soak in the egg mixture for 3 to 4 minutes, just long enough for them to absorb the mixture without getting soggy.  Spray a non-stick pan with butter spray, or break down and melt a tablespoon of butter.  Add the bread to the pan.  Sprinkle the top of the bread with cinnamon, sugar and a little salt.  Flip the bread when you start to see a crust.  Repeat the cinnamon, sugar and salt on the top side.  If there is any egg mixture left over, cook like scrambled eggs and serve.  Top it all off with maple syrup.  Ahh.  Sunday morning!

IMG_2147Twelve (12) days left!  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2142202254/handmade-honestly-by-huascarh-bake-shop-builds-a-h.

Saturday baking . . . more on frozen bananas . . . Zahav . . .

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Banana bread, sandwich bread, and vanilla cranberry crisps!

Saturday Baking:     It was a productive Saturday.  As the week went on, I was less and less satisfied with last week’s banana bread.  It looked soggy.  So, I decided to make it again, but divide the batter between two pans, instead of baking it in one.

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Yes, it’s the old door-stop look, but the bread is delicious.I also realized that I had forgotten something critical about using frozen bananas — it’s best to let them sit in a colander for at least a half hour before using them in order to let excess water drain.  They do get water-logged in the freezer.

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Sometimes I forget a critical step — like forgetting to drain the bananas or add the yeast.  I forgot the yeast in the bread and when it became obvious what I had done (dough was sitting there like a lump of lead after proofing for an hour!), I just started over.  My bad.

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Purty, ain’t they?

This time, I baked them in the larger pans.

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We are the very model of a perfect white bread sandwich loaf!

Would you believe that this is the same bread that looked like it was doping last week?

And cookies for Mr. Darcy, of course.  Vanilla raisin crisps from KAF.  I swapped craisins for raisins.  A lovely butter cookie, crispy and chewy.  But, knowing my resident Cookie Monster, they won’t last!

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Zahav:     And yes, Zahav.  I am sorry to report that it’s not worth the trip to Philadelphia.  Fortunately, the primary purpose of the trip was for some face-time with one of my two wonderful nephews, and, only secondarily, to try a new restaurant. And who better?  He’s a great chef  with a wonderful palate.

The room is reasonably attractive.  The name, zahav, is the Hebrew word for “gold,” and I think they tried to give the room a golden cast, but it ended up dark, too dark to read the menu without some difficulty.  We had a perfectly nice dinner with a few truly outstanding dishes:  beet salad, fried potatoes (with boquerones!), and chicken liver mousse.  But it’s not worth the hype.  Nor is it worth the astronomical bill.  Just saying.

The seating is uncomfortable at the banquettes.  We asked for a booth, because it was the only seating arrangement that even looked comfortable, but we were told that they couldn’t seat a party of two at a booth.  And why not?  Even our local diner will let two people sit in a booth if that’s what they want.  That is not an attitude toward customers that is going to impress me.  I’m a Willie Degel kind of gal:  The Customer is King!

We were seated at a banquette (my least favorite).  The tables are long rather than wide, so it’s impossible to carry on a conversation in a conversational tone.  To make things worse, there is really nondescript but loud music constantly piped in, drowning out conversation and, in my opinion, an ability to enjoy flavor.  I find that when one of my senses is being assaulted, my other senses go into hiding.

Service was pleasant and knowledgeable, although, lately, I seem to get the low-talking waiters.  And it’s not just my aging hearing:  my 30-year old nephew also had trouble hearing what he was saying.  I had forgotten how terrible tap water tastes in Philadelphia, and, to make matters worse, it was served tepid.  I was going to ask for ice, but just never did.  Oh WELL.  At some point, salt became the overwhelming taste, and I don’t think that the food was over salted.  Again, I think it was the atmosphere that ultimately diminished the ability to savor and differentiate the flavors in the many small dishes.

The merguez sausage was very good, but the beans with it were undercooked.  The grilled eggplant was almost uncooked.  By that time, we were kind of tired of it all.

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Too dark for a good photo of the eggplant.

Whereas the dishes were all small, the desserts were quite large, and just OK.  My nephew selected the rugelach, which were tiny and tasty.  I wanted the kotafi, a dessert I love for the crunch of the “shredded wheat” (fried and shredded phyllo dough) and the sweet contrast of ricotta cheese.  This was another version, which was good, but I can’t say I really liked it, not having that much of a sweet tooth.  There was no crunch, and no ricotta.  There was a lot of apricot jam, and some sour ice cream on top.  I was never able to learn if it was, in fact, ice cream or  yogurt mixed with something.  The  low-talking waiter said one thing, and the normal-talking server said something else.  I loved the sour element with all the sweetness.  But I like kotafi just because it is only faintly sweet.  Usually.  Oh WELL.

Off to Chicago on Wednesday, but look for a post before my flight takes off!