Wetter Is Better Focaccia And Ciabatta {The Bread Baker’s Apprentice}

As 2009 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on all the successes and challenges I’ve had in the kitchen this year.  One of the greatest successes – this Focaccia.  One the biggest challenges – this Ciabatta.  But a challenge can sometimes teach you the greatest lesson of all.

Not ever being satisfied with just so-so, I decided to give the ciabatta another try.  Even though I thought my dough had been wet enough the first time, the bread lacked the large holes that earn ciabatta its self-respect.  So this time I made sure to keep the dough as wet as possible making sure it just came together but was still very sticky.  The result?  A dough that bubbled and rose, and baked into a glorious hole-y ciabatta (pictured below) that didn’t have to hide.

The lesson?  Wetter is better.

I applied this same lesson to my focaccia with equally grand results, and it garnered the most raves of any bread I have made so far.  It could most likely be applied to all yeast recipes to insure you a greater chance for success.

These two particular recipes can be found in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.  If you don’t have it, you can preview the book here.

 

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Don’t Go Down The Drain English Muffins {The Bread Baker’s Apprentice}

 

Today’s question to ponder . . . Why is it always the good spoons that accidentally drop into the disposal?  Never the old hand-me-down silverware that you use for cooking, but the shiny new (-ish) stuff you got for wedding gifts.  Hmmm.

I can tell you that if you like to bake at home and you need one more reason to get The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, here it is.  These English Muffins are so over and above anything you have ever bought, and I don’t say that lightly.  These are so delicious they will even convert those who don’t usually care for English Muffins (i.e., the husband).

I really never even thought is was possible to make English Muffins at home until I got to this recipe in the book.  And still, I had a few reservations about getting that cornmeal crusted top and bottom and the ‘nooks and crannies’, but I was not disappointed.  The recipe consists of a yeast dough that has risen and is cooked in a skillet and finished in the oven.  Much easier than I had expected and with terrific results.

Later this week I’ll have a few recipes for things to do with these.  In the mean time, you can take a look at the book here.

 

An Easy Answer Napoletana Pizza Dough {The Bread Baker’s Apprentice}

 

Today’s question to ponder . . . Why does the clicking sound your car makes never happen when you’re at the mechanic’s?  Hmmm.   If only I knew the answer.  But I can answer the question of how to make the BEST pizza dough ever.  Two words – Peter Reinhart.

I have made quite a few pizza dough recipes in the past and none ever hit the mark.  I wanted a thin crust that wouldn’t be too bread-y, and that would bake up with some crunch on the edges.  I had seen the recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice for Napoletana Pizza Dough before, but since the dough required an overnight rest, I passed it over.  Finally, when I got my own copy of the cookbook and started slowly baking my way through, I realized how successful the recipes are.  So I gave in and mixed up a batch of the dough.

This dough was so soft and silky, and was a dream to stretch out.  It could be made a little thicker, like the Barbecue Chicken Pizza at the top, or extra thin and crispy like the White Pizza With Arugula below.  I was really amazed that I was able to make a dough like this at home, and so was everyone else in my family.

Like I said, it does have to be started the day before, but it is SO WORTH IT.  However, you can keep it in the fridge for 3 days, or in the freezer for 3 months.  I guarantee you it won’t last that long, though.

101 Cookbooks is where I first saw the recipe in a post coincidentally titled Best Pizza Dough Ever (it says the olive oil is optional, but I used it also).  If you’re interested in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice take a look here.

Celebrate Fall Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread {The Bread Baker’s Apprentice}

 

It’s November, and now that Halloween is over, get ready to brace yourself for the full onslaught of the commercial holiday season.  Christmas items are already filling the shelves and Santa Claus is showing up on the television.  I really have to try not to get too carried away or fall and all its smells, sights, and sounds will pass by before I can enjoy them.

I believe in buying my Christmas tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, and waiting until December to start the Christmas holiday baking, which includes Fruitcake.  Yes, that’s what I said.  I am a fruitcake fan, but not the prepackaged kind that’s shaped like a brick, but real homemade more-fruit-and-nuts-than-cake fruitcake.  And I will share my favorite fruitcake recipe for my fellow fruitcake fans in December.

Even though I will sneak a few Christmas songs onto my iPod this month and definitely start my shopping, I plan to bake a lot of pumpkin-y, cinnamon-y, nutty things that remind me that it is still fall.  And if I start to feel a little wistful for some of that fruitcake, this Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread will surely tide me over until December.

This loaf from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice combines the flavors of cranberry and walnut with a touch of citrus flavor that reminds me a little of my favorite fruitcake, but can still be very fitting for the fall.  So, celebrate by baking some great bread filled with delicious fall ingredients and enjoy the season.

Interested?  Preview and purchase the book here.

Celebrate Fall Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread

bba cranberry-walnut bread

It’s November, and now that Halloween is over, get ready to brace yourself for the full onslaught of the commercial holiday season.  Christmas items are already filling the shelves and Santa Claus is showing up on the television.  I really have to try not to get too carried away or fall and all its smells, sights, and sounds will pass by before I can enjoy them.

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