There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary skill.
Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses
by Isabel Allende

Starting in November of 2009 Michelle at the Big Black Dog formed a group to bake its way through Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg. I loved Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, so I signed up with the group. Michelle first had us do a couple of warm-up assignments, which were my first attempt at blogging. The first "Official" post was on January 15, 2010, and it was followed by 41 more, on the 1st and 15th of each month. When I signed on I said I would bake the whole book, and like Horton (the elephant) I meant what I said and I said what I meant. I finished baking the book on October 1, 2011. Having completed that challenge, now I am just going to do some stuff, and post about it. As part of that stuff Michelle is posing a new, and different, challenge for us each month.

I am still baking bread, mostly the Five Minutes a Day kind, and if you would like to try the Five Minutes a Day bread method there are some links, with recipes, in the right hand column to get you started. Please give it a try.

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This day be bread and peace my lot.
Alexander Pope

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?

Julia Child

Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.
Yiddish proverb
(And some are only half baked.)

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw, via Sharon

Of all smells, bread; of all tastes, salt.
George Herbert

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Master Recipe, Three More Ways (10 of 42)

OK.  So this isn't the Bluebird of Happiness.  But I am hoping that at least it might could  be the Indigo Bunting of Contentment. 

These two most recent assignments point up what I love most about the dough made using the AB/HB in 5 method--its versatility.  You have this bucket of stuff in the fridge, Carl Sagan would have pointed out that it is "star stuff" ("The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff"), and you can use it to make sandwich bread one day, pitas the next, then  pizza or English muffins or buns or cinnamon rolls or naan or, in the case of this fortnight's assignment, foccacia, bagels and Moon and Stars Bread.  (You see, Carl was right!)  For this batch of the Whole Grain Master recipe I used white whole wheat flour, both to make it a bit different than the last batch and because I had some flour I wanted to use.  If you want to give bread baking a try, the Whole Grain Master Recipe is a good place to start, and you can find the recipe HERE.

The Bagel Assignment was to make Cinnamon Raisin Whole Wheat Bagels.  I followed the recipe, but added more raisins.  I did this because I am a team player (teamwork is a lot of people doing what I say).   From reading the posts from the other members baking this challenge, which are many and varied, one theme has clearly emerged--when a recipe calls for raisins (or craisins or dates or herbs or spices) you always add more.  That is just the way we roll.

Now I really like baking bread using the AB/HB in 5 method.  I bake almost all the bread we eat.  I like making boules, baguettes, sandwich bread, pitas, pizza, English Muffins, buns, cinnamon rolls, knots, foccacia, and flat bread on the grill.  I do not like making bagels. 

First, my bagels always look lumpy and misshapen.  Although "they" say that we eat first with our eyes, as a guy, form is usually much less important to me than substance.  I usually don't care how it looks, it's how it tastes.  But if I am going to the effort to make a bagel, I guess I feel it ought to bear at least some vague resemblance to a bagel.  You ought to be able to pick it out of a lineup as a bagel.  Mine, I am not so sure.  (Part of the problem, of course, is all those extra raisins.)

Second, bagels are a mess to make.  After forming them and letting them rise, you have to get them into a simmering water bath, and you have to do that without horribly disfiguring them any more than they already are.  To do this I placed them on parchment paper to rise, cut the parchment paper around the bagels, and dumped them, parchment paper and all, into the water.  By the time the bagels are ready to flip the parchment paper has floated off and can be fished out.  All this dunking and fishing, however, means that I get water all over everything, which then mixes with the flour I had gotten all over when everything when I was forming the bagels.  And this, of course, makes glue.  All over everything.  

 THEN, you have to put the poached bagels onto a floured kitchen towel to dry off.  REALLY.  I am not making this up.

This will dry off the bagels.  It also infuses the kitchen towel with wallpaper paste.  How the hell do you clean that up??   I decided to try using my belt sander to get the worst of the paste off.

Once they have been formed, have risen, have been poached, then dried, then peeled from a sodden kitchen towel, the bagels are FINALLY ready to bake.  By now, the holes are pretty much gone, there is flour/water paste all over me and everything else, and the kitchen towel is firmly jammed into my best belt sander. (Maybe the orbital sander would have been better.)  But into the oven they go.

My saintly wife (of 35 years next Monday) pronounced them "better than bagels."  Is that a good thing?  Does that mean that they were not like bagels at all?  That they lacked some essence of bagelness?   What is the sound of one hand clapping? 

I confess.  They tasted pretty good.  Which for a guy ought to be enough.  But I still do not like making bagels.

I do like making foccacia.  You just take a hunk of dough, pat or roll it out to about a half-inch thickness, let it rise 20 minutes while you pre-heat the oven to 425, top it with something tasty, "dimple" it with your fingers, drizzle it with some olive oil, and bake it for about 25 minutes.  Its shorter rising time makes it pretty quick to make, great for after work or when the day has sort of gotten away from you.    The foccacia for this assignment was Cherry Black Pepper Focaccia.

Without giving the recipe away, this version is topped with dried cherries, which have been soaked in red wine and water to soften them, minced shallots and ground black pepper.  It was different, and very good (I think I should have used more pepper (see team rules above)).  That is what is great about foccacia, you can top it with almost anything.

The final recipe for this assignment was Moon and Stars Bread.

The loaf is formed in the shape of a crescent--the Moon.  When I first formed mine it looked much more crescent like.  You will  just have to trust me on this, I did not get a picture.  But my moon "waxed" as it rose.  (That is "rose" in the baking sense, not the ascending in the sky sense, which the moon does not really do, but only appears to do as the Earth spins on its axis.) 

Then, just before baking, the loaf is sprinkled with sesame seeds--the Stars.   In addition to regular sesame seeds I used some black sesame seeds left over from the Turkish Pita, to represent Black Holes--collapsed stars. 

This loaf baked up very nicely. I was particularly pleased with the crumb and the holes (not the black ones).  I am thinking it might have something to do with the warmer weather giving a better rise. 

Well, that does it for this assignment.  Check back next time when we do pizzas and pitas.


  1. I loved that "What is the sound of one hand clapping? " Hilarious! I also had this experience with bagel making - what a mess and what a blob of bread but it still tasted great. I think more practice would work but not sure my kitchen could handle it.

  2. For someone who doesn't like making bagels, you seem to have done very well. Thanks for the tip with parchment paper. Shall try that next time.
    And yes, making focaccia is more fun anyday. :)

    I also liked the bit about "teamwork being a lot of people doing what I say!" LOL

  3. Why was I not given one of your bagels to try!!?? I believe that I am the official taste tester (being that I am your favorite daughter). Oh...Ellen says hi!
    ps i like your indigo bunting of contentment

  4. To Aspiring Health Nut:
    Timing is Everything.

  5. Great bagel directions but after making them years ago, I have no good memories of the process. But yours looked great.
    The focaccia looked wonderful. Yum!

  6. I loved your commentary and your intro to this post - totally made me laugh. Especially the star stuff comment. All of your breads look awesome!

  7. When I said they are better than bagels I meant the texture and flavor is much better than a typical bagel. They are delicious. I am jealous of your passion for bread making (just not bagel making).

  8. love how your bagels were so puffy!! no bagel chips for you!!! :) great job!!

  9. All of your breads look good! I haven't gotten to these yet. Thanks for the parchment paper tip. I better get baking so I can catch up to you guys.

  10. You posts are always fun to read ;) I really like your idea of putting the bagels, parchment paper and all, into the boiling water bath. Mine weren't pretty either but they certainly tasted great toasted. The foccacia and moon and stars bread look great too.

  11. Well, I guess the guys are in agreement, making bagels is not fun. (I'm breaking out the orbital sander!) But, yours looked great. The focaccia was my favorite from this time.

  12. I threw my flour paste towel right in the laundry. Hmmn...I wonder how it will come out?!
    Your bagels look really good, though!

  13. Your post made me laugh. laugh with you that is. I can see you with tht belt sander there in your kitchen.
    I am sure you will attempt bagels again next time simply place them on a rack to dry off. I did not read this recipe (packed and hopefully by now on a ship of to the USA) but that must be a typo. I agree with you that logic tells you that flour and moisture = wallpaper paste. Glad they turned out. Sure look fine to me and I regognize he bagel. Your other breads turned out fantastic. Especially the moon bread loods great!

  14. Your bread is nice, but the writing is really wonderful! I love reading your posts. A word from our sponsor . . . love it!

  15. Loved the blue bird. Your bagels look very good in spite of the drama. I laughed as I read your post (always a good thing).

  16. everything looks wonderful. great tip about the parchment paper. will have to try that next time (and figure out a way not to make glue LOL)

  17. Everything looks awesome, especially the bagels! Thanks for the tip about the parchment paper. Your bagels look a LOT better than mine! Wish I could figure out how to not make that glue. I ended up waiting till it dried and rubbing it off.

    Loved your story.