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.

But first, a word from my sponsor . . .
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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

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Brioche Redux All Over Again (21 of 42)

This post is both a milestone and a watershed!

It is a milestone because it has been 1 year since Michelle kicked this whole adventure off with the First (unofficial) HB in 5 Post, which was also Pumpkin Pie Brioche.  Kind of a nice symmetry.  Kudos Michelle.  (I looked back at  My First (ever) Post.   I notice that I was much more terse then.)

It is a watershed because, of the "official" posts, this is number 21 of 42--half way!  It is all down hill from here.

You know, the English language is a funny thing, and it is interesting to me  how easily simple words can be misunderstood.  Last post I had a contest for a Morgan Shepherd Special Edition Ben's Mustard jar.  It is funny how many people thought it would still have the mustard in it.  But I ate that a long time ago.

Anyway, the winner was Judy of Judy's Bakery and Test Kitchen, and I used my discretion to award Michelle a jar as a special Founder's Prize for getting and keeping this whole thing going.  The jars will make lovely decorative accents for their kitchens. 

On to the baking.  Once again we were to make the Pumpkin Pie Brioche, which was fine with me because not only is it tasty, it is seasonal.  I went old style on this one, and used an heirloom organic pie pumpkin I purchased at the Farmers' Market.  I roasted it and then ran it through my potato ricer.  It worked out fine.  We were to make two breads with this:  Pistachio Twist and Fruit-filled Pinwheels.  Now I am the kind of guy who likes to use a belt sander to do the finish sanding.  So these were a bit fussy for me.

I started with the Pistachio Twist, which required rose water.  Really.  Being in for a penny, I got an 8.8 ounce bottle of rose water.  The recipe called for 2 1/2 teaspoons. Now there are 6 teaspoons in an ounce, so there are 52.8 teaspoons in my bottle of rosewater, which means that I have 50.3 teaspoons of the stuff left--enough to make 20 more batches of this bread.  Who knows, by then I might get it right.  And at least the stuff is not unhealthy--it has no fat, no sodium, no cholesterol and no calories.  Speaking of calories, did you know that it takes about 2200 calories of energy to make a can of diet pop, which of course has no calories (and no nutritional value)? 

Anyway, I started out fine with my Twist.  I mixed up the filling, rolled out the dough, spread on the filling, and rolled it up.  So far, so good.

But then the fussy part.  I should have quit while I was ahead.

To make the twist it was necessary to stretch out the log, to make it longer so that it could be twisted.  Since the dough was rolled to 1/8 of an inch, with the stretching the dough got really thin, and in some places  the filling started to poke through.  I perservered, and got the thing twisted.  I tried to tuck the exposed bits inside the twist.  It rose fine. 

But when I baked it, it erupted--a pastry Mt Vesuvius. 

Aesthetics aside this was not an entirely bad thing because I trimmed off the oozed filling and ate it--it was really good.  And the loaf tasted very good, which is what is important.
I plan to make this again (20 times, to use up my rose water) but will make sweet rolls or a more typical swirl bread and not roll the dough so thin or play with it so much.

From that fiasco it was on to pinwheels!

I tried rolling and cutting the dough and then moving it to the parchment paper, but the dough was too tender, so I rolled it and cut it directly on the paper.  I used a pizza cutter and it did not cut the paper.   I made squares, then diagonal cuts at the corners.  They looked like Maltese Crosses.  I put some flavored (light) cream cheese and some apricot jam in the middle, and folded alternate corners to the center. 

I let them rise, then brushed them with egg wash and decorated with an almond.  After The Great Twist Explosion I was concerned about leakage.  I got some, but not too much.   They actually turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself, though some of them started to unfold a bit.  But I think that added a certain wabi-sabi (the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection) appeal. 

I had some left over pumpkin brioche, which I used to make English Muffins.  These were pretty easy to make, but I also could have just made a loaf of Brioche.  Anyway, it seems to me that if you take an English Muffin or a slice of brioche, put on a little schmear  and some jam, you have the same effect as the Pinwheel without the Strum und Drang.  Now I do not mean to be anti-aesthetic, but in the words of Albert Einstein,  "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler."  See also, Occam's Razor ("the simplest explanation is more likely the correct one").   So while these were interesting to make, I think you can get to the same place by a shorter and more direct road.  But then, as Robert Frost noted, it can make all the difference to take the road less traveled.  Which is why I have 50.3 teaspoons of rose water. 

So that ends the first year and the first half of the Official Braid.  In the words of Winston Churchill "this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."


  1. GOOD JOB GUFF! WOOT WOOT! Half way done!

  2. Ahhhh...thanks again for the mustard. I tried it out today on a fried bologna sandwich and it was delicious!

    Your pinwheels came out so professional looking! I've not tried them but they look so pretty!

    Sorry about your bread erupting, have to admit that that has happened to me in the past. Not the recipes problem, I get carried away with filling sometimes.

  3. I also think that Jeff and Zoe can be "generous" with their filling amounts.

  4. Great post. I have no idea where to find rose water. Thanks for sharing your exploding twist bread--I've done that more than a few times too. Your pinwheels look yummy! I liked your quotes--I didn't realize it had been a year since we first starte the bread group!

  5. Your posts are so fun to read! I think it is a good idea to just make sweet rolls instead of twisting up that pistachio filled log. I love pistachio's, but the fingers get sore getting them out of the shell. Great looking pinwheels!! I thought they were fun to make and prettier than just a loaf of bread:)

  6. How can you possibly suggest a no-fuss approach when your pinwheels turned out looking like, well, pinwheels? They are beautiful! As for your Mt. Vesuvius, if you had just shown the photos of the slices, we wouldn't have ever known. But then this post wouldn't have been so fun to read, and between that and the mustard jars, I wouldn't have been laughing heartily out loud to myself. (Harry the dog didn't really get the humor).

  7. I love the rustic look and agree sometimes the oozy bits are most enjoybable. The pinwheels I must have a go at they seem to make a lovely shape.