Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Simple Bread Ratio And One Of The Many Awesome Uses For It

I know I've recently mentioned by current favorite cooking book Ratio by Michael Ruhlman. Well I've been really trying to perfect some basics lately, (hence the chocolate chip cookies) so I've been making a bunch of different variations on his bread ratio.

(My first- just a basic white bread with a creepy egg wash that resulted in that weird coloring on top. And as you can see- my kneading still needed some work but I managed to do a lot better with that my second time around. Delicious nonetheless.)

It's been awesome to kind of figure this whole thing out and see the improvements as I go and well, I guess if that's what I've been baking then I should be sharing it here, right? right.

Also I really feel like, if you're a baker, or even if you just enjoy making things, then bread is about the most satisfying thing you can make. Especially if you make it right. (Michael Ruhlman says pasta is the biggest joy to work with, but I haven't gotten to that chapter yet.) Now I know this recipe sounds a little complicated but it's really quite easy and it is completely and totally worth it. Plus.. kneading is great fun.

Recipe Soundtrack: "Tell Em" By Surfer Blood (Feels obvious but it's great kneading music. Which is what ya really need here.)

So the important thing to know is that the basic ratio for bread is 5 parts flour to 3 parts water.

And here is what I did with it:

Salted Garlic Boule
Inspired by Ratio


20 oz Bread Flour (about 4 cups - but scales are where its at with this stuff)
12 oz water
2 teaspoons warm water
1 teaspoon active or instant yeast
3 tablespoons (au pif) minced garlic
1 teaspoon or so of honey
extra salt for the top - kosher or pretzel salt would work as well


Put flour into a mixing bowl or stand mixer and add water. Then add the 2 teaspoons of salt and sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water to allow it to dissolve. Stir together by hand until yeast dissovles. Add garlic and honey and continue stirring until dough starts to come together. Transfer to food processor. Pulse in the food processor until dough sticks together more and combines thoroughly.

Flour your kneading surface and turn dough out on it. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (To make sure its kneaded enough you can cut off a piece and stretch it. If you can stretch it until its translucent without tearing it, its ready.

Form dough into a ball and put back in your mixing bowl with a little bit of oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise until it double in size. (You should be able to poke a finger into it without it springing back)

Preheat oven to 450º F.

Turn the dough out onto floured surface and knead to expel excess gas and redistribute the yeast. Cover with a dish towel and let rest for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Shape dough into a boule by pushing it back and forth on the counter in a circular motion until you have a round smooth ball. (You could really do any shape you want but since I prefer the dutch oven method, the boule works best for me)

Once shaped, cover the dough with a dish towel again and allow it to proof for about an hour. You could also cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to day (if you do this make sure to let the dough sit at room temperature for at least and hour and half before baking.) When ready to bake, score your dough to help it expand and sprinkle with salt (or olive oil and salt if you wish) and put it into an oiled dutch oven with a lid

Bake at 450º for 10 minutes and reduce the temperature to 375ºF and continue baking until done, 45 to 50 minutes. (Take lid off dutch oven halfway through baking - The dutch oven helps create steam and makes the crust crispy and the inside moist.)

And voila! So amazingly delicious. We ate this whole thing in less than 24 hours, and believe me I'll be making it again very soon. Next on the list is ciabatta and baguettes!

Alton Brown's Awesome Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is probably the perfect cookie recipe. And what else would you expect from Alton? I'm recently watching lots of reruns of Good Eats and remembering just how much I love the way he explains every ingredient and why its the best one to use. Helps me understand the science in this whole cooking thing quite a bit.

So I've been making this cookie recipe for a while but I always left out the bread flour and used regular flour and I couldn't figure out why I ended up with flat cookies. duh. I know - shocking that it took me this long to figure that one out. Anyway, I've been making a ton of bread lately and its resulted in an excess of bread flour around the house so I figured I'd finally make them the real way. And holy crap what a difference. These things are perfect. So don't use AP flour! The bread flour is the key.

I've been playing with some flavor additions as well but that's for a different time. Also it's really important that the dough is cold when it goes into the oven so that they can set faster than the butter can melt and spread, so keep the dough in the fridge between each cookie-sheet-full.

Recipe Soundtrack: "Being On Our Own" By the Fruit Bats

Chocolate Chip Cookies (AKA "The Chewy")
From Alton Brown's Good Eats

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I used table salt)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons milk (or coffee if you so desire)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pumpkin Almond Gruyere Focaccia

I'm just going to start by saying that today was positively crappy. But now, while I have some pumpkin pie cooling on the stove, I figured it best to use this time to update the ol' blog.

I happen to receive the Cooking Light email newsletter on a weekly basis (of no request of mine, I'm almost sure that they found me the same way that Facebook has become convinced that I am a single mother desperate to find a husband.) and I happen to be completely uninterested in it altogether until I read this headline :

"Our Best Apple Recipes. "

Anticlimactic, I know. But I've really been on the hunt for some creative apple recipes. I looked through their list, nothing too interesting until I got to the end. There were links for the list of their best pumpkin recipes and since I was already on the damn website, why not right?
And then I found this one. As I do when I find a recipe like this, I became a little bit fixated on it.

An important detail here is that I have been reading a fantastic little book called Ratio by Michael Ruhlman that gives you the details of all the basic ratios of cooking, which enables you to understand the recipes better and therefore make your own. So I did some kind of experimental things here that I don't quite remember. What I can tell you is that I used less yeast and let it rise longer. (Per Michael Ruhlman's recommendation.) I also made the dough and then put it in the refrigerator overnight (after shaping it) which is acceptable if you want to make it ahead. Other than that, I didn't really do anything that should change the recipe enough to give me a different product than the original recipe. So I didn't necessarily need to tell you any of that... Hm..

Anyway, this book has been pretty much replacing everything in my life as far as recipes are concerned so it might come up a lot in the near future. So consider yourself warned.

In more important news, this recipe was awesome and I'm going to make it again for sure. It's totally delicious. Especially right out of the oven. I imagine there's probably some amzing sandwich to make on it as well. We didn't manage to get through the 2 loaves, so I wouldn't consider it a crime to halve the thing. Benny loved it. (The fancy cheese helps to convince him.)

Recipe Soundtrack: "Waiting for a War" By the Morning Benders.

Pumpkin Almond Gruyere Focaccia
Adapted from Cooking Light

Yields 2 Loaves


3/4 cup warm water
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
3 1/2 cups bread flour, divided (about 15 3/4 ounces)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup (3 ounces) grated Gruyère cheese, divided
1/3 cup sliced almonds


Combine water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 1 cup flour and butter to yeast mixture; stir just until combined. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 30 minutes.

Add pumpkin, salt, and nutmeg to flour mixture; stir until well combined. Add 2 1/4 cups flour and half of cheese; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining 1/4 cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide dough in half; shape each half into an 8-inch circle. Place dough circles on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle remaining cheese and nuts evenly over dough circles; press lightly to adhere. Lightly coat dough circles with oil; cover and let rise 20 minutes (dough will not double in size).

(My focaccias prior to being baked)

Preheat oven to 400°.

Uncover dough; bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until loaves are browned on the bottom and cheese melts (shield loaves with foil to prevent overbrowning, if necessary). Cool on a wire rack.