Archive for Bread

Ciabatta (Slipper Bread)

ciabatta and dipping oil

I love a good flat bread, crusty on the outside and full of air pockets on the inside. Ciabatta is a simple one to make and it helps that the sponge is done the night before, then a few moments to mix the sponge and the rest of the ingredients in the morning and it can hang out in the fridge all day and be ready to shape and bake with dinner.

This recipe makes 2 10″ flat breads.

1/8 Tsp Dry Yeast
2 Tbsp Warm Water
1/3 C Water — Room Temp
1 C All-purpose Flour

The Ciabatta does require a simple sponge but it takes only a few minutes to put together the day before making the bread. Though the dough for Ciabatta is very wet and sticky, resist the temptation to add more flour.

To make the sponge:
In a small bowl proof the yeast and warm water; let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy. In a bowl stir together yeast mixture, room-temperature water, and flour and stir 4 minutes. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sponge stand at cool room temperature at least 12 hours and up to 1 day.



1/2 Tsp Dry Yeast
2 Tbsp Warm Milk
2/3 C Water — Room Temp
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Cups All-purpose Flour
1 1/2 Tsp Salt

Make bread:
In a small bowl stir together yeast and milk and let stand 5 minutes, or until creamy. In bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with dough hook blend together milk mixture, sponge, water, oil, and flour at low speed until flour is just moistened and beat dough at medium speed 3 minutes. Add salt and beat 4 minutes more. Scrape dough into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. (Dough will be sticky and full of air bubbles.)

Have ready 2 rimless cookie sheets covered with well-floured and cornmealed sheets of parchment paper. Turn dough (**this is a VERY wet and sticky dough and should be handled as little as possible when shaping; flour your hands well or you will wear the dough out**) onto a well-floured work surface and cut in half. Transfer each half to a parchment sheet and form into an irregular oval (thier name comes from their shape, that of a slipper) about 9 inches long. Dimple loaves with floured fingers and dust tops with flour. Cover loaves with a dampened kitchen towel. Let loaves rise at room temperature until almost doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

At least 45 minutes before baking, put a baking stone or 4 to 6 unglazed “quarry” tiles arranged close together on oven rack in lowest position in oven and preheat oven to 425° F.

Uncover the loaves and slide gently (parchment and all) onto the stone or tiles. Bake ciabatta loaves 20 minutes, or until pale golden. With a large spatula transfer loaves to a cooling rack to cool. To serve, tear off individual pieces.

Notes: Drizzle them with olive oil and a sprinkle of kosher salt or poke 12 kalamata olives into the dough prior to baking and then top with basil, garlic and or toasted onion. They also go well dipped into a roasted garlic-olive oil or an olive oil-seed-nut mix.



Cheddar Biscuits


It took me a long time to figure out that I needed to have a tender touch when making biscuits. I was used to making bread, which the goal is to develop the gluten. When making biscuits the goal is NOT to develop the gluten. Once that little piece of golden information was drilled in my biscuits came out beautiful and tender. Depending on my mood or the meal I will make either drop biscuits or rolled biscuits. More often than not they are drop biscuits. I like the nooks and crannies.

The other night I made drop cheddar biscuits to go with dinner. You can mix in anything, really. I’ve done ham and cheese, bacon and cheddar, cheddar and jalapeno to name but a few. And sometimes I do plain biscuits. If you want to do plain, just omit the cheddar from this recipe.

Yoda Family Biscuits

2 C Flour
1 Tbsp Baking powder
1/2 Tbsp Salt
5 Tbsp butter, frozen or well chilled
1/2 C Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 C Milk or cream
Preheat oven to 425°.

In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder well. I use a fine sieve to make sure there are no lumps of baking powder. Nothing ruins the the enjoyment of a good biscuit than a bite into a clump of baking powder. Whisk in the salt. (Kosher salt doesn’t go thru a fine sieve). Grate the butter into the bowl and toss gently. (You can cut it in but I find this way works perfectly.) Mix in the grated cheese.

Make a well in the center of the bowl. Stir in milk gently. Do not over mix. This is where that gentle hand is required.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop the biscuit dough onto a prepared cookie sheet. (I use a parchment liner on mine for easy clean up.) Bake 12 – 15 minutes at 425°.

Cuban Rolls or “How a Sponge Becomes a Roll”

The roll!

I love to make bread and, over the years, have developed a few shortcuts to some great slow rise methods. This Cuban Roll is a very simple dough, flour, water, yeast, sugar and salt. I’ll start with a sponge and then, since it only has a 1-loaf or 12-roll yield, so I can utilize the food processor for the mixing. I am shortcutting some of the labor but lengthening the time to allow full flavor development.

I start with a large measuring cup that will allow me to proof and sponge in the same vessel. After proofing the yeast in 1 cup of room temp water with a tablespoon of flour (never sugar…sugar can over-excite the yeast and I like to keep it mellow). To make the sponge I simply add 1 cup of flour and then, with a wooden spoon, stir 100 times in the same direction. This helps to form the fragile gluten strands and prevent breaking them. Cover it with plastic and set it in an out of the way spot for 8 hours or over night. (I usually do this before bed so that I can do the next steps before leaving for a busy day.)

Into the processor I put 2 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 tablespoon of salt. Give it a couple of quick pulses, then add the sponge and 1/4 cup of tepid water. Pulse until it comes together in a loose dough ball, then process for 20 seconds. This dough is shaped into a ball and then it goes into a lightly oiled, gallon-sized ziploc bag. Press out any air and place in the fridge for 2 to 24 hours. It won’t rise double high so don’t be too concerned. The yeast is being allowed to do its thing slowly so that you get great texture and flavor without the “shazam” effect of fast rising. You won’t be sorry.

A couple of hours before you are ready to bake it set the bag on the counter and deflate. Let it sit about an hour (it will do a small rise). Then remove from the bag and knead several times before shaping into a loaf or rolls. I then cut the bag so it lies flat open and cover the dough, oiled side of bag down. Then a dish cloth on to keep it in place. This keeps the dough from sticking to the fabric.

When it has risen nicely take the cover and bag off and place in a 400 degree oven. Dump a large bowl of ice in the bottom of your oven or in an old pie pan on the lowest rack to create a steamy environment and let it bake. Do not peak during the first 10 minutes or so or the steam will escape and you’ll lose that crispy crust it creates.

The recipe…….

Cuban Bread

1 cup Water (room temp)
1 tsp active-dry yeast
1 tbsp flour (all purpose, unbleached)
1 cup flour (all purpose, unbleached)
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp kosher salt
2 cups
1/4 cup water (room temp)

For the sponge:
In a large measuring cup (8 cups) add 1 cup water and stir in yeast and 1 tbsp flour. Let sit for a few minutes until yeast dissolves and a little foaminess starts. Stir in the cup of flour. Stir 100 times with a wooden spoon in one direction. Scrape down sides and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Set aside for 8 hours or overnight.

You can mix the next part by hand or in a large mixer but I like to utilize my food processor for this part. In the bowl put the 2 cups of flour, sugar and salt. Pulse just to mix. Pour in sponge and 1/4 cup of water. Pulse until it comes together loosely then process for 20 seconds. Be careful not to over mix!

Shape into a ball and place in an oiled gallon ziploc bag. Let rise or place in the fridge for 2 to 24 hours. Let sit on counter for about an hour to warm up if it’s been in the fridge. Deflate. Using a parchment lined cookie sheet sprinkled with cornmeal, shape the dough into a loaf or 12 rolls. Cover lightly and let rise until double. Bake at 400 for 20 to 25 minutes, until internal temp is 190.

One of Those Sundays

Yesterday the invisible gremlins seemed to be pulling one April Fools prank after another. It started with our trip to the Commissary for groceries, only to find out they were having “technical difficulties” and wouldn’t be opening at least for another hour and a half. If then. They lady standing outside telling folks of this didn’t seem too sure about the time frame. I also noticed all of the employees were standing outside, in a cold wind. My guess? They were locked out again.

The real issue is that if we didn’t get our shopping in that afternoon we’d have to wait until at least Tuesday as they are closed on Monday. Which is unfortunate, as Tuesday and Wednesday I have full schedules. We made the decision to hit the Save A Lot in town and grab a few necessities and wait for the rest.

Unfortunately, one item on the list was a dozen eggs. (Does that really count as one item or is it a dozen items?) Arriving home we weren’t quite fast enough to get them put away.

No, the dog hadn't laid eggs.

Dixie tries to 'splain

Getting rid of the evidence

The remains

The day did wind up well. I had spotted this recipe King Arthur Flour’s Italian Easter Cheese Bread in my email last week and was just itching to make it. A cold, windy day was perfect for a loaf of homemade bread to go with a boring steak dinner.

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

This bread was crusty and light, exactly as the described. Other than utilizing a food processor for for the mixing, I followed the recipe as is. Their recipes are always easy to follow and this one required no unusual ingredients. It now goes in my Tried and True file and will probably be made on a regular basis to accompany hearty, Italian soups.