ask the readers #2 – what are you baking? 15

ask the readers #2 – what are you baking?

One of the benefits of being a Food Person of the Internet is that my circle of culinary friends and mentors gets to be way more crowded and interesting than it otherwise would be. It seems kind of silly to waste all the good advice I could be getting from you all, so every once in awhile (well, twice so far) when something is on my mind in the kitchen, I like to see what input and wisdom the rest of you can bring to the table. It’s also a sneaky way as a blogger to get you all to talk to me and learn from each other, but don’t tell anyone that.

So my question for you all today is: 

What have you been baking lately?

or, if you aren’t much of a baker (yet), what’s on your list?

My project this past week has been baguettes. I will readily confess that as much as I love it, I’m kind of a vague bread baker and my technique has a lot of room for fine-tuning. Baguettes are my self-challenge right now, because they’re such a simple and honest expression of bread-as-it-should-be that there is nothing for my sloppy baking to hide behind. If I make pizza or pretzels or english muffins, they’re flashy enough or drowned out by toppings or ingredients so that I still look cool if I did a less-than-stellar job on the recipe. But you get out of artisan bread what you put into it: the subtle differences in flavor, color of crust, texture of crumb, shape of the loaf all point to how well the baker let the bread shine at its best.

So that’s my project, because I want to challenge myself as a baker. Maybe you’re at a totally different stage and just need to get a loaf in the oven for the first time. Maybe you have a few “safe” recipes you always do with some success, but it’s time to branch out into other baking projects. Whatever it is, I want you to share it with us here! Tell us about your current bread adventure down in the comments.

ask the readers #2 – what are you baking?

15 thoughts on “ask the readers #2 – what are you baking?

  1. Reply Lena Jul 23, 2012 11:04 am

    Hey Todd!

    How funny you should post this just now: I’m sitting here, waiting for my first ever self-made sourdough bread to rise. (I mean, really self-made: Over the past days the first thing I did each morning was to feed my little bowl of baby dough. ;D)
    I’m really not much of a baker – yet. But at the moment I’m very curious to try out new things, so my list is long! I’m glad I discovered your blog as it seems it might be helping me with quite a few items on that list – especially ciabatta, I’d love to try that! I’m also looking forward to some self-made focaccia and English muffins.

    As far as safe recipes are concerend, I’ve got only one so far that I’ve tried several times and it has never failed me: pretzel sticks. (I mean those large, soft ones you really get everywhere in Germany.) Also, the honey bread I tried a few weeks ago went really well. I shall make it again to verify. ;)

    Love your site! Keep up the good work and have a lot of fun playing around in your kitchen!^^

    Lena

    • Reply Todd Jul 23, 2012 11:59 am

      Thanks Lena! Care to share the recipes for those pretzel sticks and honey bread? Maybe others would like to try them!

      I’m excited about your sourdough. I keep my mother culture in the fridge for when I need it (which is pretty often). It’s such a satisfying experience to make bread from your own starter, I think.

      • Reply Lena Jul 24, 2012 2:11 am

        Hello again! :)

        Here comes a long comment since I don’t have a food blog myself on which I could post the recipe, but for all those who would like to try: These are my favourite homemade soft pretzel sticks:

        In a saucepan, bring 130 ml of water to a boil, reduce heat and melt 75 g of butter in it. Pour into a large bowl together with 130 ml of milk and let cool a little until lukewarm. Dissolve half a cube of fresh yeast (21 g) in the liquid, then add 500 g of (wheat) flour, a teaspoon of salt, and knead everything until you get a smooth and rather firm dough. Cover the bowl and let rest for about 45 minutes (until the dough has almost doubled in size). Form a roll and cut into 12 pieces.
        Preheat the oven to 180 °C (360 °F).
        Bring 1 1/2 liters of water to a boil in a saucepan of at least 20 cm in diameter. Add 2 tbsp. of baking soda. (Be careful of the sudden foam!) Flatten each of the twelve pieces of dough and roll them up to form a stick. Place them in pairs into the lye (do you call it that in English??) and take them out again as soon as the swim on the surface (takes 5 – 10 seconds). Place the sticks onto a baking sheet lined with parchment, cut them lengthwise about 1/3 inch deep, and drizzle them with coarse salt.
        Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes.

        The salt is must for the traditional kind – although I know a lot of people for whom it has become a tradition to scrape off the salt before they eat these. ;D Instead of salt you may also use some grated cheese (which I love!) Or you can add some bacon bits before you roll up the dough – in which case you should cut the sticks deep enough to reach the bacon and you should definitely add cheese.

        Hope you enjoy these! :)

        The honey bread I made is from this website: http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/ramadan/africanrecipes/recipes/food/views/Honey-Bread-354650

        But you should DEFINITELY look through the comments and use the corrections in there. ;)

        Have a beautiful day everyone!

        Lena

        P.S.: The sourdough bread was incredible! I’m definitely hooked! :D

      • Reply Todd Jul 24, 2012 8:16 am

        Awesome. Thanks for sharing! Lye is a different kind of alkaline (base) that is sometimes used for industrial pretzel making. You can get it for home cooking, but most recipes I’ve seen recommend baking soda instead like you did… it’s a milder alkaline and a safer one, since you would need gloves and goggles to safely be around lye.

        Everyone try these recipes!

  2. Reply bayareafoodblog Jul 23, 2012 12:01 pm

    I’ve been making cake truffles (or alternately cake balls). There’s something very freeing about baking a cake without buttering the pan and lining it with parchment paper because you will be ripping the cake out and turning into crumbs to make the “truffle.”

  3. Reply Becky Jul 23, 2012 1:31 pm

    I whipped up a pickled peach pie this weekend at the suggestion of my daughter. The results are on my blog. It was good. I will definitely be pickling more peaches just to bake into pies.

    As for bread, I’ve been on a no-knead kick for a few months, throwing rosemary & black olives into almost every loaf. I haven’t gotten tired of it yet, but I think the other people that live in my house (my family) are.

    • Reply Todd Jul 23, 2012 4:04 pm

      I don’t know if I’ve ever had pickled fruit. How does a pickled peach pie taste compared to a “normal” peach pie?

      I don’t do “no-knead” per se, but I’ve really enjoyed doing more “slack” or wet doughs… harder to work with, but pretty enjoyable results.

  4. Reply Colleen Jul 23, 2012 6:36 pm

    The baguettes look wonderful. I was hoping you would share the recipe. I tried making some a few months ago and the dough did not keep it’s shape. It kind of just flattened out. This is my first time on your blog so if your recipe is here somewhere then I’m blind. LOL!! If not… are you willing to share? begging on my knees. :)

    • Reply Todd Jul 23, 2012 7:05 pm

      Hey, glad you’re trying out some artisan bread! If the dough is flattening out too much, it either means it’s too wet, or the gluten isn’t developed enough. Make sure you’re using a good bread flour (not all-purpose) and really taking the time to work the gluten fully.

      I haven’t posted a baguette recipe because I’m still learning, but the recipe and technique are from Peter Reinhart’s “Artisan Bread Every Day” if you wanted to try it in the meantime.

      Thanks for stopping by, Colleen!

  5. Reply oukay Jul 23, 2012 8:23 pm

    The baguettes look yummy. I have a homegrown batch of sourdough that is hibernating in the refrigerator right now. It produces wonderful bread, but it is so hot now in SW Fla that it is hard to get the proper timing on the risings. I will keep my starter alive until things cool down. Then back to baking!

    • Reply Todd Jul 23, 2012 8:29 pm

      I’ve had pretty good success over the past few batches with shaping the loaves and letting them rise in the fridge. Maybe you could try that to help your timeline a little; you can bake them when the moment’s right for you. I agree with the heat issue though, Virginia’s been pretty toasty lately as well.

  6. Reply GG from Quieting Life Jul 24, 2012 2:11 pm

    Not much time for exploratory baking right now, what with trying to keep up with work AND the garden, but homemade burger buns have become a must: http://www.quietinglife.com/2012/07/a-better-burger-bun.html

    About to start another batch tonight!

    Love your blog, love what you’re doing in the world. : )

  7. Reply Maureen Jul 30, 2012 8:30 am

    I’ve been making pizza crust, think I’ve made about 6 or 7 this past weekend alone. Besides pizza cherry chocolate cake, peanut butter chip brownies & hamburger buns. I think this coming weekend I will need to take a break! dairy-freekitchen.blogspot.com

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