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Spent the weekend loafing around…

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a bit of a bread junkie.  I absolutely love all of the fabulous rye and multigrain breads that are available here in Germany, but it’s not as easy to find a good, crusty French boule loaf (usually, the best you can find is a baguette).  I’ve made lots of different kinds of bread before, but for some reason (probably because it was easily attainable at the time), I’d never attempted a French bread.  Luckily, this fabulous, incredibly simple Le Creuset recipe that was featured on Simply So Good recently caught my eye on Pinterest, because it’s just too good to miss!

Like the bagels I posted about a week or so ago, I was initially skeptical when I read about how easy this recipe was supposed to be.  There’s NO prepping the yeast.  NO kneading.  None!  Just a quick mix, a night spent proofing on the counter, and a minute or two spent shaping the dough into a ball.  That’s it!  Could it possibly be that simple to re-create the fragrant, crusty boule loaves that I loved to buy at the French bakery years ago?

Simply put, yes!  I was pleasantly surprised when my initial test loaf came out so much better than I ever anticipated.  My house smelled like a French bakery, which was almost enough reason in and of itself to bake this bread!  The crust is thick and crunchy, and the texture is the perfect density for a good boule. The experiment was a success, and life was good.

And then, I thought, “What about other flavors?…”

But I’m getting ahead of myself- let’s begin with the basics!

 

Basic Crusty Bread

Ingredients

  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour (Bread flour seems to work fine, too- I ran out of all purpose last night, so I switched over for today’s dough)
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt (I used kosher salt for most of the batches, but once again, I ran out and went to regular iodized, and it seems to be the same)
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast (I used regular Active Dry yeast)
  • 1 1/2 cups water (The recipe doesn’t specify, but I went with lukewarm water, because that’s what other bread recipes have required)

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast.  The bowl needs to be large enough that it can accommodate rising dough.

  2. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms- it doesn’t need to be pretty, just combined!

  3. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 – 18 hours (overnight works great, and I found that the longer the dough proofed, the larger the finished loaf was).

  4. Heat oven to 450 degrees.

  5. When the oven has reached 450 degrees place an enameled cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes.  (I used my Le Creuset Dutch oven for this, and it was perfect- I only wish that I had a big enough oven to fit two!)

  6. When the pot is safely in the oven, pour the dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball.  (I found that it helped to scrape the dough out with a spatula- just enough to encourage it to let go.  The dough will be sticky, so don’t be stingy with the flour on your hands and work surface!)

    The dough after proofing- it expands a bit, but it's not a huge rise...


  7. Cover your dough ball with plastic wrap and let it set until the 30 minute pre-heat time is up.

  8. Remove the hot pot from the oven, remove the lid, and drop in the dough.  Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.  (There’s no need to grease or oil the pot- the bread won’t stick!)

  9. After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes.  (Because I was baking several loaves, I simply propped the lid next to the pot so that it didn’t cool off and require another pre-heat.)

    After 30 minutes covered...

    After 15 additional minutes uncovered...


  10. Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.   (This step is the hardest one in the entire recipe- waiting until the bread is fully cool before eating it is downright cruel and unusual!)

 

Now, wasn’t that just beautifully simple?  Hard to believe that something so easy could produce something so very, very good!  Of course, I couldn’t let it be too simple- remember those other flavors I mentioned earlier?…

Let’s Go Bouleing!

The following are just a few different flavor mixes that I’ve put together for this beautifully basic boule recipe.  There are also some great suggestions on the Simply So Good blog (in the post AND in the many, many comments), and even that is just the beginning.  The sky’s the limit, so go crazy, and please share your ideas and successes with the group!

A few rules of thumb:

  • Unless you like your bread really chunky, aim for about a cup of mix-ins, give or take a bit.
  • Add any non-liquid mix-ins (fruit, nuts, cheese, herbs, etc.) to the dry ingredients after you’ve whisked them together.  Once added, whisk again to combine before adding liquid.
  • Try to keep the amount of liquid about the same.  If you add honey or a flavoring, subtract the same amount of water.  (I may be totally off base, but I think it keeps the dough from getting too wet…)
  • If you add a liquid, try to combine it with the water before adding to the dry ingredients.
  • Some ingredients may add moisture when baked, so you may want to decrease the water slightly to compensate.

Mixed Berry and Lemon Zest Boule

This one was an instant hit with my youngest kids- they devoured it with butter and blueberry marmelade, and Nathan officially declared it ‘the bestest’!  I also liked it with butter, but I can’t wait to try it in French toast later on…

Dry Mix-Ins:  1/4 cup each of Just Tomatoes dried strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries; 1/4 cup craisins; the zest from one lemon

Wet Mix-Ins:  One tablespoon of honey (subtract one tablespoon of water to compensate)

 


Prosciutto and Cracked Black Pepper Boule

This was one of my favorite flavors from Klinger’s Bread Company in South Burlington, VT, but I always wished that it came in a boule loaf rather than the very skinny baguette that they sell.  It’s fabulous for grilled cheese sandwiches!

Dry Mix-Ins:  1 cup of chopped Prosciutto ham; 2 teaspoons of coarsely ground black pepper (I used the coarsest setting on my McCormick Black Peppercorn grinder)

 


Mixed Seed Boule

This bread could be done with any variety of seeds, including sunflower, pumpkin, flax, pine nuts, poppy, and sesame.  I opted to use a pre-mixed salad blend of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and pine nuts that I found at our local grocery store.  If you would like to add seeds to the top of the loaf, simply sprinkle them on top of the shaped dough ball before you cover it with plastic to rest before putting it in the pot.

Dry Mix-Ins:  1 cup of assorted seeds with additional to top if desired

 


Apple Cinnamon Almond Boule

Apples.  Almonds.  Bread.  Could it possibly be any better?  This is yummy with butter and a bit of cinnamon sugar on top, but I’m also planning to try French toast with this bread.  I actually caught myself standing next to the oven and sniffing the vents while this loaf baked, because the scent was absolutely phenomenal…

Dry Mix-Ins:  1 cup each of peeled, chopped apple (this was one average apple, I think either Jonagold or Braeburn), tossed with 2 tablespoons of cinnamon sugar; 1/4 cup of sliced almonds

Wet Mix-Ins:  One tablespoon of honey (subtract one tablespoon of water to compensate); 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract (I did NOT subtract water for this, but I leave it to your discretion…)

(Note:  I sprinkled a bit of additional cinnamon sugar over the mixed dough, just for the heck of it.  I’d planned to brush the top of the loaf with melted butter and sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar when I took it out of the oven, but forgot it in the pre-dinner rush.  It’s great without it, but I think it would also be great with it if you’d like to give it a try!)

 


Baby Boules

Once I’d established that this was a great, crusty bread recipe, I realized that it was just right for bread soup bowls!  The full recipe is too big for an individual serving (although it would be great for dips), but by cutting the batch in half, you get a boule that’s just the right size for your favorite soup.  To test the mechanics of the smaller loaf, I mixed up a double batch of the basic boule recipe: 

When it was time to shape the loaves, I emptied the dough out onto my floured bowl and cut it into four portions that I then shaped into balls and covered as usual. 

When you bake the mini loaves, you’ll give them the 30 minutes covered as usual.  For the uncovered portion, I set the timer for 10 minutes and then kept an eye on them until they were the desired shade (usually about 10-12 minutes).  I thought that I could manage to squeeze two mini boules into the pot at once, but I soon discovered that this just wouldn’t work.  Unless you have a bigger pot or an oven big enough for two pots, you’ll have to bake them individually. 

Still, time drain aside, I was very happy with the two mini boules I came out with in the end- they’ll be perfect for our Zuppa Toscana tonight at dinner! 


This is just the beginning of my boule adventures, folks- there are still tons of flavor combinations that I want to test (chocolate chip is proofing as we speak, and I have plans for bacon and cheddar, sun dried tomatoes, Italian herb…), so my oven will definitely be busy.  Please, come back and share any great new combinations that you create so that we can expand our repertoire together!

 
12 Comments

Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Breads and Rolls

 

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Alles Gute zum Fasching!

Alles Gute zum Fasching!

Today we celebrated the final day of Fasching, which is the German equivalent of Carnival or Mardi Gras.  It’s a lot of fun- everyone dresses up, has parties, and eats delicious Berliners and Krapfen (both names for fabulous filled donuts)!  Each year, my oldest son’s school celebrates Fasching with a big parade around base, led by a local band and officiated by the Mayor and Assistant Mayor of Grafenwoehr.  The kids loved being able to wear their costumes almost as much as they loved having an excuse to get out of class and walk around in the sunshine that actually made an appearance today!  (According to our wonderful German Host Nation teacher, “when Angels travel, God makes the sun shine down,” but I have some doubts about how very angelic we were, my own child in particular…)

After the main event, all of the dignitaries gathered for some well-deserved refreshments.  Of course, when the call for American baked goods went out (our cakes and cookies are very different from their German counterparts, so they’re a bit of a rare treat around here), I started making a list of what to bring!  Once I’d finally whittled my wish list from twelve recipes down to three, I ended up making Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Shiny Chocolate Glaze, a fabulous Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake that I found at Odense.com, and one of my all-time favorites, Kransekake Drops.  It was a great day, but let me tell you, I’m completely sugared-out!

Kransekake Drops

Kransekake Drops

Kransekake is a traditional Norwegian cookie that is usually baked in ring forms to make a series of graduated rings that are then stacked into a pyramid with a powdered sugar frosting ‘cement’ and decorated with flags and other trinkets (visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kransekake to find out more).   This is my variation for every-day Kransekake- it’s a lot quicker and more portable than the traditional tower!

Ingredients

  • 1 LB Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 LB Blanched almonds OR 1 LB almond flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 2 TSP Almond extract
  • 3 Egg whites
  • Crisco
  • Farina (Cream of Wheat)

Cooking Directions

  1. Crush the almonds in a blender or food processor until they’re a fine powder (skip this step if you’re using almond flour)
  2. Combine the almonds with the confectioner’s sugar
  3. Whip the egg whites until a little frothy and add the almond extract
  4. Combine the almond/sugar mixture with the egg white mixture
  5. Put the mixture in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight, until hardened
  6. Pre-heat oven to 350*F
  7. Grease cookie sheets with Crisco and line with farina (I line the pans with parchment or aluminum foil first- it makes clean-up MUCH easier!)
  8. Drop balls of dough on the cookie sheet with a cookie scoop
  9. Bake at 350* until a light golden brown, approx. 15-20 minutes (watch the first batch closely, as ovens vary)
  10. Remove cookies from sheet to cool
  11. Drizzle or dip cookies with either melted chocolate chips or sugar glaze (take ½ LB of confectioner’s sugar and slowly add milk until it reaches a spreadable consistency).  I love these with a drizzle of dark chocolate- it balances out the sweetness beautifully!
  12. Store in a sealed container with a piece of white bread, changing the bread every day or so to keep the cookies soft and moist

Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake from Odense.com

Lemon Almond Poppyseed Cake

Originally published at www.Odense.com, a fabulous source for recipes and inspiration!

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1-7 oz box Odense Almond Paste, grated (Sadly, I can’t get Odense Almond Paste over here without considerable planning, so I used an 8 ounce can of almond paste from another company that I can get around the holidays.  It worked just fine, but I really do prefer the Odense if I can get it!)
  • 2 lemons (Depending on size, you may want three lemons to get more lemon rind for your cake)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Scant 1/4 cup poppy seeds (I didn’t go scant, but I’m a poppy seed fan…)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Icing:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4-6 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • Optional: 1-2 drops yellow food coloring

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour fluted pan. (I used a baking spray with flour- MUCH easier with a pan that has a lot of detail!)
  2. Grate 1 tablespoon of lemon rind on smallest hole of grater, being careful not to get the pith (white part of rind). Set rind aside. Squeeze juice and reserve for icing.  (I felt that the cake needed a bit more lemon rind- I used closer to 1 1/2 tablespoons)
  3. In a mixing bowl beat grated Almond Paste, sugar and butter on high speed until well combined.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Beat on high three minutes, or until light colored and fluffy.
  5. Sift flour with baking powder and baking soda. Mix grated rind and poppy seeds into flour. Add flour mixture to batter alternately with sour cream. Beat on low until just combined and smooth. Do not over mix.
  6. Spoon batter into pan, and smooth top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until cake turns golden and a toothpick inserted near cake middle pulls out clean.
  7. Cool cake in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Invert cake on wire rack and cool completely. Drizzle with icing or dust with powdered sugar.
  8. Icing: In a small bowl mix the powdered sugar, 4-6 teaspoons of lemon juice and almond extract until smooth. Add a drop of yellow food color if desired. Drizzle icing around top of cake and let it run down the sides. (Again, I felt a need for a bit more lemon- I just kept adding more juice until the taste was strong enough, and then I added a bit more powdered sugar to get the texture where I wanted it to be.  I also doubled the icing recipe, because there can never be too much lemon glaze!)
  9. For an extra festive touch decorate with marzipan lemons or grated lemon peel. (As seen in the picture above, I went with the lemon peel this time- there wasn’t enough time for marzipan artwork…)
  10. To Store: After completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap. The cake will last three days at room temperature or one week if refrigerated.
  11. To Freeze: Wrap un-iced cake first in plastic and then with foil. Freeze for up to one month.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread with Shiny Chocolate Glaze

For the full Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe, visit my Muffins for the Masses post from last December!

It’s been a busy day of baking, celebration, and running backwards to keep ahead of the kids during the parade while taking many, many pictures, so I’m about ready to call it a night.  I hope that you have a great Fasching, Carnival, Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or whatever else you may call it.  Enjoy, and happy baking!

 
8 Comments

Posted by on February 21, 2012 in Cakes, Cookies

 

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