Alaska Sourdough Bread

Alaskan MG SD3

Over a period of time, one gets comfortable with certain formulae – whether its with dealing with social situations or baking bread! 🙂 I’ve played with bread for a while now and I’ve gotten comfortable with the Tartine formula. Felt very sticky once upon a time. But, the more I’ve played, the easier it’s got. And then there’s the 1:2:3 formula – another delightful formula that’s less sticky and that’s given me consistent results. But, one thing I’ve always steered away from are the long, overnight, fermentation formulae. I’ve somehow associated long ferments with strong sour tones and no one at home is a fan of sour breads (me included). And I’ve always put off experimenting on these, partly because of my misplaced belief and partly because Ive always been able to make time for baking sourdough bread (about 7 – 8 hours from start to end, in small batches of time).  But all this changed when I came across Teresa Greenway’s Alaska Sourdough Bread. It’s one of the easiest formula’s I’ve played with and perhaps an easier recipe to start with than the Tartine. And let’s face it – its always awesome to have a freshly baked loaf of bread for breakfast!

Here are a few experiments (that’s just me – can’t help experimenting all the time) So, here goes:
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Fresh Coriander and Coconut Milk Bread

Maybe it’s in my genes. I’ve always had a weak spot for food cooked with anything related to coconuts. And I’ve been meaning to bake with coconut. So, instead of using water, I used coconut milk and to balance the heady, sweet aroma of coconut milk, I added some coarsely chopped, fresh coriander stalks. My favourite Tartine method, needs me around during the first 3 hours and that works on days that are free and I have often felt the need for another method that gives me more time to do more – and that’s how this method evolved. Mix. Knead. Leave it to ferment for 3 hours. Shape. Leave it to proof for 2 hours. Bake! A lot more time in between to do other stuff. 🙂

From some background reading that I did earlier, I figured that the coconut flavour tends to ‘evaporate’ after the bread is baked. So I used some thick coconut milk along with some coconut oil to ensure that the coconut flavour stays. So here it is – Fresh Coriander and Coconut Milk Sourdough Bread. This one was steam baked on terracotta tiles using a San Francisco culture. The coconut oil that I used in the dough ensured a crisp, soft crust and the fresh coriander stalks leant a crunch to the other-wise soft crumb. The bread smells like heaven on a plate. I did say that I had a weak spot for Coconut na? 🙂

Coconut Milk and Coriander SD 1

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Garlic and Walnut Herb Bread

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It’s been a while since I’ve been obsessed with bread leavened with wild yeast. The more I read about the benefits of ‘natural’ or ‘sourdough’ bread – the more difficult it gets for me to play with commercial yeast. But, once in a while, I succumb to the convenience of a quick bake (under 4 hours) compared to a minimum of 9 – 10 hours required for the gentler sourdough bread. Having eaten a lot of the naturally leavened bread, I find the bread made with commercial yeast tasting flat – almost tasteless. And that seemed like a perfect opportunity to make some flavoured bread. So, here’s an experiment in aromatics and texture. Garlic, oregano, basil, milk and coconut oil combined to create an aroma that was sweet! And the chunks of walnut buried in the crumb added a nice crunch to the otherwise pillowy soft texture contributed by the milk in the dough. Here goes:
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Cypriot Herbed Olive Bread

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I’ve always pre-heated the Dutch Oven (DO) for 45 minutes before transferring the dough into it and when I saw a recipe that didn’t ask for pre-heating the DO, my curiosity got the better of me. Moreover, with ingredients like EVO oil, black olives, fresh coriander, fresh mint and fresh spring onion leaves, this seemed like a delicious, savoury bread with contrasting flavours. And my curiosity was well rewarded – everyone @ home loved this bread and this recipe gets added to my list of ever-expanding favourites. The bread has a thin, crackling crisp crust with a gorgeous sheen and an olive and herb studded crumb that’s soft due to the generous amount of EVO oil. Here you go:
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Sweet Potato and Toasted Hazelnut Pugliese Bread

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I love experimenting and if you’ve seen some of my posts you’d know that by now. And while I’m extra partial to ‘real’ breads, I also love breads that have unusual ingredients like vegetables. I’ve played around with sweet potato bread and I love what the potato does to the texture. So while exploring ratios and ingredients on the web, I came across this recipe on the Fresh Loaf. At 85% hydration, this was a challenge, but then – what the hell! Earlier, while rummaging the fridge, I had discovered some hazelnuts and when I saw the recipe, the dots connected! I concluded that I could toast the hazelnuts and add them to the bread – just for kicks. 🙂 For those of you interested in Bakers math this is 70% APF, 17% Bread flour, 10% WWF, 3% Rye flour, 22% Sweet potato, 85% water, 2.5% salt, 1% Yeast and 8% hazelnuts. This is easily going to be one of my favourites.

Pugiliese Bread, from Puglia in South Italy, has a high hydration dough resulting in large holes in a well structured crumb, and a well-developed, crunchy crust. While it looks like a Ciabatta, it is heavier and is typically made with a higher gluten flour. The Pugliese is typically shaped as a Batard (oval), and slashed with a single cut running lengthwise. I chose to let my Pugliese be a free form loaf without any scoring. Here’s how you can bake one.

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Potato and Saffron Bread

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The folks at home are tiring of my insatiable need to make ‘real’ bread – that’s with just flour, yeast, salt and water. It’s not that they don’t enjoy the bread – it’s just that they find it a tad chewy the day after (despite all my valiant attempts to crisp up the crust in the oven or lightly toast it on a pan). I like my bread a bit chewy. I enjoy the flavours that gets extracted from the chewing process and I now understand why cows just spend their days chewing. 🙂 My parents are old and Mom in particular has her grinders removed so it must be real hard on her coping up with all my experiments. So, I felt it was time to switch tracks and get into some enriched breads. And I’ve been meaning to try this recipe for long. Was a sensory delight. The potato gives this bread a moist and springy texture. The saffron adds an aromatic edge and a gorgeous, rich golden hue that’s hard to beat. Here you go –
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Sea Salt dusted Onion and Rosemary Focaccia

IMG_2013 It’s been a while since I’ve been experimenting with whole wheat loaves and they’ve been elusive. There are a few that make me feel I’m beginning to get a handle on them and then there are a few that make me want to tear my hair out in frustration. So, to get over the whole wheat hangovers, I indulged in one of my favorite Italian flat breads – the focaccia. Focaccia – with its soft springy texture and it’s gorgeous dimpled surface. I’ve always loved it for the sheer simplicity and the liberty it provides to play with the toppings. Every time I baked one, I’ve always felt like the surface was a canvas on which I could paint and plant ingredients to create something I’ve never created before. And best of all, this is a whole lot easier than it looks. Here goes. (more…)

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Tomato and Duck Sausage Pizza

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My earliest memories of pizza are from the family’s days in Madras – that was before it became Chennai. Pizza was just about gaining popularity during the mid 90’s and of all the brands available – Chef Express used to be the family favourite. My palate used to have a pronounced Indian bias during those days and I found their pizza’s ‘punchy’ when compared to the rest. Almost 18 years later, in 2013, a new benchmark for pizza’s was set – when Sudha and I had a 3 week holiday in Italy. I was startled and amused to see how simple their pizza’s were compared to the commercial ones available here. They were full of fresh flavours and the crusts were always delightful. One particular pizza that we both relished at a trattoria in Palermo, Sicily was a simple pizza with anchovies. There was something magical about the simplicity and freshness that made we wish the pizza wouldn’t end. (more…)

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Chilli and Cheddar Loaf

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I’ve always been a sucker for doing things the way it used to be done – ages ago. An electric oven is good but when I see the the kind of crusts flaunted by breads that come from traditional wood-fired brick-lined ovens, I always feel envious. So, last weekend Sudha and I trooped to an outlet close by that sells terracotta tiles and after some exploring, I walked away with 5 tiles that cost me virtually nothing (Rs.40/-). So, here’s the first of my experiments in baking hearth*-like breads in my electric oven.

This one is an enriched* Chiilli and Cheddar loaf.
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