Category Archives: Bread making

ABOUT PANETTONE AND SOURDOUGH

Panettone’s popularity round the world keeps on growing and I have seen various packages of imported Italian Panettone in select shops. Panettone is traditionally eaten during the Christmas and New Year holiday period in Italy. Christmas is close.

Panettone was made famous and affordable when it was commercially produced (from the 1920’s) and railed all over Italy and now in many parts of the world.

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The cheaper versions of light textured Panettoni (plural of Panettone) that you may be familiar are made with commercial yeast. The artisan and much more expensive varieties of Panettone are made with natural yeasts using the same traditional principles as making bread by the sourdough method.

When I first started playing around making bread at home I used commercial yeast (called lievito di birra in Italian) and my father used to remind me of how his mother made bread – she always saved a bit of uncooked dough from the loaf she was shaping, keep it in a jar with a lid and use it in the next batch of dough. He said that she never used commercial yeast. He was Sicilian and full of stories. He used to tell me about companion plantings and the effects of lunar cycles on plant germination, growth, and development.

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But thinking myself a modern woman, most of the time I doubted the folk lore. It was only years later that I learned about natural leavening and how my grandmother was using lievito madre, ‘mother’ or a ‘starter’ in her baking –  this is the wild yeast mixture that develops bacterial and lactic ferments that promote natural leavening. It is what imparts the bubbles in the texture of the dough and contributes to the characteristic aroma and flavour found in sour dough bread.

I like artisan breads – handmade and hand-shaped sourdough breads made with quality ingredients and integrity in bakeries like Zeally Bay Bakery. It is based in Torquay, but there are stockists in Melbourne and in some parts of regional Victoria.

‘Like many great things, sourdough requires time, skill and patience’

The above quote is from Zeally Bay’s website. John and Jan Farnan began making quality sourdough breads on a small scale in 2007. John, his son and a team of dedicated bakers have continued to develop an entire range of baked goods using Australian, certified, biodynamic and organic ingredients and applying traditional methods for making sourdough.  The long fermentation process used in sourdough breads has many health benefits. Of interest is that the bakery is using the natural leaven culture that was began in 1981.

The reason that I mention Zealy Bay is that I have been privileged over time to try a whole range of their breads including their brioche and Easter buns and recently the Panettone that the bakery has been perfecting in time for Christmas… and it is great.

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It was fragrant and had complex flavours, a result of using high-quality, natural ingredients and a long fermentation process. I could taste the natural flavours of the yeast, flour, eggs, butter and the fruit.  Panettone made with sourdough if wrapped well, will remain fresh for days and just like in good bread, the flavours will mature and develop.

Being certified organic is a guarantee that the ingredients do not contain GMO’s, chemical pesticides or result in land degradation.

So, if you plan to have Panettone for Christmas it is worth considering if you will buy a local or imported one or make one at home?

The more affordable and commercially produced Panettone made by large production companies is bound to have preservatives and artificial flavours.  If it is imported, you will have no way of knowing when it was baked and how it was transported.

The more expensive range of imported Panettoni are very likely to taste better than the cheaper versions. They are also more likely to have been made using the sourdough method – the older and more traditional method of making Panettone. Panettone is no longer just made in Milan. There are regional varieties made by artisans using local variations – for example some may have saffron, chestnuts, chocolate, figs rather than sultanas. The Sicilian versions are likely to contain higher amounts of citrus fruit, (this is grown extensively in Sicily). The artisan Panettoni may have been baked not as long ago as the more commercial ones and their expense may also reflect the cost of having been transported in faster and better climate-controlled conditions.

Few Italians bake Panettone at home and this is not surprising. Making Panettone at home requires patience and is a laborious process. It requires quite long leavening times over several days and three consecutive stages of mixing and kneading. You need good quality, gluten-rich flour to “support” such a rich dough.

The ‘mother’ or ‘starter’ has to be made well ahead of time and has to be mature, in strength, with the right degree of acidity. The bacteria contained in it must be nourished for fermentation, so every 3-4 days it is necessary to “refresh” the mother’s yeast and add some flour and water.

Ideally while it cools, the Panettone should be hung upside down to stretch and form a dome. Knitting needles are inserted all the way through the bottom half of the panettone between two objects of equal height or over a large saucepan and left to stretch at least six hours.

Do you really wish to do this?

BREAD

Bread can be the perfect accompaniment for almost everything, but I particularly like eating it with cheese.

I have been staying in Paris and Alsace I have been making the most of of both.

I like artisan breads – handmade and hand-shaped breads of all shapes and sizes, thin baguettes with a maximum crust, two kilo loaves cut to size by weight –preferably dense,  and moist sourdoughs with a crusty outer and a chewy centre.

I like bread made with stone milled flours, whole grain breads with everything grainy from the larger sunflower and pumpkin seeds to millet, flax and poppy seeds,  all wholesome breads.

Those breads made with rye flour are almost always my favourites especially pains aux noix laden with walnuts.

I have always particularly liked heavy rye breads – the moist, sturdier breads flavoured with caraway and the heavy textured kind……and I could not have wished for better rye breads than the ones I sampled in Copenhagen and Malmö. 

I am sure that I could taste orange rind, fennel seeds, caraway seeds and cardamom in the bread in the photo above.

One of the only times I  like the drier, white bread is when I am eating tomatoes drizzled with a good extra virgin olive oil or a sweet gorgonzola. The bread in Northern Italy was perfect for this.

The following recipe is very easy to make and achieves a moist grainy textured bread. Although  there are no additional flavours in the recipe any of the following flavours can be added to the mixture – grated orange rind, fennel seeds, caraway seeds and powdered cardamom.

Lionel Vatinet is a successful artisan baker. He joined France’s prestigious artisans’ guild, Les Compagnons du Devoir, at age 16. After apprenticing with respected French and  European bakers for 7 years he gained the title of Maitre Boulanger (Master Baker).  He  is preserving the ancient art and science of bread baking in his bakery La Farm Bakery from North Carolina (of all places!).

 From A Passion for Bread: Lessons from a Master Baker

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup rye berries, rinsed and drained
  • 5 1/4 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup millet, rinsed and drained
  • 1 envelope (1/4 ounce- 7.5 gm) active dry yeast
  • 4 cups whole-grain rye flour
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 2 tablespoons fine sea salt
  • 1 1/4 cups rolled oats
  • vegetable oil, for greasing

In a small saucepan, cover the rye berries with 2 cups of the water and bring to a boil. Simmer gently over moderately low heat until all of the water has been absorbed and the rye berries are al dente, about 40 minutes. Spread the rye berries on parchment paper and let cool completel

Meanwhile, in another small saucepan, cover the millet with 1 cup of the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low and simmer until all of the water has been absorbed and the millet is halfway to tender, about 12 minutes. Spread the millet on parchment paper and let cool completely.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, mix the yeast with the remaining 2 1/4 cups of water and let stand until foamy, 10 minutes. Add both of the flours and the salt and mix at low speed for 5 minutes. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes. Mix in the cooled rye berries and millet along with 3/4 cup of the rolled oats. Scrape the dough into a greased large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm spot until doubled, about 2 hours.

Scatter the remaining 1/2 cup of oats on a work surface and scrape the dough onto them. Roll the dough until coated with the oats, then pat into a large brick shape. Transfer the dough to a greased 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan (23 x 13 x 7cm), loaf pan and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Let stand in a warm spot until slightly risen, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 450°. Bake the bread for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until lightly browned on top and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 200°. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Take out of the mold and let cool completely.

 

AND THEN THERE WAS PERFECTION – Making bread

“Put very simply, sourdough is made by mixing flour milled from the whole grain – dark rye or wholemeal, say – with water and leaving it for a few days until you see the first pinhead-sized bubble of life, as the yeast cells and bacteria exhale and start to puff tiny pockets of carbon dioxide into the mixture.” (Dan Lepard, baker, food writer and more)

This potent wild yeast mixture is sometimes known as  the “mother”… otherwise plainly called the “starter”.  The starter is what imparts the flavour and bubbles that go to making sour dough bread.

And this is the beginning.

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Inspired by a visit to a friend, Randy, who lives in Nottingham, England, my partner Bob decided to try his hand at making sour dough bread. And so he started with the starter, which bubbled away quietly but was  fed regularly.

It was mixed with good quality organic flour, left, fed and fed again. From this a “sponge” was made by mixing the starter with flour and water. The sponge is also known as the leaven.

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Add more flour to the sponge and then there is sticky dough.

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And more sticky dough.

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And more dough. Perhaps it was too sticky?

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So there was more dough proving.

Risen loaf in tin

And there was more bread.

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There were breads of different shapes. There was even bread in our freezer.

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Some loaves lacked salt. Others were too dense. Some looked like cake.

Baked loaf on cooling rack

The smells of bread proving and bread baking wafted through our apartment. This must have made our neighbours very jealous.

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This dough looked right!

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Given enough time, it was worked into a shape that could be pulled into a loaf .

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The loaf was placed into a basket to prove.

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It  rested, and then rose and rose again.

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Bob placed the dough on a heated pizza stone and made a couple of slashes on top of the dough: this is also called “scoring”. Breaking the surface of the dough  creates a weak spot in the bread as it expands and prevents the bread from splitting. It also helps to make the bread attractive.

The loaf looked great in our oven.

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SUCCESS….and it was just right.

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Bob’s passion for bread making began in a kitchen in  Nottingham.

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Randy has adapted recipes from Dan Lepard’s book, The Handmade Loaf.

He uses a basket with a liner to prove his bread. It is heavily coated with flour.

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Randy is no ordinary bread maker.

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He is Randy of the Bagel Boys who once baked great bread in North Adelaide.

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This is before he went to live in Nottingham.  Now he bakes good bread for himself, his household and his house guests in his kitchen.

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While  the bread making demonstration went on, one of the dogs slept. She’s used to this baking.

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Randy uses a Le Creuset cast iron saucepan to bake the bread. It starts off  with a lid. The lid is removed towards the end of baking so that the top of the bread can brown. Here is the bread in the oven. It is nearly ready.

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As you would expect, Randy has perfection every time.

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Thank you Randy  for the demonstration in your kitchen and all of the  tutorials and  the bread-making advice you provided to Bob by email from Nottingham to our apartment in Melbourne.

And you are correct Randy, bread making  is just practice, persistence and patience.

No doubt,  Bob will make more bread  in our kitchen.

Bob says:
In baking my loaves, I have adapted the recipes and techniques of my friend and long-time baker, Randy Barber the former Bagel Boy, with that of sourdough virtuoso Dan Lepard, followed by some further advice from a book by Yoke Mardewi, particularly in relation to creating and maintaining the starter, and topping it all off by watching a Youtube video published by Danny McCubbin which showed off the techniques of his baking buddy, Hugo Harrison.
After all that, I’ve got to say my baking is still a work-in-progress, every loaf I’ve turned out so far is something of a surprise, mostly pleasant.
My latest effort was closest to what I’ve seen Randy do in his Nottingham (UK) kitchen.
First, I created a “sponge” made from:
200g of starter
250g of quality white flour
325g of natural spring water
I left the sponge to mature overnight.
The next morning, I added:
330g of flour [ultimately, I think I could have added a little more]
2 teaspoons of salt
I mixed this by hand and let it rest in the bowl for 10 minutes.
I next went through a sequence of mixing, by pulling the dough over itself (here the McCubbin/Harrison Youtube video was instructive) and resting it for 10 minutes another two times.
Then, I turned, pulled and slapped the dough together on an oiled surface for several minutes before letting it rest for 30 minutes.
I repeated the turning, slapping and pulling process, before letting it rest for another hour.
Next step, I turned the dough out onto a floured work-surface, where I did the traditional folding into thirds and turning process, until using the technique demonstrated by Harrison, I worked the dough into a loaf shape which I gently placed in a floured proving basket.
I left that to double in size. When it had risen, I preheated the oven and a pizza stone to about 230°C. Other times, I’ve used a Le Creuset casserole dish. I gently up-ended the proving basket to tip the loaf on to the heated pizza stone and returned it to the oven to bake for about 35-40 minutes above some water in tray for steam.

Once cooked, I left the loaf to cool on an oven rack.

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There is much information from Dan Lepard about bread making on the web.
Dan Lepard’s book, The Handmade Loaf, contains many illustrations and step by step recipes.
This link  for making sourdough bread is from The Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/nov/27/sourdough-recipe-dan-lepard