Tag Archives: yeast

Pita bread: Portland

5 Jun

I might never buy pita bread again. This was such an easy recipe (meaning not too time-consuming for a yeast bread), and the results were pretty much better than any store-bought pitas I’ve ever encountered. One note before we continue: You’ll notice that toward the end, the pictures get pretty low-def. That’s because my camera died, and my phone had to suffice. Cause evidently I cannot keep any of my electronics charged lately.

Above are the most important (and pretty much only) ingredients (minus the sugar for the yeast).

First, we dissolve some yeast in water and sugar, y’know, so the pitas puff into a pocket when they bake.

Next, we add the flour SLOWLY and use a dough hook to knead it into an elastic dough. Lesson: DO NOT accidentally turn mixer to high speed. Flour everywhere.

Now to let it rise. An hour and a half later and you’re done. So, confession time: This is actually the second batch I started. The first, I started, left to rise, and then ran out of time. So it sat on the top of my fridge for two days before I decided to trash compost that crap (this is Portland after all). What is the point of this story? Oh yes, I’m pretty sure my first batch rose a little higher than this one. Did it affect the quality of the bread? If I knew more about food science, I would probably be able to answer this question.


Nothing is more satisfying and sometimes frustrating than rolling out dough. It was super easy to work with, though (poetry).

And after taking practically no time at all to bake (I had to keep a super close eye on them, and some of them still got a bit too chewy), they were puffed and golden.

I’m pretty proud of how these turned out. And I’ve been eating them for lunch all week (not gobbling them all at once like I usually do with things I make), so that’s a positive development.


King Cake: Denver

4 Apr

Whelp. I hate to start my post out with this admission: I didn’t really like my creation, this time around. I ventured off Nora’s beaten path and sought my own recipe, eventually settling on one which I found on Epicurious. The filling was a magical mix of pecans and bourbon found on this Food Network recipe.  I’m not sure if it was my chosen recipe, the altitude in Denver, or just my poor cooking that caused the downfall of this cake. Maybe it was a combination of the three.  It just came out very, very dry – more on this as we go along. However, I ate the filling with a spoon while I stuffed the cake The filing was very good.

I followed my recipe to the tee – however, even just as I mixed the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, it seemed too dry. I was concerned about this, as it didn’t seem moist enough to even rise, but I kept going because I’ve never made a King Cake before (or even eaten King Cake before).  Here my dough is, all mixed together.

Lo and Behold, it did rise, but not nearly as much as I thought it would:

It was still very dense at this point. Uh oh, I thought.  I punched it down and preheated my oven.  The dough still seemed dry. And tough. F***********, I thought.  Because I wanted my cake to be filled (and my Epicurious recipe just braided the dough), I made my filling (MMM) and rolled my dough into a blob rectangle.

In the filling went!

Then, I rolled my cake back up, like a jellyroll, and shaped it into a circle. Kind of. As you can tell, by this point, my cake seemed like a comedy of errors to me. So, I went with it. I cut some strips into the cake to vent/add some semblance of aesthetic quality, and into the oven it went.

While it baked, I got excited about using my Mardi Gras colored sugar, which I bought ultra-cheap at the grocery store. I have a ton of green, purple, and gold sanding sugar now, so even if this cake was a wash, I consider this a serious win.

I whipped up some powdered sugar/milk glaze and iced my cake. SANDING SUGAR!

Unfortunately, when we bit into it, the cake was ultra-dry. Like, cement-in-your-mouth, get-me-a-glass-of-milk dry.  Maybe it’s because I’m not Catholic. It looked (kind of) pretty, though.  At least there’s that.

Challenge #10: Mardis Gras King Cake

21 Feb

If it hasn’t become supremely evident by how excited I get around various holidays, I like themed baking. A lot.

And with yesterday being Mardi Gras, what could be more appropriate than a classic carnival baked good.

I’d never heard of a King Cake before a couple weeks ago, but they are THE cake for Fat Tuesday. Basically, it’s a yeast cake with icing and Mardi Gras-colored sugar (see below).

The baby figurine evidently has something to do with the holiday’s religious origins, but now whoever finds it in their piece must make the cake the next year.

No matter its origins, I got my inspiration from this Food Network recipe. Emeril also has his own variation, so that should give us a good idea of how it’s done.

Brioche: Portland

3 Oct
There’s a reason why everything Julia Child made tastes amazing: butter. And with a bunch of Tillamook butter, this bread gets even more flaky and pastry-like.
Because I’m a nerd, I wanted to see where the term “brioche” came from, so I looked it up on good old Merriam Webster. Here’s what I found.

light slightly sweet bread made with a rich yeast dough

French, from Middle French dialect, from brier to knead, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German brehhan to break

First Known Use: 1826

Makes sense, right? You have to knead the dough substantially to get all the butter to integrate properly, and it does indeed break a bit on the top when it’s done baking. Interesting that it was “first used” in 1826, though I’m assuming that’s because there weren’t many cookbooks before that time.

This recipe doesn’t take a whole lot of ingredients, but the trick is the timing of the thing. With four rounds of rising, including the initial sponge, this can take more than 24 hours. I started yesterday before going on a hike so the dough could have all day to rise.
It’s a bit messy without a KitchenAid or a doughhook mixing device (and my mixer is wholly inadequate), so I decided to use my hands. I figured this is the way things used to be done anyway, so all I can do is make it more authentic, right? Maybe. Hand-mixi
ng dough is fun, yet sticky. It got all over everything, especially my hoodie, my computer and my mouth.
The best part of the whole hours-long process, though, was integrating the butter (one and a half sticks’ worth). I appreciated the phrase “beat it into submission,” which I promptly did with my trusty coffee thermos (having not yet acquired a rolling pin). I will probably use this method in the future for softening butter because it brought it to the perfect consistency without melting it or making it oily. I actually appreciated not having a stand mixer for this part because it was fun to feel the textures and watch everything come together. Sometimes I forget how much of a sensory adventure cooking can be.

Then, the waiting game began. This is the dough before the first rise. I enlisted Eileen’s help to transfer it from the top of the fridge to inside the fridge while I was gone, and then I left it to chill out overnight.
The next morning, I woke, let it rise for another couple hours, and then set our gas oven to 25 degrees below what the recipe called for. And sadly, the loaves still turned out brown. But that’s part of trial and error, I suppose, and regardless, they taste delicious! I’m glad I gave them plenty of air time to mitigate all that yeast.
Look at those beauties! I think I could’ve made three wee loaves out of this, but I only have one loaf pan and a square pan, so I decided to go for a big and a small. We might share some with the neighbors, or I might make a big batch of French toast.
Honestly, though, we’ve been enjoying eating it simply with just a wee bit of fake butter. For all the long hours that went into it, brioche turned out to be pretty darn successful.

Brioche: Denver

2 Oct

Mmm, Brioche. I love fresh-baked bread, so I am all about this one.  Plus, I’ve been reading this awesome book called “The Science Of Good Food” (TSOGF), and I am learning all kinds of fun, sciencey things.  I love cooking and I love science, so why not?  I’ll pass some factoids along as I do this.

I started by making the sponge, like our source recipe told me to. I overheated my milk, annoyingly, and I didn’t want to kill my yeast by making my liquid too hot so I had to wait for it to cool.  Once my sponge was assembled, I started to worry; it didn’t seem to make much “sponge” at all, and the extra cup of flour that I sifted on top of it was thick around the sides, as opposed to “sprinkled”…I mean, does this look right to you?:

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Anyway, trust in the process, right? I let it sit and rise for 30 minutes, and while I did so, I read about yeast bread-making.  For example, I was reminded that yeasty beasties are happiest at 95 degrees Fahrenheit (call back to my sophomore genetics class, right?), so that is the temperature at which doughs rise most rapidly.  I know from making challah bread that if you let it rise in the fridge, rising takes longer but bread will be tastier, but I didn’t know exactly why until I read TSOGF: “A fast-rising dough can develop unpleasant yeasty aromas and an abundance of unwanted by-products of yeast metabolism, like alcohols.  Lowering the temperature extends the rise, diminishes off-flavors, and encourages more desirable flavors.” NEAT.  By the time I was done learning about our lovely friends Saccharomyces cerevisiae, it was time to attend to my sponge. And, lo and behold, the flour on top had cracked, so I guess I did something right.

So, I incorporated all of my other ingredients in as directed, and mixed and mixed. Once my dough was cohesive, I decided to start kneading (instead of “mixing” with a machine, like the source recipe says) to get that gluten goin’! Gluten is is the largest composite protein molecule in the world! It’s made out of the two wheat proteins gliadin and glutenin, which get suspended in water (and thus sticky).  When they get mushed around, gluten forms big sheets and strands which is what makes bread (and cake and muffin etc) texture.  HOWEVER, I am honestly a little skeptical about how much our source recipe wanted me to knead this dough, because it’s my understanding that brioche shouldn’t be as chewy as, say, whole-wheat bread. It’s cake-like, right?  I didn’t want my bread to be too tough, so I didn’t knead it for the full 15 minutes.

I don’t have a bread hook or a stand mixer, so I mixed mostly by hand.  I knew that kneading bread had to do with forming gluten strands from the flour, but I’d never thought about air incorporation. According to TSOGF, “The more you knead, the more [incorporated air] is dispersed throughout the dough. For an even finished texture, you want a fine network of tiny air bubbles.” Neat-o. After I mixed in the other ingredients, I mixed in my butter. I was pretty mystified about why I was supposed to mush it all up, so I just kind of worked it over with a fork. I beat it in with my mixer, and then went back to using my hands.

Once I was satisfied, I put it in my oiled bowl, covered it, and went to the gym. Gotta pre-work off this french toast. Sweet dreams, yeasty beasties. Do work:

Before rise 1:

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After rise 1:

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I punched it down, covered it, and put it in the fridge for four hours.  Blah blah. It rose, and I punched it down again etc, then got it into some loaf pans! Mine actually didn’t make that much dough; it looked like I only had enough for two loaves (the humanity!), so I split it in half and got it in there. By this point, it was about 10:00 on a Saturday night, and we were about to go out, so I figured I’d let them rise overnight in the fridge to lower the odds of yeasty byproducts.  I covered the pans, put them in the fridge, and tried to forget about them until the next morning.

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My alarm went off at 7 the next morning, and I awoke to a slight headache that was easily compensated for by excitement for brioche.  I got my pans out of the fridge, and they looked beautiful!

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A quick egg wash, and into the oven they went.  I stayed up for the half-hour they baked, got them onto cooling racks, and went back to bed.  Lazy Sundays ftw! Here they are, cooling their wee jets.

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The bread turned out delicious, (if a little dense, to be honest). It makes BOSS toast…but, most importantly, my brioche french toast was ungodly good. (Yes, that is a mimosa in the background.)

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If I hadn’t been making french toast out of these, though, I think I would have shaped my dough like this. Aren’t those cool?

Challenge #2: Brioche

28 Sep

I’ve been wanting to try brioche for ages, and since it’s my turn to suggest a recipe, here we go! I am so excited. It seems similar to challah, my favorite bread to bake, so I will take the adventure and drag NJ along with me.

Plus, The Boyfriend’s only day off work for the next week and a half is this coming Sunday; I thought some brioche french toast might be in order, no? We’re planning to take a long bike ride that afteroon, so the calories don’t count.

Our source recipe is a modified Julia Child recipe from the Amateur Palette.

Thumbs up. Let’s do this!

dat recipe