Category Archives: Recipes

38% Wholemeal Kefir Levain Bread

Sesame Crust Date Kefir Bread

Sesame Crust Date Kefir Bread – this one gets better every time!

For those of you looking for kefir bread formulae, here is what I have been up to. I mostly make the loaf you see above as we both just love it!

I hesitate to call what follows an experiment because home baking is really not very scientific or rigorous as my friend Sally at the Bewitching Kitchen would probably be the first to tell you!

I have no microscope or lab to tell me what is really going on in there, just a basic idea that the kefir is a mixture of yeast and lactobacteria and probably a whole bunch of other things that I don’t know are in there !

I do know from using it and from observation that it is different in many respects from a traditional water and flour fed sourdough culture. The kefir cultures milk primarily, though it can be adapted to use other foodsources,  and is generally slower to do so than an active sourdough unless it is really quite warm. Why use it? Because:

  • I like its tangy taste which is rich and satisfying without being overly sour.
  • It gives me a softer crumb than regular sourdough
  • and it gives me extra calcium for my bones and possibly other nutrients, I like fermented products generally and I don’t like drinking milk very much
  • it is also fairly easy to maintain, tolerant of a wide range of temperatures and suits my baking schedules such as they are

If you culture the milk at a warmer temperature than my ambient temperature which varies from around 14 – 22 C for most of the year then it does go faster, gets very active and produces quite a lot of alcohol smells. I don’t particularly want the alcohol part so I keep the kefir cool and slow.

Most of the recipes for kefir bread that I have seen use some sort of sugar  product to give the kefir easy food.  No recipe for bread really needs sugar for yeast or levain to work, it is a choice you make because you want sweetness in the final product. Sugar in the dough promotes a deep rich colour in the crust and adds a caramel-toned sweetness to it. A sweetness that we don’t maybe register consciously but it is there. Really great bakers can get all that taste by careful selection of flours, manipulating the dough and the bake without adding sugar.

I came to kefir baking via Cecilia  @  thekitchensgarden.com who uses home raised honey in hers, I have been using date syrup in the preferment and this provides the kefir with a reliable and easy form of sugar food and this (as the loaf in the first picture above) produces my favourite of all the kefir breads I have made to date.

I have several friends though who don’t want any sugar in their breads over and above what is in the flour already for dietary and health reasons and so I thought I would work on making the dough without any added sugars.

My first attempts using my usual white stoneground flour just didn’t work well. I made a complete pig’s ear of one dough when I mixed it with all milk, thinking erroneously that this would give the preferment extra sugar.

Bad bread made with too much milk

It didn’t make a nice bread, it had a dense close crumb, and the bottom crust split all round and it had that texture of cooked but spongy heaviness that I dislike in a sourdough.

Just to show you what I mean by a poor crumb...

Just to show you what I mean by a poor crumb…

I have met this problem before making milk sourdough breads, so tend only to use milk as the main liquid in breads leavened with commercial yeast.  If you leave a sourdough mixed with fresh milk for long enough to develop properly you get this really unpleasant sour taste,  I have done that before and that is why I was pleased to find that the milk kefir can be used where fresh milk is not very suitable. It might be different with raw milk that hasn’t been pasteurized but I don’t have easy access to that here.

There is such a wide range of taste when it comes to bread, I am sure some of you happily make sourdough with loads of fresh milk, but I find it unpalatable.

A surprise flower in the stormy weather !

A surprise flower in the stormy weather !

I then tried three variations of preparing a preferment and kept some basic notes as to what I saw and thought.  Each of the three was made with the same quantity of active fermented kefir, and with different flour or treatment.  I hypothesised that as hot water releases sugar in flour, maybe if I mixed some flour with very hot water first and then introduced the kefir to it it would find the sugar more easily and work faster.  I am not sure that it made a significant difference in the end. After 24 hours it did look as if it had more bubbles, but I wasn’t really convinced.

For some reason when I mix kefir with water and straight white flour the resultant preferment always ends up with that acetone/paint stripper smell that I don’t like and this proved the case this time too, so I didn’t make bread from those two as I had tried before with the acetone scented sort and didn’t like the bread it made then. This was more of a check to see if it happened again which it did.

Neat trick to keep track of what is in a bowl seen on the internet

Neat way to keep track of what is going on in what bowl and a memory jogger!

However, the kefir mixed with stoneground wholemeal and water produced a beery/fruity smell which Brian thought was acceptable so I built a test dough with it and baked it off.

It was acceptable to us, tangy but not sour, lean and clean, without any of the butter or syrup that I usually add to our soft kefir loaves. Brian claims that he couldn’t taste much difference, but I thought the crumb was slightly less sweet and the crust was definitely not as gorgeous as when made with the date syrup.

I think the kefir organisms consume most of the date syrup used in the preferment leaving very little sugar in the final dough, but one would have to have a lab to test the bread to know the truth of that, and we are all so inured to hidden sugar tastes in our food that maybe my palate just doesn’t register it as sugar.

So here is a little formula to be going on with… Misky @ The Chalk Hills Kitchen pointed me towards this shortcode for recipes that WordPress now offers. Fiddly or what? What do you reckon to my first attempt at coding? Does it make it easier to read and print? It took me ages and many edits to bodge my way through this. Practice, practice….

38% Wholemeal Milk Kefir Levain Bread

  • Servings: finished loaf weight 400g approx
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38% Wholemeal Kefir Levain

38% Wholemeal Kefir Levain

To make the preferment:-

Day 1

7.30 pm

  • 25g fermented and lively fizzing/bubbling milk kefir
  • 35g room temp water
  • 60g stoneground wholemeal flour with reasonable protein levels i.e. not pastry flour

Mix and leave  in a covered bowl at room temperature for  36- 48 hours   (15°- 19 C)

Check for fermentation during this period (if the preferment is full of good bubbles then use earlier!)

Day 3

3.30 pm

Mix dough with

  • 50g of  above ferment
  • 172g room temp water
  • 80g stoneground wholemeal bread flour (Stanway Mill)
  • 80g white organic bread flour (Stanway Mill)
  • 90g very strong (manitoba type) bread flour (Waitrose/Marriages)
  • Short autolyse ( of about half an hour)  before adding salt
  • 4g salt

Once mixed leave in a covered bowl while the dough is proving, the time this takes will vary according to temperature.

Two short folds at intervals of approx 1 hr rather than intensive kneading are adequate to give the dough shape and structure. Susan Tenney demonstrates dough folding here for anyone who doesn’t know what this means.

7.30 pm

Shape dough and place in banetton, covered on a tray, whatever you prefer.

Leave to prove for another 3 hours. Think about preheating your oven at some point.  Do not expect the dough to puff up like a yeasted dough does when proving. Do a finger test to see if it is ready to bake. If your gentle prod leaves a dent that doesn’t come back after five/ten minutes then bake the bread in your preheated oven.

Prepare dough for oven, slash top etc

Bake at 10 30 pm on a pre-heated tray at 210° C for 38 minutes with steam.

Crumb of 'sugar free' Kefir Levain

Leave to cool on a rack. Cut when the sun shines in the early morning!

Recipe Credit : zebbakes.com 

PS

For kefir grains there are sources on the internet or if you live near someone who has some just ask them nicely if they would mind sharing when they have some spare or trade something you have made or grown. It seems to be getting more popular again so they shouldn’t be that hard to source. If you have serious difficulty let me know by contacting me on Twitter, (Zeb underline Bakes) comments on posts close after a while as old posts collect spam so badly.

Cheese and Leek Toasties

Leeks and Cheese on Kefir Toast3

Inspired by Heidi’s comment about grilled cheese sandwiches  on the cheese and pickle post, I rifled through Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Vegetable book and found a lovely  simple recipe for cheese and leeks on toast which I have customized slightly to use up half a red pepper as well as my leeks. It is the sort of book that if you are an experienced cook and a vegetarian you probably know most of the methods and techniques in it already,  but I like it for its simple layout and clear straightforward recipes. I think, going by this article I just found, HFW is very fond of cheese on toast. Lots more of his ideas here of things to put on toast : – Posh cheese on toast recipes.

Leeks and Cheese on Kefir Toast2

As I was making vegetable soup anyway and sweating leeks, I borrowed a couple of spoonfuls of the leeks from the early stages of the soup to make this treat. I am going to make it again today as we have lots of leeks in our vegetable box this week.

Leeks and Cheese on Kefir Toast4

Pepper and Leek Cheese on Toast for Two

  • 1 medium leek
  • Half a red pepper (capiscum)
  • 50g of favourite cheese
  • 3 spoonfuls of half fat creme fraiche
  • salt and pepper
  • Thyme or favourite herbs
  • Two chunky slices of favourite bread – here I used my kefir date bread with sesame seed crust

Leeks and Cheese on Kefir Toast1

  1. Sweat the sliced leeks and pepper in a little butter or stock on a low heat
  2. Grate cheese and put to one side
  3. Once leeks and peppers are soft and glistening lower the heat
  4. Slice some bread and toast lightly and put the grill on
  5. Add the creme fraiche and mix in
  6. Add about three quarters of the grated cheese and stir well
  7. Season to taste, add thyme
  8. Pile onto warmed bread and divide the remaining cheese between the two slices
  9. Pop under hot grill and cook till bubbly and browning
  10. Eat!

Date Syrup Kefir Bread

Date Syrup Kefir Bread

10th August 2013

Here is one for my kefir buddies!

For those of you reading this for the first time, kefir is a living fermented product made by an organism commonly referred to as a ‘kefir grain’.

Kefir Grain Zeb Bakes It isn’t a grain but a culture in the acetobacter family that includes kombucha and vinegar mother, ginger beer plants and so on,  that looks a bit like a brain or a cauliflower. It grows and lives in milk but is chiefly interested it would seem in the sugars that it finds in there. You can either get kefir grains from a nearby friend who has spare or buy them online from various sources.  I believe you can buy kefir in cartons in some places, I have no idea if that would work to leaven bread as I have no experience of it.

 Once you have some healthy grains, they should last a long time, reproducing and being happy providing you treat them right.  There are various websites devoted to all things kefir if you have a little search. I don’t drink kefir unlike some people, but I do make a sort of soft cheese with it which I love and I bake bread, using it as an alternative to both conventional yeast and sourdough starters.

I have changed the formula I have used previously for the kefir bread to make a pre-ferment which doesn’t separate into a watery layer and a top bubbly layer. I am pleased with the results this new formula gives. The preferment came out looking much more like a regular sourdough ferment though it smells nothing like it.

My formula makes two large 900 gram loaves, so you will need to cut the quantities back if this makes too much bread for you. I have frozen one of my loaves from this bake.

I was inspired by Fran who blogs half a world away in Tasmania at The Road to Serendipity –  she is expert in kefir and its ways.  She juggles her feeding routines between home made soya milk and milk and has found that kefir grains are greedy for her home made date paste. I don’t have any date paste but I do have Basra date syrup* and I thought this might give a lovely colour to the finished loaf as well as be less sweet and insistent in taste as the honey I have been using up to now.

Date Syrup Kefir Bread Crumb shot

We really like this bread. It ticks the box of having a soft open sourdough style crumb, no sour taste (so not one for all you acid bread lovers) a bit of extra calcium for me and a gentle subtle flavour and a lovely colour crumb. It is as good with sliced chicken and garden lettuce as it is for morning toast. I am going to make this one again.

Date Syrup Kefir Bread round

Zeb Bakes Date Syrup Kefir Bread

Started 12 midday Thursday  : room temp 22 ºc

Make a preferment with:-

  • 150g  room temperature water
  • 200g fresh kefir (made with semi skimmed St Helens goats’ milk)
  • 250g  strong (bread) flour
  • 50g Basra date syrup

Mix these well together and leave in a covered bowl for approximately 18 hours in a warm room (20 – 22 C)  at which point it should be bubbling and thick and looking ready to go.

Ingredients for the final dough:-

  • All of the preferment (as above)
  • 850g bread flour ( I used a mix of 350g of Stanway Mill bread flour and 300 g of Waitrose Very Strong and 200g of Carrs bread flour)
  • 282 – 320g  water ( I find the amount of water I need can vary by up to 50g or so)
  • 20g salt
  • 30g melted butter
  1. Using a Kenwood Mixer I put the starter in first, added the water and then the flours and mixed for about three minutes on the lowest speed.
  2. Leave to develop in the bowl for 20 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and trickle the melted butter in while the mixer is going and continue mixing till the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
  4. You may need to adjust the dough with more water if your flour is very absorbent.
  5. (If you mix by hand then go with a more traditional order of ingredients, i.e. mix the water and starter together and add these into your bowl of flour. )
  6. I took the dough out once it was reasonably developed and put it into a big bowl, covered with a teatowel, and left it for about three hours. During this time I folded it in the bowl twice, as much to see how the fermentation was progressing as anything. Folding in the bowl is simply picking up the dough from one side and pulling it out and over the main bulk of the dough, like light kneading except you don’t put it on a board. You can put it on a board. There are no rules here!
  7. Once it was showing good signs of activity and had increased in size by roughly a half. I  weighed it into two equal portions.  Then I split those two portions in the ratio 85:15 using the % function on my scales. If you don’t have one of those, it would be about 135g for the small ball to 765g for the main ball.
  8. With the first portion I made a boule which I divided into four quartiles with a thin dowel rod and made a smaller boule with the small ball and put that in the middle.
  9. With the second portion I made a pointy ended baton and then a plait with the remaining ball which I placed along the top of the dough – because the dough had such a long second prove this didn’t come out quite as I had hoped but I like the effect that it gives anyway. A good way to create a nice looking effect on a loaf if you are finding slashing difficult.
  10. I put both loaves on baking paper on trays and tucked them inside clean binliners to prove.
  11. Second proof time was about three hours. Be patient, these are just as slow as a more traditional sourdough to rise.
  12. I eggwashed the crust with a mixture of egg yolk and kefir whey and sprinkled a few sesame seeds on top for interest.
  13. Bake in a preheated oven (with steam) either on the trays or slide them off onto a baking stone or kiln shelf which is what I use rather than a stone.
  14. Starting at 220 ºC for the first twenty minutes and then dropping back by stages to 190 ºC for the last ten minutes of the bake.  About 40 – 45 minutes in all.
  15. Leave to cool on a rack as normal once you are satisfied the loaf is cooked, a nice hollow sound when you thump it is a good sign.
  16. For a .pdf file of the recipe click here → Date Kefir Recipe.pdf.

Date Syrup Kefir Bread  and Zeb

I was wondering if Fran or anyone else would consider making this using soya fed kefir and see if it performs the same magic trick of leavening the bread. I suppose the next step on from that would be to see how it does with gluten free flours and then all those of you who don’t eat either dairy or gluten would have another trick up your sleeves.  I am not very experienced in the gluten free world, but I know it is very popular these days so it would be good to know if this worked. (* Sept 2013 I tried making a perferment with Doves GF white blend and it ferments it but it is very smelly and sulphorous and I didn’t fancy baking with it, something in it that wasn’t to the kefir’s taste? Wish I was more of a scientist…)

*Basra Date Syrup is available online and you can find it in quite a few shops in Bristol these days, like Bristol Sweet Mart in St Marks Road, Easton.

My camera is away at the menders so hope these pictures give you a reasonable idea of how the bread came out, a borrowed camera is never quite the same.

Date Syrup Kefir Bread 2

 And now you can see how Fran (Narf7) got on with this when she adapted it brilliantly to her vegan kefir by clicking here and visiting her Tasmanian kitchen.

Andrew Auld’s 100% Spelt Bread (a formula from the Loaf in Crich)

100% Spelt Sourdough, the loaf in Crich

Spelt grain belongs to the wheat family of field crops.  It is often described as being an ancient grain or a heritage grain.  Interest in these heritage grains has increased in recent years, both on the part of consumers and amongst researchers into crop genetics with an eye to maintaining a gene reservoir for breeding programmes.  The ancient grains are credited with being more adaptable to poor soils and harsh climactic conditions as well as having attractive nutritional attributes.

Spelt contains gluten and is not suitable if you have coeliac disease. It is claimed that some people find it easier to digest than bread made from more modern wheat; this is something that I am not qualified to comment on. I personally find rye bread easier to digest than wheat bread, but maybe that is because I ate a fair bit of it when I was a child, who knows?

I remember our first encounter with spelt flour vividly; Brian bought a bag home one day and said he was going to make Roman Centurion slipper bread, this was in the days when we really hadn’t done any bread baking at all at home and this was the recipe on the side of the bag. I can’t even remember which brand it was now. We mixed the dough and produced some very flat and rather strange bread that we didn’t like very much, deciding that Roman Centurions probably used it in their boots for extra liners, and the bag of flour disappeared onto the back of the shelf.

Recently I was asked by a friend if I could make them an all spelt loaf and I had to say that I wasn’t very good at making them, so I asked Andrew at the Loaf in Crich for his formula (having seen a lovely photo on Twitter of his loaves, looking all nicely risen with good open slashes) and he kindly shared the recipe and here it is for all to try.

Like so many of the breads and cakes I make I don’t make them over and over again until I get them absolutely right before I write about them here. I am not that sort of blogger. To a certain extent for me, every loaf is a bit of an experiment, I learn (or re-visit the same mistakes!) each time I add water to flour. Even though I have been baking for a handful of years now, the number of loaves I have actually made is probably less than a professional baker would make in a few days.

So after all that preamble – here goes!

Andrew Auld’s Spelt Bread (from the Loaf in Crich)

Andrew’s formula uses a rye sourdough starter to start the whole process off,  which he calls a ‘rye sloppy’.  If you only have a wheat starter then you can convert a small proportion of this to rye over a few days by feeding it with wholegrain rye flour and water instead. I keep both a wheat starter and a rye starter going, I refresh them once a week if I am not using them for baking and keep them in the fridge unless I am planning doing a lot of baking over a period of a few days.  If you are not worried about a small proportion of wheat in your bread then just use your wheat starter.

Spelt Sourdough Biga

The day before you want to bake

1st stage

Mix a biga with

  • 24 g rye starter
  • 80 g water
  • 100 g white spelt flour
  • 100 g wholegrain (wholemeal) spelt flour

Leave in a covered bowl to ferment. The time this takes will depend on how warm it is. I left mine overnight.

2nd stage

  • 640 g white spelt flour
  • 160 g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 80 g orange juice
  • 12 g honey
  • 12 g salt ( I upped this to 15g as I felt it was a bit low for my taste, I wonder if the low salt contributes to the faster proving times, that is something to bear in mind and salt is very much a personal preference)
  • 440 g water
  • 300 g biga (as from the first stage)

Mix all the above together well and leave for three hours to prove, folding the dough twice during that period.

Shape the dough as you like, I proved these in bannetons.  I made three smallish loaves of around 550 g each, then leave for a shortish final prove. I baked these after 45 mins proving in front of a radiator –  a much shorter time than I would usually leave a sourdough loaf on its final prove – and I think that has been my mistake in the past, leaving spelt too long on the final prove, Andrew’s note to me indicated that might be a good way to go.

When experimenting with a dough that is unfamiliar, do make notes, I would try and remember if it was hot or cold, if possible have a little temperature gadget in your kitchen. I have one from the Science Museum in London that is very useful. Note the ambient temperature and the times the dough has sat in prove (be honest here, if you forgot it, then write it down regardless!) and if possible take photos to jog your memory. Keep making the same dough and either shorten or lengthen the proof times and you will get a result you like in the end.

Spelt sourdough loaf on a cold day

I baked these smallish loaves at 220 ºC for about 20 minutes and then reduced the temperature to 200 ºC for another 20 minutes and that seemed about right. I tend to bake my bread longer than many people do. I see commercially that bread seems to be baked for shorter periods of time, maybe a commercial oven is different but I prefer a ‘well-baked loaf’ nearly always.

My small thoughts :  handle this dough gently, don’t knock the air out of it when you fold it, and be kind to the dough when you come to shape it;  try and preserve the air that is in the dough from the first fermentation stage. The folding process stretches the bubbles that are forming and traps them in the dough, and they help to give the dough some structure.

Spelt Sourdough Crumb Shot

Don’t spend a long time staring at the dough once you have turned it out prior to baking it. Slash it simply with one long angled cut, slightly off the centre line as if you are slitting an envelope –  the more cuts you make on the top, the more the dough will lose surface tension and flatten out. Decide what you are going to do before you turn it out and be quick and decisive and get it into the oven nice and speedily. An old slashing post of mine here might give you some ideas here.

Spelt flour is also lovely in biscuits and cakes, so you can always use it that way too.

I guess I should be thinking about festive baking… I have been reading lots of lovely blogs full of exciting projects, but I haven’t lifted a festive finger yet, no shopping, no crafting, nothing has happened here.  This is not to say there won’t be any but don’t hold your breath!

If any other spelt fans want to share their tips and thoughts on baking with spelt I am all ‘ears’ !

Confessions of a Gibassier Groupie

GibassiersBaking buddies here is a post about these lovely Provencal sweet buns called Gibassiers which I have had my first go at baking inspired by the enthusiasm of Lynne who tweets as @josordoni and is a wonderful food blogger. They are a bit like brioche, but not as buttery, a bit like a doughnut, but not heavy, lighter than teacakes and really very good indeed.

Lynne has made these several times in the last month, and after a bit of hemming and hawing and hunting down ingredients on my part and a lot of encouragement from Lynne I had a go, along with  Thane Prince and Carla Tomasi on Twitter.

On the subject of orange blossom water, this brand, Cortas, is much much more pungent and flowery than the English variety. I sourced this at Bristol Sweet Mart, in St Marks Road in Easton, Bristol. Worth looking for if you can find it. As you open the bottle you are transported to a world where the sun shines and people hang out on dusty streets on humid nights and chat because it is too hot to go to bed. I reckon though that one could zest oranges, or use whatever you have to hand or can get hold of that makes you think of oranges.

There are a few recipes around, Lynne has tweaked hers over various bakes, you can read all about her experiments on her Greedy Piglet blog and she has very generously said I can write about it too, so here goes!

I have also bought Ciril Hitz’s book, Baking Artisan Pastries and Bread, the recipe has come from there, via The Fresh Loaf, and is reproduced in several places on the internet as well if you google. The book has loads of detail in it and some brilliant information about making laminated and sweet doughs and I am going to enjoy reading it and there is a DVD with it which I would love to be able to play for you, because it explains it all much better than I can. Bear in mind if you do this from this post that I have only made this once.

The day before you want to bake

Make a pre-ferment. This simply means mix up the following three ingredients and leave them covered overnight. The mix makes a firmish ball but it loosens and softens up once it has fermented.

  • ¼  – ½ tsp of dried yeast
  • 180 g of all pupose or bread flour
  • 110 g of milk

Day 2

Make a liquid mixture of:

  • 4 small eggs plus one yolk –  about 180g of shelled eggs  ( 2nd time made these used 130 g egg in total)
  • 80g of light olive oil (2nd time used 65 g olive oil)
  • 35 g of Cortas Orange blossom water but you will need more if you use a weaker one (2nd time used a mix of obw and dry Marsala wine, Carla’s suggestion)
  • 35 g warm water

NB: this is quite a lot of liquid and if you are not sure about your ability to work with a fairly wet dough then use less egg and less water, more like 150g of egg and 25 g of water as the original recipe.

Some recipes recommend warming all these together and that is probably a good idea. I whisked quite hot water into the top three ingredients and they didn’t curdle, but it might be safer just to heat very gently in a bowl on top of a pan of hot water… ?

In another bowl sift together

  • 200 g 00 flour or all purpose flour
  • 200 g bread flour
  • 100 g sugar
  • 6g salt
  • 12 g yeast – I used less yeast than Lynne but I am using that active instant sort which is very busy stuff (Second time used 10g yeast)

You might as well get the other stuff ready now too

  • 70 g softened unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp of crushed aniseed seeds
  • 70g finely chopped candied orange peel

All the above are going in the dough

You will also need a bit later on in the proceedings :

  • some egg wash (this is a beaten egg and a bit of milk whisked together)
  •  about 100 g melted butter
  • a bowl of caster (fine) sugar to dredge the buns in once they have been baked. (Second time used granulated and it doesn’t stick so much or melt like the caster sugar does)

I am not the best person at being organized but on this occasion I did do a proper mise en place and got it all ready. The trouble with buns is that there are lots of processes and I run out of surfaces to put things on if I don’t make a bit of an effort. Note on flour: use what you have, don’t not make these because you don’t have 00 flour, use your regular bread flour just not the very strong baker’s sort.

I freely admit I didn’t handmix this so if you are going to do this by hand do read Lynne’s blog as she is very good at this and there are ways to do it that make it easier.

I used the Kenwood as I hate handmixing sticky doughs like these, but then I have become a bit of a wimp in these matters.

I put the liquid mix in the Kenwood, added the pre-ferment which I broke into small chunks and let it all mix up for a bit to loosen the preferment. Then I added the dry ingredients first and mixed them up till it looked plausible, probably for about three/four minutes, then added the softened butter bit by bit till it was all taken up by the dough and the dough was taking on a soft and silky look and feel, that takes a fair bit of time (and forms a gluten window – yes I did that the second time. The dough also gets lighter in colour once the butter is worked in properly, a good clue to look for ) and then finally sprinkled the seeds and the candied peel into the dough and worked that in too.

Then I left it all to rise in a covered bowl. Currently I am using my little top oven as a proving chamber. I open the door and the light comes on then I put the bowl in, and close the door but keep it open a crack by stuffing a tea towel or the oven gloves in the door. It reaches a temperature in there of about 24 – 26 C which is good enough for me.

After an hour and a half, it was huge and bubbly, a very excitable dough!  I floured a board, and pressed it out gently and then cut it up into 15 x 80 g chunks, quite big buns these were, you could make smaller or bigger or make it all as one big bread, or all sorts.

I rolled the pieces into balls and then started to shape them. If you have ever made fougasse or bagels you will know that any hole you cut or shape in a lively dough will fill in as it rises and again when it bakes, so be bold with your holes and don’t forget to stretch the shapes out sideways before you put them on your parchment lined trays to prove.

Gibassiers being cut and stretchedI flatten the balls into ovals and used a little cheese knife to make the cuts. I have just watched the bit on the DVD which comes with the book and it really shows it beautifully there, as well as what the dough should look like. Aha.

Here is one of my little drawings indicating where the cuts go. The ones in the middle you need to do with something fairly short that you can push directly into the dough, not a knife.  The edge cuts you can do with the edge of a dough scraper or a knife.

Leave to prove till they are nice and plump but not deflated, I left mine for another 40 minutes this time.

Eggwash the buns before you bake them in a hot but not too hot oven. I have funny settings on mine, my fan is about 10 degrees hotter than most people’s  (Neff Circotherm settings) so I baked mine on 170 C, look up the equivalent of Gas Mark 6 for your oven. Take them out when they are golden. I checked them after 12 minutes, I think I took them out after 15 minutes and maybe they could have come out earlier.

Paint them with melted butter while they are still hot, then let them cool down a little and dredge them in sugar. If you do the sugar bit while they are too hot, I did that with one lot, the sugar starts to melt.

Instagram Gibassiers

Share them out, give them away, save a couple for you and a friend, warm in the oven a little before you eat them. That’s it!

PS here is the last one being shared with Brian for breakfast yesterday, might have to make some more soon…

PPS Update:  For those of you who come back to read this again, I have been reading Ciril Hitz’s book and am learning new stuff about mixing these doughs. It’s very exciting and I’m going to have another go. If you look at the rounds of dough in the first photo you will see that they look a little greasy, I think that is because my butter was too warm when I mixed it into the dough. Ciril Hitz says that the butter should be pliable but cold, not warm when it is mixed in. So to do that you need to take a cold piece of butter and bash it with a rolling pin or something and then mix it in bit by bit, even putting the bowl back in the fridge if it looks like it is getting too hot.  I did say this was the first time I had made these didn’t I?

Update: I made them again the following week, hence all the notes in brackets. I am sorry if it confuses anyone actually trying to bake from this. Basically if you use less egg, less oil and cold  pliable butter, and knead for longer you get a more elastic dough which is slightly easier to shape and is more bread like and less brioche like.  I wanted to try both ways and see if I could see a difference. The only other very slight change I make is that I use the small amount of water to loosen the preferment in the mixing bowl before I add the other liquid ingredients. It just made sense to me to do that. I don’t intend to rewrite the post, but if you are seriously trying to make these then do ask if I have confused you or better still buy a copy of the book!

Here are a few photos from the second time I made them, a bit fuzzy, but they show the cutter I made second time round…

Cutter made from a dough scraper

Cutter made from a dough scraper

 

Cut bun before being stretched out gently

Cut bun before being stretched out gently

 

Stretching out the bun

Stretching out the bun

A shared Gibassier and some rare sunshine!

A Loaf for the Salad Challenge

Azélia  of Azeilas Kitchen really made me laugh recently on Twitter, she was talking about wholesome breads and wearing stick-on beards and socks and sandals and I thought about the bread I had just made and it fits that category to perfection.

I haven’t worn facial hair since I rode a pushbike through the streets in a Groucho Marx mask one night from one party to another, but I have had the pleasure at least and I urge you to do it one day if you haven’t.

I started with what I had in the kitchen; sprouted pulses and some walnuts left over from Christmas. I have dug out my sprouting jar recently, thanks to the reminder from the 52 week salad challenge so I thought I would post this as my February contribution, as the frost has got hold of the last of the wintering vegetables and herbs in the garden this month. Edit: I have just found the round up page on VP’s blog for the last one. Have a look and join in. Lots of wonderful info on growing micro greens that I am going to read up on right now….

I wonder if children do sprouting in schools now as we did? Even if you don’t take much interest in growing your own food in your teenage and young adult years, if you have had these experiences as a child, they are something to draw upon later in life when maybe you have more time to garden and participate in the great elemental joy of growing some of your own food.

Walnut and Sprouted Grain Loaf Zeb Bakes

This loaf used sweet walnut pieces, our home grown sprouts, thick yoghurt, water, Felin Ganol flours, yeast and seasalt. I need to make it again before I can be sure I have got the numbers right, I scribbled them down on a piece of paper and they looked a bit odd when I came to write them up here.

We had slices of this soft and nutty bread with cottage cheese, some mung bean sprouts and a sprinkling of za’atar, a mix of thyme, sumac, salt and sesame seeds. Can’t get much nicer than that in my book and in fact it’s all gone now, every last little bit!

Sprouted grains are lovely too just dressed with a simple dressing of lemon, oil and mustard as part of a salad with a toasted bun. I think they have a great affinity with nuts, so mix them up with pine nuts, or walnuts or whatever you have around.

Mitchdafish has just tweeted me this picture….(she had a chunk of this loaf to try at home) …. hee hee!