Saturday, September 20, 2014

ALMOND PLUM CAKE - SWEET AND TART IN HARMONY


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I missed a few ABC baking projects (there was always something else going on), but our "pack leader" Hanaâ's September pick, King Arthur Flour's Almond Tarts featured almonds, and nuts are my favorite baking ingredients.

There was one problem, though - my husband doesn't care for strong almond aroma, and complains every time I use more than a few drops almond extract. And what is an almond tart without almond taste?

My birthday cake has always been a plum cake, in early September, when they are just ripe. When I first came to Maine, I couldn't find Italian prune plums, the best kind for baking - too tart for raw consumption but delicious when cooked.

Fortunately that has changed, and now, soon as I see them at our supermarket, I grab a few pounds -  it's time for my plum cake. And what could better offset a sweet, almond-y filling than a combination with tart, flavorful plums?

A few other tweaks to the filling: I reduced the sugar by 25%, using a mix of white and brown, and substituted some of the white flour for whole wheat. For my husband's sake, I added only half of the almond extract.

My Almond Plum Cake turned out just as I had hoped - a blissful marriage of tart, juicy plums with marzipan-like sweet almond filling: the BEST PLUM CAKE I EVER HAD!

De-licious - the best pum cake I ever had

ALMOND PLUM CAKE  (adapted from King Arthur Flour)

CRUST
99 g/3.5 oz sugar (1/2 cup)
113 g/4 oz soft butter (1 stick)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
130 g/4.6 oz all-purpose flour
47 g1.7 oz whole wheat pastry
74 g/2.6 oz almond meal (3/4 cup)

FILLING
57 g/2 oz soft butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 tsp. salt  (I used only 1/8 tsp.)                                       
75 g/2.6 oz sugar                                           
75 g/2.6 oz light brown sugar
14 g/2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. almond extract                      
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
3 eggs
124 g/4.4 oz almond flour (1 1/4 cup)
ca. 600 g/21 oz plums, pitted, and halved


CRUST:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Beat together sugar, butter, salt, and extracts. Add flours, stirring to make crumbs that cling together when squeezed.

Using a tamper or a flat bottomed cup measure to press the crumbs into the pan

Press crumbs into bottom and up the sides of a 9"/23 cm springform pan, and prick crust all over with a fork. Place crust for 15 minutes in the freezer.

Bake crust until it is just beginning to brown on the edges, 22 minutes. Let it cool on a wire rack (don't turn the oven off).

The almond filling is very easy to make

FILLING:
Beat together butter, salt, sugar, flour, and extracts. Beat in eggs, then add almond flour, stirring just to combine.

Distribute plum halves over the par-baked crust. Pour filling evenly over the plums.

The almond filling covers the plums almost completely

Bake the cake for 40-43 minutes, until the top is lightly browned. Let it cool in the pan on a wire rack.

To serve, remove the ring of the springform pan and transfer the cake to a serving plate. (I usually don't bother to remove it from the bottom of the pan).

In all its glory: Almond Plum Cake

NOTE: The almond plum cake keeps very well, even after 3 days at (not very cool) room temperature it tasted still good!

If you would like to join the Avid Bakers and take part in our monthly challenge, click here. New members are always welcome!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

1914 GERMAN ARMY KRIEGSBROT - RETRIEVED FROM THE TRENCHES BY DON SADOWSKY


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Don Sadowsky, author of the wildly popular guest post "Really(?) Authentic Bread"
unearthed this historic WWI-recipe from the very trenches of Verdun. Even though Don's innate modesty doesn't allow him to admit it - his 1914 German Army Kriegsbrot comes pretty close to a really authentic bread!

Karin, you issued a challenge to create a bread honor of Gottfried von Berlichingen, Götz of the Iron Hand. Your friends rose to the challenge, coming up with a variety of imaginative, pretty, and well-crafted breads.

Powered by BannerFans.comNeedless to say, my bread is not any of these things.

Götz was a military man. He spent his time out in the field (when he was not being imprisoned and scratching together money to pay his own ransom).

He didn't eat light and tasty bread prepared by artisan bakers, he consumed rough and ready military bread, baked by someone who two days ago was pulling an arrow out of his leg.

Soldiers in the field needed bread that could be made quickly, could stand the rigors of the field and would last out in the open while the men were out battling.

Taste? Hah! The mercenaries ate whatever bread they could get their hands on, and you can bet that they were given bread made with the cheapest ingredients available (but don’t worry, this is not quite going to be my “authentic bread”).

What to make, then, that would satisfy such draconian requirements? Well, armies have been traveling on their stomachs for millennia, so they must have perfected the art (if art be the proper term).

German soldiers, fortified with kriegsbrot, handle the "Dicke Bertha" canon

And military history buffs can be found in every back alley of the Web, so it was easy for me to reach back just a single century and find a recipe for German Army ration bread (Kriegsbrot) from 1914 at The Trenchline (slightly adapted here - I cannot vouch for its accuracy, but we all know that everything on the Internet is true).

The bread is coarse, rises quickly, has a fair amount of rye (as a good German military bread should) a stiff dough (59% hydration), and would never win any 21st century bread competition, though some concession was made to taste (the soldiers of the Deutsches Heer must have loved their cocoa).

But it wouldn't do to simply copy an existing recipe, no matter how apt, so I made one modification to try to turn the kriegsbrot into something truly honorary of the man of the Iron Hand. Unfortunately it looks more like a tribute to Götz of the Iron Foot, no one ever accused me of being an artiste.

The bread came out about as bricky of a brick as I have ever made. It was dense enough to make a useful trenching tool or to safely intercept shrapnel if held in a fortuitous location.

Eating it made me grumpy enough to go to war (perhaps that was the intent).


In the trenches of Flanders - soldiers made good use of their kriegsbrot
  

1914 GERMAN ARMY KRIEGSBROT (KOMMISSBROT)

420 g rye flour
369 g white whole wheat flour*)
  43 g cocoa
  13 g/1.5 tbsp. active dry yeast**)
    7 g/1 tbsp. caraway seeds
  34 g/2 tsp. salt
110 g brown sugar
          vegetable oil
  28 g/2 tbsp. butter
473 g/2 cups water

*) It’s what I had, white whole wheat would have been scorned by the                                                   Kaiser's men.

**) I used instant - no slow fermentation here.

Kriegsbrot Dough

Mix flours, cocoa, caraway seed and salt in large bowl.

Mix water, brown sugar, and butter in a sauce pan and heat until dissolved. Cool slightly and add yeast. (Yes, this will rise quickly!)

Mix all of these ingredients in the large bowl and add enough vegetable oil to cover dough ball. Knead until it forms a pliable dough.

Let the dough rest in a warm place and cover it.

Grease and flour a baking sheets (bowing to convenience I used parchment paper)

When the dough has risen 2 hours, punch it down.

Roll into a ball and flatten slightly to a height of about 2 ½ inches.  (This is where I made my modification.)

Lightly brush the top with oil.

Proof for 1-2 hours.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until it is done.

A Swiss army knife kind of a loaf 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

WORTHY OF A KNIGHT - GÖTZENBURG BREAD

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Before I present you with the amazing bread collection you submitted for my Knight with the Iron Hand challenge, I owe you my own creation!

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These goals I had in mind when I thought about the formula. I wanted to create a bread with grains and seeds used in German breads, preferably growing in the Baden-Württemberg region.

Though worthy of Schloss Jagsthausen's long tradition and its noble, iron-fisted ancestor, my bread should meet modern baking standards, not authentic medieval bread tradition (weevil-count >100/kg!)

Flours in my bread (from left): rye, wheat, einkorn, spelt and (top) barley

I also aimed for a bread that was not too fussy, and could be prepared either by the pastry chef of Schlosshotel Götzenburg's fabulous restaurant or outsourced to a local bakery. Therefore no holey loaf à la Tartine, and no overly complicated procedure.

Introducing a porridge to power up the hydration without making a whole grain dough too wet - this idea I happily took from Chad Robertson's "Tartine No. 3". It would work its magic in my less holey bread, too.

BreadStorm did the math for me, and this is the result:

Götzenburg Bread - a multigrain sourdough with millet porridge

This hearty loaf with a nice crust and moist crumb (or another one of the fabulous challenge breads) is exactly what we would love to find on Schlosshotel Götzenburg's breakfast buffet, when we visit next time!

Millet for a porridge to add moisture and a little crunch

GÖTZENBURG BREAD

Rye Starter
21 g rye mother starter 100%
40 g water
34 g whole rye flour
30 g whole spelt flour

Millet Porridge
18 g millet
37 g water

Final Dough
all porridge
all starter
243 g water
2 g instant yeast
205 g bread flour
60 g whole spelt flour
40 g barley flour
60 g einkorn flour
8 g sea salt
7 g honey


DAY 1
Morning:
Mix starter. Cover, and leave at room temperature.

Place millet and water in small sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until millet is soft (add a little more water, if necessary). Set aside to cool.

Evening:
Mix all dough ingredients at lowest speed (or by hand) for 1-2 minutes, until all flour is hydrated. Let dough rest for 5 minutes. Knead at medium-low speed (or by hand) for 6 minutes (dough should still be somewhat sticky).

Stretch and pat dough first into a square...
...then fold like a business letter...


...in three parts.
Repeat the folding from right...
...and left to make a package.

Transfer dough to an oiled work surface. With oiled hands, stretch and pat into a square. Fold from top and bottom to the middle in 3 parts, like a business letter, then from both sides. Gather package into a ball and place, seam side down, into an oiled bowl.

Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Repeat stretching and folding 3 more times at 10-minute intervals. After the last fold, place (well covered) overnight in the fridge.


DAY 2
Remove dough from refrigerator 2 hours before using.

Preheat oven to 450ºF/232ºC, including baking stone and steaming device.

Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface, and shape into a boule or bâtard. Place, seam-side up, in well-floured rising basket.

Proof for 45 - 60 minutes, or until bread has grown 1 1/2 times its original size (finger poke test). Turn out on parchment lined baking sheet (or on peel to bake directly on baking stone). Score as desired (don't be too timid, cut decisively!).

Bake bread for 20 minutes, with steam. Rotate bread 180 degrees for even browning, remove steam pan, and continue baking for another 20 minutes, or until loaf is nicely browned and registers at least 200ºF/93ºC on an instant read thermometer.

Let bread cool on wire rack.

Medieval Castle Jagsthausen - nowadays Schlosshotel Götzenburg
Submitted at Yeast Spotting

Monday, August 4, 2014

LOOK BEHIND THE KITCHEN DOOR - WELCOME TO KARIN'S BÄCKEREI


My bake station






























































































































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In a recent blog event, Steph from Kleiner Kuriositätenladen asked what our kitchen looks like behind the scenes, which cook books we use, and where we do our blogging.

Inquiring minds want to know - as my husband always says - so I will just open the door for you:

Behind the Scenes vom 01.06.-30-06-2014

Since 5 years I am licensed to sell breads (and cupcakes) from my home. My kitchen was officially inspected, and I'm paying every year 20 bucks for the renewal of my Home Processor's License.

I am therefore legally:


I bake European breads for A&B Naturals, our our local natural food store - in summer twice, in winter once a week.

Since my breads are quite popular (modest blush!), it's more our less "baker's choice" what I want to make for them - as long as my rustic baguettes and Multigrain Pitas are also in the basket!

Delivery basket with baguettes, pitas and Pane Siciliano

Of course, a baker who enjoys experimenting, needs a lot of ingredients - here you can see a small part of my flours:

Backstair storage for rye, wheat, spelt & Co.

Our basement is too damp, therefore our kitchen backstairs was re-purposed for flour storage.

For larger amounts of dough I need a reliable work horse. Mine is a 20-qt Hobart, purchased from a store for used restaurant appliances. Though moaning and groaning loudly when it kneads, it handles even the stiffest multigrain doughs.

My Hobart mixer (20 quart)
 
When not at work or digesting, my other helpers reside in the fridge:

Sourdough family: rye, Forkish, Tartine and whole wheat starters

The inspiration for my breads I get from an ever-growing book collection, baking facebook friends,  Fresh Loaf bakers, and other bloggers. 

English-German bread baking books

And if I take a break from bread baking, I do other interesting things for a change - like baking CAKES:

No wonder that I have to fast now and then....

My mobile workplace is my Mac, I carry him up and down in the house. My recipe management programs are Paprika, and BreadStorm (especially for breads).

And sometimes a Queen (of the Night) keeps me company!

Of course I also have a desk - but there I'm not that often - it's occupied by somebody else - Toby!

Mess or creative chaos?

Flour on the table, pitas on the rise, freshly baked breads in the background, mixing bowls on the dishwasher, and I'm spraying baguette pans with oil - a typical baking day.

My kitchen is my working and living room!


My kitchen is my working and living room. Here I bake for my customers the (immensely popular) Sunflower Ryes, for example:

Sunflower Rye - one of my most popular sourdough breads

and for my family Strawberry-Rhubarb-Pie, always faithful to my credo: "Life is uncertain - eat the Dessert first!"

FB-friend and food journalist Kim Ode's Strawberry-Rhubarb-Pie


Thursday, June 19, 2014

CHALLENGE FOR FELLOW BAKERS - A BREAD FOR THE KNIGHT WITH THE IRON HAND


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Fellow bakers, many of you rose to my last year's challenge, re-creating a Vollkornbrot for Schlosshotel Cecilienhof in Potsdam ("When Taste Meets Tradition"). 

I fully trust you to come up with another loaf with a historical connection - a bread worthy of Götz von Berlichingen, the Knight With the Iron Hand. 

This is what it is all about:

My husband and I are romantic souls. We like to visit fortresses and castles, and whenever we travel in an area where those are plentiful, we check for hotels with turrets and moats, commanding views and a rich history.

On our recent trip to Germany we stayed two nights at Schlosshotel Götzenburg in Jagsthausen. The medieval Castle Jagsthausen is the birth place of Götz von Berlichingen.

Götz von Berlichingen (1480 - 1562)

This notorious knight spent his life as mercenary, engaged in the never ending feuds between Emperor, nobility, church, wealthy cities and farmers, losing his arm, being incarcerated, outlawed and re-installed in the process (amazingly, he nevertheless lived to a ripe old age!)

He would have been probably long forgotten, if not immortalized by Goethe in his drama "Götz von Berlichingen with the Iron Hand", who turned the belligerent knight into a pillar of integrity against a deceitful and decadent society - in other words: a German Robin Hood.

Goethe turned Götz into a German hero

When besieged by the Imperial Army and asked by its captain to surrender, Goethe had Götz say the famous (and, in the last part, often quoted) words of defiance: 

"Me, surrender! At mercy! Whom do you speak with? Am I a robber! Tell your captain that for His Imperial Majesty, I have, as always, due respect. But he, tell him that, he can lick me in the arse!"
 
My husband quotes Götz von Berlichingen

Schlosshotel Götzenburg doesn't only offer an lovingly restored medieval environment, beautiful views, and fine dining - its courtyard also serves as stage for the annual theater festival Burgfestspiele Jagsthausen.

One of its highlights, is, of course, the drama about the outspoken knight with the iron hand.

Scene from this year's theater production "Götz von Berlichingen"

The (comparatively moderate) price for our hotel room included breakfast (thankfully, something you still can expect in most German hotels!)

The ambiance - dark paneled dining hall, solemn ancestors looking down from the walls, body armor and tapestry - couldn't have been more appropriate. The dinner the night before had been fabulous, so we had high expectations for the breakfast.

Everything was fine - except for one thing that really matters for this bread loving baker: the rustic looking loaf on the table was sadly lacking - in crustiness as well as in taste!

Breads at the breakfast buffet - a mass produced disappointment

When I asked about it, I learned that it was not baked in a local bakery, but supplied by a whole grocer: hence its blandness and rubbery crust. Not at all worthy of the legacy of a fierce old knight! (He might have fed it to his dogs.)

Grumbling at the breakfast table, I pondered what to do. Whine about it to the manager? Or smite this nice hotel with a nasty comment at TripAdvisor? I had a better idea.

I WOULD GIFT THEM WITH A BREAD!

So, please join me, dear friends, in creating a special loaf, worthy of the noble Götz and his beautiful castle (which is, by the way, still owned by the Berlichingen family!)

Even though this loaf is meant for a medieval castle hotel - please, refrain from submitting an "Authentic Bread" à la Don Sadowsky. The tough old fighter might have had his share of those, while embattled, but he surely would not have served them to guests of his castle.

I won't give you a deadline, most of you are hard working people with little spare time, and if you want to participate, you will bake your bread as soon as you can, anyway.

With Sugarprincess Yushka's help I even managed to create a banner to download for you.

BannerFans.com


Every contribution will be posted and linked to your blog (if you have one). You can submit your link as a comment or email me at: drkarinanderson@gmail.com

I will present our results to Schlosshotel Götzenburg, and, hopefully, when any of us visits there next time (it is well worth it!) you'll find a bread that (like Cecilienhof Vollkornbrot) marries taste with tradition.

Schlosshotel Götzenburg


Update 8/11/14:  So far I have 25 amazing breads from Fresh Loafers, fellow bloggers and other baking friends. Woohoo!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

REALLY (?) AUTHENTIC BREAD BY DON SADOWSKY


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After reading Don Sadowsky's guest post "The Hole Truth" on Barbara's wonderful blog
 "Bread & Companatico", I knew I had met a kindred spirit. 

Beginning with his nouvel interpretation of Munch's famous painting - how lame seemed my 12th grade essay on the same subject in comparison! - he mused on the holeyness of bread, going back to the caveman's gritty gruel and ending his discourse with St. Chad's holey grail at Tartine.

Eager to further this hole discussion I invited Don to share more of his eye-opening insights with a guest post on my humble blog. He graciously accepted, so I'm happy to present to you:

AUTHENTIC BREAD - YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG!

I have a huge amount of respect for people like Daniel Leader. He treks all the way from the U.S. to Europe and dodges rolling boulders, booby traps and angry natives to find THE guy who makes the best kringenschmaltzenblinkenbrot in the world.

Daniel Leader's French Walnut Bread - not authentic?

Then he spends a decade cleaning out the stables so that the master will teach him the secrets to put in a cookbook for the likes of you and me. I’ve made some of his breads, and they’re fantastic. Authentic breads, people say.

You know another group I have great respect for? Bakers who take difficult ingredients that have been used since the dawn of time to make bricks, and manage to turn them into gorgeous, airy and perfectly shaped loaves better than anything I could make with the finest wheat flour and Peter Reinhart looking over my shoulder making helpful suggestions.

They’ll use 100% einkorn or barley to create a boule that’s better supported than a suspension bridge (and tastier too!).

100% Einkorn - solution to our crumbling infrastructure?

Well crafted, impressive breads? Certainly. Authentic bread like what folks ate in the old days? Not so much. Do you really think that most people dined upon lovingly baked loaves made with golden wheat from tall fronds waving in a gentle breeze and harvested on a sunny afternoon by a smiling Tuscan ragazza in colorful garb?

Snort. Real breads were made with rancid, weevily flour, badly milled and mixed with whatever powdery substance the baker had on hand, because flour was expensive and he had to sell the bread at the price that the local authorities dictated.

Only God and the baker knew what's in the bread

Chalk, sawdust, plaster, alum, clay, ammonium and hemp were just some of the unnatural additives used to bulk up both the breads and the profits of the baker. Yes, some people could pay black market prices for white unadulterated bread, but the lumpenproletariat majority had little choice in the matter.

Add the quest for authenticity to high wire experimentation with early progenitors of gluten-free ingredients and what do you get? Probably a disaster, but if a disaster was good enough for our ancestors, it’s good enough for us. So herewith,

DON'S AUTHENTIC BREAD

Ingredient             Weight*        Baker’s Percentage**
Plaster of Paris        100g                25%
Chalk***                   100g                25%
Clay                         100g                25%
Sawdust                   100g                25%
Yeast                            8g                  2%
Salt                               8g                  2%
Water****                   280g                70%

* Despite extensive searching (at least 45 seconds) I was unable to find authoritative accounts of just how much of each ersatz ingredient was typically used, because surprisingly bakers kept such information close to their flour-stained vests. Who knew? So I picked round numbers.

** Calculation of baker’s percentage caused me some consternation, since none of the dry ingredients are really flour. But since they were substituted for flour, I figured I’d count them as such.  Baker’s math junkies feel free to weigh in.

*** Pro tip: Pound the pieces of chalk into powder before mixing, unless your intent is to use the bread to write on a blackboard.

**** I did some googling and could not find any online sources of water guaranteed to harbor cholera. I hope you will excuse this egregious anachronism.

PROCEDURE
Step 1. Purchase the ingredients at your local baker’s supply store:

Your local baker's supply store has everything you need for authentic bread

Step 2. Mix. Toss everything together in that hideous bowl you got at your wedding which you’ve been meaning to throw out all these years but never did (you’ll want to after this). Stir. DO NOT AUTOLYSE – plaster sets.

Our flours, clockwise from top left: clay*****, sawdust, plaster, chalk

***** I can hear the whining already: “That’s not authentic clay, that’s Playdoh, you fool, and it’s made from wheat. You’re cheating!” Listen, I don’t know what kind of clay those bakers used – if they were willing to substitute clay for flour maybe their clay wasn’t real clay. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

Anyway if you can make artisan bread out of actual clay and the rest of this trash, then I’d be happy to let you write this post instead of me.

Step 3. Knead. Don’t let your precious Electrolux Assistant get anywhere near this pile of solid waste. Stretch and fold with your bare hands. Don’t be afraid to get them dirty, but do wash before and afterwards. A clean baker is a healthy baker (especially with ingredients like these).

Step 4. Ferment. Let rise between 5 minutes and 2 weeks, it really doesn’t matter.

Our dough, before and after fermentation. Looks like fine wine, doesn’t it?

Step 5. Shape. I think mud pies would be appropriate here.

Step 6. Proof. Don’t bother.

Step 7. Bake. To prevent hazardous fumes I decided to bake at 70° F/21° C. This temperature provides a number of significant advantages: no warm up needed, no chance of burning either my hands or the bread, and no cool down period necessary. In fact I really don’t understand why all breads aren’t baked this way.

To achieve the crumb structure I was looking for, I finished the loaf with my specialty crumb enhancement tool:

Crumb enhancement tool - also works for Swiss cheese

And voilà, rough authentic bread just like the townspeople used to eat!

Rough authentic bread (after crumb enhancement)

************* Do not try this at home. Sickness or miserable flavor may result.