January Breads

We got off to a good start in January with our 2011 bread baking adventures. I’ve got a lot of recipes I want to try, and some new cookbooks to check out. The cold snowy weather helped too. When it’s really cold I’d much rather stay inside, get the oven going, and bake some bread!

I made this Pain de Campagne using  Peter Reinhart’s formula from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The dough had an overnight ferment in the refrigerator, which resulted in a great flavor. I formed the dough into batards for the final rise. The slack, wet dough spread more sideways instead of going up, but other than that the bread was great. For a rustic country bread made mostly with unbleached flour, this recipe is a keeper.

Pain de Campagne (click on any photo to enlarge)

Another thing we tried for the first time was making some snack crackers using the Healthy Bread in Five Minutes (HBinFive) whole wheat Master dough. We rolled the dough out as thin as we could directly on parchment paper. For one batch we brushed on olive oil and sprinkled the dough with white and black sesame seeds. For another batch we brushed the dough with melted butter and then added cinnamon sugar. Both versions were pretty tasty, but my wife and I agreed the results weren’t really worth the effort. The thin, crunchy grissini she makes with this same dough is easier to make and tastier. That didn’t stop us from eating all the little crackers though!

whole wheat snack crackers

Another new recipe we tried was this Cracked Wheat bread from HBinFive. I love using cracked wheat in breads, and this dough had a full cup of it (about 14%). We made this into several breads. I managed to turn out a halfway decent looking epi loaf with it. I need more practice with my snipping and shaping, but I’m getting better at it.

Cracked Wheat epi

I also made a boule shape with the dough. The cracked wheat really makes for an interesting taste and texture, especially on the surface of the bread. This loaf had a nice open crumb and a great taste.

Cracked Wheat in boule shape

My wife couldn’t wait to make some grissini with this dough. Of all the doughs she has used for these crispy breadsticks, the Cracked Wheat is now our favorite. She rolls the dough out thin (about 1/8 of an inch), then cuts it into narrow strips using a pastry cutter.

making grissini

After cutting into strips, she brushes them with olive oil (sometimes flavored with garlic and herbs) and bakes them on a baking sheet until brown and crispy. There are never any leftovers when she makes these!

crispy grissini breadsticks

Our featured bread for January wasn’t really new to us. That’s the Chocolate Espresso Whole Wheat bread, also from HBinFive. My wife made this last year when she was baking her way through the book. This time I made up a full batch of the sinfully decadent dough that is made with whole wheat and unbleached flours, eggs, cocoa, strong coffee and semisweet chocolate chips. This time I used some of the King Arthur Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa, and it resulted in a deep, dark colored dough.

Chocolate Espresso Whole Wheat dough

I made most of this batch into muffins, some of which I took into the soup kitchen to share with the other volunteers. Made into muffins, they look a lot like chocolate cupcakes. But they are really little mini brioches, chocolatey but not too sweet. You’d never know they have whole wheat flour in them! I brushed the dough with some egg wash and sprinkled a little raw sugar on top before baking.

Chocolate Espresso Whole Wheat muffins

I also made a loaf out of this batch. I had a little more than two pounds of dough (2.25 pounds), which was likely a tad too much for the 8.5″x4.5″ loaf pan, because the top cracked during baking. That didn’t affect the flavor any, and I’ll make this bread again, but put a little less dough in the pan.

Chocolate Espresso Whole Wheat loaf

I hope you enjoyed a look into what breads we were baking in January. I’m not sure what we will bake in February, but I am sure we will have a lot of fun baking and eating them all!

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11 Responses to January Breads

  1. meemsnyc says:

    Oooh, I love that you made crackers! Yum! All the baking you both did is just amazing!!

  2. As much as I enjoyed seeing them, I think I would have enjoyed eating them even more! Lovely job, Mr. and Mrs. Villager.

  3. Thomas says:

    Wow Mr. Villager, this is awesome. Bread making is quickly become my favorite winter past-time. I’m currently in the depths of trying to train my natural yeast starter. It’s been a challenging adventure so far to say the least.

    The chocolate bread looks absolutely sinful…and those bread sticks sound very tasty.

  4. Mike says:

    Wow, you really caught my wife’s attention with that Chocolate Espresso dough…amazing

  5. Very nice baking you are doing! The grissini look delicious.

  6. Lexa says:

    Villager- what an inspiring post. You and your wife are baking some really lovely things. I think that all of your readers wish that we lived closer 🙂 Please keep sharing your baking with us.

  7. Meredith says:

    Wow, Villager. You could open a bakery. That cracked-wheat epi loaf was especially lovely. 🙂

  8. Jen C says:

    Oh wow! Love your bread baking adventures. I have not tried the cracked wheat recipe from HBin5 yet but now I’m going to have to.
    I make grissini with my HBin5 master recipe dough too and found it much quicker to brush the uncut dough with olive oil, sprinkle with sea-salt and rosemary, and then cut into strips. I give them a quick twist and then lay them on a silpat. I find it much easier and faster than brushing them after they are cut and I waste less EVOO that way too as I’m not painting my cookie sheet half the time. They turn out perfectly! (A coworker tried to compliment me by saying “They taste just like store bought!” Gee… thanks… LOL)

  9. I don’t suppose you’d adopt me? 😛

    Your kitchen must smell fabulous more often than mine does! I realized the other day that I’ve been baking all of our bread products since early August last year. Can’t stand the sight of grocery store bread now.

    I’ve had Reinhart’s book since it was first published, but honestly, I’ve never made his Pain de Campagne. I keep meaning to though, so maybe now I’ll give it a try. How high was the protein in your flour for that bread? I wonder if just a little VWG might help it firm a little to stop it sliding sideways? Although honestly, from here it looks great! That pumpernickel-looking chocolate espresso bread though…that looks amazing!

    • Villager says:

      I used KA unbleached bread flour for the Pain de Campagne, so it should have had plenty of protein. I may try adding a bit of VWG the next time, which couldn’t hurt.

  10. The latest issue of How to Find Great Plants is here and your salad greens post is featured. Thanks so much for participating, I hope you will again next month. Here’s the issue:

    http://www.appalachianfeet.com/2011/02/01/how-to-find-great-plants-issue-3/

    Those breads (and bread photos) look like a good dream I want to have. Especially those breadsticks, wish I had them with a salad and soup for dinner tonight!

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