foodgeek's diary


Artos: Greek Celebration Bread

Posted by foodgeek on April 6, 2010 at 5:10 PM Comments comments (0)

My second bread for the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge! S'about time, huh?  I actually baked these quite sometime ago and just have not had a chance to blog about it.


This "Greek Celebration Bread" is traditionally baked during Christmas and Easter holidays. I made right in the midst of Lent. Close enough?


Peter Reinhart included a couple variations to this recipe in Bread Baker's Apprentice with the option of adding dried fruit and nuts to create either Christopsomos (a Christmas bread) or Lambropsomo (an Easter bread). He also illustrated shaping options to create beautiful loaves that appear to be works of art if you can pull it off. I chose to go with the basic recipe and shaping option at this point to start. I would love to make this bread again and try to different mixtures and shapes.


As I remember it, this bread was close to being a brioche, somewhat of a sweet dough almost. The bread is flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, lemon zest, almond extract and honey and included wild yeast starter, which always adds more depth to the flavor of any bread. Thank you, chef Weber, for the starter you gave me back in February which to this remains alive and well in my kitchen. I always look forward to using my starter.


When I made this bread I did not go about taking step by step pictures. I will update this post with those pics when I make this bread again. So for the meantime, I will simply leave you with a pretty picture of the finished product. Stay tuned!





Pane al Cioccolato - Italian Chocolate Bread

Posted by foodgeek on March 29, 2010 at 2:28 PM Comments comments (5)

Thank you Jude, the blogger of, for sharing the recipe! This particular bread will definitely be baked again in my kitchen! I stumbled upon the recipe at months ago, and you'd think, as much as I love chocolate that I would have made it right away! For some reason or another I kept putting it off and putting it off until I finally found the time to make it this weekend. I am a major dark chocolate fanatic so you can just assume that this one is tops on my list of favorite breads. It was quite fun to make! I could smell the cocoa powder and chocolate chips as I was kneading the dough - by hand as my mixer is still not back for repairs :(. The house smelled amazing as it was baking. I followed Jude's recipe exactly as shown on the page above and they turned out beautifully. I only wish I would have doubled the recipe as I would want to share this bread with many of my friends and colleagues. This was the perfect opportunity for me to use my sourdough starter that is growing and growing and about to take over my entire refridgerator! Only thing is that it only needed 1 ounce of the starter...anyone like to to have some of my sourdough starter?


First, you make the "Biga Naturale" or , in English, Wild Yeast Starter:



1 oz / 28 grams starter

1/4 cup / 1.125 oz / 32 grams bread flour

.625 or 18 grams water, at room temperature



In a small bowl, mix the biga naturale ingredients until the ingredients are evenly distributed and cover. Let the wild yeast starter ferment at room temperature for about 8 hours before using in the final dough. I left it on the counter overnight. In the future, I might just use my existing sourdough in the the required total weight to cut down on time.


The biga naturale after mixing...


The biga naturale after fermentation of at least 8 hours:


Next, make the final dough...



all of the biga naturale, cut into small pieces

3 cups / 13.875 oz / 248 grams bread flour

1 1/8 cups / 8.75 oz / 248 grams water

4 tbsp / 2.5 oz / 71 grams honey

1 tbsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp / .875 oz / 25 grams cocoa powder

1/4 tsp instant yeast

1 tbsp / .375 oz / 10 grams kosher salt

2.75 oz / 78 grams chocolate chips (added towards the end of kneading)



Mix all of the ingredients (except the chocolate chips) until evenly incorporated. Knead for abut 8 to 10 minutes either by hand or using a mixer. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes.


Add the chocolate chips and knead for about another until the chocolate chips are thoroughly

incorporated. This should only take a minute using a mixer, but it took me about 3 minutes doing it by hand. Good exercise!


Let the dough ferment for 2 hours at room temperature in a lightly oiled bowl. It should almost double in size.


before...                                                                          after...



Divide the dough into 2 pieces, about 1 lb/454 grams each or into 4 pieces about 8 oz each. Shape each piece into a light ball and let rest about 20 to 30 minutes.


Shape each piece into a boule or batard and set them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. cover with a lightly oiled plastic wrap and final proof for 3 hours at room temperature.



Preheat the oven to 400ºF/204ºC.


Score the dough with 2 or 3 slashes.



Jude's instructions indicate to place a heavy steam pan (preferably cast iron) filled with 1 cup of boiling water in the oven. I simply sprayed the oven walls with water for steam just before placing the dough into the oven (middle rack).


Bake at 400ºF/204ºC for 20 minutes. Rotate the loaves if necessary and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes.


The finished bread out of the oven should have a crust that sounds hollow when you tap it. It should also register at about 200ºF with an instant thermometer.



Cool for about 1 hour..



Had it with some rice milk. It would be great with coffee or chai latte as well. A sperad of Nutella will take it just over the top! Love this bread!!






English Muffins

Posted by foodgeek on March 19, 2010 at 12:51 AM Comments comments (8)

I'm not usually a big fan of English muffins, but once I tried these...well, bye-bye Thomas', I'm making these from now on. These muffins were big on taste and stayed moist even when toasted. I learned this recipe at a bread baking class ("The Classics") at the Laguna Culinary Arts school, taught by Chef Diana Weber. This is definitely a keeper recipe. I served these muffins for a birthday brunch this past weekend and happy to say, everyone really liked them! So here you go...


Makes 18

Fermentation: sponge 15 mins.

Dough: bench rest 30n mins.

Proofing: 20 to 39 mins.


9 1/4 oz. whole milk

3/8 oz. active dry yeast

1 lb. pastry flour (I used whole wheat pastry)

1 lb. unbleached bread flour

12 grams baking powder

1 1/4 oz. granulated sugar

1/4 oz.  salt

1 1/2 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature

9 1/4 oz. water (baby bottle temperature)

Cornmeal, as needed


1. Heat the milk to 75°F (24°C). Stir the yeast into the milk until it dissolves. Mix in 7 oz. (210 grams) of the pastry flour. Cover and let the sponge ferment for 15 minutes.


2. Sift the remaining pastry flour and the bread flour with the baking powder. Set aside.


3. Place the sponge and all remaining ingredients in a bowl. Mix by hand or on low speed in a mixer witha dough hook for about 3 minutes to moisten the ingredients. Take out of the bowl and knead or continue to beat on high for about another 7 minutes until the dough is soft and somewhat sticky (add water or flour as needed).


4. Cover and let the dough rest for about 20 minutes. Punch down and rest for another 10 minutes.


5. Roll out the dough until it is about 1/2" to 3/4" inch thick. Cut the dough into circles with 3 1/4 in. cutter or English muffin rings. Place the cut pieces (with the rings) on cornmeal dusted sheet pans and proof for 20 to 30 minutes.


6. Place the muffins (rings and all) on a lightly greased griddle dusted with cornmeal and bake at 375°F (190°C) or on low on the stove top until golden brown, approximately 7 minutes per side. The muffins should sound hollow when tapped with the finger.




Let the muffins cool with the rings.



Pop out the muffins from the rings...voila!



...pried open with a fork to get the traditional nooks and crannies, then spread with butter and blueberry preserves...



total yumminess! Thank you Chef Weber!


Anadama Bread

Posted by foodgeek on February 28, 2010 at 5:32 PM Comments comments (2)

Finally got going with Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge on 1/31/10. First bread, Anadama - one that I've never heard of before. Apparently there's a story behind the name of this bread - something to the effect of a fisherman who, "...angry with his wife, Anna, for serving him nothing but cornmeal and molasses, one day adds flour and yeast to his porridge and eats the resultant bread, while cursing, 'Anna, damn her.'"


And so it goes, this bread does indeed consist basically of flour, corn meal, and molasses.


Peter Reinhart's version utilizes a soaker of a mixture of coarse ground corn meal and water, and a sponge consisting of the corn meal soaker with part of the flour, all of the yeast, and water. This method evokes more flavor from the grain.


The whole process took about 2 days in all. The first day the soaker is mixed and set out in room temperature. Second day, the sponge is mixed and set out for about an hour. The bubbles appearing on the surface was a good sign of fermentation.



Next step, mix the remaining ingredients (flour, salt, molasses and butter) to the sponge. I continued to mix (using my stand mixer) until the dough started pulling from the sides. I took it out of the mixer and kneaded by hand to get a better feel for the dough consistency. I didn't take a picture of the kneaded dough this time around but I will in the future. The goal at this point was to have a dough that was, as Peter Reinhart recommended, Peter Reinhart: “...firm but supple and pliable and definitely not sticky.” At this point, the dough is shaped into a ball and placed into an oiled bowl, turned a couple of times to coat the surface, then set aside at room temperature for about 90 minutes for the first rising. It should grow to about double its size. Again, didn't a picture this time but will add in the future.


Next up, shaping the dough. I turned the dough out onto the counter and divided it to 3 parts as instructed. I shaped the dough into loaves as described in the book. I skipped putting them into loaf pans as I only had one pan. I instead set them on a sheet pan, covered them with a lighly oiled plastic wrap and set them out for the second rise at room temperature for about another 90 minutes. This time, I have pictures!



After they have risen, into the oven they went!



The aroma in house while this bread was baking was amazing! The result:



Success! At least to me it was. Thumbs up from the hubby, my taste tester! Sweetness from the molasses, a little bit of a crunch from the corn meal, crispy outside, soft inside, fabulous with just a little butter. Great for sandwiches or as a side bread in meals. Will definitely revisit this recipe again!


My first BBA Challenge bread...tada!

The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge

Posted by foodgeek on February 28, 2010 at 3:57 PM Comments comments (0)

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted! Finally found a little bit of time today to add a couple posts.


I've decided to join the Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge! The BBA Challenge is a movement started by Nicole, the food blogger of, challenging home bakers across the county and across the world to attempt every single recipe in Peter Reinhart’s book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. This movement actually started in May of 2009. I have recently just discovered it and decided to join in. I will be posting about it as I go along. It's a slow start so far. I just finished the first 2 breads in the book - Anadama and Artos breads. I will talk about these in the next couple of blogs.


I don't know what it is that has gotten me mesmerized with bread baking. I took a baking class about two or three years ago, learned the basics of artisan bread baking and became hooked ever since. It is both an art form and a science. And the aromas it bestows upon my home is something else! It is the only culinary activity I know of that brings comfort not just in eating the finished product but in making it - the fermenting of yeast, the mixing, kneading and shaping of dough. It's magic! Buying bread from a store, even if it was good artisan bread, just takes away from it all.


I've rambled enough about my love for bread baking. On to actual food recipe blogs. Stay tuned!



Pan de Sal - Filipino Salted Bread Rolls

Posted by foodgeek on January 13, 2010 at 2:11 AM Comments comments (0)

 One of my favorite of Filipino breads - pan de sal. There are no Filipino bakeries where I live so getting a batch of this bread on a whim is impossible as I would have to drive a few miles to get good ones. So off to the internet I go to search for a good formula. I found quite a few variations and decided to try this one from The blogger of this site is not only a Filipino, but also someone who has a passion for baking, so I figured his recipe should be good. He also mentions in his blog that he referenced a recipe used by the Philippine team in the 2003-2004 Louis Lesaffre bread baking competition. That got my vote of confidence. Sure enough, they turned out great! And not too complicated to make either!



4 1/2 cups (20.25 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) water, at room temperature

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil

bread crumbs (optional)



Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl until the dough comes together and knead until it becomes a smooth ball. Let rise in a sealed container for about two hours at room temperature or until it doubles in size. Shape the dough into a rope about two inches wide. Let the dough rest for a few minutes to relax the gluten if necessary. Roll the entire length of the dough in bread crumbs.


Using a bench scraper or a knife, cut the dough into 24 pieces. Arrange the dough pieces cut side up in a sealable container lightly sprinkled with either flour or bread crumbs. The rolls will be ready to bake after a 1 1/2 hour final proof at room temperature. At this point, retarding the fermentation by keeping the rolls in the refrigerator overnight to further develop flavor is recommended. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Preheat the oven to 425°F. Transfer the pieces of dough to a sheet pan lined with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the sheet pan 180 degrees, then bake for another 5 to 10 minutes until the crust turns golden brown.



Using the cold retardation method will trap gasses just under the surface of the dough, forming blisters or bird’s eyes on the crust after baking. The usual pan de sal do not have such blisters.

The bread crumbs can be considered optional but is necessary to recreate the feel of authentic pan de sal.