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Gluten Development (with Windowpane Photos)

I took (actually, my husband T took, while I “windowpaned”) some photos of the stages of gluten development. I hope someone will find these useful. Most of the breads I make call for the gluten to be developed to a medium stage.

Gluten development is tested with the “windowpane test.” Pinch off about two tablespoons of dough and try to stretch it into a thin membrane (windowpane).

If you can do so without tearing, but the membrane is mostly opaque, you have barely developed gluten.

If you can stretch a paper-thin, very translucent windowpane, the gluten is fully developed.

A medium level is in between these two extremes: the windowpane is translucent with some opaque areas.

The progression from minimally to fully developed gluten:

Low gluten development Medium gluten development High gluten development

Corn Bread Rolls

corn-rolls-wild-yeast-550

There’s cornbread — spongy, sweet, and efficiently leavened with baking powder — and there’s Corn Bread: hearty and crusty, with the hard-won flavor than can only be achieved with yeast and time. And then there are these Corn Bread Rolls, which are fun to shape, if not precise replicas of the ears of maize that represent a bountiful harvest. Or little lopsided footballs, depending on your preferred meaning of Thanksgiving. Or maybe both, like when my dad took me to the thrilling Nebraska Cornhuskers game in Lincoln on Thanksgiving in 1965.

May your holiday be filled with what gives you sustenance, people you love, a little bit of excitement, and appreciation of blessings and hard-won victories, whatever yours may be.

corn-roll-crumb-wild-yeast-450

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Pumpkin Brioche Cinnamon Rolls

pumpkin cinnamon rolls

This post was originally published on November 19, 2009. May I recommend these for Thanksgiving breakfast?

I like these pumpkin cinnamon rolls a lot.

In case it seems like I’m damning them with faint praise, consider that I’ve spent the past two weeks in class redefining my relationship with butter. Brioche à tête. Brioche sucrée. More brioche à tête. Cinnamon rolls. Sticky buns. Brioche tarts. Brioche tartlets. Brioche coffee cake. Strawberry brioche. Gibassier. Stollen. Panettone. Pan d’oro. And let’s not forget croissants 521 ways.

They’re delicious, they’re beautiful, they’re fun to make, every one of them. So I truly mean no disrespect when I say Stop! I’m supersaturated! Quick, someone give me a lima bean (and if you know me, you’ll recognize a truly desperate plea here.)

But back to the rolls. I made them at home, the weekend before we started this descent into the sweet, rich, yeasty madness known as the Viennoiserie unit. I guess I thought… well, clearly I was unencumbered by the thought process, as Click and Clack would say.

But I can I still say like these rolls, and right now, that’s saying a lot. Maybe you’ll like them too.

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Panettone

I started making panettone at Christmastime in 2006. Over these few years, I have tried variations on the recipe (here’s a chocolate one, and here’s one studded with bits of chocolate and ginger), but this is the one I keep coming back to. I still hold my breath each time I make it, because it’s fussy and needs to be pampered. But given patience, discipline, and a loving hand, it does not disappoint. Light and buttery, citrus-y sweet and holiday-special, its baking is a ritual that comforts and satisfies me. Sharing it with my family, and with you, makes me unreasonably happy.

 I first posted this panettone in 2007, and the recipe hasn’t changed. But I have accumulated a few refinements and lessons learned, so I thought it was time, once again, to tell you everything I know about making panettone.

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Rewena Paraoa

Well, I’m a day (or two) late and a stencil short, but my Rewena Paroa, a traditional Maori bread made with a fermented potato starter — and Lien’s choice for the Bread Baking Babes this month — is finally out of the oven.

Being a New Zealand bread, the decoration should depict a silver leaf fern, and I tried, I really tried, to craft one even half as lovely as Lien’s intricate example. My scissors had other ideas, though, and it was just not happening, so I resorted to the garden. I have no ferns, so I made do with a vine I’m embarrassed to say I don’t even know the name of. Flattened between the pages of a heavy book for a couple of hours, it served as a decent stencil, if you forget that it’s supposed to be a fern.

This is a really wonderful loaf, with the softness and red-golden color typical of potato-enriched breads. My dough seemed a bit sluggish so I gave it a longer bulk fermentation and one more fold than the recipe called for, and it paid off with a beautiful open crumb.

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Golden Corn Rolls

Corn has a bad reputation lately. As a major component of America’s industrial food system, corn represents cropland abuse, genetic modification, cattle sickened on a grain diet, children sickened on a corn-fed-beef-burger and high-fructose-corn-syrup diet, a wacky government subsidy system. All too true.

But of course the blame for these ills lies with the humans that produce and consume big-business corn (and that would be most of us, by the way; if you ever eat prepared food, chances are there’s corn in there somewhere). Blaming corn is like blaming water for acid rain.

As a grain and a vegetable in and of itself, unrefined, unengineered, and responsibly grown, corn is pretty upstanding. Sure, you’d be in trouble if it were all you ate. But it’s a decent source of fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Native American cultures were and are sustained by it. My childhood summers would not have been the same without it. Neither would chili and guacamole.

So, in defense and celebration of this innocent, nutritious, and tasty food that is the theme of this month’s BreadBakingDay (hosted by Heather and Zorra), I wanted to bake something that not only comprised corn but announced loudly, I’m corn. You got a problem with that? Bite me!

Would you put a basket of golden corn ears on your breakfast table, warm and ready for a drizzle of honey? (Many thanks to my friend Elra for this jar of wonderful local wildflower honey.)

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