We are the Bread Baking Babes, and we love to bake bread. Sometimes we do other things too, which is why Ilva’s choice for us this month is a welcome addition to our repertoire. This Cuban Bread, from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads, calls for a good amount of yeast and rolls the final proof into the baking step by starting the bake in a cold oven. This means we can have a delicious boule with a unique bronze-colored crust and a soft, close, sweet crumb in two hours from start to finish, leaving us time for various other things like working, spending time with our families, exercising, and hobbies. (My latest hobby is sweeping tiny crunchy ball bearings from every corner of the kitchen. If that’s not your thing, do not coat your bread with errant amaranth seeds, as I did. Stick to sesame.)
2012, be warned: 2011 is a tough act to follow. The beautiful and exciting things that came my way in 2011 are too numerous to count, but Number Two on the list has to be the trip Jay and I took to Morocco and Venice in November (with Number One being our wedding a month later). And while the highlights of that trip are also too numerous to count, our day in Verona is on that list for sure.
The charming city of Verona is an easy 80-minute train ride from (equally charming) Venice, and we thought it would make a lovely day trip. Jay was thinking history, culture, architecture, photography. I — obviously! — was thinking Pandoro pans. I have been coveting genuine Italian pans for this star-shaped golden holiday bread forever, and they just can’t be found in the US. But Pandoro originated in Verona, so I was sure I could find some there.
And find them I did, but that wasn’t the best part. The best part was how I found them. I remembered that the lovely and talented Cinzia also hails from Verona, and when I emailed her to ask about where I might buy the pans, she not only came through with the name of a shop (Plurimix), but she came into the city to meet us! Over lunch and a slice of Nadalin (another Veronese holiday bread, reportedly the forerunner of Pandoro), I found Cinzia to be every bit as warm and delightful as her blog.
And that, my dear friends, is the real pleasure I derive from writing this blog: connecting with wonderful people all over the globe, whether face-to-face or through virtual pathways. I can’t think of a nicer way to observe BreadBakingDay — the monthly event that celebrates baking and breaking bread together — than with Pandoro dedicated to Cinzia (who happens to be hosting BBD this month, too!), Zorra (creator of BBD), and all of my bread-baking friends everywhere.
Today is December 16, 2011. Is this an important date because …
A) It’s the posting (and my hosting) day for the Bread Baking Babes
B) I get married today
C) Both of the above, and by the time you read this I will have pulled the Stollen from the oven, dusted the flour off my dress, and made my way to City Hall to exchange vows with my beautiful, brilliant, sweet, funny, gentle, loving…
Ahem. Back to the Stollen. A perfect choice for this month, because it practically makes itself, leaving us Babes to occupy our minds with… whatever other things we may wish to occupy them with.
Stollen is one of my favorite holiday breads, and quite easy to make. It is a traditional bread from Dresden, Germany, and the shape is said to represent the swaddled child in the manger. You kind of have to use your imagination to see this.
Mixing the dough is simple if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, although it takes some time. Just throw the ingredients in the mixer, turn it on, and go buy a wedding dress or something.The dough will be ready when you get back.
I’ve been a bad Bread Baking Babe before, but this month takes the (coffee) cake. I was actually (uncharacteristically) ahead of the game, baking my cakes a few days before our November 16 posting date, but I then managed to leave for vacation without my notes. So, now that I’m back, I’ve exceeded the deadline by almost two weeks and am prepared to spend a good amount of time in detention. Before I go though, can I bake a couple more of these cakes?
Tanna chose the recipe this month, a wonderful potato coffee cake adapted from One Potato, Two Potato by Roy Finamore. She suggested doubling the amount of streusel topping for a single batch of dough; I missed the part about this suggestion applying if you split the dough into four cakes instead of two. So I had two cakes (a 9-inch and a 10-inch) with a whole heap of streusel, and this was NOT a bad thing!
Those parchment paper tabs are actually two strips placed at right angles to each other, laid in the bottoms of the buttered pans before placing the dough into them; they allowed me lift the cakes out of the pans without having to turn them over and lose any of the delicious streusel.
This month the Bread Baking Babes were all about shaping our loaves into leaves and ladders, as Elizabeth directed us to use our favorite bread dough for fougasse. These breads are shaped into flat-ish ovals and cut either before the final proof or just before baking. The payoff is maximal surface area (crust!) and something different for the table.
Fougasse often has cheese, herbs, or other additions in the dough or on top, but I kept it simple and used plain old (and by “plain old” I mean my very favorite) Norwich Sourdough. I cut my ovals after proofing (just before baking) with a small rigid plastic dough scraper. After baking I brushed them with olive oil and sprinkled them with Kosher salt. A nice accompaniment to early fall vegetable soup.