Semolina Sourdough with Plums, Walnuts, and Fennel

I am notoriously bad at planning. I’ll be in the market when I’m hit with the overwhelming urge to bake with, say, pumpkin seeds. So I buy some up, oblivious to the fact that I might have three or four small remnant bags of same lurking in the recesses of my freezer. And now my freezer is starting to complain about the buildup.

So I made a deal with myself: I am not to buy any new dried fruits, nuts, or seeds, but I can buy as many flours as I like so I can bake away until my odd lots are used up. (I tried to negotiate different terms — something involving a new sports car in exchange for ingredient restraint — but I couldn’t manage to sell it to myself. Clearly I need a better agent.)

Fortunately, I have some workhorse recipes that work wonderfully with the “one from Column A, one from Column B” approach. This semolina-fennel sourdough recipe, originally conceived with currants and pine nuts, baked beautifully with dried plums (commonly, but less charmingly, known as prunes) standing in for both currants and caramelized fennel, and walnuts for the pine nuts.

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Sesame Sourdough Bagels

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If you think these don’t look like the sesame bagels you’re used to seeing, you’re right. We love sesame bagels, but seed loss was putting us at risk for sprouting a sesame plantation right on the dining room rug.

Sesame Field 20020400 2¬†Although it is a unique and lovely look, we decided this wasn’t quite the decorating direction we wanted to be taking. The solution turned out to be simple: sesame seeds in the dough rather than on top of it. If you want to make a generic dough for several different toppings, this isn’t the way to go (try these bagels instead). But if you’re willing to commit to your sesame seeds, it works well.

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For maximally chewy bagels, remember to use high-gluten flour (or add extra gluten to your regular bread flour) and mix the dough until it’s very strong! Add the toasted, cooled sesame seeds to the dough once it’s fully mixed.

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Cinnamon-Raisin Sourdough Bagels

There’s been a lot of bagel-making going on around here. More about that in a later post. These cinnamon-raisin bagels are a lot like the blueberry bagels, only with raisins. And cinnamon. Go figure.

And speaking of figures — at 85 grams, these bagels a little smaller than the 100-gram ones I’ve been doing recently. The missing 15 grams doesn’t seem to make the bagel appreciably smaller, but if I’m eating one every day (and I might be), those eliminated grams should eliminate more than three pounds from my waistline over the course of a year.

I guessed at how much cinnamon to add to the dough. It wasn’t a bad guess, but if you like your bagels really cinnamon-y, I think you could double the amount and still be in the ballpark. The bagelpark? Whatever.

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Open Sesame

The inspiration for this seeded bread came from Pain de Beaucaire, which uses a unique shaping technique to create a rustic, bran-speckled fissure in the loaf with no slashing required. Here, the bran is replaced with black sesame seeds, for a nutty flavor and dramatic presentation. Sandwiched between two slurry-slathered layers of dough, the seeds cause the loaf to open down the middle.

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Sourdough Blueberry Bagels

Blueberries are everybody’s darling lately: antioxidant-rich, cancer-fighting, cholesterol-lowering, brain-sharpening, blood pressure-controlling, diabetes-battling. And they taste good, too! Even when they’re not in season, I usually keep a bag on hand in the freezer for smoothies, and a store of dried berries to throw into my oatmeal.

I can’t imagine why it took me this long — that is, until my number-one bagel eater made the request — to make blueberry-studded bagels. To keep the berries as intact as possible, I incorporated the dried berries into the mostly-mixed dough without soaking them first. I did make the dough a bit wetter than usual to allow for the berries’ absorption of some water.

If you haven’t made bagels before, don’t be intimidated! Bagels are one of my favorite things to make. There’s lots of hands-on time with the dough, a plus in my book. For more of my bagel opinions, take a look at my basic 100%-sourdough bagel recipe.

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Miche With Whole Wheat Starter

Made any French bread lately? I’m not talking about a baguette, but about the original French bread — the huge, heavy, country sourdough round known as a miche. With its dense crumb, tangy flavor, and thick, dark, chewy crust, a miche is about as far from a baguette as you can get, and it was the staple bread in France long before the white-flour interloper arrived from Vienna in the mid-19th century.

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