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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Biscotti Picanti

We might have a new favorite snack around here. Upon reading the recipe Lien chose for the Bread Baking Babes’ fourth anniversary (!), I predicted deliciousness, because it features quite a few of my favorite ingredients: semolina, anise seeds, olive oil. It’s hard to go wrong with that combination. Even so, I wasn’t prepared for how much I would like these wildly aromatic, savory (but sweet, without a speck of sugar, thanks to the anise), flaky, crumbly Biscotti Picanti (Spicy Sicilian Rusks) from Anissa Helou’s terrific book, Savory Baking from the Mediterranean.

Biscotti means “twice baked,” indicating the two baking phases involved here. The recipe calls for loaves of dough to be sliced prior to proofing, then baked initially on high heat before separating the slices and allowing them to dry thoroughly in a cooler oven. Because I added a little too much olive oil (140 grams instead of 130 – 135), and probably for other mysterious reasons, my dough was much too soft to slice before baking. So I baked the three loaves at 500F for 15 minutes, then sliced them with a serrated knife (at which point, my number one taste tester sampled one and declared “I. Love. Them.”) and spread the slices out on the baking sheet to dry at 175F.

I’m not apologizing for the extra olive oil; I’ll use the same amount when I make them again, because I. Love.Them. And already my mind is awhirl with ideas for variations on this delightful snack: What other seeds and spices could we include? What about toppings? And I’m dreaming of a sourdough version, of course.

I do believe the Babes (for links, see my right sidebar) are unanimous this month in pronouncing these biscotti a winner. Please bake with us! The recipe is here on Lien’s blog. To be included in the Buddy roundup, send a photo plus a link to your blog post or photo-sharing site to Lien by February 28.

 

Parchment Love

I used to have a love-hate relationship with parchment paper. I love that it keeps all kinds of things (bagels, hamburger rolls, grissini, cinnamon rolls…) from adhering to their pans. In fact, parchment is indispensable if you bake in or on metal pans. But I hate that the rolls of paper parchment are difficult to tear off cleanly, need to be cut with scissors every time to fit the pan, and can’t be reused more than two or three times, if at all.

Since I discovered reusable parchment sheets from Regency Wraps, there’s a whole lot more love going on in my kitchen.

  • The sheets can be reused hundreds of times, according to the manufacturer. I’ve had mine for a few months and they show no signs of wearing out.
  • They’re easy to clean with a damp cloth, and a little soap if they’re sticky or greasy.
  • They are easy to cut to the exact dimensions of your pans. The uncut size is 13 x 17 inches, large enough for a sheet pan, two 8-inch cake pans, or two 9 x 13-inch pans (which are usually a little smaller than that at the bottom). It’s worth having one for each pan you use regularly.
  • Once they’re cut to size, they can be stored right in their pans.
  • They can be used in oven temperatures up to 500F. Paper burns at 450.
  • They are more “nonstick” than paper parchment. I used to need copious amounts of semolina to keep bagels from sticking to the paper. With these sheets I don’t need any.

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And here’s even more for you to love: Forget flowers and chocolate — I would love to send some love to your kitchen in time for Valentine’s Day,  in the form of two reusable parchment sheets, courtesy of Regency Wraps.

Continue reading for giveaway details…

Lazy Baking — Oat Bran Sourdough Muffins

It’s Tuesday night and I can’t make bagels. I want to make bagels, I have all the ingredients for bagels, and I love making bagels. But after putting in a full day of work, my energy is sapped and I can’t face rolling 18 bagels and then staying up for another three or four hours waiting to put them into the fridge overnight. What I need is to mix, bake, and go to bed. (Well, OK, I might sneak an episode of Breaking Bad in there somewhere.)

Mix, bake, sleep… sounds like muffins to me. Sourdough, of course. And using some of that big bag of oat bran that stares me in the face every time I look at the pantry shelf seems like a good idea, too. Sourdough oat bran muffins are not in my repertoire, but what the hell, I’ll just try something. At worst, I’ll have lost 30 minutes and 63 cents’ worth of oat bran, and I can go to bed saying I tried.

Believe me when I say a new recipe almost never works for me on the first attempt, but these are actually pretty good! They have the texture I appreciate in a muffin — coarse and chewy and nothing like a cupcake. The 15-muffin batch size is a bit unconventional, but I can live with that. And they’re rather plain looking, aren’t they?

But they really do taste very good, although I can imagine all sorts of ways they could be spruced up with the addition of nuts, fruits, spices, gumball machine rings, etc. What are your ideas? Share them in the comments, or better yet, bake up your own take on these very easy muffins and send me a photo and a link to your recipe (must include sourdough starter and oat bran!). If I have any takers, I’ll post them in a roundup in a couple of weeks.

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Cuban Bread

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.)

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Stollen Buddies

We Bread Baking Babes love the friends who bake with us each month. Yay for the Buddies who made room in their busy December schedules to bake these beautiful Stollen!

  • Gilad (Gilad Ayalon Vegan) made a vegan version by using apple puree and coconut oil instead of eggs and butter.
  • Judy (Judy’s Gross Eats) was disappointed with the recipe, but she did say it tasted great, and it looks wonderful to me!