“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”

James Beard (1903-1985)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

BBB - Brunkans långa (the short version)

One of the many reasons why I like to bake as a buddy with the Bread Baking Babes is because of all the different and new varieties of bread we bake. It's great to try a new recipe and have six or seven other ladies bake it ahead of time so you can see what it's supposed to look like, read about the challenges or add a new recipe to your growing repertoire. Görel from Grain Doe was this month's host of the challenge and chose to bake a Swedish bread called Brunkans långa, or Brunkan's long bread.

When I read the recipe I was hesitant to participate. Five days? Graham flour? I mean, I had the five days but I didn't have the graham flour*. Plus it's a sourdough which can be tricky. Well, not really but it's tricky for me because I am lacking severely in this one area: patience. (Well, and perhaps humility...) And with sourdoughs you have to have patience. I already get antsy when I have to let a dough sit overnight, let alone five days.

But a challenge is a challenge and I know myself well enough to know I wouldn't be able to let it go. So while I prepared the ingredients, the other half went off to the store to find graham flour. I chose to divide the recipe not in half, but in four since I was going to do some additional baking. It resulted in a long enough loaf to feed three for lunch and a rather large heel for me to toast and munch on the next day (I love heels!!).

I cannot explain how much I love this bread. For one, the smell and texture reminded me of the Belgian loaves that my grandma Pauline liked so much. Sweet, slightly moist and extremely flavorful, the bread keeps well even after several days. Also lovely toasted...but then again, what bread isn't?

Görel's original recipe is here: http://graindoe.blogspot.com/2010/09/bbb-brunkans-langa.html. It makes for two rather large loaves, no less lovely for their size. If you want to bake a smaller version, you may want to use the following recipe. I figured it would no longer be called "långa" since it suffered severly in size, so I called it "shånga". Since "långa" means "long", I've decided that "shånga" means "short". (Actually, kort means "short" in Swedish from what I understood, but that doesn't sound half as much fun. I am totally making this up and sure hope shånga is not some dirty word or a gross insult!

(Not) Brunkans shånga
For the sourdough: 
Day 1, morning:
Mix 0,42 cup (60g) graham flour with 0,5 cup (120ml) water.
Cover with cling film and leave at room temp.
Day 1, evening:
Add 1 heaping tablespoon (15g) graham flour and 1 tablespoon (15ml) of water.
Mix, cover with cling film and leave at room temp.

Day 2, morning:
Add 1 heaping tablespoon (15g) graham flour and 1 tablespoon (15ml) of water.
Mix. By now, the sourdough should be a little active (bubbly). If not, add a teaspoon of honey, some freshly grated apple or a teaspoon of natural yoghurt. Leave at room temp.

Day 3, morning:
Feed the sourdough with 1 heaping tablespoon (15g) graham flour and 1 tablespoon (15ml) of water .
Mix, cover with cling film and put in fridge.

Day 4
By now, the sourdough should be ready to use. If you don’t want to use it right away, you can keep in the fridge if you feed it as above a couple of times/week.

For the bread: 
0.7 cup of water (150ml)
2.1 cup high protein wheat flour (281g)
0.5 cup of graham sourdough starter (see above) (94g)
1 teaspoon of active dry yeast (3g)
2 tablespoons of dark muscovado sugar (38g)
1 teaspoon of honey (7g)
1 heaping teaspoon of sea salt (8g)

Mix all ingredients except the salt. Work the dough in a stand mixer for 10 minutes or by hand for 20. Add the salt. Knead the dough for 5 minutes more. Put the dough in a oiled, plastic bowl and cover. Rest the dough (and yourself, if you have a minute) for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes: fold one side of the dough against the center of the dough, then fold the other end inwards, finally turn the whole dough so that the bottom side is facing down. Cover the bowl, place it in the fridge and let the dough rise overnight.

Day 5
Set the oven temp to 480 F (250C). Leave the baking stone in if you use one. Pour out the dough on a floured table top and shape it into a loaf. Place the dough seam side down on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and place another parchment paper or a damp towel on top.  When the oven is ready, put in the sheet or shove the parchment paper with the loaves onto the baking stone. Put a small baking pan with 3-4 ice cubes on the bottom of the oven. (The water releases slowly which is supposed to be better.) Lower the oven temperature to 350F (175C) immediately after you have put in the bread.

After 20 minutes, open the oven door and let out excess steam. Bake for 35 minutes or until the loaf has reached an inner temp of 208F (98C).

Cool on wire.

*According to Wikipedia:Graham flour is not available in all countries. A fully correct substitute for it would be a mix of white flour, wheat bran, and wheat germ in the ratio found in whole wheat. Wheat comprises approximately 83% endosperm, 14.5% bran, and 2.5% germ by mass. For sifted all-purpose white flour, wheat bran, and wheat germ having densities of 125, 50, and 80 grams/cup, respectively, one cup of graham flour is approximately equivalent to 84 g (~2/3 cup) white flour, 15 g (slightly less than 1/3 cup) wheat bran, and 2.5 g (1.5 teaspoons) wheat germ.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pogacha - bread from the Balkans

The first time I came across this Balkan bread was in someone else's kitchen. Asija, the Bosnian lady who I knew from work, had made some sarma for me to try and I stopped by her place on the way home to pick it up. Before she handed me the enamel pan, she asked me what kind of bread I was going to eat these stuffed  cabbage rolls with. "It has to be a good bread so you can sop up the sarma sauce. Any other bread will be a catastrophy." Asijah had the most serious look on her face, waiting for me to answer. When I told her I wasn't sure if I had any bread at home at all, she put the pan down, threw her hands up in mock disgust and told me to wait right there.

Asija's sarma
At first, I thought I may have misunderstood her. Wait here? For what? Asija grabbed a small bowl from the counter and reached for the flour container. After putting several cups of flour into the bowl, she walked over to the fridge, bowl in hand, and added a glug of half-and-half and a scoop of sour cream in the bowl. Her hands were moving so fast I had a hard time registering the ingredients, but back at the counter she added yeast, salt and a little bit of oil to the bowl and proceeded to knead. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh her hands rolled the dough, kneading it into a soft, silky matter. Quickly she patted it into an oval, cut three lines across the top, wrapped it in plastic and handed me the whole package. "Proof for one hour, when you get home bake it at 350F until done. Then you can eat the sarma," she grinned. Time past? Not even five minutes!

When I arrived home, I baked the loaf and it was the prettiest, silkiest, loveliest white crumb I'd seen in a long time. What a great bread! It sopped up the sauce very well and held its shape. I jotted down the ingredients as best as I could remember and vowed to soon make this bread again.

The next time I saw pogacha mentioned was when I was researching ajvar for my Ethnic Idaho blog. Ajvar is a lovely vegetable spread made with roasted red peppers, garlic and eggplant. Spread on a slice of pogacha bread, it is a great way to bridge the distance between lunch and dinner. Since I had just tested several recipes for ajvar and was blessed with plenty of it, I decided that this was a great time to bake another pogacha!

Ajvar and cream cheese on pogacha
4 cups of flour
1/2 cup of half-and-half
1/4 stick of butter
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon of yeast
1/2 cup of sour cream
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Measure the flour out in a bowl. Put the half-and-half in a cup, add the butter and warm in the microwave for 30 seconds to a minute: the milk should be warm but not boiling hot. Stir in the sugar and set aside to cool to lukewearm. In the meantime mix the yeast with the flour, then add the half-and-half/butter mixture. Slowly knead four or five times, then mix in the sour cream, the oil and the egg, each one separately until well incorporated into the dough. Finally knead in the salt and continue to knead until the dough comes together and is smooth and silky. Cover in an oiled bowl, and rest until doubled in size. Punch down, shape into a loaf or bake in a loaf pan, slash three times horizontally and bake in an 350F oven until golden brown, approximately 45 minutes.

Pogacha, the Balkan beauty!

Cool on a rack, slice and enjoy with a good stew or something else that requires a good sop-up bread. This bread also toasts nicely.