Happy Valley Chow

gour-mand (noun): one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking

Filtering by Category: "Bread"

Braided Brioche

I figured since I posted two Chowder recipes, it was time for a bread post. One of my favorite meals in the fall is some homemade soup and a fresh loaf of warm bread. Brioche, over the years, has become one of my favorites. It's just so delicious, buttery, flakey and hearty. It's also very versatile, you can eat it plain or you can use it for sandwiches & french toast (just to name a few). This recipe, as much as I want to call it my own, came from one of my favorite cook books The French Laundry (It's on my store page ⬆). And actually the recipe isn't even Thomas Keller's (Owner of The French Laundry), he got it from Jean-Louis Palladin. Like many recipes in The French Laundry, this recipe takes some time to make. So, if you are making it for a specific event, you will have to start it ahead of time. Also, you don't have to make this braided, I just wanted to do it cause it seemed like fun. You can just toss the loaf in a butter loaf pan, which is what the actual recipe calls for. Enjoy!

  • 1/3 cup very warm water (110 degrees to 115 degrees F)
  • One 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast (not quick-rising)
  • 2 1/3 cups (10 1/2 ounces) cake flour
  • 2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 6 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 20 tablespoons (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1-inch cubes, plus butter for the pans
Directions (In Loaf Pans)

Combine the water and yeast in a small bowl. Let set for 10 minutes, then stir until the yeast is completely dissolved. Set aside.

Sift together the flours, sugar, and salt into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the eggs and beat for 1 minute at low speed, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed. Slowly add the dissolved yeast and continue beating at low speed for 5 minutes. Stop the machine, scrape any dough off the dough hook, and beat for another 5 minutes. Add the butter cubes, about one quarter of them at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition. Once all the butter has been added, beat for 10 minutes more, until the dough is smooth and silky.

Transfer the dough (it will be very wet and soft) in a large floured mixing bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until doubled in size, about 3 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface and gently work the air bubbles out by folding the dough several times while lightly pressing down on it. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Generously butter two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-3-inch loaf pans. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. With floured hands, divide the dough in half and shape it into two rectangles to fit the loaf pans. Place the dough in the pans and let the dough rise uncovered in a warm place until it is about 1/2 inch above the top of the pans, about 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the brioche until it is well browned on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately turn the brioche out onto a wire rack.

If using immediately, let the breads cool for 10 minutes, then slice. If serving within a few hours or up to 2 days, promptly wrap the hot bread in aluminum foil and set aside at room temperature until ready to use. To freeze, wrap the hot bread in foil and promptly freeze; when ready to use, reheat (without thawing, and still wrapped in foil) in a 250 degree F oven until heated through, 20 to 25 minutes. The bread can be kept frozen for up to 2 months.

If using the brioche for croutons or bread pudding, let the loaf sit at room temperature, uncovered, to dry for a day.

If you want to do the braided loaf, watch this video . Preheat your oven to 350 and place the braided loaf on a baking sheet and place in oven or preheat a baking stone and just cook the loaf right on the stone. You'll notice in the video, they place the braided loaf into a buttered loaf pan, you can do this as well. Do whatever makes YOU happy :)

Focaccia Bread

As some of you know, I am a Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Major at Penn State University. One of the classes we have to take is actually running a restaurant/kitchen. It's a really fun class, especially being a foodie like myself, we get to mess around a lot in the kitchen and create a lot of great stuff. Today we made up some sun dried tomato focaccia bread which turned out delicious, so I figured I might as well snap some pics of it and share with you all. The recipe below is just a straight focaccia recipe, but we added in some sun dried tomatoes. You can add in whatever you want (i.e. sun dried tomatoes, olives, pepperoni, etc). Just make you don't add in more than 10% of the weight in flour, in other addition ingredients. So if you are adding in sun dried tomatoes, you should take 10% of the 2.5 lbs (4.0 oz) and only add in around that much sun dried tomatoes. Enjoy!

  • 24 oz. Water
  • 1.0 oz. Yeast 
  • 2.5 lbs. Bread Flour
  • 3.5 tsp Salt
  • 1.25 tsp Sugar
  • 2.0 oz. Olive Oil

Place a cast iron skillet in your oven and Pre-heat to 425 degrees F

Measure out your water, being as precise as possible, and mix in the yeast. In a bowl combine the flour, salt and sugar until incorporated. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the dough hook attachment fitted, place your flour mixture in and add the water/yeast mixture and olive oil in. Start the mixer on a low speed and mix for 8 minutes. If you are adding in extra stuff, throw that all in the last minute of mixing to incorporate into the dough.

Once your dough has reached a proper consistency transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a dish towel and let proof for 1.5 hours in an 80 degree F area (2 hours in 75 degree F). Once proofed transfer to an oiled sheet pan and mold dough to the shape of the sheet pan and let proof for another 30 minutes. Once proofed, take your pointer, middle and ring finger and gently push holes down into the dough the whole way around (this is to have little pockets for the olive oil). Generously drizzle the top of the focaccia dough with olive oil coating the whole thing and then sprinkle with kosher salt (You can also use some chopped fresh herbs on top as well, be creative!)

Place the dough in the oven and throw a few ice cubes into the hot cast iron skillet to create steam. Bake for 10 minutes or until crust is golden brown. 

Why Steam Bread??

Ever wonder how professional bakers get those beautifully domed loaves a bread with glossy brown crusts? The secret - at least one of them - is steam...
In the first few minutes of baking, loaves of bread will rise rapidly as the gases trapped inside expand and the yeast has a final burst of activity (this is called "ovenspring"). Steaming within this time helps keep the crust soft. This allows the bread to continue expanding freely.
The steam that has settled on the surface of the bread also dissolves sugars in the dough. As the bread stops expanding and the steam begins to evaporate, the sugars are left behind to caramelize (yum!) and create a glossy crust.
Steaming is really only useful during the first 5-10 minutes of baking while the yeast is still active and the internal structure hasn't set. After this time, the crust needs its own time to set and dry out.
There are several different methods for getting steam inside your oven and the trick is always doing it without losing too much heat. Personally, I prefer to set a cast iron pan on the oven floor and let it preheat along with the oven. When the time comes, I slide the loaves in and then I either quickly pour a cup of very hot tap water into the pan or toss in a handful of ice cubes.
Some bakers advocate using a spritzer bottle to spray a mist of water into the oven, but I feel that this lets out too much heat and doesn't really generate the same amount of steam as using a pan with water or ice cubes.
Also, you can add steam when baking any bread, whether it's a simple white sandwich bread or a hearty country round loaf. You learn something new everyday!

Dutch Oven Bread

I am really starting to enjoy baking bread, it's so easy and satisfying! The weekend I decided to make my lasagna I thought late Friday night "you know what, I want some homemade bread with it."  Sure it was like 11PM, but that's the beauty of this bread recipe, you just throw all the ingredients together and let the dough sit over night so it becomes nice and fermented. Then just turn it out, give it a few little kneads, throw it in the dutch oven and waaaallaaaaa homemade bread! Give it a try, you won't regret it!

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour + some for dusting

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast into water. Add the flour and salt, stirring until blended. The dough will sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise over night (18 hours preferably) at room temperature. 

The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 15 min. 

Shape into a ball, using more flour if necessary to keep from sticking. Place a clean dish towel flat on a work surface and sprinkle with flour. Place the dough on the dish towel, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and place another dish towel on top. Let rise for 1 to 2 hour or until doubled in size. 

About 20 min. before the dough is ready, preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Place dutch oven in the oven as it heats, as to heat the dutch oven. When dough is ready, carefully remove dutch oven from oven and remove lid. With the seem side up, brush the outside of the bread with some olive oil and sprinkle the top with Kosher salt. Cut a few 1/2" deep slits in the top, in the design you want...I forgot to do that. Carefully place dough in the dutch oven, again seem side up. If need be shake the pot to redistribute the bread, it may not look beautiful but it will look great when baked. 

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake another 15-20 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned and sounds hollow when tapped. Carefully remove bread from Dutch oven and let it cool on rack for at least an hour. Slice and enjoy!
Song of the Recipe

Nothing says bread baking like some blue grass and fiddle shredding! Not the most famous group, but they are really awesome and you should check them out. 

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