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Bread

Extremely Soft Milk Bread (Tangzhong Method)

milk-bread-2 One loaf of this bread was just not enough. I needed a slice or two of it per day.

I come back home in the evening, there’s London all around, millions of people that all look more successful than me, there’s rain on my hair, light and transparent that I could not see it from the window before leaving the office. I don’t know what I am doing here and why I am so far from my family and my people, but everything would make sense, or at least a bit more sense, if I could have a piece of artisan made bread, without preservative, calcium propionate & friends.

milk-bread-2 But this bread was gone in two days only (sic!). The third day saw me staring at the crumbs with melancholy. Because, well, who knows when I’ll have again time and energy to bake it according the Tangzhong method.

Not that this TangZhong thing implies complicate procedures and long preparation time. No, no. The bread could not be my type of bread, otherwise. It’s just one step more when you mix 1 part of flour with 5 parts of water, wait for this paste to cool down and add it into other ingredients of the bread dough. Et voila’.

milk-bread I might have been a baker in my previous life. No, I cannot boast particularly great baking skills (sometimes I get confused with the powders and mix wrong ingredients, like when I made a pizza with bicarbonate of soda) but I like to believe I had a chance to work on something simple, natural and popular, a staple in everyone’s life. Something that used to be a staple in my diet and that now is just a kind of luxury (I told you why I don’t buy commercial bread, right?). Baking bread might be one of the few things able to reconnect me with a familiar world, far from the metropolis of thousands of fake flavors and mundane encounters.

milk-bread-2 p.s. Don’t you love the word Tangzhong? Tangzhong, Tangzhong, Tangzhong… have you ever tried it?

Extra Soft Milk Bread

Ingredients

    For the Tangzhong
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • The Dough:
  • 650g (around 4 Cups) all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 7 g instant yeast
  • 1/2 Cup half and half
  • 1T caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • Tangzhong (see above)
  • 1 egg for egg wash

Instructions

  1. For the Tangzhong: mix the flour and water together until there aren’t any lumps. Place in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it reaches a dense consistency, when it is thick and the spoon begins to make trails.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix for 10, until the dough is silky and smooth. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled in size, roughly an hour.
  3. Divide the dough into smaller portions. I divided it into 4 pieces that I placed in one loaf tin. Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
  4. Cover the pan loosely and allow to rise for half an hour, then glaze with milk or an egg wash. Bake for approximately 40 minutes.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/extremely-soft-milk-bread-tangzhong-method/

Rye Soda Bread

ryesodabread-9 In this recipe the dough expands by about a third during baking, thanks to the reaction that takes place when combining baking soda with the buttermilk. The preparation time is incredibly fast, you do not have to kneed for too long or comply with boring waiting times while the yeast is working to foam up the dough. 

Obviously this unleavened bread is less “honeycomb” like and more full-bodied than this, however, despite the lack of yeast, it is still quite soft. To make this particular version of Soda Bread, I mixed white flour with rye flour.  I like to add rye flour whenever I can because it has a lower gluten content than wheat flour and contains a higher proportion of soluble fiber. 

ryesodabread-2 Would I be under a cloud if I said I haven’t heard of buttermilk until a few weeks ago? I’m not here to build a reputation as a trained chef, anyhow.

I enjoy much more being as honest with you as I would be with a close friend than pretending I am a master chef that knows best. Same applies to my science experiments: I am constantly researching and learning.

ryebread So, what have I learned this time? I learned the secret of the Irish Soda Bread. And I am here to share it with you (please thank me later, after you have successfully baked this bread :)).

The dry yeast we normally use when baking bread is only a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and an acid. We can now simulate commercial baking powder by mixing simple acidic substances, such as vinegar, yogurt and buttermilk, with the sodium bicarbonate. Simple as that. 

In the past, when sodium bicarbonate was not available, it was common to make raising agents using lye obtained from wood ashes and water. How cool is that! A handful of ashes taken from the fireplace dissolved in a big jug of water would be used instead of yeast or soda. A loaf you can make from wood: this is what I would call a rustic and genuine bread.

ryesodabread-10 I believe in stepwise progress, my friends: maybe soon you’ll see me blogging about extremely natural recipes from a house in the woods (like I saw during my short stay in Norway last year). But in the meantime I want to find happiness in small things, even in a slice of this rye soda bread.

Rye Soda Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 cups Rye flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Instructions

  1. Mix flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large mixing bowl and stir.
  2. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk and mix. You may need to add a little milk if the dough seems too stiff.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C/Gas 6.
  4. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes.
  5. Form into a round and place on a lightly floured baking sheet and cut a cross on the top. Bake for about 30 minutes (or a bit more more if needed). Cool on a wire rack at least half an hour before eating the bread.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/rye-soda-bread/

A very special Gluten-Free Loaf: All Seed and Nut Bread

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This is a great idea. I thought “here’s a great recipe” when I first saw it on Milana’s blog. I called it bread because it is loaf shaped and because my original plan was to have it in lieu of the standard refined carbs stuffed bread. You might know I am constantly fighting carbohydrates, a battle I always lose when in front of a fragrant dish of pasta al pomodoro (pasta with marinara sauce).

So this was my escape plan for all those evenings when a claustrophobic and crowded ride back home in the London Underground tube sucks up my mental energy so much as to leave me incapable of copying even the most essential home cooking directions. Those quick-and-easy-toast nights, you know. A slice of no flour bread with on top something I find in the fridge (hopefully) and et voila’, les jeux sont fait (meaning the chips are down, meaning that when I can’t be bothered cooking I can eat a box of these cookies, ergo I need a strategic action plan to avoid a sugar overdose from sweets and also complex carbs in pasta and pizza).

justseedsbread-0500 Now I’ve got good news and bad news (and only good news if you love chew-resistant food). The good news is that you don’t need a hacksaw to slice this bread, your common knife will do; the bad one is that you need to be physically and mentally prepared for a proving chewing session, with your jaw getting trained for the World Championship of Resistant Mastication.

If you survive this stage, you get to taste a slice of nutty goodness whose density of nutrients is as high as the density matter of a black hole (and yeah, you’ll probably win the above-mentioned championship). Spreading a moist and simple pate’ on this bread is a must. Pesto, hummus or a veggie spread, everything will contrast well with the crunchiness of this concentrate of Omega-3 essential fatty acids, fiber, vitamins and minerals.

justseedsbread-0521

At the end of the day, we get lots of good things from this not-for-mortal-souls bread. Firstly, after two or three bites we feel full already (either because of the above-mentioned density or because we’ve got enough jaw workout). Secondly, we exercise our jaw and increase oxygen to the joints and muscles (no joking). Not to mention the effects on the double chin! Benefits from all sides, you see?

all seeds and nuts bread-1

All Seeds & Nuts Bread

Ingredients

  • 100 grams of pumpkin seeds
  • 100 grams of sunflower kernels
  • 100 grams of almonds
  • 100 grams of hazelnuts
  • 100 grams of linseed
  • 100 grams of sesame seeds
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.
  2. In a large bowl combine all the seeds and nuts, stirring well. Whisk the eggs, oil and mix very well until everything is completely soaked.
  3. Transfer to a loaf tin and bake in the oven on the middle rack, for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before slicing (important, be patient! you'll destroy the bread if you don't wait).
  4. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to one week.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/all-seeds-nuts-bread-glutenfree/

No Knead Whole Wheat Bread (4 ingredients only!)

wholebread-0192

 

I do not buy bread in London. Not anymore.

In the past I had a beautiful relationship with store bought breads. Then I discovered that those cute, perfectly sliced loaves were a scam. Honestly, how can one classify them as bread when they contain stuff like fructose corn syrup, mono-dyglicerides and dextrose?

The only way to get over the disappointment was: 1) to start baking my own whole wheat bread; 2) to make the entire bread making process as simple as possible.

auberginepizzetta-0208 wholebread-0190

Et voila’: a low fuss bread loaf I made from the best whole wheat flour I found in Waitrose mixed with other 3 ingredients (4 if you count water). 100% whole wheat flour is the secret for a loaf full of nutrients and fiber, a bread that turned my biggest “food disappointment” into a successful moment of craftiness that I am now proud about :).

wholewheatbread-0185 wholebread-0195

Do you bake your own bread?

What’s your biggest “food disappointment”?

No Knead Whole Wheat Bread (4 ingredients only)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 3 ½ cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Mix together the warm water, maple syrup and yeast. In a small mixing bowl. Let it sit for about 15 minutes so the yeast activates (be patient! this step is important).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour and salt.
  3. Add the water/yeast mix to the bowl containing the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon for 2 minute. Cover the bowl with a wet towel and let it rise about 2 hours.
  4. Preheat your oven to 180 C. Transfer the dough in the loaf tin and bake about 30 minutes.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/no-knead-whole-wheat-bread-4-ingredients-only/

Whole Wheat and Quinoa Flour Pizza Dough


Ages ago I bought Quinoa flour at Whole Foods Market in High Street Kensington. That was a week after I bought a 500 gr Quinoa bread and gasped when I was asked to handle 7 pounds for it. 11 dollars for a piece of bread, isn’t it blasphemy?

Anyhow, it was MY fault. I acted in breach of the rule number one for the smart shopping in Whole Foods Market: always check the price tag first.

wholepizza-0275

When I came back to the crime scene not only I had learnt that a 7 pounds loaf doesn’t taste better than any other mortal bread, I had also recovered from the shock and grown the idea to get a cheaper Quinoa bread by baking it myself, from scratch at home. Revenge.

A pack of Quinoa flour, water, yeast and salt would do the magic, I thought. It would also compensate for the wrong purchase. But the plan did not go exactly as expected. A pack of 500 gr of Quinoa from Bolivia distributed by DbaFoods costed me 6 pounds.

At the end of the day I saved 1 pound but needed more ingredients and time to get to the final product. Which, to be honest, I baked at the best of my culinary skills and yet disliked it more than the fancy “7 pounds bread”!

pizzaswhole

The precious and prized sack of Quinoa from the Andes of South America, stayed quiet in the cupboard for a few months. Meantime I stopped baking bread. The poor cereal was going to face sure death when I magnanimously gave it a new chance of life by substituting it for a little less than a half of the all-purpose flour in my pizza dough recipe.

The Quinoa mixed with the whole flour did not contribute with the pungent yeasty taste that made me disapprove the deluxe bread. I loved this wholesome pizza and made it twice last week. I managed to pack my pizza with vitamins and other nutrients Quinoa is rich with. Redemption, eventually.

wholepizza-0311

Whole Wheat and Quinoa Flour Pizza Dough

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 2-4

Ingredients

  • 2 cups organic whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 2 tsp honey or agave nectar
  • 2 tsp dry active yeast
  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. Pour water into a bowl and add yeast and honey. Let mixture stand for 5 minutes. In a bigger bowl add the flours, salt and mix (I used a wooden spoon) until a coarse dough forms.
  2. Knead until you get a smooth and uniform dough.
  3. Shape into a ball and leave in the bowl covered with a wet towel. Let it rise for at least 1 hour. If not using right away wrap with plastic wrap then freeze.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/whole-wheat-and-quinoa-flour-pizza-dough/

Honey Pretzel Burger Buns


Immediately after sharing with you my desire to cut the carbs and rely more on protein, I publish a bread recipe. Am I an incoherent person or just someone unable to stick with plans? Both, possibly. However, in the fabulous virtual world of my blog I can afford to be a person that eats a little of everything. A person with a good level of balance, at least when it comes to food choices but with all the possible exceptions  smile emoticon
bread-0009

So when I write about my will to boost the protein content, I am NOT stating that my diet would be exclusively protein-based. I intend to re-balance the caloric support in favor of a better distribution of nutrients.

Recently many journalists have pointed out that the Mediterranean diet is disappearing to make way for a diet based on more inexpensive carbohydrates. The Italian diet would suffer as economic crisis strikes and many people would bake pizza and bread at home to save money. Just as I have always done in London and, lucky me, not because of financial hardship but simply to enjoy the rustic flavors and pleasure of Italian home cooking.

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In contrast with the alleged choices of the Italians dictated by the crisis (but I struggle to believe my countrymen cannot afford veggies anymore), I set a limit on my bread and pasta intake to count more on veggies and grains. I reserve pizza for a place of honor on Saturday nights; I let bucatini pasta wait in my pantry while stocks of high priority ingredients last (but pasta is always ready to roll in a fresh tomato sauce whenever I want); I do not argue the importance of bread, because although the prayer “Give us this day our daily bread” may not hold true for everybody, it is THAT unique staple food that when fresh baked fills the space with THAT simply awesome aroma. Something I need to go for, once in a while.

bread-0018 p.s. If you have read my posts over the last couple of months you may have noticed that I am getting caught up in quite a few food trends. I can’t hold my curiosity. I shared with you my misadventure with cronuts and my take on ramen burger with pasta. This recipe is inspired by “The Pretzel Bun Trend”  with a modified cooking technique particularly suitable to lazy people like me. If you are not that lazy then before baking, bring water and 3 tablespoons of baking soda to a simmer and cook the dough for about 1 minute. The soda solution will cause the crust to brown deeply.

Honey Pretzel Buns

Yield: makes 6-8 buns

Ingredients

  • 1 package (2 and 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. honey
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Instructions

  1. Warm the water in a saucepan until it's about 110 degrees – you don't want it too hot, or it'll kill the yeast and your dough won't rise properly.
  2. Transfer the warmed water to a medium bowl and sprinkle in 1 package active dry yeast. Stir in the honey and let the yeast sit for about 15 minutes. Add the flour, the baking soda and 1 teaspoon fine salt. Knead, adding more flour if needed, until smooth - about 7 to 8 minutes. Lightly oil another bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Shape into a ball, let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and grease a large baking sheet. Divide the dough into 6 pieces.
  4. In a small bowl, beat the egg and pour into a shallow bowl. Dunk the balls into the egg wash (both sides). Arrange each ball on the prepared baking sheet, and with a knife cut two deep slits in a cross. Sprinkle with pretzel salt and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/honey-pretzel-burger-buns/

How to make Walnut Bread (completely handmade!)

I managed to make a great walnut bread! Although in my today’s plans there was another recipe. My sister and I  discuss daily about food and recipes, usually before going to sleep. We agreed on making a popular italian sauce: Pesto. When we woke up, this morning, and spoke to our mum we had our Pesto Dream broken. Fresh basil is not available in southern Italy in winter (you must have your own indoor plant and keep it warm at 25 degrees).

flour

From pesto to walnuts bread is a short step. Both recipes require walnuts, both are easy to consume and enjoy. Ok ok, no real connections between bread and pesto, I just had flour and yeast in excess :). Anyway, I surpassed myself, I swear: this bread is a pretty darn good! When you bake it, smell of toasted nuts and rising bread hits the nostrils. It’s the aroma of all the good things of the past which fills spaces and makes memories resurface. So here is my personal recipe for walnut bread.

work2 dough1

Before, few tips: walnut bread is delicious, perfect to pair with both savory and sweet dips, jam, butter, nutella and, why not, pesto. Use good quality nuts, I recommend not to buy already shelled walnuts. They taste better, moreover you can finally use the nutcracker. Isn’t fun when the walnuts flee from nutcracker jumping all over the place? I think so.

panetto bread2 walnutsbread2 walnutsbread1

How to make Walnut Bread (completely handmade!)

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cup warm water
  • yeast (1 fresh yeast or 2 tsp active dry yeast)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups stoneground bread (strong) flour
  • 3 cups whole flour
  • about 1 tsp oil or butter for the baking tray and the mnixing bowl
  • 300 gr walnuts in pieces

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast in the water.
  2. Put white flour into a bowl and stir in the yeast in water with a fork until no bits are left. At this point the dough is still wet so you can easily use the fork to mix the ingredients.
  3. Add the 3 cups of whole flour and mix. When the dough is dense enough it is time to put the fork aside and to start kneading. Work the dough by kneading and stretching it until it is smooth. Bear in mind that because of the whole flour, the dough is not going to be completely stretchy but always a bit sticky.
  4. Shape the dough in a ball and put it into the bowl you have previously oiled. Cover the bowl with a wet tea towel. Let it rest and rise for about an hour (longer if the kitchen is cold).
  5. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it again as if you wanted to punch it (physical manipulation brings molecules into contact to form gluten which is responsible for the elasticity of the dough).
  6. Incorporate the walnuts (in pieces, you decide how big) in the dough. Let it rest again for 1 hour or so covered with the towel.
  7. Put the dough on your baking tray or in a non-stick loaf pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes at 180 degrees.
http://www.foodrecipeshq.com/how-to-make-perfect-walnuts-bread/