Goth Panda

February 2, 2011

BBA Challenge #43: Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche and BBA Challenge Wrap-Up

Risen Sponge

Sometimes I thought this day would never come. Today I baked my final Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge bread: Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche. Yay me!

This bread took a lot of preparation. The recipe itself takes three days. On Saturday, I fed my starter, thinking that I would make the sponge on Sunday, but I didn’t get a chance to. Then I figured that I could make this recipe work on weeknights, instead of waiting for the weekend to bake, like I usually do.

I mixed the sponge together before I went to bed and left it out overnight.


The sponge was pretty dry, and I was afraid it wouldn’t get “very bubbly,” but it kind of did:

Risen Sponge

The next day when I got home from work, I took it out of the fridge to warm up. Then I roasted the onions, grated the Asiago in my Cuisinart, and chopped up the chives and green onions.

Flour and Yeast


Olive Oil and Salt
In case you were wondering, all of the chives won’t fit in one small bowl

I found that one bunch of green onions was slightly less than two ounces, where one bunch of chives was slightly more, but I just went with it.

Not only was this the recipe that took the longest to make, I think it probably was the one that cost the most to make, too. I bought cheap Asiago, but still it was $7 for a pound of it, not to mention out of season chives and green onions.

Not to mention most of a bag of bread flour. PR mentions that you won’t be able to mix this in a stand mixer because the recipe is so big. I was concerned that it might not fit in my bowl, either. Here is just the flour and yeast for the final dough.

Added Olive Oil and Salt

Then I had to mix in water and the sponge.


By the end, I gave up on my dough whisk and just mixed it with my hands. Still, it took a while. Then you add olive oil and salt. My friend Kristen got me these cute pinch bowls. I don’t know if you can see, but the olive oil is almost overflowing the green bowl. D’oh!

Then you add the chives and green onions and half of the cheese and try to mix all of it with your hands. Here is the point in the BBA recipe where I start to wonder if all of the add-ins will ever fit in the dough.

They always do.

Then I proofed the dough for two hours, until just before I was going to bed. I divided and shaped the dough. I didn’t bother to weigh it and just cut it approximately in half, but one of the pieces turned out noticeably bigger than the other.



I refrigerated them both until I got home from work tonight. Once I got home, I took them out. After leaving them out for two hours, I started preheating the oven.


I brushed them with olive oil and dimpled the dough.

With Cheese

Then added cheese.

With Onions

And roasted onions. I weighed my onion before chopping it, and it was more than 8 ounces, but I was disappointed that I had so few onions in the end. I might make more next time.


Then I put them both in the oven, complete with the hearth oven steam and spray method. I had a problem because I was going to switch shelves and rotate the pans at 20 minutes, but the top one puffed up so much that I didn’t think it would fit on the middle shelf. So I left them on the same shelves, which was a mistake.

The middle shelf one turned out lovely:


The top shelf one puffed up in the middle, and the cheese browned way too much, and the roasted onions charred until they were no longer recognizable as onions. It will probably taste good, but I am not going to post a photo of it. I am going to post photos of the pretty one.

This bread is very savory and delicious. A perfect bread to finish on! Now I just have to figure out how to wrap it, since I think it is too big for my bread bags.


So I completed the BBA Challenge! It took me longer than I thought it would, but I am glad I saw it through. I learned a lot about bread and about baking. And I tried some amazing recipes.

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice is the first cookbook I have made every recipe from, and here are my final thoughts on the breads.

BBA recipes that I would DEFINITELY make again in the future because they were delicious:

19 Clear Winners

These recipes I might possibly make again in the future. They didn’t amaze me with their awesomeness, but they were good, solid recipes:

4 Runners-Up

BBA recipes that I probably wouldn’t make again unless specifically requested to do so:

16 Not-So-Good

Both the Casatiello and the Corn Bread might be in the delicious category if only I ate meat. I don’t think the vegetarian versions I made quite did them justice.

BBA recipes that I would like to try again because I feel I could do a better job than I did with them at the time:

4 Try-Agains

That’s a pretty good summary for a cookbook.

The question now is what is next for Goth Panda? For a long time, all I have been posting about are the breads for this challenge. I have some ideas for GP’s future but I need to work out the details. Watch this space for future GP developments!

January 29, 2011

BBA Challenge #41 and #42: Whole-Wheat Bread and Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes

As sometimes happens round about these parts, I finished these breads a while ago but am only now getting around to posting about them. I was hoping to finish the BBA Challenge during my three-week Christmas break, and I got very, very close to doing so. I got through the Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes, but I still have the Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche to conquer. I am planning to pull that one off before the week is through, and then celebrate!

Bu first — Whole-Wheat Bread. Another bread I was looking forward to. I didn’t know what to do about the soaker, because I wasn’t sure if my King Arthur Flour Whole Wheat Flour was considered “coarse” enough. I thought probably not, so instead I ground up oats in my Cuisinart to use as the whole grain. I didn’t get a photo of this, so just picture a very unattractive bowl of oatmeal.

I was worried about my poolish, because while it definitely got to the “thick paste” phase, it never really got to the “bubble” phase. I think I let it sit in the refrigerator for two nights, hoping to get more bubbles, but it never really happened.


I mixed everything up:

Ready to Rise

I was worried about the rising, and I think it took a little longer than two hours, but eventually it got to this point:


I shaped it:


And gave it a little more time for the second rise, too.


The one on the left is a little flat on top. You can also see it in the photo below. It almost looks like pain de mie.


This bread is a simple and great recipe, just like the white bread. Between these two, sandwich breads are covered, in my opinion. It may have taken a while to get to them, but I am glad I did.


The Whole-Wheat Bread gets 4 stars.

I am also happy I made the Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes, although they are far from an everyday bread.

First, somehow I managed to completely boil away the water while boiling the potatoes, which is a mistake on so many levels, not least of which is that you need the potato water later in the recipe. Fortunately I managed to catch it before I scorched my pan. Although the potatoes were done, I added more water and let them boil for a few minutes more, just so I could get the necessary potato water.

PR doesn’t specify the type of potato to use. I used Yukon Gold.

Yukon Gold

I even managed to remember to feed my “barm.”

Ready to Mix

Here is the potato water, which doesn’t look very appetizing:

Potato Water

I also chopped up a whole bunch of chives, not just the recommended quarter cup. I usually complain that PR’s recipes have too many add-ins, but I am pretty sure that there is no such thing as too many chives.


Here is the bread all kneaded and ready to rise…


Ready to Rise

…and risen. You may not be able to see it, but the dome in the middle is touching the plastic lid.


This dough smelled delicious, like Sour Cream and Chive potato chips, my favorite flavor.

Time to add the cheddar. First pat the dough into a rectangle.


Next, add the cheese slices.


Then roll it all up. This was easier than I thought it would be. I thought there would be unraveling, but it didn’t happen.


Let the dough rise again.

Cheese Explosion

And then slash. I think the point of the slashing was to get down to the cheese layer, so the cheese would ooze out. I was somewhat successful, but some of my slashes just weren’t deep enough.


Some of them were deep enough to cause the cheese explosion.

Cheese Explosion

This bread is seriously delicious.


We ate it all by itself. I’m not sure what else you could use it for, but it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t need any accompaniments. It gets 4.5 stars.

So one more bread to go. The Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche takes three days to make, not counting the extra day to feed the “barm,” but there is not a lot of active time each day. I am hoping to get started on it this weekend and finish it up during the week. I can’t believe I am this close to the end of the Challenge!

January 4, 2011

BBA Challenge #40: White Bread

White bread! Although it is not considered cool, perhaps, in the home bread baking community, I will admit that I like white sandwich bread quite a bit. I was interested to see what PR would bring to the table with this recipe.

I chose to make Variation 1, but I am not sure why. PR says that the different variations affect the final outcome in both texture and taste, but neglects to say exactly how each of the variations differ. So I chose to make the first one because I would rather use a whole egg than just a yolk (eliminating Variation 3) and I have King Arthur Flour’s Baker’s Special Dry Milk on hand, instead of the buttermilk or whole milk required for Variation 2.

This recipe can be done all in one day, and it is super easy. You mix all the ingredients together and then knead them. I haven’t bothered to check for windowpanes or check the dough temperature in what seems like forever. This is my dirty little BBA baking secret.

Ready to Rise

I put my dough on my stove to rise, which is the only place in the kitchen that seems to work. Still, I waited the full two hours before checking on it, and that seems to have been a mistake.


Look at that! I think that is the worst my bucket has ever seen. It looked like the dough might pop the lid off at any second.

Then you divide the dough into two pieces. I do usually weigh out my dough when dividing it because I am pretty bad at guessing by sight. So here is how I go about it.

First I put one of my flat bowls on the scale and zero it out. I usually measure in grams, just to make it easier to half the number in my head.


Then I overturn the bucket directly into the bowl, as seen here.


Then I move the dough to my counter and divide it with my bench knife. I put one half back on the scale.


I usually don’t bother too much to get it exact, as you can tell from the photo. Exactly half of the dough would have been 614.5, but 10 grams difference is not a big deal for loaves. I decided to leave it that way. For rolls, since they are so much smaller and the dough needs more divisions, I would try and get closer to the exact number.

I shaped them into boules, and there was some crazy gluten action.


Then I shaped them into loaves and put them in pans for the second rise.


Halfway through the rise, I had to go out, so I put the loaves in the refrigerator. When I took them out later on, the loaves had definitely kept rising in the refrigerator. I let them come back to room temperature, and after 45 minutes, I noticed they were rising even more. So I started preheating the oven, and put them in about 1 hour and fifteen minutes after removing them from the refrigerator. I don’t think the bread was affected at all.

This is when I started to preheat the oven:

Second Rise

I had to bake them the full 45 minutes to reach the right internal temperature.


I waited until this morning before slicing into them. One of the things I liked about this bread is that I found it very easy to slice. I have been baking pain de mie recently in an attempt to completely stop buying bread from the store. You might think that I would have been able to stop buying bread before that, but you would be wrong for one simple reason: I was not able to slice my bread evenly and thinly enough. I didn’t have any problems with hearth breads, but with soft sandwich breads — exactly the kind of bread where you want to be able to make even, thin slices — I would always mangle the bread. I bought some things that helped when slicing the pain de mie: a better bread knife, a bread and bagel slicer, and even an electric knife, which was the absolute best for the softest breads. But I decided to take a knife to the BBA White Bread, and although the crust and crumb are soft, I was able to slice it very nicely.



This bread tastes great and is easy to make. My only problem is one I have mentioned before: I wish the loaves were a little bigger. Has anyone tried to make this as one two-pound loaf (in a 9 x 5 pan) instead of as two one-pound loaves? The smaller loaves didn’t bother me much this time, but I would prefer larger loaves in the future. As white breads go, this recipe didn’t distinguish itself much from other white bread recipes I have made, but it is perfectly serviceable. Maybe there is just not all that much distinguishing about white bread. But I give it four stars.

January 1, 2011

BBA Challenge #39: Vienna Bread

I don’t think I have ever had Vienna Bread before, but I was excited about making it. It looked like it would be similar to French and Italian breads, and it did not disappoint.

I made a pâte fermentée two days before I mixed up the actual bread dough. The dough was very soft.

Ready to Rise

It took slightly longer than two hours to double, but I realize I forgot to get a shot of the doubled dough. I baked this bread yesterday on New Year’s Eve, and it seems like my picture-taking was sparse.

I decided to make loaves instead of pistolets, so I divided my dough into two pieces and shaped them into boules. This was near the end of the twenty minute resting period, and you can see how the soft dough spreads. Very different from the Tuscan bread.


Then I formed them into bâtards and put them aside to rise again. You can see air bubbles in the dough below. Usually when PR instructs to shape carefully so as not to deflate the dough, I laugh internally, because I don’t think I am ever able to shape the dough gently enough to not deflate the dough. It might have worked this time, though.


I let them sit for longer than specified again, because I have been having trouble getting my dough to rise. But I might have let them sit too long, because they started to bump into each other. I slashed them, badly. The dough was so soft that it caught on my lame and made unsightly rips in the dough. And after I was so proud of my slashes on the last two breads.

Ready to Bake

I did all of the hearth baking techniques, and waited for my bread to be done. It took the full thirty minutes.

The bread rose noticeably in the oven, and also spread out to bake my two loaves together. Nevertheless, they turned out very pretty.



I had this bread this morning for breakfast, and I enjoyed it a lot. It is like a hearth bread, but the small amount of shortening and egg added make the crust and the crumb both slightly softer than French or Italian breads. It had a really nice flavor. I opted not to do the Dutch Crunch topping, which I had never heard of before, but I think I might like to go back and try that, too.

I wonder if the bread could be baked as one two-pound loaf, instead of two one-pound loaves. The one-pound loaves turn out so small that they don’t make decent-sized sandwiches, in my opinion. I think this would be a good bread for sandwiches if it could be baked into larger loaves. Vienna bread gets a solid four stars.

December 27, 2010

BBA Challenge #37 and #38: Swedish Rye (Limpa) and Tuscan Bread

The end is in sight. I have two more weeks off and only five breads more to bake. And best of all, the last five breads are ones I am excited about baking: Vienna Bread, White Bread, Whole-Wheat Bread, and the two “extra” breads, Potato, Cheddar, and Chive Torpedoes, and Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche. All of these sound delicious, and it seems like forever since I have been excited about the BBA recipes I was baking. I think that’s part of the reason I have been taking so long to bake.

So back to the Swedish Rye and Tuscan breads, the last of the breads I was not too excited about making.

One of the things I have discovered in this challenge is that I am not a big fan of breads with molasses, and one of the things I already knew before going in was that I am not a big fan of licorice flavors. The Swedish Rye has both molasses and licorice flavors (anise and fennel), so I knew going in that I would probably not be a fan of this bread. As it turns out, the Swedish Rye is the only BBA bread I baked that I did not even taste. I gave it my mom (who is a fan of licorice flavors) and she brought it with her to my brother’s house for Christmas, where there were not many people besides herself who liked it, apparently. I remade the BBA Bagels for our snow day today, and my brother complained on Twitter that I should have sent some of those to his house instead of the Swedish Rye.

The Swedish Rye starts with boiling water, molasses, dried orange peel, ground anise, ground fennel, and ground cardamom. The good part about this recipe is I finally got to use my spice grinder to grind up the whole anise and fennel seeds. That was fun.

Molasses Mixture

After letting the mixture cool, you add some “barm” and rye flour, let it become foamy, and then refrigerate it overnight.

Mixed Starter

Mine was still kind of bubbly the next morning:

Risen Starter

Then you mix up the dough with the starter, flour, yeast, salt, brown sugar, and melted shortening, and you have to be careful not to knead it too long because of the rye flour.

Ready to Rise

I think I have mentioned before that I have been having problems getting my bread to rise because of my cold house. This time I had somewhere to go in the afternoon, so I was hoping to finish shaping and baking the bread before I left. But the bread just was not rising. I tried moving the bread into different locations in my kitchen, and in my living room, but no luck. I started to wonder if my yeast had expired or if I had accidentally killed the yeast by adding the melted shortening before it had cooled enough. Finally, I used my tried-and-true method of turning on the oven and putting the dough on top of it, right before I left. When I got back, the dough had finally doubled. I think it took six hours to get it to this point:

Risen Dough

I shaped it as one loaf. Another thing I have learned through this challenge is that I prefer one large two-pound loaf to two one-pound loaves. Also, look at my aggressive slashing! I am quite proud.

Slashed for the Second Rise

I put the pan on the oven while it was preheating for the second rise.

Ready to Bake

My mom was here to pick up the bread for the final photo, and she insisted that I put it on my pretty Christmas towel to make the photo nice. Unlike how I usually take photos, with the scenic backdrop of my dishwasher.


As I said, my mom liked this bread but there were not many other fans. The licorice flavor was noticeable. My mom said she used it for toast, and then made ham sandwiches with it.

I was also not looking forward to Tuscan bread, since the defining attribute was that the bread contains no salt. I don’t particularly like salty foods, but I knew enough to know that bread without salt was not going to taste all that good. Peter Reinhart says that the Tuscans pair this bread with flavorful garlic and white bean soup, so I thought I would make that to go with it.

First, you make a flour paste with bread flour and boiling water. It looks kind of like mashed potatoes.

Flour Paste

The next day you make the dough with bread flour, yeast, olive oil, water, and the flour paste. But no salt!

I set it to rise on my oven, which is the only place dough will rise for me. I didn’t heat up the oven this time, but it still seemed to work. Maybe the pilot light is enough to make it warm.

Ready to Rise

It only took two hours to get to this point:


I shaped it into boules.

Ready for Second Rise

When they rose a second time, I slashed them and sprinkled them with flour:

Risen & Slashed

I had to bake them for the full 30 minutes to get to 200 degrees inside.




These loaves looked so pretty, but as I anticipated, the taste was seriously lacking. I made Giada De Laurentiis’ Tuscan White Bean and Garlic Soup and used this bread instead of ciabatta to make the grilled olive oil toasts. I still really didn’t like them that much, until I sprinkled them with one of my impulse purchases from Penzey’s: Brady Street Sprinkle. With the olive oil and the Brady Street Sprinkle, there was enough flavor to overcome the lack of salt.