September 27, 2012

Seedy Crackers

There are times in our busy lives when there isn't any time to pursue all the little things we are so passionate about; when everything is constantly changing around us; when we have to adjust and focus on all the new happenings around us. But then, eventually, we find that new rhythm and we manage to get back to all those precious things we had to go without for a little while.

Well, here's hoping that I will manage to get back into a rhythm. These days, my life tends to be very distracting; and that's great, but really truly: I miss baking a lot, and taking pictures of my (or Florin's) loaves, and sharing all the fun here, on this blog. So, here's a promise to you guys, as well as to myself: I shall make time for all of that again, very soon.

Finally, I decided that today is the day I when I would get back to baking, albeit without having any sourdough culture at hand. I managed to let my starters (smuggled across borders, from Canada to Germany) die. Luckily, my dad did dry some of these cultures and saved them for his own use. So, I hope to bring them back to life someday. However, I felt it was the perfect day to bake some crispy crackers, with a ton of seeds in them. And this is how it's done:
Basic Ingredients

160 gr bread flour (38%)
200 gr durum semolina flour (47.6%)
60 gr quinoa flour (14%)
12 gr salt (2.8%)
150 gr water (36%)
40 gr olive oil (9.5%)

The Seeds (use any seeds or nuts of your choice)

50 gr flax seeds (11.9%)
40 gr sesame seeds (9.5%)
40 gr poppy seeds (9.5%)

Soak the flax seeds in the 150 grams of water overnight, or at least a few hours before you plan to bake the crackers. Toast the sesame seeds and then combine all the dry ingredients. Now add the soaked flax seeds and the olive oil. Kneading the dough should feel pretty tough, since there is not a lot of liquid involved. It is important to work the dough until it is pliable and smooth, rather than crumbly and dry. If you find that you need to add some extra water, do so, but keep in mind that you are aiming for a very stiff dough. Once you are done, cover the dough with saran wrap and let it rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

Roll out thinly, using a rolling pin. The thinner you roll out the dough, the crisper your crackers will be. Cut into any shape, brush with water and sprinkle with seeds. Bake the crackers at 400 F for about 10 minutes. They should start to brown when they are ready. Enjoy with any of your favourite dips!

Submitted to Yeastspotting.

September 8, 2012

Crazy about pizza

Perfect crust. Tomatoes and bocconcini. Fresh herbs. In other words: Pizza. Yum!

As lovers of bread it is only natural that we are also continuously trying to find the perfect pizza pie. Certainly the main criteria here should be the crust, even though we have some pretty high expectations of the toppings as well. Apparently it is not that easy to find the pizza we are all dreaming of, and sometimes the journey can be a little bit frustrating and disappointing.

This time around, in searching for the perfect pizza we found that it is a little bit easier to be successful in the Rhine-Main area of Germany, than it is in Vancouver. At least we were getting closer.

Of course, two passionate bakers wouldn't be too passionate, if they could resist the urge of playing with a formula for pizza dough themselves. And play we did. Since Florin came over to Germany to visit for a little while, and make friends with my dad and my dad's wood-burning oven, we took advantage of the opportunity and baked some pretty decent pizza of our own. We are still in the process of developing our favourite, favourite pizza crust, but in the meantime we are fairly happy with our results.

For the crust, the total formula is:

1136 gr flour (100%)
772 gr water (68%)
15.5 gr yeast (1.4%)
20 gr salt (1.8%)
57 gr olive oil  (5%)

We used 00 flour in this case, but at home we usually go with all-purpose.

Prepare a biga 12 hours in advance and let it sit at room temperature. The formula for the biga is:

229 gr flour (100%)
137 gr water (60%)
0.5 gr yeast (0.2%)

To put it all together, use the following final dough formula:

907 gr flour (100%)
635 gr water (70%)
20 gr salt (2.2%)
15 gr yeast (1.6%)
57 gr olive oil (6.3%)
366 gr biga (40%)

Mix all your ingredients with the exception of the salt and do a 20 minute autolyse. Add the salt and knead to fully develop the dough. Bulk ferment for one hour, then stretch and fold and ferment for another hour. Divide the dough into 200 gr pieces and shape into rounds. Refrigerate the pre-shaped dough covered on a baking tray for at least 6 and up to 24 hours. Take the pizza dough out of the refrigerator an hour or two before you plan to bake the pizza, to let it come to room temperature. Now preheat your oven on the highest setting, so that the baking stone gets enough time to really heat up. (The wood-burning oven was really, really hot, and the pizza had to cook only for a couple of minutes.) Stretch the dough to form the crust, add your toppings of choice and bake till done. Buon appetito.

What is your favourite pizza story? Who makes the best pie in your neck of the woods? Do you know of any good pizza blogs? Let us know.

Submitting this to Yeastspotting