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“Brioche Lite” Burger Buns

Brioche is rich pastry of French origin that is somewhere between a bread and yeast-raised cake. The most common form is the brioche à tête which is formed and baked in fluted flared tins resulting in roll resembling a head, hence the name. Traditionally, brioche contains copious amounts of egg and butter alone with cream and sometimes a bit of brandy. In this recipe, I have moderated the richness and altered the form to produce buns suitable for hamburgers or other sandwiches. I have also incorporated sourdough starter to provide an interesting depth of flavor. And I used all-purpose flour (except for what is in the starter) to achieve a softer crumb.

A note about units and measures: The chemical reactions in baking are between masses of ingredients, not volumes. It is virtually impossible to achieve consistent results using volumetric measures. A cup of flour, for example, can vary in mass by more than 10%. Accurate digital scales are inexpensive so there is no good reason to continue with the antiquated use of cups and other volumetric measures for most purposes—the exception being for small amounts like teaspoons. I use the metric system because it much easier to do the math resulting in fewer errors. One need not be familiar with that system to use my recipes. Just push the appropriate button on your scale and read the dial.

Makes 8 100-gram (approximately 3½ ounce) buns

Ingredients

100% hydration sourdough starter

200 grams

Water

113 grams

Large eggs, lightly beaten

2 each

All-purpose flour

341 grams

Sugar

22 grams

Melted butter (or oil)

22 grams (1½ Tablespoon)

Salt

9 grams (1½ teaspoon)

Instant dry yeast

4 grams (1 teaspoon)

Method

Note: This dough is very slack, almost more like a thick batter than a typical bread. One could knead it by hand using the stretch and fold method but a heavy-duty stand mixer works much better. 

Place the ingredients into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer in the order presented. Fit the dough hook and knead at the speed setting recommended by the mixer manufacturer. After a few minutes when the dough is beginning to come together, stop the mixer and, using a stiff spatula, scrape down anything sticking to the sides of the bowl. Continue to knead for a total of about 10 minutes.

Put a bit of oil in the bottom of a large proofing bowl. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board or counter and, with well-floured hands, form into a ball. Place in the bowl and roll around to coat with oil. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the dough, cover the bowl with a towel, and set aside to proof until doubled in size, about 2 hours if you used the instant dry yeast.

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Generously butter the insides of eight 10-cm (3¾-inch) baking rings and arrange them in the pan. Allow them to rise until they are just above the sides of the rings. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden.

Kümmelweck

kummelweckForget Buffalo wings, western New York’s real contribution to the culinaria of the Empire State is Beef-on-Weck, a sandwich of thinly-sliced roast beef on a crusty roll the top of which has been lightly dipped in the jus the meat cooked in. Not just any roll will do; it has to be a kümmelweck—literally “caraway roll.” Some who should know better (I’m talking about you, Bobby Flay) claim that you can turn a Kaiser roll into a kümmelweck by sprinkling it with caraway seeds and kosher or sea salt. But above the Niagara Escarpment people make a clear distinction between kümmelwecken and Kaiser rolls which are sold side-by-side in nearly every supermarket and bakery worthy of the name. The rest of us have to take matters into our own hands.

There are many recipes for kümmelweck online, all different and all claiming to be authentic. For no better reason than I use their flour, I adapted this recipe from one I found on the King Arthur Flour website. The biggest changes I made were to start with a pre-fermented poolish using my trusty sourdough starter and to add a bit of rye flour. If you have the time, you can eliminate the instant dry yeast and let the starter leaven the rolls. Being impatient I use a bit of commercial yeast. If you do not have a sourdough starter, simply increase the amount of water and of flour by 50 grams, increase the yeast to 2¼ teaspoons or one envelope, and skip the pre-fermentation altogether.  

A note on units of measure: It is simply not possible to achieve consistent baking results with volumetric measures. The weight of a cup of flour can vary by 10% or more depending on how it is scooped. Digital scales are so inexpensive today that every serious cook can afford one. All such scales display either Imperial or metric units making it easy to use the latter and to avoid having to try dividing by 16 in one’s head. It is not necessary to be familiar with the metric system; just set the scale and read off the numbers. The one exception I make is for small, non-critical amounts for which teaspoons are more convenient.

Ingredients

100% hydration sourdough starter

100 grams

Water

170 grams (divided use)

Bread flour

320 grams (divided use)

Rye flour

20 grams

Potato flour

25 grams

Sugar

6 grams

Salt

6 grams

Non-fat dry milk

15 grams

Unsalted butter, softened

30 grams + extra for brushing

Instant dry yeast (optional)

½ teaspoon (2½ milliliters)

Large egg

1 (approximately 50 grams)

Caraway seed

As needed

Kosher or coarse sea salt

As needed

Method

To make the poolish, combine the 100 grams of starter with 100 grams of water, 80 grams of bread flour, and the 20 grams of rye flour a bowl. I use the bowl of your heavy duty mixer. Brush a piece of plastic wrap with oil and place it directly on top of the dough. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside until bubbly, a couple of hours is best. The longer you let it ferment, the more pronounced the sourdough flavor will be.

Combine the remaining ingredients, except the caraway seed and kosher salt, with the poolish and knead for about 10 minutes until you have a nice smooth dough. Place in a large, lightly oiled proofing bowl, recover with the plastic wrap and towel, and set aside to proof until doubled in size—an hour or two depending on the temperature and the activity of your starter.

Line a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper. Divide the dough into six equal ball of about 100 grams each. Working on a floured surface, form each ball into a flat roll about three inches (75 mm) in diameter and place it on the pan. Cover with the towel and allow to proof for an hour or so until the rolls have roughly doubled in size.

Set a rack near the bottom of your oven and preheat it to 475°F (250°C). I use the convection setting in mine.  Wet a very sharp knife or a razor blade in water and cut an X into the top of each roll. Brush generously with melted butter then sprinkle with caraway seed and kosher or coarse sea salt to taste. When the oven is hot, put the sheet pan into the oven and spritz the interior with a spray bottle of water. Immediately turn the neat down to 425°F (220°C). Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown.

Shameless self-promotion

Besides this blog I also write one of commentary on issues that concern me, be they international, national, or local to the Binghamton, NY area. Some may find some of the content controversial. That is fine because my intent is to stimulate discussion. I invite you, the readers of Dinner at Leo’s, to visit my alter ego at Moose Morsels, the blog from the bog.

Designing Bread

As you could probably tell from my last post, after years of making bread I decided to delve a bit more deeply into the science behind the art. So, armed with just enough knowledge to be dangerous (those who know me well are aware that I never read the instructions through to the end before I start assembling something), I set out to design a batch of bread.

Bread is basically just flour, water, salt, and yeast in various proportions with stuff often added for flavor. The ratio of water to flour, called hydration, plays a major role in determining the texture of the final product. In general, the higher the hydration level, the stickier the dough and larger the holes in the finished bread. Dense, chewy bagels have a hydration level between 55% and 58%. French baguettes usually are around 60% hydration while no-knead ciabatta can be as high as 75%. Since I wanted a fairly soft bread for toast I chose 62%, which is typical of American loaf bread. The baker’s percentage of salt is typically 2% and that of yeast between 1% and 2%. Too much yeast can make the bread unpleasantly sour and, some say, prone to going stale quickly, so it is best to err on the low side. The worst that will happen then is that it will take longer to proof the dough. Thus far our bread recipe, in baker’s percentages, looks like this:

Flour

100%

Water

62%

Salt

2%

Yeast

2%

 

The most common additions to basic bread are sweeteners and fats. A bit of sugar helps the bread toast nicely and some oil or butter makes its texture smoother. From experience I have found that a baker’s percentage of 4% is about right for each. Milk is also a popular ingredient in bread. Whole milk is 87% water, 4% fat, and 9% milk solids so the amount of water and fat in the recipe should be adjusted accordingly. Many professional recipes call for non-fat dry milk which is assigned its own baker’s percentage, usually around 4% or 5%. I sometimes use skim milk interchangeably with water and just ignore the solids. For this recipe I used 5% dry buttermilk powder bringing it to:

Flour

100%

Water

62%

Salt

2%

Yeast

2%

Sugar

4%

Oil

4%

Dry milk

5%

 

Eggs add richness and color to bread but they complicate the calculations. The easiest way to deal with eggs, at the expense of getting the weight of dough exactly right, is to calculate the weight of the ingredients without them then adjust the amount of water to compensate for however many eggs you add. I generally use one egg per kilogram (2.2 pound) of dough. A typical large egg weighs 50 grams of which 76%, or 38 grams, is water.

Since I have decided to make four 500-gram loaves I can calculate how much of each ingredient I need from the formulae in my last post. Using a total baker’s percentage of 179% if find that for 2000 grams of dough, I need 1117 grams of flour, which I round up to 1120. That makes my recipe:

Flour

1120 grams

Water

695 grams

Salt

22 grams

Yeast

22 grams

Sugar

45 grams

Oil

45 grams

Dry milk

55 grams

Total

2004 grams

 

Now I add three eggs weighing a total of 152 grams of which 115 grams is water. To compensate I reduce the amount of water to 580 grams which makes my final recipe:

Flour

1120 grams

Water

580 grams

Salt

22 grams

Yeast

22 grams

Sugar

45 grams

Oil

45 grams

Dry milk

55 grams

Eggs

152 grams

Total

2041 grams

 

Sourdough Multigrain Bread, ver. 2.1

Since I first posted this recipe I have been tweaking it a bit each week. This version adds millet, buckwheat, oatmeal, and eggs. I also increased the yield from three standard (4½ x 8½) loaves to four. (I wrap the extras in heavy duty aluminum foil and freeze them until I need them.)

{I discovered that in version 2.0 I neglected to list the eggs among the ingredients.}

Note: the metric and English measures are roughly equivalent but not identical. Use one or the other but do not mix them up. I use metric quantities so those are the ones I can vouch for.

Ingredients

 

Sourdough starter

300 grams

1 cup

Warm water (45°C, 100°F)

400 milliliters

1⅔  cups

Sugar

30 grams

2 Tablespoons

Dry milk powder

50 grams

⅔ cup

Active dry yeast

15 grams

4½ teaspoons (2 envelopes)

Butter and/ or oil

60 grams

4 Tablespoons

Eggs

2 or 3

2 or 3

Oatmeal

100 grams

1 cup

Whole wheat flour

100 grams

1 cup

Rye flour

100 grams

1 cup

Millet flour

50 grams

½ cup

Buckwheat flour

50 grams

½ cup

Fine corn meal

50 grams

½ cup

Unbleached white bread flour

750 grams

6½  cups

Salt

20 grams

4 teaspoons

Method

Optional: put the oatmeal in a food processor and process to a coarse powder.

In the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the flat paddle, combine the sourdough starter, warm water, sugar, milk powder, butter or oil, eggs and the yeast on medium speed. Add the flours and salt to the bowl and change to the dough hook. Knead on the recommended speed setting for your mixer until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl then five minutes more. (If the dough does not pull away from the bowl, add more flour a bit at a time until it does.)

At this point I like to weigh the dough to make dividing it later more accurate.

Warm a large, heavy earthenware or glass bowl with hot water then dry and pour in enough oil to just cover the bottom. Form the dough into a large ball, place it in the bowl, and roll it around so that it is evenly coated with the oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to proof until doubled in size, about one to one and a half hours depending on the temperature. Note that a long rising at a lower temperature yields a more finely-textured bread.

At the end of proofing punch down the dough and divide it into four equal portions. Form the loaves and place them in the bread pans, lightly oiled unless non-stick. Cover with a towel and allow to rise again until the dough is about 2 cm (1 inch) above the sides of the pan. Do not over-rise because you want a slightly dense bread.

Bake in a 190°C (375°F) oven to for about 35 minutes. The best way to determine doneness is with a thermometer; the center of the loaf should be between 90°C and 95°C (195°F and 200°F).

Iced Tea

As summer heats up there is nothing like a frosty glass of iced tea. Sadly many people buy pre-made iced tea which, besides nearly always being loaded with sugar, is really expensive. And others make their own but using ice tea powder. Here is a quick and easy way to make it from scratch. Try it once and you will never go back to the fake stuff.

For 2 liters (2 quarts):

6 tea bags, I use Red Rose decaffeinated black tea
1 liter (1 quart) water
Ice to fill a 2 liter (2 quart) container

Put the tea bags in a heat-proof container along with the water and bring to a boil in the microwave–or heat the water to a boil in an electric or on the stove and pour over the tea bags. Steep for 5 minutes. Pour into the ice filled container. If need be, top it up with cold water. Refrigerate.

Serve over ice with a slice of lemon and, if you must, a bit of sugar or honey.

Herby Pork Burgers

herbs-2

This time of year the sun both direct and reflected from the south wall of our house makes sitting on our deck during the day impossible. My potted herbs, on the other hand, find this much to their liking so long as I water them daily. So I am always trying new dishes using herbs. For these burgers I used a sprig of savory, several of parsley, a few sage leaves, and a clipping of rosemary. Feel free to substitute whatever herbs you prefer.

Note: this recipe is per burger. Multiply as needed.

Ingredients

1 clove garlic

½ small onion

Herbs to taste (see above)

170 grams (6 ounces) lean ground pork

Salt and pepper

Method

Mince the garlic and onion.

Chop the herbs.

Mix into the meat.

Form patties.

Season with salt and pepper.

Grill until done (70°C, 160°F), about 8 minutes on a side.

Serve on a bun with mayonnaise.

I do this the lazy man’s way: in a food processor.

Printing issues

I understand that my recipes do not print well from my blog. The problem seems to be an incompatibility between Microsoft Word and WordPress. I will try to fix it as soon as I can. In the meantime, if you would like a .pdf of any recipe leave me a message.

Hummus bi Tahini

Most often called simply hummus, the Arabic word for chickpea, this tasty spread has been enjoyed throughout North Africa and the Middle East for millennia. Today it is popular in many parts of the world, especially in the United States and England. Using a food processor or a blender you can make it in a matter of minutes. It is traditionally eaten with toasted pita bread but it also makes a great dip for crudités. It will keep for a week or so in the refrigerator. If it dries out, stir in a bit of olive oil or water.

Ingredients

 

Chickpeas, cooked (one 19-oz. can)

12 ounces

340 grams

Cooking or can liquid from chickpeas

¼ cup

60 milliliters

Lemon juice (to taste)

4 tablespoons

60 milliliters

Tahini

1½ tablespoons

40 grams

Garlic, crushed

3 cloves or to taste

Cayenne or Tabasco® sauce

To taste, optional

Salt and black pepper

To taste

Olive oil*

3 tablespoons

45 milliliters

Parsley or mint, as garnish

Optional

* Plus more to serve, optional.

Method:

Combine all ingredients except garnish in a food processor or a blender. Process until smooth—use low speed if using a blender. You may need to scrape down the sides once or twice to make sure all the ingredients are combined. Taste and adjust seasonings. If too thick, add a bit more of the chickpea liquid.

To Serve:

Place the hummus in serving bowl and create a shallow well in the center. Pour in a small amount (1 or 2 tablespoons, 15 to 30 milliliters) of olive oil. Garnish with parsley or mint (optional).

Note: hummus is sometimes served with the oil around the edges of the bowl rather than in the center.

Peppered Bacon

Homemade bacon is really easy to make and significantly less expensive than store-bought. And you can make flavors you cannot find easily, like this delicious version. Traditional American bacon, known in the UK as streaky bacon and in France as lard maigre, is made from pork belly or side. Use the same technique with pork loin and you get real Irish or Canadian back-bacon. You can leave it unsmoked, as is usual in France, or you can smoke it over the wood of your choice; I particularly like apple wood. Chips are readily available at your local mega-hardware store. Commercial bacon is cold-smoked at a temperature under 100° and, because it spends a significant amount of time in the danger zone between 45° and 145°, must be cured with nitrite curing salt. I hot-smoke my bacon on a charcoal fired kettle grill but any covered smoker will work. If you are hot-smoking your bacon you can omit the curing salts if you wish.

A note about curing salts: sodium nitrite has been used for centuries to prevent botulism in meat. In the 1970s concerns were raised that, when cooked, meats cured with sodium nitrites became contaminated with nitrosamines that were suspected of being carcinogenic in large doses. Subsequent studies by the National Science Foundation showed these concerns to be largely unfounded when the salts are used properly. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires that commercial cures contain 6.1 grams of sodium nitrite per 100 pounds of meat. Because such a small amount is difficult to measure accurately sodium nitrite is sold as 6.25% concentration mixed in ordinary salt. Variously called Prague Salt #1, Instacure #1, or pink salt #1 (because of the dye used to prevent from accidently being confused with plain salt) it is available from any sausage making supply vendor. I bought mine online from The Sausage Maker, Inc. in Buffalo.

Ingredients

Pork belly, at least 5 pounds

¼ cup kosher salt

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup coarsely ground black pepper

4 bay leaves, crumbled

1 teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

1 tablespoon juniper berries, coarsely ground (optional)

2 teaspoons pink curing salt #1

Method

Remove the rind (or have your butcher do it for you) and set it aside for making pork rinds. Rinse and dry the meat. Mix together the cure ingredients and rub generously on all sides. Wrap the meat tightly in plastic wrap or place in a large freezer bag. Refrigerate for at least 3 days but no more than a week, turning each day. Liquid will accumulate; do not remove it.

At the end of the curing period, remove the bacon from its wrapping, wipe off excess cure, and pat dry. Let stand to come to room temperature. Meanwhile soak wood chips in water and prepare the smoker. Smoke the bacon for 2½ to 3 hours or to an internal temperature of 150°F. (Alternatively smoke for an hour and finish in a 300°F oven.)

Store, tightly wrapped, in refrigerator for up to a week or freeze for later use.