Sprouted Whole Wheat Bagels

I continue on my whole wheat kick by trying something that seems like a compromise: 100% whole wheat bagels. The source was the same as the inspiration for my traditional bagels: Peter Reinhart. These bagels can be put together a lot faster than traditional bagels, largely because of the distinct characteristics of sprouted whole wheat. According to Reinhart, the sprouted wheat requires less time to develop flavor compared with traditional wheat.

If you look online, you’ll find a vocal group touting the health advantages of sprouted grains. I’m not sure how much truth there is to these claims, but I’m all for convenience. I ended up needing quite a bit more flour than the 510g called for in Reinhart’s recipe. His book Bread Revolution describes sprouted wheat flour as absorbing water much more readily than its unsprouted relatives, but I did not find this to be the case with my batch from Arrowhead Mills. Despite coming straight off the shelves at Whole Foods, the flour was a couple months past its listed expiration date, so this may have been a factor.

Ingredients

  • 560 g sprouted whole wheat flour
  • 1.25 teaspoons salt
  • 1.25 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 397 g lukewarm water
  • 21 g barley malt syrup

Directions

  • Mix flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl.
  • Mix water and malt syrup and pour into flour mixture
  • Mix for 30-60 seconds until no dry flour remains and the dough is shaggy
  • Let rest uncovered for 5 minutes, then kneed for two minutes. The dough should be smooth and only slightly tacky. I needed to add quite a bit of flour above the amount recommended by Reinhart.
  • Form the dough into bagels (I used 99 g of dough per bagel), place on oil-misted parchment on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Take the bagels out of the fridge about 1 hour before baking and preheat oven to 425 °F.
  • Boil bagels for 30 seconds per side in a 0.5% lye solution (25g per 5L water).
  • Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through if using two pans.
  • Cool on a rack. Extra bagels can be frozen after they cool. I like to slice my bagels before freezing, so they can be toasted right out of the freezer.

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The bagels were great, though decidedly different from non-whole wheat bagels. They had a nice sweetness to them, and the everything topping  went particularly well with the whole wheat dough.

Chocolate Buttermilk Pancakes

I’ve tried several varieties of pancakes, but the standard buttermilk pancake remains one of my favorites. There’s something about adding chocolate to breakfast which is irresistible. Chocolate chip pancakes are a bit of overkill for me, but chocolate pancakes seem more natural to me. It’s like a chocolate cake for breakfast. The path chosen by most online is simply to add cocoa powder to a typical pancake batter. So that’s what I did. I used a white whole wheat base for this particular recipe.

Ingredients

  • 130 g white whole wheat flour
  • 25 g sugar (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 baking soda
  • 10 g cocoa powder (2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 145 g buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  • combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine thoroughly
  • mix liquid ingredients well and add into dry ingredients, taking care not to overmix (less of an issue with a whole wheat base)
  • allow to rest for 5-10 minutes
  • cook pancakes for about 3 minutes per side on a 300 °F griddle

I made a few changes to my whole wheat pancake base for this recipe. I decreased the flour to 130 g to accommodate the cocoa powder, doubled the sugar, and just melted the butter instead of browning it (since I suspected the flavor would be masked by the cocoa).

I have two kinds of cocoa powder at home: regular Hershey’s unsweetened and Droste Dutch-processed. Which one to use? Why not experiment: I split the batter and half with each type. The Hershey box says that 5g is one tablespoon and Droste says that the equivalent is 1 teaspoon. I suspect one is wrong, but I just went with 5 g of each. In the dry state, the Droste (left) yielded a darker mix:

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Interestingly, once I added the liquid, the Hershey’s batter (below) ended up darker.

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On the griddle, they were almost indistinguishable. The Droste pancakes (left in the image below and at the top of the post) rose a bit higher. I suspect this was because it’s more alkaline and reacted more with the acidic buttermilk.

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The pancakes were (of course) quite good, but next time I’ll probably increase the cocoa to boost the chocolate flavor or add some instant espresso. I couldn’t really detect much difference between the two cocoas, so it doesn’t matter which one you use. The Droste yielded slightly fluffier pancakes, but I suspect the same could be achieved by increasing the baking soda.

 

Perfect Whole Wheat Pancakes

I’ve stuck with my perfect pancake recipe for several years, but there’s always room for improvement. I’ve recently been experiment with using white whole wheat flour. It’s easier to adapt to white flour recipe than regular (“red”) whole wheat, but has the same general characteristics and potential health advantages.

When it comes to pancakes, I’m not willing to sacrifice the product for nebulous health benefits, but it turns out that whole wheat actually works extremely well in pancake batter. The ability of whole wheat to interfere with gluten development, a disadvantage in many breads, helps keep pancake tender and fluffy. A little more liquid is needed, and the batter ends up a bit thicker and harder to manage, but the results are great. I also find that using browned butter helps add another dimension to the flavor.

Ingredients

  • 140 g white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon (12.5 g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 245 g buttermilk (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl an whisk together
  2. Mix buttermilk and egg together
  3. Melt butter in a small pan under medium-low heat until small brown flecks appear, then transfer to a bowl to cool slightly
  4. Add butter into buttermilk-egg mixture. If the butter is still warm, stir the mixture briskly while adding the butter slowly
  5. Add vanilla to the liquid
  6. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir or whisk until combined, taking care not to overmix. The batter will be thick.
  7. Allow the batter to rest for 5-10 minutes, then cook for about 2-3 minutes per side on a 300 °F griddle.

I’ve been preferring this to the white flour version. It feels a bit more substantial. Despite the whole wheat flour, these cook up light and fluffy.

Cake Enhancers in Bread

I usually try to avoid becoming reliant “dough enhancers” on principal, but I’m always up for trying something new. I periodically peruse the offerings from King Arthur and came across their Cake Enahncer, which the King and his followers say is also useful for breads. This mixture of rice starch, polyglycerol ester, and fatty acids are supposed to improve texture and prolong shelf life.

I decided to give them a try in my breakfast buns, since this recipe has become a platform for many of my baking experiments. As per the instructions on the package, I added two tablespoons for about two cups of flour. The buns looked fine when baked, but the bread tasted like a supermaket roll. The texture became soft and lost its gluten-driven chew. It was a Phineas Gage-like transformation: its personality was all wrong. Maybe it’s the name influencing me, but it did make the bread seem more cake-like.

This may be worth a try in a cake batter, but I’m steering clear of using this in bread dough from now on.

Bagels: Changing the poaching liquid

One of the defining characteristics of bagels is that differentiates them from other forms of bread is that they are boiled prior to making. This poaching liquid is usually alkaline. Historically, the strong base sodium hydroxide (lye) was used, though most home cooks rely on the milder sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) because it is more readily available. Both will help to develop the surface sugars that create a brown crust, but I’ve found that lye-poaching yields more flavor and a crust allows toppings to adhere better.

My current bagel recipe and cooking strategy is based off of that from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, except that I use a 0.5% (25g/5L) lye solution instead of baking soda. In Artisan Breads Every Day, Reinhart takes a different strategy to the preparation and cooking of the bagels, including use a more complex poaching solution that includes baking soda, malt, and salt.

For the last batch of bagels I made, I poached half in 5L of my usual lye solution, then added 3 tablespoons of barley malt syrup and 2 teaspoons of salt. The solution quickly turned dark brown and then a murky black. I was a bit apprehensive, but went ahead and prepared the second half of the bagels. On the left in the image below, you can see that the bagels poached in the malt-based poach came out considerably darker prior to baking.

IMG_0661I baked both trays at 500 °F for 5 minutes, swapped and rotated the trays, then reduced the temperature to 450 °F for 6 more minutes. I was expecting two sets of drastically different bagels, but aside from a slightly warmer hue for the malt-poached bagels, they looked almost indistinguishable.

IMG_0664The taste? Even knowing which bagels were which in advance, I found the malt added only a subtle sweetness to the crust which the traditional approach lacked. There was no obvious difference in texture. My sense going forward is that it’s not really worth it to add the malt and salt, and that the alkaline bath alone is all that’s needed.

 

Buttermilk Banana Bread

Banana eating in our house is somewhat unpredictable, and it’s easy to end up with old bananas quickly exceeding their lifespan for eating plain.  Fortunately, these can always be turned into banana bread, which is best when bananas are past their typical prime (with heavy, dark splotches covering their peel).

One problem is that most banana bread recipes call for 3-4 bananas (1-1.5 cups) and you may have more or less than that amount. Fortunately you can just freeze the extra bananas and thaw them when you have the right amount. They will look terrible and develop a thick soupy texture when thawed, but cook up just fine.

Many banana breads are dense and dull, but buttermilk helps to lighten the texture and flavor. This is a recipe I modified from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 300 g sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 bananas)
  • 60 g buttermilk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 250 g AP flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Directions:

  1. Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray or (better) butter and dust with flour.
  2. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, until incorporated
  4. Add banana, buttermilk, and vanilla and mix until smooth
  5. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and baking soda, then slowly mix mixture into batter (using the mixer at low speed or a spatula)
  6. Pour batter into pan and bake for 50-55 minutes for an internal temperature of about 190° F.

 

Breakfast Bun Variations: French

In my quest to simplify baguettes, i decided to see if I could give my breakfast buns a French twist that was more successful than my water wash.

I adapted Cooks’ Illustrated latest baguette baking technique (which, incidentally, has been the most successful at yielding the appropriate thin and crispy crust). I took my usual breakfast bun dough and added diastatic malt:

  • 250 g 00 flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon diastatic malt powder
  • 185 g water

I mixed everything together, let it sit for 30 minutes in after transferring to a lightly oiled bowl, then folded the dough over itself 8 times, rotating the bowl 1/8 of a turn between folds. I repeated the folds every 30 minutes for a total of four sets of eight, leaving the dough to rest covered with plastic wrap in between. The dough then rested in the refrigerator for a few days.

I took out the dough, split it into four pieces, the rolled each into a ball on a floured counter top. In then elongated each into a batard by rolling back and forth. Each piece went on to a cornmeal dusted silicone baking mat on a half sheet pan. I rested them for about 1.5-2 hours covered in oil-sprayed plastic wrap. I preheated the oven to 475° F and slashed the dough with a lame.

 I replaced the plastic wrap with a loose covering of aluminum foil, which j removed after the first 5 minutes of baking.

I continued cooking for a total of 20 minutes then took the rolls out to cool.

The results were surprisingly successful. There was the baguette-style thin and crispy crust with a light airy crumb. The airy texture meant the rolls were considerably larger than usual despite using the same amount of dough.

Breakfast Bun Variations: Water Wash

After trying a series of enriched doughs (with milk, then egg, as well as sugar), I went back to my original breakfast bun recipe, but this time changed my baking technique. Having recently made baguettes, I attempted a more crusty bun by brushing the dough balls with water prior to baking, and spraying water into the oven a few times during the first six minutes to create steam.

The buns came out great, with good color and flavor. The crust had a bit of resistance, but they were not truly crusty after 15 minutes at 375 °F (with convection). I wasn’t surprised: this temperature is probably not high enough and my relatively large oven probably requires more aggressive measures for introducing steam. Adding a bit of sugar or malt powder may also help.

Breakfast Bun Variations: Egg

The addition of powdered milk to my breakfast buns buns had gone so well, I was convinced that swapping the milk for egg would be similarly excellent. I kept the butter and sugar amounts the same at one tablespoon each, but added a whole egg. Because the egg is accompanied by a fair amount of water, I cut the water by 60 mL based on some online research.
This left the final formula for four buns as:

  • 250 g 00 flour
  • 120 mL water
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

I miss the simpler ingredient list from the original version, but such is the price of progress. After a series of folds over the course of an hour, I let the dough rest in the fridge for 36 hours, then made the buns as usual, adding s simple egg wash.

The buns browned quickly and were near 210° F after 11 minutes in my 375 °F oven. Surprising, they were a bit disappointing. They were a bit dense and dull tasting compared to both the plain dough and the milk dough.

Possible culprits:

  • too much egg: the recipe is similar to my go to burger buns, but has a whole egg instead of half. The extra protein load may be overkill.
  • not enough sugar: the egg dough really benefits from sweetness, and the egg lacks the additional sugar that comes with the milk. Sugar would have also helped retain moisture.
  • overcooking: even though I stopped the cooking earlier than usual, this recipe seemed less tolerant of the time in the oven

Breakfast Bun Variations: Milk

My go-to breakfast buns have solved many of my breakfast dilemmas. Why not eat fresh bread if you can?

My go to recipe is:
* 250 g 00 flour
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 instant yeast
* 180 g water

I mix the dry ingredients together, add the water and stir to combine. I let the dough rest and overnight in a plastic wrap covered bowl. The dough is split in four; shaped into buns and rested for 1–2 hours before baking at 375° F for 15 minutes.

What could make me want to mess with perfection?

That nagging feeling that perhaps they could be something greater, that an untapped potential lay hidden beneath the…crust.

Ever since learning how to make banh bao, I been drawn to the idea of using milk to transform the dough into one that can produce a pillowy cake-like bread. If I were to apply the same approach to the buns, could make a softer roll that was less rustic than my usual buns?

I took baby steps for my first attempt. I added one tablespoon of powdered milk, one teaspoon of sugar, and a tablespoon of butter. I doubled the yeast since I wanted the dough to rise in the fridge instead of at room temperature because, well, leaving milk at room temperature seemed like a bad idea (and caused an odd taste with my previous attempt). Two days later, my milk buns were ready.

They were good, softer and smoother than the plain rolls. But they needed something more. So that’s what they got. More milk powder (doubled to two tablespoons) and more sugar (one tablespoon). These were good. Soft, without the mushiness of a fast food burger bun. The sugar added a golden caramelizarion to the crust, but it remained soft. A nice change when your jaw doesn’t want to work so hard for each bite.

Next up: eggs