Oat Porridge Bread with Toasted Almonds

I love porridge breads. Their crumb has a creaminess that is just so damn good. I’ve made a few in the past and they were really good but it has honestly been three years since I had last attempted. What makes porridge bread so delicious is the subtle flavor of whatever porridge is added. Oat is most common, but you can use any kind of flaked grain or even cornmeal. The porridge is made separately, usually with a 2:1 ratio of water to grain. Then after you make your base dough, the porridge is added and mixed in. During your subsequent folds and bulking time, the available water in the porridge is released and reabsorbed into the dough resulting in a wetter and more supple final dough.

So I took a basic country white recipe and an oat porridge recipe and smashed the two together. Almonds weren’t on my radar yet, so I added some honey and anise to the oat porridge. The resulting dough was very wet. The base dough was at 76% hydration before adding the porridge in and my flour was not strong enough to withhold the release and reabsorption of water from the porridge. It was very hard to shape and didn’t have much elasticity and collapsed while baking. Although the flavor was really good and the texture was smooth as butter, it’s hard to put a liquid dough into rotation. So I adjusted my hydration down quite a bit. All the way to 70%. I followed the same recipe, just adjusting the hydration and when it was time to shape, it was still super liquid-y. And I had no idea why. I had lowered the hydration, made the porridge the same way, added the same amount of porridge, and….oh wait. I had one of those moments where you stop and go, you stupid person. You seriously did that?? So here’s what happened. Bakers use baker’s percentage to calculate recipes. All the ingredients are based on percentages of flour, that way you can make any size recipe and it’s still the same. And adjustments are easy. Just based off of flour, which is always 100% because it’s usually the largest ingredient in the recipe. So 70% water is 70 grams of 100 grams of flour. I will link a really good article explaining baker’s percentage way better than I ever could.

Baker’s Percentage

But essentially what I did was use 50% of porridge of the total dough weight. Which is a whole lot of porridge and a whole lot of extra water. It’s one of those rookie mistakes that you want to bury in the sand. So I tried the same recipe again, only this time, took the porridge percentage from the overall flour weight, and this dough was really nice. It was silky and not as extensible as I wanted, but it held together well. I covered it with oats while shaping and baked it very dark. The final loaf was tasty, had a wonderfully creamy crumb and the hint of anise was everything. I love anise. Let me put in everything I make. I was very happy with this recipe.

IMG_0513
Oat Porridge Loaf on the right, no almonds yet.

Then my boss comes to me and says, hey, put some almonds in that. Okay, can do, no problem. Lets try almonds and also almond oil, see what tastes better. So I take my same recipe, omitting the anise and honey, and added 12% toasted, sliced almonds. Dough feels good, shapes easy. After it’s baked, I slice it open, taste and it’s dry. And the almonds are chewy. Not an amazing texture. So the almonds soaked up a lot of the extra water from the porridge and the resulting dough was drier and the almonds then had a mealy texture due to the water. Okay, so more water in the base dough to compensate for that and let’s try to pulse the almonds.

I add the same 12% almonds, toasted and pulsed in a food processor and 3% more water. The bread’s texture is definitely more better, but I could definitely add some more water. And the almonds aren’t mealy and the nutty flavor is much better, but I can still feel the almonds and it’s not super pleasant. But maybe almond oil would make it better and lend a more complex flavor? So I kept everything the same but added 5% almond oil during the porridge fold-in. When I sliced open the finished loaf, it was not what I wanted but kind of what I expected. The oil lent a denser crumb and took away that fluffiness that I want in a porridge bread and the almond texture still wasn’t great. Ok, so scrap all thoughts of almond oil.

IMG_0774
Oat Porridge Loaf with Almond Oil and Sliced Almonds; you can see how the texture looks denser due to the oil addition

So I went back to the recipe before I added the oil and upped the hydration 3% again. And added 15% toasted and finely pulverized almonds. I upped the almond percentage because I wanted more nuttiness. Also, with more almonds, I could use some more salt to really pop all that porridge and nuts. So I increased salt from 2.5% to 2.8%. This dough shaped up nicely, held its structure, and baked evenly. The smell coming from the oven was incredible. Once it cooled, I sliced it open and it was perfect. The crumb was back to being creamy and the almonds didn’t lend any weird texture, but it’s flavor was toasty and delicious. I was very pleased.

Oat Porridge Bread with Almonds
Bread Flour 95%
Wheat Flour5%
Levain 20% (young; 2-4hrs old)
Water 76% (70% when making without almonds)
Salt 2.8%
Porridge 50%
Almonds, toasted finely ground 15%

Oat Porridge
Oats 50%
Water 100%
Salt to Taste

Porridge:
1. Cook oats and water over medium-low heat for approximately 15 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes. Porridge will become increasingly drier and harder to stir.
2. Scoop porridge out onto a sheet pan and spread evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool at room temperature. If not using right away, wrap tightly and place in fridge. It can be used up to one week.

Almonds:
1. Toast almonds until light golden brown and fragrant.
2. Cool completely and chill.
3. Grind into a fine powder and declump if necessary.

Dough:
1. Autolyse flours and water (60F) for 45mins.
2. Mix in levain and bulk for 30 minutes.
3. Add salt and bulk for another 30 minutes.
4. Add room temperature porridge and almonds, declumping as you go. If you find clumps as you fold, smear the porridge into the dough during folds.
5. Fold and bulk ferment at 75-80F for 20 minutes.
6. Fold two more times every 20 minutes, then fold two more times every 30 minutes.
7. Bulk for another hour.
8. Bulk ferment in the fridge/retarder for 10-16 hours. Bring to room temperature, approximately
1.5-2 hours.

9. Preshape, rest for 30 minutes, and shape, coating top with oats.
10. Proof for 1.5-3 hours, score and bake.

 

Brown Butter and Sage Peach Cobbler

This recipe is so overdue. Meaning I developed this recipe in July when peaches were delicious and in season and then I did nothing for two months. Life became a little bit more hectic and I kept putting this recipe on the back burner. But I’m finally here again, with copious amounts of coffee.

I re-tested this recipe and even though the peaches weren’t as perfectly ripe as they were in July and August, it still deliciously held up. When I was figuring out what to work on next, peaches were obviously on my list, as was brown butter. I love brown butter. I believe it makes everything better and gives most dishes a wonderful nutty component that elevates its overall flavor. I’ll even use brown butter in box mixes and I swear, it’s life changing. I’m not ashamed to say that I like using box mixes. As a baker, I love when pastries are homemade but I know that not everyone has the desire or the time to scratch bake, so by adding a little bit of something else to a box mix can really add a personal touch to your baked goods. A little bit of cinnamon also has a similar effect. Especially in chocolate box mixes.

Below, I’ve linked the technique to make brown butter from The Kitchn. Brown butter is a very easy technique to learn and all you need is a bit of patience and butter of course!

https://www.thekitchn.com/basic-techniques-how-to-brown-77018

So, let’s get to the meat of it. The combination of flavors here might seem a little odd. You’re thinking, peaches and sage? A summer fruit and a winter herb? You’ve lost a marble. But that’s exactly why it’s so delicious! Peaches are so fresh and sweet and the brown butter is nutty, that I wanted an herb that would add another savory level. Sage and brown butter are always delicious together, especially with poultry, so I just substituted peaches for turkey and the result is quite tasty.

Now that I had the flavor combination, I was trying to figure out what pastry to make it into. Pie is always my first thought, but I wanted something a little bit more free form. I thought crumble next, but then cobbler entered my brain space and I thought that would be very nice texturally. There is quite a bit of discussion about what constitutes a cobbler versus a crumble versus a crisp and it can be a bit nonsensical. A traditional cobbler is fruit topped with individual sweet biscuits or biscuit like globs. I like cobbler, but I love the taste and texture that oats give to a crumble, so I decided to make a crumble and cobbler hybrid. It’s my regular cobbler recipe, but with oats and brown butter. This helps give it a great flavor as well as a more crumbly texture. It works really well with the cooked peaches.

It’s now September, which means this recipe is out of season for most people, so if you have access to peaches in the off season, depending on how sweet they are, you can always add some more sugar to the peaches to compensate. If not, save this more next summer or if you want to be really crazy, you can use this topping and make brown butter sweet potato cobbler. Take your favorite sweet potato pie or casserole filling and top it with this oat cobbler mix. Maybe even mix with mini marshmallows for a crazy combination. Baking should be a fun adventure, so have some fun with it!

BROWN BUTTER AND SAGE PEACH COBBLER

1.5 c all-purpose flour

2/3 c brown sugar

½ c oats

1.5 tsp baking powder

¾ tsp salt

pinch of cinnamon

1 egg

2/3 c brown butter

14 peaches, ½ in slices

½ c sugar

½ lemon

1 Tbsp sage, medium rough chop

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  2. Mix the peaches, sugar, lemon and sage into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit at room temperature for two hours.
  3. Mix the flour, brown sugar, oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a medium bowl.
  4. Add egg and brown butter to the dry ingredients and mix until combined. It will lump together and be quite thick.
  5. Butter the bottom and sides of a 8×8 in dish. You may us 9×9 or any size you have, just know that if the dish is larger, the cobbler will be slightly shallower.
  6. Scoop the peaches into the buttered dish with a slotted spoon. You are not trying to completely drain the liquid from the peaches, just trying to not add all the liquid.
  7. Drop the cobbler topping onto the peaches in an even layer. It’ll look rough and there will be pockets of peaches showing through; that’s what we want!
  8. Bake for 40-45 minutes, rotating half way through, until the cobbler is golden brown and the peach filling is bubbling. Cool at room temperature for 15 minutes to allow the peach goo to gelatinize.
  9. Serve with cold vanilla or caramel ice cream and enjoy!

If you are afraid of the cobbler boiling over onto the floor of your oven, bake with a sheet tray under the cobbler.

Strawberry and Goat Cheese Galette

I’m probably going to hear someone say, “Another cheese and strawberry pastry?” Honey, yes. Cheese and fruit are gifts from the gods and we need to enjoy them as much as possible. Also, when you have an abundance of fruit, you need to use them up in any way possible because nothing is worse than some forgotten and moldy strawberries.

When I’m testing new ideas and recipes, I always end up buying more produce and ingredients than I will need. So when some of those ingredients are perishable or aren’t a part of my usual food-du-jour, I use those ingredients to inspire new recipes. This one is a product of that system and I have it on good authority from my coworkers that it is real good.

For some random reason, I had some quick puff pastry in my fridge. Now for those of you who are not aware, quick puff pastry is the delicious bastard child of puff pastry and it’s the best invention. After sliced cheese of course. It’s flour, salt and cubed cold butter mixed together with cold water, rolled and “laminated” like puff pastry, but instead of the slight annoyance of trying to make everything perfect like regular puff pastry, you just roll it out, do your folds, and see the butter cubes transform into butter smears.

I could try to explain the process, but I’ll probably butcher it and there are many people who have already done so, in beautiful ways and with way better photography than me. Sophisticated Gourmet has a how to: quick puff pastry that I will link below. It’s very detailed and easy to follow along to. Check it out!

http://www.sophisticatedgourmet.com/2010/08/quick-puff-pastry/

Now, I just had quick puff lying around, but you can use any dough you have. Galette dough specifically has some cornmeal in it, to give it some texture, but you can make a galette with any kind of dough. We don’t need to be sticklers to the rules, I won’t tell anyone. If you have no desire to make your own dough, store bought pie dough or puff pastry dough would work just as well. Just follow its specific baking instructions and bake until golden brown.

As I said earlier, I love cheese and fruit. Playing around with different combinations make it all the more fun and you can really find some amazing pairs. Goat cheese is easy to find and pairs well with almost anything, so I find it highly versatile and useful in the summer. It also has that delicious tang that works well with fruit and citrus. If you don’t have strawberries or if it’s later in the summer and say, peaches are in season, slice those bad boys and throw them on the cheese. It’ll be just as simple and drool-worthy.

STRAWBERRY AND GOAT CHEESE GALETTE

8-10 oz            quick puff pastry or any preferred pastry dough

2            Tbsp strawberry preserves/jam

¼             cup goat cheese

½            cup thick sliced strawberries

1            tsp thyme

squeeze of lemon

salt and fresh cracked pepper

egg wash

raw sugar

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking pad.
  2. Roll out puff pastry into a round shape, 1/8 in thick.
  3. Spread the strawberry jam in the middle, leaving a two-inch border of bare puff.
  4. Crumble the goat cheese on top of the jam. Season with salt and black pepper. Top with half of the thyme.
  5. Layer sliced strawberries on top of the goat cheese, mounding them up. Squeeze a tiny bit of lemon on top of the strawberries and top with the remaining thyme.
  6. Fold the border up over the strawberries, making sure to leave an opening for the steam to escape. If you don’t, the galette might explode.
  7. Egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar.
  8. Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. Drop the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Let the galette cool before cutting and serving. The inside cheese and strawberry mixture will be very hot and liquid-y. (Galette is best eaten the day it was baked) It’s delicious served with ice cream for dessert or an iced coffee as an afternoon snack.

Strawberry and Brie Muffins

It’s that part of the year when the weather goes from a perfect, slightly rainy mid-70 to a sweltering and humid hi-80. For those of us in the south, spring is a fleeting aspiration. But as spring quickly melts into summer, the heat reminds us of two things: the beauty of air-conditioning and the abundant produce to come. First, greens of all sorts, from crisp romaine to spicy arugula, second strawberries and then third, tomatoes.

There’s always more to celebrate during these hot days, but I like to grab all the strawberries I can. Eat them, jam them, pickle them, or pie them up. This time I decided to revisit an old recipe that I developed during my internship at America’s Test Kitchen. I took inspiration from my mother’s strawberry baked Brie and baked up a relatively good muffin. When I looked back at the recipe five years later, it definitely needed some work, but the bones were good enough.

Five years is a century in kitchen work. During that time, I have gone to pastry school and worked in three different kitchens, working faster and cleaner, but also learning the basics of baking in a way where it’s become second nature. Why have milk in a recipe when I could add buttermilk instead for a tangy punch? This way I can add baking soda, which give the muffins a fluffier texture. Small tweaks like this gave this pubescent recipe a push into adulthood.

I love jam of all kinds. Preserves too. And jellies. It’s such a wonderful addition to any plate during all times of the day and year. And there might be no better pairing than jam and cheese, with bread. And butter. Okay, okay, so all the food groups need to make an appearance. As I stated before, strawberry jam and Brie have a special place in my heart due to my mother, who made baked Brie for every special event she hosted. As soon as it came out of the oven, I would race downstairs to steal some, burning my mouth on the way back up to my room so I wouldn’t have to make small talk with their guests.

This recipe is a pretty straightforward muffin; mix the wet into the dry and divide. It has a layer of strawberries in the middle and on top. Brie is a rich addition that gives the muffins a savory component and when halved and toasted, the Brie melts slightly to add a delicious gooeyness. Brie is a soft cheese, so I like to freeze the cheese before I cut it into cubes. I find it slices easier. I also prefer the rind off, but I have tested this muffin with the rind on and it does enhance the Brie flavor. If you are so inclined, leave the rind.

The strawberry size is preference based as well, but I like them sliced or quartered. Any strawberry jam will do, but if you’ve made some, it’s even better. If you haven’t, not a problem! If you have time, mash up some strawberries and cook for 15 minutes, until soft. Add store bought jam or preserves to the cooked strawberries and you’ve ramped up the strawberry-ness to the next level.

Thank you for reading this far and indulging my story telling. Enjoy!

STRAWBERRY AND BRIE MUFFINS

MAKES 12 MUFFINS

2 1/3      cups (11 2/3 ounces) all-purpose flour

1/4         cup packed brown sugar

1            Tbsp baking powder

1            Tbsp baking soda

1             tsp salt

6             ounces Brie, rind removed and chopped into 1/4 in pieces

1/2          cup strawberry jam

2             large eggs

½            cup buttermilk

1/3          cup canola oil

1             cup sliced strawberries

raw sugar to top

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin with baking spray or line with muffin cups.
  2. Whisk flour, brown sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt together in a large bowl. Stir in chopped Brie.
  3. Add eggs, milk and oil to jam and whisk until combined. Add to flour mixture and fold together until it just combines; do not over mix. Spoon two tablespoons of batter into prepared muffin tin and cover layer with a layer of sliced strawberries. Cover strawberries with another two tablespoons of batter and cover again with sliced strawberries. Top evenly with raw sugar.
  4. Bake until tops are light golden-brown, about 14-18 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Let muffins cool in tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Muffins are best eaten the day they are baked but can be placed in zipper-lock bag and stored at room temperature for 1 day or refrigerated for 4 days; toast and butter before serving.)