Orwasher’s perfect potato burger buns.

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Last summer a friend gave us a baking book written by her brother-in-law, Keith Cohen, who owns Orwasher’s Bakery, a 100-year-old bakery in Manhattan that he bought from the original Orwasher family in 2007. Thrilled with the prospect of new bread recipes, we gorged greedily on the glossy pictures, mentally listing all the new breads we would make, but never quite rising to the challenge of a Challah or a Cabernet Rustica .

A while back, when burgers were mooted for dinner, I recalled salivating over the tan-crusted, milky-white soft hamburger buns from the book, and whipped it back off the shelf. We’ve been making our own burger buns for quite some time now, and while they tick many a box in terms of softness, taste and soakage of burger juices, there’s always that little niggling feeling that we could do better. While searching for the recipe I became engrossed in the story of Orwasher’s bakery, its history of serving the local Eastern European community, and Keith’s journey to recapture the original spirit of the Orwasher tradition and provide his corner of New York with authentic high quality artisan bread.

It’s not just a recipe book though, it’s a chronicle of the importance of bread to a community and an individual. It’s also a  “how-to” bible on creating specific starters, bigas and levains for all kinds of loaves, explains traditional methods for mixing, kneading and shaping ethnic breads, and simplifies the concept of the Baker’s percentage. It is fast becoming our daily bread manual. Keith’s is a simple message echoed by all true artisan bakers – use high quality ingredients, either sourced locally or authentically ethnic, and don’t rush it.

These hamburger buns use a small amount of potato flour – new to us – which gives it a finer, softer texture than our normal buns. This was a revelation, as before we’ve always used either egg or milk to get that spongy, bouncy feel. The result is a pillow-soft bun with a light, slightly sweet flavour, perfect for enveloping a meaty, juicy burger… or just about anything, really.

The original Orwasher recipe uses much larger quantities than Ruby and I need to make, so we’ve scaled it back to our usual 1kg(ish) dough recipe, and after a little trial and error, adjusted the water to suit our flour (original recipe here). You may need to do the same. This is what works for us…

Orwasher’s potato burger buns (slightly adapted by Jack and Ruby)

Makes approximately 10-12 buns.

525g strong white flour
35g potato flour
295g water
48g sugar
11g salt
8g yeast
40g oil

Combine the strong white flour, water, sugar, salt and oil in a large mixing bowl. When thoroughly combined add in the potato flour and yeast. Knead this robustly for about 15 minutes by hand. If you’re lucky enough to have a food mixer with a dough-hook, then use this for approximately 10 minutes.

When the dough is nicely smooth and stretchy, roll into a ball and weigh it (this is the only way we can ever get equally sized rolls). This method doesn’t require an initial 1st prove so cut into c.100g pieces and roll into little domed balls. Place on a floured baking tray and leave to rise for up to 4 hours (yes, 4 hours! But you get spectacular results). The rolls should be at least double in size and pillowy. As usual, we put our tray inside a large plastic bag to retain moisture and stop a crust from forming.

Pre-heat your oven with baking stone to 200º celsius (the original recipe says 205º but our temperature indicator isn’t that precise) and bake for 15-16 minutes until darkly golden brown on the crust and puffed to perfection. Remove, place on a cooling rack and withhold the urge to gorge until room temperature and your burger is cooked.

ruby says “i love these burger buns! i’m feeling hungry now…..soooo hungry. (drooling) 😦 ”

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A year of baking bread.

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Well, we’ve left 2014 well and truly behind, and being the late developers we are, have only gotten round to thinking about our year of bread making adventures at the start of March! We’ve learnt so much about bread-baking in the last 12 months, how easy it is, and how deceptively hard it is too. How the baker’s greatest friend is time, and constant nemesis is patience. How we only need four ingredients to make a basic loaf, but can tweak these infinitely to create a doughy global smorgasbord.  How while making bread together Ruby and I get to talk about silly stuff and important stuff. Because it slows us down, pulls our focus in, and no-one’s going anywhere until the bread is put to bed.

Our technique has definitely improved. We’re not afraid of our dough anymore, or too reverent, and will smack it back or punch it down if it’s being too cheeky. But we’ve a long road ahead with many branches to meander down, lots of techniques and recipes to try, and while we’re a Jack (and Ruby) of all breads, we’re very aware we’re still masters of none.

Our quest for the perfect loaf goes on in 2015.

ruby says “it’s been fun. i want to get better at kneading though! :/

Slightly sourdough loaf.

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Oh dear. It’s been a while since we’ve posted. Although we’ve been baking away, other engagements (and if we’re honest, a little laziness) have prevented us from writing about it. But that’s about to change now we’re firmly back in the blogging saddle.

We have been experimenting with our standard loaf and how to make it healthier without alienating the other rather pernickity members of the clan. While we like a bit of sourdough, the rest of the family is not that keen, and it doesn’t always make kid-friendly sandwiches. And while our great white never fails to delight, it’s not the healthiest everyday-kind-of-bread. We decided we needed something less yeasty and more wholesome with a robust flavour, but without the tangy sourness and jaw-aching crustiness of a true sourdough. So Ruby and I reached a compromise, we’ll attempt a slightly sourdough bread with the best of all worlds – springy yeastiness with a doughy depth of flavour and some husky wholemeal.

It took a little experimenting to get our quantities right, but that’s half the fun, and we think we’re pretty close to a perfect all-rounder. As our sourdough starter is the star of the show, this takes a little longer to prove than a normal pan. But not much, and it’s worth the wait!

Slightly sourdough.

410g white bread flour
150g wholemeal flour
10g salt
3g dried yeast
60g sourdough starter
20g olive oil or butter
330g tepid water (you may need to adjust this if your flour is thirsty)

Mix the white and wholemeal flour in a bowl. Add the salt on one side and the sourdough starter on the other. Dribble in the oil. Dissolve the dried yeast in the tepid water and pour in. Mix to a wettish paste and knead thoroughly for about 15-20 mins. Put the dough back into an oiled bowl, cover with a showercap, and leave to prove in a warm place for 1.5 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size (this may take longer, don’t worry if it does). Punch down, flop out onto a barely floured surface, fold and shape into a well floured 1kg loaf tin. Cover again with a showercap and leave to rise for a further 1-2 hours or until the dough reaches just below the lip of the tin. Pre-heat the oven to 240ºc. Flick over some flour and slash with abandon. Throw a cup of water into the bottom of the oven if you feel inclined. Bake for 10 mins then turn down to 210ºc for a further 20-25mins. Check the loaf is done by rapping on its bottom. It should sound hollow. It should not say ow.

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This makes a lovely springy soft loaf with enough fortitude to hold the soggiest sandwich filling. And with so little yeast, it’s easy on the digestion too.

ruby says “Yum-yum that was delicious probably one of the best slices of bread ever! A bit of white bread, a bit of brown and a touch of sourdough! M-m!”

 

Sourdough September

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Summer life kind-of took over our house this year, with the result that our bread-making took a bit of a back seat. Another result was poor Gordon, our sourdough starter, was neglected shamefully, pouting sulkily at the back of the fridge. We took him out this morning before school to warm up and recover. Ruby put him in intensive care and we will drip-feed him until he’s strong enough to contend with our plans for this month – to join in with The Real Bread Campaign’s Sourdough September!

Fingers crossed…

ruby says “poor gordon’s sick. we need to feed him lots to make him better.”

Bacheldre Water Mill.

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We spent a week in England visiting family and friends this month, and on the way back to the ferry we took a detour to visit the beautiful old watermill at Bacheldre, a traditional stone-ground mill in Powys, Wales. There has been a mill on the site since 1575 but the current mill dates to the 18th century, still using water from the mill race to power the water wheel and turn the stones, though this is now supplemented by a motor to allow the wheel to turn when the water flow is low.

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When Matt and Anne Scott bought the mill back in 2002 it was primarily for the attached campsite. The mill at that time was a working museum, still grinding flour, but in small batches for display purposes. With no previous experience in the milling field they threw themselves into restoring the watermill and creating a viable business, but using the traditional methods of stone-ground flour production. They now produce award-winning flour, in a variety of styles and flavours, and supply large retailers such as Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis as well as a myriad of smaller artisan stockists. Amazon even deliver their full range, including 25kg sacks. Many of their flours use locally grown Welsh wheat, just like the old days…

We had intended to buy a 25kg bag of white bread flour to bring home with us on the ferry, but in typical Jack and Ruby fashion happened to turn up just after the owners had left for a holiday, the two mill workers had a day off, and there were no ready-filled large sacks of flour in the shop. In fact, the mill was pretty much closed that day. But the caretakers were very friendly so we had a quick look around and bought a small bag of bread flour and a bag of Oak Smoked malted flour to try out.

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It was such a treat to see an old mill so lovingly restored, eager to welcome visitors and tourists who take up time and only buy a small bag of flour, happy to share the traditions and methods of an age-old profession – and yet still be relevant and vibrant in the modern fast-paced flour-producing industry that has tended to remove itself from its customers – us, the bread-makers and bread-eaters. On returning home, to our surprise we found out that Bacheldre Mill is up for sale. We hope its future custodians treat it with the love and respect that the Scotts did.

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Photo from Shropshire Star.

ruby says “it was very pretty, i liked having my picture taken beside bacheldre mill stone.”

 

 

The Great May White.

May great white

I know we’re well into June but we seem to be slipping behind in all sorts of things lately. Still, we managed our weekly Great White all through May, with it’s usual highs and lows. What did we do differently this month? We tried a new slashing technique (top two) – yeah, that didn’t go so well. We also tried an overnight white loaf (bottom right) – that didn’t go so well either. But number three! Well, that’s as near to the perfect loaf we’ve come so far…….

So what have we learnt? Not a lot. Except to persevere……and stick with our old slashes.

ruby says “I couldn’t lift the last one it was so heavy.”

The Great April White.

April white

Our quest for the perfect loaf continues. Along with our variety of the good, the bad and the ugly loaves, we’ve also been baking a basic white once a week. It is our intention that by the end of the year we will be able to create a perfect loaf, with lofty aspirations of something akin to the overnight Sherston Loaf from Hobbs House bakery. In addition, we’ve been tasting and rating other white and sourdough breads from various bakeries across Dublin to find the ultimate loaf, and compare our more humble offerings – more of that to come in the next few months. Here are four of April’s offerings….

We can see that we have issues with uneven rising, erratic oven spring, length of bake…. the list is pretty endless, and the loaves seem to be getting worse instead of better! But at least we can eat our mistakes.

ruby says “I don’t really mind what they look like as long as I can put jam on it.”