"Es mas largo que un dia sin pan." "It's longer than a day without bread". Mexican saying
Pumpkin empanadas have always been available year round in panaderias or Mexican bakeries all over Texas. I can’t speak for the rest of the U.S., but I’m sure it would be the case all over. I can confidently guess correctly that canned pumpkin has been used in the bakeries since it first became available. It would be nice to come up with a “from scratch” recipe but I’m not going there this time around. Apple and pineapple are two other popular flavors I remember from childhood that can still be found. The dough for the pumpkin variety bakes very soft and I’m sure it is flavored with spice. It is more brown, not golden in color. I don’t think I could ever duplicate that dough, I’m content with buying the empanadas at our neighborhood bakery. Here though I’m using the recipe for a dough that I’ve been getting acquainted with recently. It’s from Fany Gerson’s “My Sweet Mexico”, a well researched book which gives us a glimpse of the vast variety of candies and sweet baked goods of Mexico. She uses the dough for an empanada filled with an incredible tasting tomato jam. The sweet, flaky, and tender crust works pretty well for all kinds of sweet empanadas.
There is very little info to be found on the techniques used in many favorite sweets and baked items of Mexico. Experience and knowledge is largely passed on from generation to generation within family businesses and I think many recipes are carefully guarded secrets. My impression is that on the whole, the general public in the U.S. and Mexico leaves nearly all the pastry and candy making to the bakers much like bread making in France is generally left to the bakers.
I’m not sure if ginger and nutmeg are common ingredients in Mexican style pumpkin empanadas, but I’m using them my recipe.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
15 oz. (1 small can) pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
good pinch of nutmeg
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1/2 cup crema or heavy cream
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon of crema or heavy cream
To make the filling put the 2 T. butter in a sauté pan and melt over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Lower the heat a bit if needed to prevent scorching. Add the pumpkin puree and stir to mix with the butter and sugar. Add the spices and incorporate as you continue to stir. Gently cook the mixture for about 8 to 10 minutes over low to medium heat. Stir periodically to prevent burning. Remove the pan to cool.
To make the dough stir together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Add the cream and mix until just combined. Put the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and uniform. Resist the temptation to add more cream. As you knead, the butter will moisten the dough. It will take about 2 minutes. Flatten the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour.
After the resting period, roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut out circles that are 4 to 5 inches in diameter. I used a small bowl. You may have a cookie cutter about that size. A 4 1/2 inch diameter size gave me 22 circles. I suggest working with part of the dough while keeping the rest slightly chilled. If you have a warm kitchen, the dough will become harder to manage as it warms up. I think it’s due to the amount of butter used in the recipe. Use up all the dough by gathering the scraps and rerolling.
Place the circles on a lightly floured surface. Place about 1 tablespoon of the pumpkin filling a little off center of the circle and fold over 1/2 the circle to seal. You can squeeze together the edges to seal by hand or fork. Make 2 or 3 small slits on top. Put them on baking sheets and refrigerate the empanadas for about 30 minutes. Be sure to preheat your oven to 350 degrees as the dough chills.
Whisk 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of heavy cream together in a small bowl. Brush the empanadas with the mixture and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake until they become a light golden brown. Put them on wire racks to cool.
According to “The Food Lover’s Companion”, pine nuts grow in China, Italy, Mexico, North Africa and the southwestern United States. It’s a versatile kind of nut, at home in many cuisines around the world. I’ve noticed they have gotten more expensive the past 10 years or so. One reason for the high price is that it is a labor intensive process to remove the nuts from the cone. I remember the first time I saw a pine cone full of what I recognized as pine nuts during a hike in Colorado some years ago. I had never thought about how they grew and to come across them in the wild was a surprise and a highlight. It rated up there with witnessing a herd of bighorn sheep running up an area of Pike’s Peak. So maybe it’s fitting that I keep this bread as handmade as possible, meaning that I’ll knead and develop the dough manually and use wild untamed yeast in the form of my starter. No, the pine nuts are not foraged, I’d be searching for a long time here in central Texas. Instead of laboriously gathering the cones and picking out the nuts, I only have to take a quick trip to the supermarket. I don’t make my own wheat flour or cornmeal. Home grown flours and grains only happens in the movies for me. Neither do I have a masonry oven built with my blood sweat and tears and then fired with gathered wood. I’m realizing how far away I am from making a 100% crafted loaf of bread, a loaf imbued with special elusive qualities and energies. I can only imagine the difference in taste and qualities. But I’m not at all complaining about the flavor and texture of these loaves. This delicious bread is very hearty and flavorful like only a home made sourdough loaf can be. The cornmeal contributes some feel and flavor and the pine nuts add their nuttiness. Not only does it go pretty well with Mexican and Southwestern food, but it compliments Mediterranean flavors as well. I’d say it can accompany many types of cuisines. In fact, it doesn’t need a cuisine to be enjoyed. It’s great by itself or with butter or jam.
Instead of using dry cornmeal, I soak it in water overnight to soften the grain and extract some flavor. The dough’s first rise lasted 7 hours. After shaping it proofed for about 4 more. My 73-74 degree Fahrenheit kitchen slowed things down. That’s ok, I don’t mind long fermentations. It makes for great bread.
For 3 medium size loaves
1/2 tablespoon starter that has been refreshed about 8 hours before
100 grams water at 78 degrees
100 grams bread flour
165 grams grams cornmeal (1 cup)
235 grams water (1 cup)
400 grams of water
800 grams bread flour
100 grams whole wheat flour
The cornmeal soaker
20 grams table salt + 40 grams water
150 grams unsalted pinenuts (1 cup)
On the evening before baking day make the cornmeal soaker and the levain. Make the soaker by mixing the cornmeal and water until well mixed in a small bowl. Cover with plastic and let it sit overnight. For the levain, stir 1/2 tablespoon of starter that had been refreshed 8 hours before (or that is around peak of activity) into the 100 grams of water in a small bowl to dissolve. I assume you are well acquainted with your starter. Add the 100 grams of bread flour and mix until all the flour is moistened. Cover with plastic and let it sit overnight at room temperature. Depending on how warm or cool the room is, it will take 8-10 hours for the levain to ferment to the proper degree. Cover with plastic and let it also sit overnight. You can tell if it sufficiently fermented the next morning by dropping a spoon full into some water. It is ready when it floats. It’s important to time this for when you plan to make the dough. If you think you’ve past that stage, you can still use it, the bread will turn out with a little more tang.
On baking day gather the rest of the ingredients. Toast the pine nuts in a 3oo degree oven until lightly toasted then set them aside to cool. Put the 400 grams of water in a large mixing bowl and add the levain to thoroughly dissolve by hand. Next add the bread and whole wheat flours and mix with your hands until all the flour is moistened. Cover the bowl with plastic or a moistened kitchen cloth and let it sit for 30 to 45 minutes. I’m always amazed how much gluten is formed during the short period of autolyse. It makes mixing so much easier. Now add the cornmeal soaker and mix together thoroughly until everything is evenly incorporated. This will be a moderately wet and sticky dough. It’s not to the degree of ciabatta but it will be tricky to handle. Dissolve as much as you can the 20 grams of salt in the 40 grams water. Work the salt solution in by squeezing it into the dough. If you feel that the dough is too difficult to knead, add more flour, but keep it as wet as you can manage. I use my pastry cutter to help me with the kneading. It helps me move the dough off the work surface. Knead the dough until it starts to become smooth and elastic, about 5 to 7 minutes. Full development will take place during the fermentation phase.
Remove the dough and shape it into a round. Put it into a bowl that has been lightly oiled and cover with plastic. The dough will eventually grow to about 1/3 more in volume. After 30 minutes, remove it from the bowl and put it on a lightly floured work surface. Gently grab the left side of the dough, stretch it a bit and fold it over the center. Do the same with the right side, far side, and near side. Turn it over and place it back in the bowl and cover. After 30 minutes, remove once again from the bowl and gently fold in the toasted pine nuts, distributing evenly but carefully through the dough. Shape into a nice round and replace it into the bowl. After one more 30 minute interval, repeat the folding technique, then let it proof for about 3 more hours. You must determine when the dough is ready. It depends a lot on how wet your dough is, and the temperature of the room it is proofing in. It will feel softer, more airy, and will have increased about 1/3 in size. I always use a clear kitchen storage container with graduated markings. That lets me see how the dough is developing. You should see small gas pockets while the volume of the dough increases. Take the fermentation longer if you need to. Part of the mystery and challenge about bread making is getting to know dough.
When you’ve determined that the dough is ready, gently take it out of the bowl and put it on a work surface. Divide it into 2 or 3 portions. Gently shape them into rounds, cover with plastic and let the gluten relax for 20 to 30 minutes. When you make the rounds, try to make the outer surface tight, that is, kind of pull the dough taut toward the underside. This ultimately adds to a good oven spring. After the relaxation, turn over one of the portions so that the bottom side is now the top. Take the left side and stretch it so that it folds over the center. Do the same with the right, far and near sides. Turn it over so the bottom is now the top again. Try to pull taut the outer surface once more as you shape it into a round. I put each of the rounds on parchment paper and cover with plastic. I find it helpful to lightly spray the surface of the dough with oil so that the plastic doesn’t stick. The dough should proof for at least 3 hours. It is a long and slow ferment. It may take longer depending on the temperature of your kitchen.
Make sure you have preheated your oven to 500 degrees . Score your loaves as desired and place them in the oven. Use your baking stone if you have one, otherwise place them on heavy duty baking sheets. Immediately lower the temperature to 425 degrees and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. I mist the oven with a plant sprayer 3 times during the first 10 or so minutes to simulate the action of a steam injected oven. They should register 200 degrees Fahrenheit when done. Put them on a wire rack to cool before slicing.
My first batch used 1 1/2 cups of cornmeal. The flavor was fantastic but the crumb didn’t have the large holes I was looking for. I figured that the amount of cornmeal might have wreaked havoc on the gluten development. Maybe I was too rough in the handling of the dough. I cut back to 1 cup of cornmeal and was extra careful with the dough. It didn’t seem to make much difference at all. I suspect the cornmeal, which has no gluten, affected the structure of the dough.
A bread to make when you have extra pumpkin puree from your autumn baking, this yeasted loaf is lightly sweet and flavored with a small dose of cinnamon. Even though the pumpkin is mild in flavor, it gives a rich softness and golden color to the crumb. It would go nice with perhaps your favorite jam, fruit preserve or “Cajeta butter”. It’s really just a riff off of “Pumpkin monkey bread w/piloncillo sauce” and with a little adjustment in the ingredients, it can also turn into a sandwich loaf.
For 2 loaves
4 to 4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (a 15 oz. can is just a little more)
1 egg lightly beaten
1/4 cup milk at room temperature
5 tablespoons slightly softened butter
1 1/4 cup of sultanas or dark raisins
Put 4 cups of bread flour, the yeast, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in the mixing bowl. Stir the ingredients well. Add the pumpkin puree and egg and mix with a spoon. Now add about 3/4 of the measured milk and stir to start making the dough. It should still seem dry at this point. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter and begin mixing with the hook attachment or by hand if desired. Slowly continue to add the rest of the butter. The dough will soon be moistened. After all the butter has been added, adjust with more flour or milk as needed to make a soft and elastic dough. Mixing will take about 7-8 minutes. I find it ok if the final dough very lightly sticks to the bottom of the bowl at the end of mixing. Gradually add the raisins during the last 2 minutes of the kneading. I add about half, remove the dough from the bowl, and then fold in the rest. This helps to evenly distribute them. Or just add all the raisins with the mixer or by hand if you prefer.
Shape the dough into a round and place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Make sure the dough is oiled all around. Cover with plastic and let it rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the dough is ready, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 portions with a pastry cutter or knife. Shape as desired, boules or batards, and place them on parchment paper. Proof until they are about double in volume.
When the dough has risen sufficiently you can brush with a wash made of 1 lightly beaten egg and 1 tablespoon water. Or you can choose to brush with melted butter after it has finished baking. One of my loaves was lightly dusted with flour before scoring. Place the loaves on a baking sheet(s) and bake about 25 minutes. The internal temperature when done should be 190 degrees. I didn’t have any problems, but if they are browning too quickly, cover with foil. Be sure to let them cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
For one batch, I lightly cooked in a frying or sauté pan the pumpkin puree before adding it to the dough. I melted 2 tablespoons of the butter and dissolved the sugar as best as I could, then added the pumpkin and cinnamon. I cooked it on low heat for about 10 minutes. Perhaps this process helps the flavor of the canned puree. It makes for a tasty filling whether you think it helps or not.
It would be good to experiment with other pumpkin spices like ground cloves, ginger, nutmeg, or even cardamom. Dried cranberries, cherries, figs or other fruit would be nice too.
Another pumpkin recipe!
Traditionally, pan de muerto is lovingly made to be placed on altars or around headstones in cemeteries honoring loved ones who have passed on. The bread, along with favorite drinks and food are there to invite the spirits to partake and perhaps make a spiritual connection with those who are honoring them. The tradition has its roots in pre-Colombian Mexico. November 1st is the day for remembering children while November 2nd is for the adults. It’s no coincidence that they fall on the catholic All Saints Day and All Soul’s Day. There is much information out there on Dia de los Muertos that you can find. I’ll just emphasize that it is a spiritual, joyous celebratory tradition.
I looked at several recipes for pan de muerto. I gravitated toward those from Diana Kennedy, Patricia Quintana, and Fany Gerson. Their traditional versions differed a little in technique. What they all had in common were a starter, the use of orange blossom water and perhaps anise flavoring, eggs and egg yolks, milk, and a generous amount of butter. The dough was very highly enriched. The starters differed in thickness as was the fermentation times. The proportions of the ingredients also differed. My recipe, which came about after a few trial runs is a combination of the three versions. I realized there are many ways to approach using the starter (biga, poolish, pate fermentee). In any case, this egg and butter rich dough produces a delicious pillow-soft , slightly sweet, and delicately flavored bread. I have to tip my hat to the three great chef/authors. Their books have been very inspirational to me.
1 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/2 t. instant yeast
3/4 cup milk at room temperature
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 packed tablespoon orange zest
2 teaspoons anise extract
1 generous teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons orange blossom water
2 eggs room temperature lightly beaten
6 egg yolks room temperature lightly beaten
1 cup unsalted butter softened
To make the starter, mix together the bread flour and yeast in your mixing bowl. Add most of the milk and mix with your hand or spatula to get a shaggy dough. With the dough hook of your mixer, begin to mix and add more milk or flour as needed to form a smooth elastic dough. The mixing should take about 5-6 minutes. You can also do this by hand if desired. Shape the starter into a round ball, place it in a small lightly oiled bowl, roll it around in the bowl to oil all sides. Cover with plastic and let it rise to double in volume. This will only take about 20 or so minutes. If it has risen too fast, press it down, and let it rise again.
While the starter is fermenting, gather the rest of the ingredients. When the starter is ready, degass it and cut it into about 6 pieces with a knife or pastry scraper. Put it in your mixing bowl. Add the bread flour, sugar, salt, and orange zest. Mix the ingredients well. Add the orange blossom water, anise extract, eggs, and egg yolks. Mix all the ingredients well to start forming a dough. Make as best a cohesive mass as possible. Begin mixing on low with the dough hook. Immediately begin to add the softened butter in bits, making sure that the butter has been incorporated before adding more. Resist the temptation to add more milk or water. The butter will begin to moisten the dough. If the butter has made the dough too sticky, add more flour by tablespoons until you get a dough that is only slightly sticky. Mix until it is smooth, silky, and elastic, about 7-8 minutes. Take the dough out of the bowl, and form it into a round shape. Place it in lightly oiled bowl, making sure the top of the dough is also oiled. Cover with plastic and proof until it reaches double in height. Lightly degass the dough. You can proceed with the recipe or return the dough to the bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight. I recommend the latter.
If you have refrigerated the dough overnight, take it out about 1 to 1 1/2 hours before you plan to bake the bread. When the dough has returned closer to room temperature, proceed with the recipe. Take it out of the bowl, and divide it into two. Lightly degass the two portions, then cut out a piece from each about the size of a lemon. Form the large pieces of dough into a round shape and flatten them to 1 to 1 1/2 inch thickness. Take one of the lemon size pieces and cut off out a small piece which you will now roll into a ball about 3/4 inch in diameter. Divide the rest of the lemon size portion into 3 equal pieces. With your fingers, gently roll out 3 “bones” as shown in the photo. They should be a little longer than the diameter of the flattened dough. Place the three bones across the top of the dough as shown. Lightly moisten the center with water and place the 3/4 inch ball on top. Place the dough on parchment paper and cover with plastic. Repeat the process with other dough, making the small round ball and 3 “bones” to decorate. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Let the dough proof until they are about twice the volume.
Put the dough on baking sheets and place in the oven to bake about 25 to 30 minutes. Check them 15 minutes into the baking because they will brown quickly. When they have reached a golden or slightly darker color remove and carefully foil them. Return to the oven and continue until done. They should reach an internal temperature of 190 to 195 degrees. Place them on a wire rack to cool. After they have cooled off for several minutes, brush them with melted butter and sprinkle with granulated sugar.
I really like the soft texture of this bread. It’s different from sweet dough in that the extra amount of eggs and butter give it a bit more airiness. It reminds me of pan de anise, a slightly sweet soft and delicious Mexican bread.
Marigolds are found in abundance on altars and in cemeteries during the celebration since they attract the ancestors.
Even if you don’t create an altar, you can still make pan de muerto and remember loved ones while making or eating it. Altars to me are private matters so I will not show a photo of one.
Another folk craft associated with Dia de los Muertos is “papel picado” or “cut paper”. Those made for the feast days depict calaveras in different everyday activities. I found some at a folk art store several years ago. These two have food as the theme. The first shows a calavera enjoying what looks like sweet bread or rolls from a basket. The second shows a female calavera cooking up a storm in a large pot. You can see a bird or other small animal in the pot.
“Let us consider as things lent to us, oh, dear friends:
only in passing are we here on earth;
tomorrow or the day after,
as Your heart desires, oh, Giver of Life,
we shall go, my friends, to His home.”
Anonymous Aztec poet
“They shall not wither, my flowers,
they shall not cease, my songs.
I, the singer, lift them up.
They are scattered, they spread about.
Even though on earth my flowers
may wither and yellow,
they will be carried there,
to the innermost house
of the bird with the golden feathers.”
Nezahualcoyotl, Aztec king, philosopher, poet
This post is dedicated to my father who showed me the dignity of hard honest work and to my grandmother who somehow kept the extended family together all the while passing on traditions from her past.
After a long seemingly endless hot summer, autumn has finally arrived, with neighbors beginning to decorate their houses with ghosts, pumpkins, and giant spiders among the piles of dead leaves waiting to be gathered up. I wonder what the chefs and cooks of the houses will be preparing for the season. On the sweet side, lots of pumpkin will be used along with cinnamon, anise, sugar, piloncillo, raisins, pecans, and apples to make empanadas, pies, cakes, pralines, and cookies among other delights. I hope I have enough time to make everything on my wish list. I’m usually too ambitious and end up making only half of what I set out to do. Empanadas, pumpkin bread with chocolate, sugar skulls, and alegrias are some of them. I’ll see how it goes.
Though monkey bread is enjoyed all year round, I think it can easily be adapted for autumn or Thanksgiving. Sometimes at work there is a little extra dough left from the dinner roll batch, so I’ll use it to make some kind of sweet bread for the employees. Monkey bread is a favorite and portions are quickly snatched up, pulled away, from the loaf. The dough for rolls works pretty well for it. I further sweeten the monkey bread by topping it with honey or a sugar glaze. Here though, I am using a sweeter and more enriched dough and adding pumpkin puree. The piloncillo sauce brings it home to me with its Mexican flavor.
For the bread:
4 cups bread flour
2 tsp. instant yeast (not active dry)
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg at room temperature and slightly beaten
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
zest of one orange
1/2 cup milk at room temperature
5 Tbs. slightly softened unsalted butter
4 Tbs. melted butter
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
For the piloncillo sauce:
1 cone (8 ounces) piloncillo (panela), or 1 cup dark brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
2 cups water
4 Tbs. rum
Put the bread flour, instant yeast, sugar, orange zest, and salt in your mixing bowl and stir well. Add the pumpkin puree and egg and mix to distribute evenly. Add most of the milk and mix with a spoon or spatula so that the dough comes together. Using the hook attachment of your mixer, add the 5 tablespoons softened butter in pieces with the mixer running, making sure the butter is incorporated before adding the next piece. Add milk as necessary to make a soft and elastic dough. It will take about 5-6 minutes of mixing. The final dough should clear the sides and bottom of the bowl. Though my dough very slightly stuck to the bottom, it is not a sticky dough. Adjust with more flour or milk as needed.
Shape the dough into a nice round ball and put it into a lightly oiled bowl. Roll the dough around so that it is oiled all around. Cover with plastic and let it ferment until it doubles in volume.
Just before the dough is ready, melt the 4 Tbs. butter in a small sauce pan. Mix the 4 Tbs. sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon in a small bowl.
When the dough is ready, remove it from the bowl and gently but firmly degass it by pressing down. There is no need to punch down hard. Oil a large bundt pan. With a pastry scraper, cut out portions that you will roll into about 1 1/2 inch balls. As you finish rolling each ball, place it into the bundt pan. Brush each layer of balls with some of the melted butter and sprinkle generously with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Make as many layers as you need to reach about 3/4 of the way up the bundt pan. Make sure that the top layer is even so that when the monkey bread is baked and removed from the pan, it will sit evenly. Cover with plastic and proof until the dough almost reaches the top. While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
When the dough is ready, bake it for about 30 minutes (internal temperature of the bread should be 200 degrees). Let it cool slightly and invert it onto your serving platter or board. Dust it with confectionary sugar. Instead of making the piloncillo sauce, you may decide to top it with a sweet glaze. Chocolate, orange, rum or other liquor flavored glazes are some choices that come to mind.
To make the piloncillo sauce, put the piloncillo cone (or 1 cup dark brown sugar), white sugar, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and 2 cups water in a sauce pan. Place it over medium heat, bring to a boil, and then lower to a simmer. Make sure the piloncillo and sugar has dissolved. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes until it has the consistency of a thin syrup. Near the end of simmering add 3-4 Tbs. of rum and then take it off the heat after a minute or so. Don’t let it thicken too much, or else the sauce will harden when cooled down. If it congeals too much, fix it by reheating and adding more water and/or rum. Serve the sauce warm. I also use white sugar in this sauce to temper down the flavor of piloncillo, (an unrefined sugar), which can be very strong. It is sometimes available in dark and light versions. If you are ok with using all piloncillo, go for it.
No one knows for sure how the name “monkey bread” came about. Some believe that the name refers to the fact that portions of the bread are easily pulled away by hand. No bread knife is required. It’s very kid-friendly and more fun to eat. Among other names, it is also known more descriptively as “bubbleloaf”. It’s said to have originated in the U.S. and according to Wikipedia, it first appeared as a recipe during the 1950′s. I first came across it several years ago in Bernard’s Clayton’s “New Complete Book of Breads”, one of the first bread books I bought. Have any of you readers from outside the U.S. heard of this bread?
Come to think of it, softened raisins or other dried fruit as a topping would also go well with this.
The first batches of this bread used Hatch green chiles instead of the Poblano peppers. But between the first try and the final tweaking, Hatch green chiles and even Anaheim chiles were nowhere to be seen. I had to settle for the Poblanos, nothing at all against them but they are a little more juicier and so trickier to manage in a dough. They are however, easily available most of the year. Here in central Texas, Hatch green chiles arrive from New Mexico and peak during late August-September when they become all the chile rage. They are spicier than Anaheims and also pack lots of flavor. This bread can be carefully adapted to either. Though I’ve never tried it, incorporating those extra or leftover mashed potatoes in the dough is one way to use them up I hear. You may have to eliminate the olive oil in this recipe if you do use mashed potatoes.
For 2 medium size loaves-
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
3/4 tsp. salt
about 1 cup water at room temperature
all of the pate fermentee
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups cooked and riced potato (1 medium size Russet potato)
2 -3 fire roasted Poblano pepper or 3 Hatch green chiles
3 T. e. v. olive oil
1/2 cup potato water (from the cooked potatoes)
The day before baking-
Mix together the bread flour, instant yeast, and salt in your mixing bowl. Add most of the water and stir together until it begins to form a dough. Start mixing with your stand mixer (or by hand if you choose to do so) and gradually adjust with more water as needed to form a smooth and elastic dough, about 6 minutes.
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and roll it around so that it is entirely oiled. Cover with plastic and let it rise to about 1 1/2 times the volume. This may take about 1 hour depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Lightly degass the dough, cover the bowl with plastic, and let it sit overnight in your refrigerator.
On the day of baking-
Remove the pate fermente from the refrigerator a good hour before baking the bread to take the chill off.
Before you begin making the dough, peel and cut into thirds or quarters the potato. Put the potato in a small sauce pan and with enough water to cover. Place it over low- medium heat to simmer until it is fork tender. Do not overcook. Take the pan off the heat to cool. Save the water the potatoes were cooked in.
While the potatoes are simmering, fire roast whatever chiles you decide to use. Peel them, remove the seeds, and dice them to about 1/2 inch size. When the potato is cool enough to handle, put it through a ricer, or mash it as best you can with a fork. Pour at least 1 cup of the potato water into a measuring cup. You will probably not use it all.
To make the bread-
With a pastry cutter or knife cut the pate fermente into about a dozen pieces. Put them in your mixing bowl and add the flour, instant yeast, riced potato, olive oil, and salt. Add about 1/4 cup of the potato water and start mixing by spoon or spatula to make the dough. Add the diced Poblano peppers and continue to mix. The peppers will release moisture so resist the temptation to add much more water. Just put enough to allow the ingredients to coalesce. Mix it with the hook attachment of your mixer. If it is too dry, add a bit more water, but the peppers will continue to release liquid. Mixing should take about 6-7 minutes for the dough to reach the smooth elastic stage. My dough slightly stuck to the bottom of the bowl when done, but cleared the sides.
Preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, roll it around to coat all sides, and cover with plastic. Let it rise until it is about 2 times in size. When ready remove onto your work surface. Divide the dough into 2 pieces and shape into rounds. I also flattened them somewhat. Put them on your oiled baking tray or on parchment paper if you are using a baking stone. Cover with plastic and let rise to almost 2 times in volume. These particular loaves took about 45 minutes.
When they are ready, score them as you desire. Place them in the preheated oven and lower the temperature to 400 degrees. I mist the oven 3 times within the first 10 or so minutes to simulate a professional steam-injected oven. Rotate them halfway through the baking. They took about 20-25 minutes for them the complete. The internal temperature should reach 200 degrees when done.
The potatoes gave a hint of their flavor and gave the crumb a good tender quality. Don’t underestimate their contribution here! The peppers gave a mild spiciness and flavor. When I used Hatch green chiles, the loaves were spicier. Each kind of pepper will give its own flavor and heat qualities, so it’s important to adapt the recipe. I’m not sure why, but one batch resulted in a more pronounced potato flavor even though I used the same amount potato. Maybe the potato water was more concentrated in flavor.
I’ll have to wait until the next season before I can use fresh Hatch green chiles again.
The Poblano peppers also gave a nice slight greenish tinge to the crumb.
I enjoy using amaranth in breads. It has unique and pleasant flavor and is very much a Mexican (Central and South American) ingredient that goes back to Pre-Colombian times. It is an underappreciated ingredient that hasn’t been used to its full potential. To be honest I had to get used to its flavor which I can best describe as one slightly reminiscent of corn with grassy tones. But it quickly won me over as a delicious ingredient that I wanted to learn to use in my baking. Two previous posts of mine feature it as an ingredient in “Amaranth (not so flat) bread” and “Amaranth bread”.
Amaranth flour is really made from the seed of the plant. In Mexico the seed is the main ingredient in “alegrias”, a candy made typically with amaranth seeds, piloncillo(a type of unrefined sugar), raisins, and other ingredients like pumpkin seeds or pecans. That sounds like something I would like to try making.
This is a sourdough bread that uses only bread flour, water, natural yeast, salt, amaranth seeds, and amaranth flour. But this will be a basis for making other amaranth sourdough loaves incorporating additional flavors. I cut back on the fermentation and proofing time to make it a “lighter” sourdough. I wanted some of the tang but not the full flavor development of a full 4 hour or more fermentation period and 5 hour proof. I also didn’t want the wildly large holes in the crumb. I wanted the amaranth to come through fairly strong and not overpowered by the wheat. To do this I put in a higher percentage of levain. I figured that more yeast power would hurry up the fermentation and proofing stage, thus cutting short the chance for full flavor development. It seemed to work out very well in this particular batch. The past several weeks I’ve been experimenting with different percentages of ingredients and fermentation times to adapt to different breads I want to make. There is an incredible amount to learn about breadmaking! I’m only scratching the surface of it. You notice I mostly use metric measurements in my sourdough recipes. It really has helped me to be precise and to make detailed comparisons between batches. Sourdough bread making is not always a forgiving endeavor. Since there are a lot of variables to contend with, I have found that it pays to keep good notes.
2 tsp. starter (refreshed about 8 hours before)
150 grams water at 75 degrees
150 grams bread flour
All the levain
500 grams water at 80 degrees
1000 grams bread flour
100 grams amaranth flour
30 grams salt
30 grams water
1/2 cup amaranth seeds plus 1 cup water
Make the levain the night before you plan to make the bread. Dissolve the starter in the water. Add the bread flour and mix well until there is no dry flour left. Cover with plastic and leave out over night. My kitchen was at about 85 degrees F. The next morning check to see if it has sufficiently developed by dropping a spoonful into a small bowl of water. If it floats, it is ready. If the levain sinks to the bottom it needs more time. It usually takes about 10-12 hours depending on the ambient temperature. It also depends on the temperature of the water you used to make the levain. Colder water will take longer.
Before you get started on the bread, toast the amaranth seeds in a small pan until they become aromatic and light brown in color. A few may pop and look like miniature popcorn. Now add the 1 cup of water and bring to a low simmer. The amaranth should soften in about 15 minutes. The water should evaporate by then. If it dries before the seeds are ready, add more water as needed. Remove from the heat to cool when done.
To make the final dough, put the levain in a bowl large enough to hold the rest of the ingredients. Add the 500 grams of water and dissolve the levain. Next add the bread flour and amaranth flour and mix well with your hands until there is no dry flour left. At this stage, we are not kneading. Add more water by the tablespoon if you feel you need it. The dough should not be very wet nor dry for this bread. Cover the bowl with a wet towel or plastic wrap and let it sit for about 40 minutes.
After 40 or so minutes remove the towel. The dough will miraculously seemed like some kneading was done to it. It will be already slightly elastic in texture. Mix the 30 grams salt in the 30 grams water and dissolve as much as you can. It will not all be able to dissolve. Add it to the dough by squeezing it in with your hands. Don’t worry to get it perfect. Put the dough in your stand mixer bowl and knead for about 6 to 7 minutes. You can choose to knead by hand if you want. Mix until there is good gluten development. It will become smooth and elastic. The 40 minute rest (autolyse) drastically shortens the kneading period. My dough stills sticks to the bottom of the bowl when done. It should not be a dry dough. Remove it from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Fold in the prepared amaranth seeds until they are evenly distributed. Keep on lightly flouring the work area if needed but try to use as little flour as possible.
Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Make sure the top of the dough is also oiled. Cover with plastic and let it ferment until it is double in volume. It took this batch about 3 1/2 hours in an 85 degree environment.
When it is ready, remove from the bowl, and lightly degass it. I then divided the dough into 3 portions and formed 1 batard and 2 boules. I put them each on parchment paper so it will be an easy transfer to the baking stone. Very lightly flour or spray with oil then cover with plastic. The plastic tends to stick if the precaution is not taken. Place a baking stone in the oven if you are using one and pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. If you don’t have a baking stone, put them on a lightly oiled heavy duty baking tray and let them proof to about double in size. It took these 1 1/2 hours to complete.
When ready, lightly flour the dough and slash as desired. Put them in the pre-heated oven and then lower the oven to 425 degrees. I use a spray bottle with water to mimic the steam that is injected in professional ovens. I carefully spritz the oven 3 times within the first 10 to 12 minutes. The bread will be ready when the internal temperature of the loaves reaches 200 degrees, about 20 minutes. Be sure to rotate them halfway through to insure an even baking. I had to bake in 2 batches since my oven won’t accomodate the 3 loaves very well.
For those interested in the baker’s percentages (jargon for comparing the ratio of ingredients to the amount of flour), I would be glad to update the post.
I was very happy with the results. The amaranth is balanced with the tang and great flavor of the sourdough. The bread also has a very intoxicating aroma. I just need to work on the outer appearance of the bread to make them distinct from other kinds of loaves I make.
It’s amazing that all the leavening began with only 2 teaspoons of starter, which also had a big hand in the flavor development.