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Sesame seed and chile bread (Pan de ajonjoli y chile)

March 3, 2014

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This bread is a good living (before the yeast is sacrificed in the oven!) example of my approach to baking from a Mexican/American viewpoint.  Which is why I’m bringing it to Fiesta Friday, The Novice Gardener’s weekly invitation to blogger friends to join and mingle with recipes,  stories, and more.  Her blog is always fresh, interesting, very expressive,  and funny. It’s been an eye-opener to see her site grow and greatly expand.  Give this very talented chef and blogger a visit!

Taking this bread to a party, I would be interested in how people react and ask them what flavors they can discern and what aromas they detect. I’d ask them where they think it originates from.   If you were curious I’d tell you it took me several trials and errors to get it to where it is now.  I tried different types and amounts of dried chile, sometimes I used olive oil, sometimes a bit of sweetener. I used different ratios of flours.  It was all very good tasting but this was my favorite version.  One difference between baking and other types of cooking is that once you put that dough in the oven, the ingredients are set.  If you are making a sauce for example, most of the time you can adjust it during the cooking by tasting and observing as it goes along.  If I’m lucky, I’m ok with a bread baking experiment after one run.  But a recipe like this takes me back to the drawing board  because of the nature of the ingredients and also due to curiosity which can take the better of me.  I’m always tempted to do the impossible task of trying all kinds of variations.

Using ingredients, flavors, and techniques that I grew up with is the basis of recipes of this blog.   I’ll also incorporate  Mexican or southwestern flavors that have become available through the years.  For example,  two different types of chipotle chiles are now much more common here than they were 15 or 20 years ago.  Amaranth is another example of a Mexican “grain”  now more easily found in some specialty grocery stores.  In general, my recipes are “Tex-Mex”,  Mexican or “southwestern” in style.  I also try to use ingredients native to the Americas.  My last recipe for example included pecans, common in Texas,  and wild rice, native to some parts of the northern U.S.  Some are authentic recipes while some are my take on a classic.   Most of these recipes involve ingredients and techniques that are not usually found together.  In some respects,  it is like a gradual geographical opening up of the horizon from my  south and central Texas food experience. Fusion cooking is not really the goal here though I love the idea and so it will inevitably happen along the way.  I think fusion cooking is exciting and is especially beautiful when it happens within a family that is of mixed backgrounds.  But I don’t wake up in the morning and say, well let’s see…,  what happens when I try to combine  Vietnamese and Mexican flavors in a Banh Mi(a great sandwich that has relatively recently gained great popularity).  That sounds like a great fun challenge I would enjoy working on a little later down the road to perhaps introduce at my work place or include as a post.   What I would tackle first though is a Mexican flavored stir fry.  Stir fries have been a staple in Chinese restaurants forever and is dish I make regularly at home because it is easy to put together if I have the basic ingredients ready.   Because the ingredients are handy, it’s been an easy step for me to make Mexican flavored versions.  I may include one here soon.

So don’t get me wrong,  if I had more time, I’d love to devote a blog just on fusion cuisine.  Cultures find themselves as neighbors for different reasons.   Some cuisines may have an affinity to one another no matter how close or far apart they are historically or geographically. It would be interesting for me to try combining Mexican,  American  and Caribbean techniques and ingredients.  Mexico has the indigenous people and European influences while  the Caribbean has the indigenous,  African,  European and other flavors from throughout the world.   Maybe I’m going about a fusion path slowly because there is already a lot in my “neighborhood” to explore.  Another reason may be because I’m a little cautious about instant globalization of cultures,  although as long as the traditions are kept alive it’s nice to experiment.

Back to today’s recipe—Sesame seeds give a nice nutty flavor to the bread.  They are often used in the famed mole sauces of Mexico and are a key ingredient in some pipian  sauces.  They are also a garnish in “cemita” rolls, a bread used for a popular sandwich from Puebla.   Sesame seeds are also used for Mexican candies.   I could be mistaken, but whole wheat flour is not  traditionally used in Mexican baking.  Maybe it has caught on as a healthier alternative,  but I don’t think it has become a common ingredient.   However,  it has always been available here so I use it to give a little more depth in wheat flavor to the bread.  The hardest part was deciding on a spice mix.  Which dried chile flavors would come through best in a bread?  After some tries and misses I decided on a mix of several different dried chiles plus other herbs and spices to round out the flavor.  The spice blend I use is my personal recipe though you can use your blend or a favorite brand of chile powder.  Just keep in mind that they can differ dramatically in heat and flavor.

I use a pre-ferment as I do in most of my recipes because it improves the flavor and texture of the crumb.  The chew is more pleasantly substantial than that of  bread made from start to finish in 4 hours or less.  It seems that pre-ferments are common in Mexico.

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The use of chile powder and sesame seeds give this bread a bit of Tex-Mex and a little of Mexico.  My chile powder blend includes dried chipotle chiles, which are originally associated more with Mexico than the southwest U.S. The chiles above from left to right are pasilla,  chipotle meco,  ancho,  and chipotle morita.  The chipotle morita was the fierest of all and smokier than the chipotle meco.  They can all vary in quality,  so just beware.

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This recipe is good for 2 medium size loaves.

Pate fermente:

2 cups bread flour

5/8 teaspoon instant yeast (you can make your best approximation if you don’t have the measurement for it)

3/4 teaspoons salt

about 3/4 cup water at room temperature

In a small bowl stir together the flour,  yeast,  and salt.   Add most of the water to form a shaggy ball.  Put it in the bowl of your mixer and begin mixing.  Add more water as needed to get a smooth elastic dough.  It should be a little tacky but not dry or sticky.  Place it in a medium size bowl that has been lightly oiled. Roll the dough around to oil all around.  Let it ferment until it is about 11/2 times the volume.  You can use it now,  but you can keep it overnight in the refrigerator for further development.

The final dough:

All the pate fermente

1 1/2 cups bread flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

1 1/4 teaspoons table salt

1 generous tablespoon chile powder (add more as desired, this amount gives a mild flavor) (use the recipe below or use store bought)

a heaping 1/2 cup of toasted sesame seeds

about 1/2 cup water at room temperature.

If using an overnight pate fermente, remove from the refrigerator an hour or two before you plan to make the dough to take the chill off.   When ready cut it into 10 or 12 pieces with a knife or pastry cutter. Put it in your mixing bowl along with the rest of the ingredients except the water.  Mix it all together well with a spatula.  Add most of the water and mix to form a loose shaggy dough.  Begin to mix with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer.  Adjust with more water or flour if necessary to form a smooth elastic, slightly tacky dough.  Remove the dough and place it on your cutting board or work station.  Gently knead in the sesame seeds.  It will seem like too many seeds to incorporate, but trust me,  they will mix in.  I usually like to knead in nuts and seeds at the very end of kneading because I think they can cut the gluten strands you’ve  created during the mixing of the dough.

Form the  dough into a nice round shape and place it in a lightly oiled mixing bowl.  Roll it around as you did with the pate fermente to make sure all sides get oiled. This will prevent it from forming a crust as it ferments.  Cover the bowl with plastic and let it rice to double in volume.  This is a good time to pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. When the dough is ready ,  remove from the bowl,  lightly degass it, and divide into 2 or 3 portions.  Shape as desired and place them on parchment paper,  and cover with plastic.  Let them proof until they have about doubled in volume.

Slash and garnish the dough as desired.  Place the them on your baking stone that has been preheating if your are using one.  The parchment paper makes it easy to transfer. I find I can reuse the parchment paper a couple more times.  If not,  place them on a baking sheet and transfer to the oven.  Cook until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees F.  Many say the bread is ready when the it makes a hollow thud when tapped on the bottom.  Let the loaves cool on a wire rack before slicing and enjoying.  These make great sandwich bread. I’ve been enjoying them just slathered with butter.  How about making some molletes with them?  I bet they would make great croutons for soup or salad.  Too bad I don’t enough time this weekend to photograph some examples.

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This mix came about because I happened to have all these ingredients on hand.  I wanted to come up with something that tasted distinct from the store bought kind.  You don’t really need all those ingredients to make a nice tasting chile powder.  A blend of ancho pepper powder,  ground oregano, ground cumin, and garlic powder will do just fine.  Experiment with it.  Ancho and pasilla peppers are somewhat fruitier and much milder than the chipotles.  If I had to pick one pepper for a blend, it would be the ancho.

The chile powder:

4 teaspoons ancho chile powder

4 teaspoons pasilla pepper powder

2 teaspoons chipotle pepper powder

1 teaspoon ground dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground comino (cumin)

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 good pinch granulated garlic

1 good pinch onion powder

To make the individual chile powders,  place several of each of the pasilla,  ancho, and chipotle peppers on a baking tray and toast in a 325 degree oven for a couple of minutes or until you begin to smell the aroma.  They will begin to puff up.  Don’t let them overcook.  I make it a point to stay in the kitchen because it will go  very quickly.  I would toast each type of pepper separately so that you insure they are properly done.  When the peppers are cool,  open them to remove the seeds.  You can include some of the seeds if you want a little more heat. Grind the chiles (and seeds if using) in a spice grinder to fine powder.   Be very careful not to inhale the dust while grinding the chiles. I again recommend keeping them separate during the process.  You will likely have more powders that you need for the recipe but it’s nice to have them available for other uses.

If you don’t have ground oregano, you can also grind it in your spice grinder.  You may choose to toast whole comino in a frying pan and also grind it yourself.

Mix all the ingrediants together.  Store them in an airtight container.  I don’t use any kind of anti-caking agent, so the blend will eventually begin to clump up.  No big deal in my opinion.  I make it in small amounts.

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. March 3, 2014 2:42 am

    Ooh, your bread looks so flavorful, Gerard! I’ll take the big loaf plus a stick of butter, please! 🙂

  2. March 3, 2014 2:52 am

    There you are, you’re finally at the fiesta! What took you so long? 🙂 Thank you so much for the kind words you say about me and my blog. You are such a great friend! The breads, by the way, look incredible, as always. I continue to learn so much from you. I have several of your recipes bookmarked to try. This one will be, too. I hope you’ll visit the other guests’ sites and get to know them. I know they’ll be excited to meet you. Tell them we’re old friends! 🙂

    • March 3, 2014 3:17 am

      Whew yes, I finally joined the party! I really meant to contribute much earlier. I had a couple of recipes that I couldn’t get ready in time. My last post was one month ago! Since I work in a kitchen all week, I usually only work on my blog during weekends, which are always way too short! It still means I’m in a kitchen 7 days a week. I’m also trying to be a bit more savvy on the technical side of blogging. Thanks for liking old friend!

  3. March 20, 2014 1:13 am

    I don’t understand why I don’t receive your posts in my reader anymore! This bread looks so delicious, I love spices and chiles, and rustic breads… This one is bookmarked (well Pinned !)

  4. June 5, 2014 12:49 am

    Your bread recipes are delightful! I have bookmarked this spicy sesame bread to try out sometime. Thank you for sharing!

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  1. Fiesta Friday #5 | The Novice Gardener

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