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The Latest in Bread Baking

With the holiday season approaching, we have to give a thought or two the question of little gifts we can take to a party with us.  And since Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Schola Cooking School has been doing quite a bit of work lately with his classes at Schola on baking bread, I thought I'd get some advice from him.

One of the problems with baking bread is time:  it takes a lot.  But around the modern culinary world, clever bakers are demolishing conventional wisdom and coming up with techniques that hasten the loaf from mixing bowl to table.

Breads made exclusively from white flour are justifiably coming under fire from a nutritional point of view, and more people are interested in using whole wheat flours.  Here's an excellent recipe for a healthy whole grain bread.

Whole Grain Bread
1 ½ cups warm water
¾ Tablespoon dry yeast or 1 packet
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon flax seed
2 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 ¾ cups High-gluten Flour
1 cup Stone Cut Irish Oatmeal
2 Tablespoons toasted sunflower seeds
2 Tablespoons toasted Pine nuts


Combine all of the ingredients except the sunflower seeds and pine nuts in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with the dough hook and mix starts to form.

Knead the dough in the machine for an additional ten minutes adding additional flour to keep the dough from sticking to the sides of the bowl if needed.

Lift the dough out and lightly grease the bowl with nonstick spray or olive oil. Cover and let rise for 2 hours at room temperature or until double in size.

Punch down the dough and transfer to a floured work surface. Knead the sunflower seeds and pine nuts into the dough until evenly distributed. Form into a loaf-like shape and place in a greased loaf pan. Sift a light coating of flour over the top to help keep the dough moist. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 45-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Using a sharp knife, make a ¼ inch split, lengthwise through the risen bread and bake in the oven for approximately 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove the bread from the oven and immediately remove from pan. Carefully transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

All-purpose flours are still extremely popular for breads that want to have the lightest, fluffiest texture.

Dinner rolls are a perfect example of the refined approach.

Parker House Rolls
1 1/2 cups milk
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for brushing
1/2 cup sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups all-purpose flour

Place milk in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat, stir in the butter and sugar and let cool. Dissolve yeast in warm water and let sit until foamy. Combine milk mixture, eggs, yeast, salt, and 1/2 of the flour in a mixer with the dough attachment and mix until smooth.  Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and stir until a smooth ball forms.

Remove from the bowl and knead by hand on a floured surface for about 5 minutes. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 60 to 70 minutes. On a floured surface, punch down the dough and shape into desired shapes.

Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Cover again and let rise until doubled, about 30 to 40 minutes. Preheat the oven 350°F. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter before serving.

Lately, Jerry has been relying on two cutting edge books written by forward thinking bakers.  The first is "Flour Salt Water Yeast:  The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread& Pizza" by Ken Forkin.  Jerry highly recommends following this link to the book's website to learn how to make the classic Boule and flat breads.

As Jerry has said, "This is a book we recommend you get if you’re serious about baking great bread."

If you’d just like to read some excerpts from the book and get the actual boule recipe you can find it here: http://platedujour.com/2015/01/25/saturday-white-bread-90-white-wheat-flour-ken-forkish-method-1-bread-and-two-surprises/

The other book that he loves is "The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking" by Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois.  Check out their techniques for whipping up a five minute bread.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.