Basic Overnight Sponge Started Bread

I enjoyed the flavors of the the ciabatta bread so much, I’ve decided that it is time to make more use of starters (called sponge or biga). I got burned out on keeping and maintaining my sourdough starter last winter (although I enjoyed eating my creations), so now I’m just taking the basic overnight starter from James Beard’s Beard on Bread.

You’ll be rewarded for your patience with great flavored bread.

Basic Sponge Started Bread

Starter Sponge
¼ cup lukewarm water
2 ¼  teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup bread flour
3/4 cup water

Dough
¼ cup lukewarm water
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons salt

Proof the yeast in the lukewarm water for about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and the rest of the water to make a fairly loose dough. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on the counter for 4 hours, then put in the refrigerator overnight.

Pull the starter sponge out of the fridge and let rest on the counter for a couple hours. Put in the bread machine with the remaining water and flour, oil and salt. Select dough or manual cycle. Leave the top of the machine up, and watch as the dough forms. Add more flour or more water a tablespoon at a time, if needed for the dough to come together. Put the top down and let the machine continue to mix, knead and complete one rise.

Punch the dough down and shape into a rectangle. Roll from the long side and pinch the seam together with your fingers. Leave the loaf on the work surface and cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees with a baking stone on the lower rack. Stretch the loaf gently and place it on a peel or baking sheet for transferring into the oven Sprinkle the loaf lightly with flour. Cover again and let rise 30 minutes. Using a serrated knife, cut three diagonal slashes about 3/4-inch deep across the top of the loaf.

Spritz water into the oven with a mister, and place the bread in the oven. Reduce the heat to 425°F and bake about 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool 15 minutes before cutting.

Store bread, loosely wrapped in paper, for a couple of days at room temperature; wrap it in plastic and freeze for longer storage.

Bread Machine Ciabatta

I’ve been watching past seasons of the Great British Baking Show and was interested in Paul’s Ciabatta challenge. He gloats about how hard it is, so I had to try my hand at it. Afterwards, I was impressed at how delicious the bread was but I’m not sure I have the patience to make it regularly.

When going online to see some other recipes, most everyone used a sponge or biga as a starter. I started around 7:30pm to make the dough and I left it overnight for the yeast to go through a few generations and give lots of flavor to the final loaf. It needs a minimum of 12 hours but no more than 24 on the counter. If you can’t get to it in 24 hours, place it in the fridge for up to 3 days, being sure to bring it back to room temperature before starting the next step.

Shaping it can be messy because the dough is so wet and sticky. The trick is to proof it in something that will give in the shape you basically want the loaves to be. I used a 2 quart plastic container I normally fill with cookies.

For a crunchy crust, you need to spray the loaf with water after you’ve placed it in the oven and then again in the first five minutes.

With this recipe, at the end of about 16 hours, you end up with four sandwich loaves of delicious bread.

Bread Machine Ciabatta

Sponge:
¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup water

Dough:
½ cup water
¼ cup whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon active dry yeast

flour or cornmeal for dusting

In a stand mixer, add all the ingredients for the sponge. Mix on low for five minutes. Cover and let stand on the counter for 12-24 hours.

After at least 12 hours, scrape the foamy sponge into your bread machine. Add the rest of the ingredients in the order listed. Start the dough cycle. After about 10 minutes, check the dough. If it looks like pancake batter, add a tablespoon of flour at a time until it comes together and looks sticky. If it looks dry and shaggy, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time until it looks sticky. Let the machine continue until the kneading cycle stops.

Liberally oil a rectangle plastic container (don’t forget to oil the lid). With your super greasy hands, remove the dough from the bread machine and place it in the container. Turn it so all sides are coated with the oil. Drizzle some oil around the sides of the container so it stays oiled as it rises. Close the lid and proof for at least 2 hours at room temperature or until tripled in size. If you’re using a 2 quart container the risen dough will fill it.

When fully proofed, remove dough by flipping the container upside down onto a very well floured surface. The dough should be in the same general shape of the container it was proofed in. Don’t punch down the dough.

Sprinkle dough with flour and/or corn meal. Cut dough in half down the length with a greased knife and then cut each of those in half. With floured hands, carefully transfer the loaves to a parchment lined baking sheet which has been sprinkled with flour and/or cornmeal. Carefully straighten and clean up the shape with your hands.

Let the loaves rest for 45 minutes. At the end of that time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven while it preheats.

Spray loaves lightly with water before sliding them off the baking sheet by the parchment paper and onto the baking stone. If you don’t have a baking stone, just put the baking sheet  into the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Spray loaves again 5 minutes into the baking time. The loaves are done when they are golden-brown and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Bread Machine Focaccia

I’m enjoying the bread machine Michelle’s mother gave me and put in the ingredients for focaccia dough before an English Premier League soccer game started so I could start baking once the game was over.

The big thing about using the machine is keeping the yeast away from the liquid and salt (no pre-proofing). I first put in liquids (water, olive oil), then the dry ingredients (salt, flour, herbs) and, finally, the yeast in last. If I was adding chopped olives, I would add them in about 15 minutes into the dough cycle or use the raisin bread cycle.

I don’t use bread machine/rapid rise yeast. Because rapid rise/bread machine yeast rises faster, sometimes there could be a difference in the final product if using active dry yeast, but that can be fixed with giving the dough another rise period. Bread machine yeast only needs one rise before it is good to go. Fresh yeast should just be crumbled on the top and it will also require two rises.

This makes a slightly thicker loaf than my other focaccia recipes and is perfect for sandwiches.

Bread Machine Focaccia

1 cup warm water
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped or 1 teaspoon dried, ground rosemary
3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
coarse grey salt

Place water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon ground, bread flour and yeast in the pan of the bread machine in the order listed. Select Dough cycle; press Start.

Remove dough from bread machine when cycle is complete. Well oil a 9×13 pan and pat dough into pan. Use your fingers to dimple the dough every inch or so. Brush with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with remaining rosemary. Sprinkle coarse salt over the top.

Cover focaccia with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 30 minutes before preheating oven. If using active dry yeast, you may need to let it rise for 1 hour or until almost doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Updated Cornbread Sticks Recipe Plus Cornbread Dressing

After a long day of prepping my house for termite fumigation, I was craving cornbread. We had a gallon bag of corn on cobs from the freezer that Michelle needed to cut off, so I got her to give me about a cup of the kernels. I then pulled down the cast iron cornbread stick pans and started making cornbread.

Soften some unsalted butter as the cornbread cooks, to make slathering it on super easy.

We ate our fill and plan to use the leftovers in a batch of cornbread dressing – that recipe follows the one for cornbread sticks.

Cornbread Sticks

1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup corn kernels (from frozen is fine)
1 egg
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup Crisco shortening

Pinch off pieces of the shortening and place dollops in each slot on the cast iron cornbread stick pans. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F with the pans in the oven, melting the shortening.

Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Beat the egg into the cup of milk. Stir together the corn kernels and milk mixture, then add the dry ingredients and stir until all the dry streaks are gone. Pour the melted shortening into the batter. Stir to combine

Use a spoon to divided the batter into each of the corn sticks slots in the pans and bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pans midway through cooking. Tops will be golden brown. Immediately remove from pans to cool.

Cornbread dressing is the second best way to eat leftover cornbread. The first way is to crumble it in a glass of cold milk and eat it with a spoon!

I usually put any leftover cornbread in the freezer as it takes a few pans before I have enough for a recipe for dressing.

Very flavorful and colorful.

Cornbread Dressing

2 ribs celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons pecans, toasted and chopped fine
6-8 cornbread sticks or 4 cornbread pieces, crumbled
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs like thyme or sage, 4 to 5 sprigs

Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium high heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. When oil shimmers, add the celery, onions, peppers, garlic and pecans. Cook 5 minutes then crumble cornbread into the skillet and combine with vegetables. Dampen the dressing with stock, you may not need the full cup. Season with fresh herbs, we used thyme. Reduce heat to low and keep warm until ready to serve.

I like crunchy dressing, so after the meal I take any leftovers and form patties. Freeze them and then thaw them for a bit on the counter before warming them in a 350 degree F oven for about 30 minutes.

Yummy! A quick side dish for most any protein.

Pretzel Rolls

We had some beer brats that we were going to cook for dinner and needed something to go with them. I decided to made pretzel rolls as pretzels go great with German sausage. I used an eight loaf mini loaf pan to form the shapes although you can shape them with your hands as well.

They tasted great with lovely, soft interiors to hold plenty of mustard and the brats.

Pretzel Rolls

1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
1-1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

3 quarts water
1/4 cup baking soda
1 tablespoon coarse salt

Add first 6 ingredients to bread machine in order given. Select dough cycle. When dough cycle completes, remove dough from pan to a floured surface.

Divide dough into 8 portions and make into ovals. Allow to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat conventional oven to 400 degrees F.

Meanwhile, prepare water bath by bringing the 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add baking soda – it will foam up but when it subsides, drop rolls into the boiling water. Cook 30 seconds, then flip and boil for another 30 seconds.

Remove rolls to a wire rack to drain and then move to a well-greased cookie sheet or mini loaf pans. Use a sharp knife to slice a line into the top of each roll about 1/2 inch deep. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake 20-25 minutes, rotating pan midway through. Rolls will be golden brown on top and will sound hollow when done.

Remove rolls to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Pan Yeast Rolls

Nestled together in a 9×13 pan, these light, buttery, yeasty rolls are delicious on their own but even better with a piece of ham and cheese.

I think I have my new favorite roll for the holidays, too!

Pan Yeast Rolls

2 1/4  teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (warm, but not scalding hot from the tap is fine)
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup milk scalded and cooled to lukewarm
1/4 cup sugar
4-5 cups flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg, whisked
1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, divided for buttering bowl, pan and rolls.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, dissolve yeast and honey in the warm water. Add the now lukewarm milk and sugar along with 2 cups of flour and mix thoroughly. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Add the cooled melted butter, whisked egg and salt to the mixture and beat well until combined. Add remaining flour and mix until it forms a soft ball. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes before coating the inside of a large bowl with some of the melted butter.

Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes. Turn out the dough into the buttered bowl. Turn it over a few times to coat the dough with the butter. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and put in a warm place to rise until the dough is doubled in size, about 90 minutes.

Punch dough down to deflate. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle that is 1/2-inch thick. Fold the dough in thirds onto itself, like a business letter, and gently pat together to seal. It should be a little less than 9 inches by 13 inches when done. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Butter bottom and sides of a 9×13 pan.

Using a pizza roller or a knife cut 10 equal size pieces of dough. Lightly turn the dough in your hands to create rolls. Place the rolls on the greased pan, there should be a little room between them. Cover the rolls with a clean, damp towel and set in a warm place until they double in size, about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and place pan in the center of the oven.

Bake rolls uncovered for about 15 minutes or until the tops are rich, golden brown.
Remove from the oven and immediately brush the remainder of the melted butter over the top of the rolls.

Yummy!

Tomato Basil Focaccia

In making my bruschetta topping the other day, I had a lot of tomato juice from those beautiful Creole tomatoes. I didn’t want to waste it, so I decided to make a focaccia using the juice in place of water. Adding in a few sun dried tomatoes helped push up the tomato taste and the last of the fresh basil added a lovely flavor.

If you don’t have fresh tomato juice, you can use commercial but omit the salt from the dough as the juice will have been salted when canned.

Tomato Basil Focaccia in a Bread Machine

1 cup tomato juice
2 tablespoons sun dried tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
1 1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped

Topping
1 ripe tomato
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse, kosher salt

Soak the sun dried tomatoes in the tomato juice for 15 minutes. Add juice, sun dried tomatoes, oil, salt, flours, yeast and basil to the bread machine in that order and select dough cycle.

After the bread machine has done it’s job, remove the dough. If it is too sticky, add up to a half cup of all purpose flour and knead it to combine. Form dough into a ball and place it in a well oiled bowl for one hour or until doubled in size.

Use 1 tablespoon of the topping olive oil to coat a large baking sheet. Flatten the dough with your fingers into a rough rectangle and then let rise in a warm, draft free space for 30 minutes until dough has doubled in size.

Poke the top with your fingertips to form dimples. Thinly slice the tomato onto a paper towel to absorb some of the juice. Arrange the slices across the top – do not overlap. Brush with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle the top with the coarse salt.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned.

Olive and Rosemary Cornbread

I’ve been inspired to do more with cornmeal lately and it has nothing to do with my buying a 5lb bag of freshly ground cornmeal at the farmers market. Nothing at all!

After watching a TV chef add cornmeal instead of semolina to their focaccia, I looked around for more recipes. I found several different versions online of cornbread focaccia (including this one from Southern Living) that I used as a stepping off point.

I love the crust it gets from baking it in a cast iron skillet. While this doesn’t make the best sandwich bread (as it is a little crumbly), it is delicious on its own as an appetizer or snack or with soup.

Olive and Rosemary Cornbread

2 cups cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (1 packet)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, divided
25 Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped (about half cup chopped)

Combine cornmeal, flour, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, yeast, eggs, butter and honey in a mixing bowl. Allow the yeast to proof for a five minutes. Stir together until well combined. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and stir to mix. Let stand while the oven preheats.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Put 12 inch cast iron skillet in the oven while it preheats.

Lightly oil the skillet, using a basting brush to get up the sides as well. Pour dough into hot skillet. Sprinkle the top with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons of rosemary and the chopped olives.

Bake the focaccia for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Remove the focaccia to a rack to cool completely before serving.

 

Cornbread Sticks

I’m giving one of my cast iron cornbread stick pans to Michelle and I just had to check that it was working properly. I can cheerfully report that it does. It really does!

I inherited this one from my dad’s parents and it is perfectly seasoned after years and years cornbread making.

I like cornbread sticks as they increase the ratio of crunchy to the rest of the bread. Trust me, it makes scientifically better cornbread!

If all you have is fine or medium ground corn meal, use just the one cup. But I like the texture from the crunch of coarse or stoneground corn meal so I add that. I do soften it in milk, as I don’t fancy chipping a tooth!

Soften some butter as the cornbread cooks, to make slathering it on super easy.

Cornbread Sticks

1/4 cup coarse ground corn meal
1/4 cup milk
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup finely ground corn meal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten into 1 cup of milk
1/4 cup Crisco shortening

Place the coarse ground corn meal in the milk and stir to combine. Let sit for 30 minutes to soften and absorb the liquid.

After 30 minutes, pinch off pieces of the shortening and place dollops in each slot on the cast iron cornbread stick pans. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F with the pans in the oven, melting the shortening.

Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in the melted shortening until it is the consistency of thick pancake batter. Pour the mixture into each of the corn sticks in the pans and bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pans midway through cooking. Tops will be golden brown. Immediately remove from pans to cool.

Serve with lots of butter or crumble some in a glass with a drizzle honey and plenty of cold milk.

Olive Semolina Focaccia Loaves

I’m out of sandwich bread and there was the Irish Channel St. Patrick’s Day Parade between me and grocery store. It was make my own time. I didn’t want to make just a plain white loaf of bread, though.

Earlier this week, I broke one of my old fashioned mason jars I was using for storage and the next size I had available was just slightly too small for a new bag of semolina flour I had bought. Luckily, I had a recipe for focaccia that uses 1/2 cup, so it was a win-win.

Instead of making a sheet sized loaf, I divided the dough into eight pieces. I pressed them into the corners to form squares about the size of sandwich bread.

I started my bread making early in the day so I had a lovely ham sandwich on olive focaccia for lunch and then a turkey on focaccia for dinner.

Olive Semolina Focaccia Loaves

Starter
1 cup​ all purpose flour
¼ cup​ semolina flour
½ teaspoon ​kosher salt
2 ¼ teaspoon ​active dry yeast
1 cup​ lukewarm water

Dough
3 cups​ all purpose flour
¼ cup​ semolina flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons dry non-fat dry milk powder
1 cup ​lukewarm water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup Kalamata olives, chopped plus 8 olives sliced into four pieces each
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided 
1 teaspoon salt flakes (I used Maldon)

Mix together the starter ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot. Let rise for 1 hour.

Put the 3 cups of flour, semolina, salt and dry milk powder in the bowl of a stand mixer. Whisk to combine. Pour the water, oil, and starter in the mixing bowl and mix to combine. Add in chopped olives.

When the dough comes together (add up to 1/2 cup additional all purpose flour if necessary), switch to a dough hook and let the machine knead for 5-10 minutes. The mixing can be done by hand as well.

Form into a ball and place into a large, well oiled bowl. Spin the dough to coat lightly with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 30 minutes in a warm place.

Coat the bottom and sides of a sheet pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Divide the dough into 6 or 8 pieces. Roll the pieces into balls and then flatten into loaves – I cheat by using the corner of the sheet pan to help form them into sandwich size squares. Cover the sheet tray with plastic wrap and let rise for 30-45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place four olive pieces on top of each of the loaves. Using your fingers make indents all over the dough disks, pressing in some of the olives. Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with 2 tablespoons water until emulsified. Brush the top of the focaccia with the oil and water mixture. Scatter with salt flakes.

Place in the 400 degree F pre heated oven. The focaccia will take 30-40 minutes to bake. Lift an edge to check that the bottom is golden brown, like the top.

Let cool completely. Slice the loaves in half for perfect sandwiches.