Dec 10, 2013

Making Crusty Artisan Bread In Hawaii

Artisan breads are breads that are baked by a baker who is trained to mix, ferment, shape and bake a hand crafted loaf of bread. True artisan breads usually only include flour, water, salt, and yeast. Controlling the fermentation and the action of natural bacteria can produce amazing crusty breads that have flavor profiles from light and delicate to deep, strong, and rustic. 

Panini Bread Rolls
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One of my favorite artisan breads is Ciabatta bread. Ciabatta bread is Italian, from the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche. It is somewhat elongated, broad and flat with a crisp crust, a somewhat soft, porous texture, and is light to the touch. A toasted sandwich made from small loaves of Ciabatta is known as a panino (plural panini).

In Italy, these bread rolls are cut horizontally and filled with deli ingredients such as salami, ham, cheese, mortadella, or other food, and sometimes served warm after having been pressed by a warming grill. A popular version of panino in Central Italy is filled with porchetta, slices of pork roasted with salt, rosemary, and sage. 

In the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, the term panini has been adopted to refer to pressed and toasted sandwiches; there is widespread availability and use of sandwich presses, often known as "panini presses".

Mahi-Mahi Sandwich with Panini Bread Roll
Unfortunately if you want European artisan breads on the Hawaiian Island of Moloka'i, where I live, you pretty much have to make it yourself. I recently made these small panini loaves. The rolls are not only delicious, and easy to make, but they also stand up to the ingredients you put inside, like a mahi-mahi sandwich. One of my pet peeves when eating a sandwich made with a hamburger bun, is that the bread turns to mush as you eat the sandwich, right! hasn't this happened to you?.

If you choose to squash your sandwich with a panini press, that's up to you, I just want a crusty, flavorful sandwich roll, and this is the way to make them, and it's really not that difficult.

Panini Bread Rolls
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To start your panini bread rolls you must first make what is known as a "biga". It is a type of pre-ferment, or starter used in Italian baking making the bread's flavor complex with a light texture full of holes, with a crusty exterior. Besides adding flavor and texture, the biga also helps to preserve bread by making it less perishable, so we will start by making the biga the day before you make the bread.

Ingredients for the biga:
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup luke warm water (about 110˚F.)
1 1/3 cups bread flour
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Ingredients for the panino bread rolls:
1 recipe for biga made the day before (above)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for working and shaping)
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
olive oil
1/3 cup cornmeal

parchment paper
plastic wrap
bowls, medium and large

Procedure for the biga: 
Sprinkle the yeast over the water in a bowl large enough to fit all of the ingredients, and let sit 5 to 10 minutes. Add the flours, and stir to combine. (The dough may seem stiff, but will soften up as it sits.) Cover the biga tightly with plastic wrap, and let it sit for 6 hours at room temperature. Stir it, and refrigerate it until the next day, or at least 12 hours.

Procedure for the rolls: 
Combine the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Add the water and biga, made the day before. Stir the dough mixture until it is mixed. (It will be quite wet, and rough in texture.)

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter or breadboard, and using as little flour as possible, knead for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth. (Don't worry that your dough still seems very loose and moist, as it will firm up as it rises.)

Place the dough into a large bowl three times the size of the dough that has been lightly oiled first. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let sit in a warm spot for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled, punching down and turning the dough after 1 hour.

Panini loaves ready for the oven
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Place a sheet of parchment paper on each baking sheet, and sprinkle the parchment paper lightly with cornmeal. Divide the dough into 8 balls. Work with your hands until they are evenly shaped. Lightly roll in extra flour and place on your prepared baking sheet, leaving plenty of room between each dough ball. Lightly press each ball with the heel of your hand to create a disc shape. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and let rise again for 45 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400˚F.

Many people either spray water, using a misting bottle, every minute during the first 10 minutes of baking or they put a metal container of hot water on the bottom of the oven to create steam. I prefer covering the risen bread with a disposable aluminum lasagna pan, or possibly a deep roasting pan, for the first 10 minutes of baking. The cover needs to be at least twice as high as the dough to allow for rising, and should sit on the baking sheet tightly so moisture doesn't escape. The moisture that is already in the bread creates its own steam. After 10 minutes, remove the cover and rotate the baking sheet, then let the bread bake for an additional 25 to 30 minutes, or until the dough is a light golden brown all over (see photo above).

Why do you need steam?
In the first few minutes of baking, loaves of bread will rise rapidly as the gases trapped inside expand and the yeast has a final burst of activity (this is called "ovenspring"). Steaming within this time helps keep the crust soft. This allows the bread to continue expanding freely. The steam that has settled on the surface of the bread also dissolves sugars in the dough. As the bread stops expanding and the steam begins to evaporate, the sugars are left behind to caramelize and create a glossy crust. Steaming is really only useful during the first 5-10 minutes of baking while the yeast is still active and the internal structure hasn't set. After this time, the crust needs its own time to set and dry out. Remember to work quickly when the oven door is open so as not to let the heat escape.

Remove the bread and let cool on a wire rack. For extra crispness, cool the bread right on the oven rack in the turned-off oven; prop the oven door open with a folded-over potholder. This recipe makes 8 panini bread rolls.

Note: These rolls will keep for up to 2 days, well wrapped and stored at room temperature. The bread will keep frozen for several months. Simply wrap them in foil and put them in a large zipper-loc freezer bag. When you are ready to use them, thaw the bread, out of the bag, and heat them up in a 425˚F oven for 6-8 minutes. These rolls are also excellent used as dinner rolls, or slice and toast the slices for mahi-mahi sandwiches, French onion soup, or put pâté on them, or make a panzanella salad when tomatoes are in season.

Bolillos – Mexican Yeast Rolls
If there was ever a staple in Mexico, next to the Tortilla, it would be Bolillos, crusty sandwich rolls or tortas. You can eat them plain as dinner rolls, served with butter, a meatball sandwich, or as a fish sandwich with chipotle tartar sauce (recipe below).

Ingredients for starter:
3/4 cup of water
1/2 teaspoon instant or active yeast
1 cup All Purpose Flour

Ingredients for dough:
3 cups All Purpose Flour
1 1/2 teaspoon instant or active yeast
2 teaspoons of salt
1/4 cup of shortening, melted and cooled
1 cup of warm water, not hot

Procedure for the starter:
The night before baking, place yeast and water in a small bowl, mix well and add the flour. Mix again. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on your kitchen counter all night, or at least 8 hours.

Procedure for the dough:
In a large bowl or your heavy duty mixer, place the starter, flour, salt, yeast and melted shortening. Start kneading the dough, adding the warm water slowly right at the beginning of the kneading process. IMPORTANT: If you live in a very humid place, you will need to reduce the amount of water by about 2 tablespoons less than indicated. If using a mixer, knead for 7 minutes on speed 2; if kneading by hand, knead the dough for about 15 minutes. The dough will separate from your mixing bowl like it shows in the above picture while kneading.

Remove dough from the bowl and place on your working surface to form a ball. It should look soft but still a little rough.

Grease a large bowl with shortening, oil or PAM spray. Place the dough and turn it all over to make sure all sides are covered with a coating of the grease. Cover with a plastic wrap and let it rest in a warm place for 2 to 3 hours or until the dough has doubled in volume. If you live in a warm and humid weather, like in Hawaii, this step will take less time.

After the dough has doubled in volume, gently push your fist in to deflate it. Divide the dough in 10 pieces. Place the pieces of dough into your slightly greased working surface and cover with a greased plastic wrap and let them rest for 15 minutes to allow gluten to develop and help to shape your bolillos rolls easier.

To form the bolillos rolls, dust your work surface with flour very lightly, flatten one piece of dough with the palm of your hand forming ovals. Roll the ovals up, pressing gently but firmly, pinching the dough together at the seam making sure all the ends are sealed. Each piece should be 5 1/2" long and 2" in the middle, tapering to each end. In other words, each roll of dough looks like little football with a pronounced point on each end, sort of like a nipple, called the "bolillo ears".

Place each bolillo roll seam side down on the greased baking sheet and cover with a greased plastic. Allow them to rise until they’ve doubled in volume. About 1 and 1/2 hour.

Before the end of the rising period, turn oven on at 450˚F. Place the metallic pan for the water on the oven floor.

Once the rolls have doubled in volume, make a 1/2" deep cut the length of the roll using a sharp serrated knife or a razor blade, holding your hand at a 45˚ angle. You want to stop the cut about 1/2" from each end.

Spray the rolls with warm water, place them in a preheated oven and add 1 1/2 cup of cold water to the metallic tray you placed on the oven floor. The steam will create that beautiful thin and crunchy crust. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until they are golden, remove form the oven, and let them cool on a wire rack.

The bread keeps well for a couple of days in a plastic bag, or it can be frozen for up to a month. To reheat: thaw bread lightly, spray water, and place in preheated 400 degrees F oven until crispy. About 12-15 minutes until warm and crunchy. Makes 10 bolillos.

Bolillos Fish Sandwich with Chipotle Tartar Sauce
If you live in Hawaii, this sandwich works well with maui-mahi, opakapaka, or onaga, if not, try flounder, or any white fish fillet, with no bones.

Ingredients for Chipotle Tartar Sauce (enough for 3 sandwiches)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons canned chipotle chile with adobo sauce, finely minced
2 tablespoons  onion, finely minced
1 tablespoon dill pickle, finely minced
1 teaspoon dill pickle juice

Blend all ingredients and refrigerate.

Ingredients for Sautéed Fish Fillet sandwich:
6 ounce fish fillet per sandwich
1 tablespoon flour per fillet
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
vegetable oil
1 bolillo, or yeasted bread roll per sandwich
olive oil
sliced tomatoes

Procedure for Sautéed Fish Fillet sandwich:
Mix flour with salt and pepper. Dredge fillets in flour, coating the entire fillet well. Shake off excess flour.

Heat skillet over medium heat and add vegetable oil. When oil is shimmering, place fillets in pan and sauté 8-9 minutes per inch of thickness, turning halfway through cooking time. Do not over-cook.
While fillets are cooking, cut bolillos or rolls in half, brush with olive oil and toast in a hot skillet, cut side down, until golden.

Spread each half generously with chipotle tartar sauce, arrange tomato slices, lettuce, and fillet on toasted bolillo and top with remaining toasted bread. Eat while hot.

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