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The Best Things Happen Between the Bread

The Best Things Happen Between the Bread

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At the Sandwich Showdown, comfort was key and Thanksgiving on the mind

Marble Lane's winning Kope Beef Patty Melt.

Classic and comfort; thats what was on the menu at this year's Sandwich Showdown at The New York City Wine and Food Festival.

Among the 20 personalities and restaurants participating, the stations were graced with go-to creations: philly cheese steaks from Phil's Tavern, Little Muenster's grilled cheese and tomato soup, summer reminiscent lobster rolls from Capital Grille and Luke's, and salumi staples from Salumeria Rosi and Lexington Brass. "It doesn't get more classic than this," said Charles Compagnucci of Phil's Tavern. "People like what they know and they know Philly cheese steaks." The Sandwich King himself, Jeff Mauro stayed simple with hearty on the mind: plates with an honest braised brisket sandwich with slaw on them scattered his table.

For some, Thanksgiving was on the mind, which turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce renditions scattered amongst a few different stations, one even a Thanksgiving panini from the chefs at Whole Foods.

However, as the sandwich begins to become more gourmet and less casual these days, so were some of the chef's creations. Home by The Range's Indian Style Braised Beef was sprinkled with pickled giardinia and married with a tart cranberry sauce making it power packed with flavor.

No sandwich, both of comfort and of imagination proved better than Marble Lane's Manuel Trevino and his Kobe beef Patty Melt which took the crown as sandwich champ by the people's vote. The melt, which also made an appearance at last year's, but apparently proved worthy this year with it's juicy beef, oozy cheese, and toasted white bread accompanied by a pickled slaw.

15 Ways to Use Ripe Bananas That Aren't Banana Bread

When it comes to baking and sweets, the banana might just be the unsung hero of the category. It can go subtle for breakfast as a smoothie, or be a supporting flavor to chocolate or caramel in a cookie. A banana can also take center stage in pudding and pie. You can use it raw or cooked, whole, sliced or smashed, served hot or cold. So if you are looking at a lovely bunch of ripe bananas on your countertop and wondering how to help them be the best versions of themselves, we have got some recipes for you. Check out some of our favorite ripe banana recipes, none of which are banana bread.

As baked bread cools, starches begin to crystallize and trap water inside the crystals, causing the bread to harden and dry out. When bread contains potatoes, however, the potato starch molecules make it harder for the wheat starches to crystallize, keeping the bread fresh and soft for a longer period of time

Beyond the science, however, is the fact that potato bread has always been a favorite of Southern bakers simply because it is easy to make, an easy-keeper, and is one of the most delicious "white breads" you will ever make. Potato bread is also a creative way to use up leftover mashed potatoes or that last remaining spud from the 5 lb. sack.

When to Bake

So, how do we know when it's time to bake? With a few simple tests and a bunch of practice, we can start to confidently determine this moment.

The Volume Test

I always start by looking at my loaves. Volume matters. From the time we set our loaves for their final proof they should have increased in volume by at least half. If your loaves have doubled or more, this might mean we're approaching overproofing.

Since judging the volume of our loaves can be tricky, I recommend using the same proofing baskets each time you bake until you begin to get a feel for this process. This will allow you to better gauge what changes in volume may signify in terms of dough progression. At the Cleveland, I almost always bake 900-gram loaves of the workhorse recipe, and I proof them in the same bannetons each day. This means that I can see day in, day out, that when my dough begins to rise above the lip of my baskets, we're nearing baking time.

The Feel Test

From the moment we finished mixing, our dough has been inflating with gas. As we folded and shaped our dough, we organized our gluten so it would better hold gas, and maintain its shape during baking. When we bake, we want our dough to be fully inflated—all the way to the center of our loaves—but for our gluten to still be in charge of the situation.

In my experience, the best way to judge this is to press on the center of the loaves with a lightly floured hand. Push firmly but not aggressively. If we've shaped our loaves properly, they should be able to handle this. As the center of the dough is pressed, the edges should billow outwards, like a water-balloon or over-stuffed pillow.

Pay careful attention to how much your dough resists your hand. The exterior of the dough will always feel soft, even when underproofed. To get the most lift during baking, we need to make sure that the center of the loaf feels aerated as well. If, when pressed, the dough feels significantly denser in the middle, then it isn't time to bake. But if the dough offers no resistance whatsoever, then you might be overproofing them, and should bake immediately.

The Poke Test

This is what it sounds like. Poke your loaf. (Boooop!) Your finger should leave an imprint, but that imprint should gently bounce back and mostly disappear in a few seconds. If your finger leaves no impression, then the gluten is still very taught from shaping, and your dough needs more time. If your finger leaves an imprint indefinitely, bake immediately.

If you've performed these tests, and your loaves are fully risen, pillowy but secure, and can handle being poked around a little, then it's time to get baking.

No Need to Knead

The recipe proved not only popular, but hugely influential. Soon, home bakers and professionals began iterating on the process. Many were introduced to the concept of no-knead breads via a modified technique in Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François’s “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007). Chad Robertson’s “Tartine Bread” (Chronicle Books, 2010) took the concept, and moved it into the more-advanced world of sourdoughs.

“The biggest change no-knead bread made is that home bakers now had a good idea of what they were doing and a familiarity with the basics of artisan bread baking,” Mr. Forkish said.

This allowed Mr. Forkish to introduce more complicated techniques in his “Flour Water Salt Yeast” (Ten Speed Press, 2012), confident that home bakers would have the skills to follow along.

But how exactly does no-knead bread work?

To understand, we need to look at the structure of a good dough and the role that kneading plays in it.

Flour is made up largely of starch molecules, along with protein (typically around 11 percent to 13 percent by weight). Two of these classes of proteins, glutenins and gliadins, can cross-link in the presence of water, forming molecular bonds and creating gluten, the stretchy, sticky network that traps air bubbles produced by yeast and coagulates as it heats to give a finished loaf its structure and chew.

Kneading encourages proteins to rub against one another and entangle. But there are other ways to achieve similar or better results. In 1974, Raymond Calvel, a professor at L’École Nationale Supérieure de Meunerie et des Industries Céréalières in Paris, developed a technique known as autolyse, in which flour and water are mixed together and allowed to rest for a minimum of 20 minutes before salt and yeast are incorporated. He found that this short rest, during which enzymes in the flour would start weakening protein bonds, greatly reduced the amount of kneading required, while creating a gluten network that was easier to stretch and shape.

What to Cook Right Now

Sam Sifton has menu suggestions for the coming days. There are thousands of ideas for what to cook waiting for you on New York Times Cooking.

    • Do not miss Yotam Ottolenghi’s incredible soba noodles with ginger broth and crunchy ginger. for fungi is a treat, and it pairs beautifully with fried snapper with Creole sauce.
    • Try Ali Slagle’s salad pizza with white beans, arugula and pickled peppers, inspired by a California Pizza Kitchen classic.
    • Alexa Weibel’s modern take on macaroni salad, enlivened by lemon and herbs, pairs really nicely with oven-fried chicken.
    • A dollop of burrata does the heavy lifting in Sarah Copeland’s simple recipe for spaghetti with garlic-chile oil.

    I like to think of dough as haphazardly stuck-together Legos that we are trying to form into an organized city. Before we can start building, we must first break down those shapes into individual bricks. Autolyse is like leaving a dog or a toddler alone with the Legos: They do the work of breaking them down for you.

    With no-knead bread, this same concept is extended from 20 minutes to 8 to 12 hours.

    As the wet dough rests overnight at room temperature, the enzymes weaken protein bonds so greatly that the simple action of carbon dioxide bubbles moving and stretching through the dough is enough to form a rough gluten network. Then, all it takes is a few well-placed folds to create a ball of dough that is ready to bake into an airy, open loaf.

    “As a baker, it’s not labor or ingredients, but time that is the most valuable ingredient,” Mr. Migoya said. Learning how time can do the work for you turned me from someone who baked perhaps one or two loaves a year into someone who throws together dough on a whim before bedtime several times a month.

    That said, I’ve always wanted to take a more organized look at the bread I was baking and to solve some of the issues that I — and other home bakers — have had in the past. Chief among these are the dough’s slackness and its propensity to spread into a pancake-like loaf, baking up flat and dense, if even lightly mishandled.

    This all has to do with elasticity and extensibility. Elasticity is a dough’s ability to spring back when you stretch it, like a rubber band. Extensibility is the flip side of this: the ability for a dough to stretch without snapping back or tearing. Finding the right balance between these two is the trick.

    With pizza dough, for instance, extensibility must be high to stretch a ball of dough into a thin, crisp crust that retains enough structure to stand up to wet, heavy toppings. This same extensibility in a rustic boule or bâtard can result in dough that lacks the structure to retain its shape. Too much elasticity, on the other hand, and you wind up with a dense crumb structure.

    A few things helped me achieve this balance.

    Mr. Migoya suggested that a small amount of acid could improve the formation of gluten bonds in side-by-side tests, a drop or two of vinegar or lemon juice made an appreciable difference in dough strength.

    Virtually every baker I talked to proposed adding folding and stretching steps, and, in my own testing, I found that Mr. Migoya’s recommendation of giving the dough a few tugs and folds every half-hour or so during the initial two to three hours of its long resting period worked best. The more tugs and folds you do, the more structure the dough will have, resulting in higher elasticity and a denser, more compact crumb. (On a tip from Mr. Reinhart, I dip my hands in water before handling the dough, a far more effective means of keeping your hands clean than flouring.) After that, the dough can rest on the counter until ready to shape and proof — at least a few hours, but up to overnight is fine. Or, even easier, settle it in the refrigerator overnight or for up to three nights before proofing. (An extended rest in the fridge will result in better flavor than a short room-temperature rest.)

    A final shaping stretch before proofing and baking is enough to give the dough the structure I like. The goal is to create a membrane that smoothly wraps around the dough, similar to how fresh mozzarella or burrata has a taut skin stretched around a softer, less-structured interior. Some bakers use a plastic or metal scraper to tuck the dough into its final shape. Mr. Migoya recommends a flexible metal putty knife, the kind you’d use to spackle a wall. I find it easiest to work manually: I hold my fingers together and use the edges of my palms to tuck the skin underneath the ball, effectively smoothing out the top. As with all steps here, the less you handle the dough, the better fifteen to 30 seconds of shaping is a reasonable goal.

    It’s important to note that there’s no “correct” crumb structure, despite what strangers on social media will have you believe. The current pandemic-inspired craze, for high-hydration sourdough loaves with a large, open hole structure, is perfect for catching pockets of jam or soft butter. But try making a grilled cheese sandwich on bread that’s too holey, and watch as the cheese oozes out. Then, you’ll find the value in loaves with a tighter crumb structure. Knowing that adding extra stretches and folds will produce a tighter crumb will allow you to modify your technique to suit your own tastes.

    The original recipe has you proof the final loaf on a floured cloth set on a flat cutting board, but a wicker or rattan basket (called a banneton) will better contain the dough as it proofs, producing a taller, shapelier loaf.

    Don’t own a banneton and don’t want to buy one? No problem: You can proof your dough in a tall-sided mixing bowl lined with a clean cotton dish towel dusted with flour or rice flour. (Rice flour prevents sticking a bit better than wheat flour.) An hour or so at room temperature as the dough roughly doubles in volume, and it’s ready to drop into your preheated Dutch oven.

    Quick bread

    A quick bread is any bread that is made using an ingredient other than yeast or eggs as a leavening agent. The most common leavening agents are baking soda and baking powder. Both of these usually have salt added to the recipe to help activate the leavening agent. Quick breads are not left to rise before baking. Quick breads include biscuits, banana bread, cornbread, muffins and scones. Loaf breads such as soda bread are also quick breads. Quick breads can also include some pizza crust and donut recipes. Cookies, cakes and pancakes could also be considered quick breads.

    Yeast bread

    A yeast bread is a bread that uses yeast as the leavening agent. Typically sugar or honey are used as a catalyst to activate the yeast so that the bread will rise. The bread is left to rise for up to one hour, usually until it doubles in size. It may then be “punched” down and allowed to rise again before baking. Yeast breads include most loaf breads, some pizza crust recipes, and most donut recipes.

    Potato Gnocchi Recipe

    By David Joachim and Andrew Schloss
    from Fine Cooking #127, pp. 24-25

    Before domesticating cattle, pigs, chickens, and other animals, human beings harnessed a much smaller living organism: yeast. Without it, some of our earliest foods and beverages, such as bread, beer, and wine, wouldn’t exist. Here’s a closer look at how yeast works its magic so that you can make better breads, rolls, waffles, and more.

    What exactly is yeast?

    Yeast is a single-celled microorganism related to mushrooms. About 1,500 species exist, but in the kitchen, we use mostly just one, Saccharomyces cerevisiae (which means “sugar-eating fungi”). Used to make bread rise, it’s available in various forms, which differ mostly by moisture content.

    Cake yeast (aka fresh yeast or compressed yeast) is made from a slurry of yeast and water with enough of its moisture removed so that the yeast can be compressed into blocks. Experienced bakers swear by its superior leavening and the nuanced, slightly sweet flavor it gives baked goods. Cake yeast is highly perishable and lasts only about two weeks in the refrigerator.

    Active dry yeast was developed by the Fleischmann’s company during World War II so that the U.S. Army could make bread without keeping yeast refrigerated. Partially dehydrated and formed into granules, it contains dormant yeast cells that keep at room temperature for several months. To use active dry yeast, rehydrate it first in warm water (about 105°F) along with a pinch of sugar to feed the yeast. The resulting foam is confirmation that the yeast is still alive.

    Instant yeast (aka quick-rise yeast) was first manufactured in the 1970s. It’s a smaller form of dry yeast that rehydrates faster and can be added directly to the dry ingredients without being soaked first. Some types of instant yeast, such as RapidRise yeast and bread machine yeast, dissolve faster than others and may include ascorbic acid or other dough conditioners (ingredients that help to strengthen the gluten or soften the crumb).

    How does yeast make bread rise?

    As bread dough is mixed and kneaded, millions of air bubbles are trapped and dispersed throughout the dough. Meanwhile, the yeast in the dough metabolizes the starches and sugars in the flour, turning them into alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. This gas inflates the network of air bubbles, causing the bread to rise. During rising, the yeast divides and multiplies, producing more carbon dioxide. As long as there is ample air and food (carbohydrates) in the dough, the yeast will multiply until its activity is stopped by the oven’s heat.

    Most homemade bread recipes call for an hour or two of rising. This will produce perfectly fine bread, but if you want more artisanal results, give your dough a long, slow rise by putting it in a cool spot, such as the refrigerator. This allows more time for fermentation, which creates desirable secondary flavors that counterbalance the yeast’s earthiness. Along with the yeast, bacteria are growing in the dough as it rises. The bacteria often include some of the same lactic-acid-producing bacteria that turn milk into yogurt, which gives slow-risen breads a delicious tang.

    In most bread recipes, the dough rises twice, once before the loaf is formed, and once after. During the first rise, heat from fermentation builds up in the center of the dough ball, the multiplying yeast gets packed into clusters, and alcohol builds along with the carbon dioxide that is rising the dough. Punching down or stirring a dough at this point before forming it into a loaf refreshes the yeast’s environment, evening out the hot and cold spots in the dough, breaking up overcrowded yeast clusters, and releasing the buildup of alcohol, which would result in off flavors and could create a toxic environment that kills the yeast. With a fresh start, the yeast is better able to aerate the loaf during the second rise, just before baking.

    What can go wrong?

    When bread doesn’t rise, it can be for one or more of several reasons.

    The yeast was dead before you used it. When you open a package of yeast, it should smell earthy and “yeasty.” If it doesn’t, you can test or “proof” the yeast’s liveliness by combining it with some of the warm water from the recipe and a pinch of sugar. If the yeast is active, it will produce a bubbly mass within 10 minutes.

    The water used was too cold or too hot. Water below 70°F may not be warm enough to activate the yeast, but rising the dough in a warm room will activate it-it just might take several hours. Water that’s too hot can damage or kill yeast. The damage threshold is 100°F for cake yeast, 120°F for active dry, and 130°F for instant. All yeasts die at 138°F.

    Too much salt was added or added too early. Adding salt before the yeast has had a chance to multiply can dehydrate it, starving it of the water it needs to survive.

    The dough was not punched down or stirred enough. This allows alcohol to build up and poison the yeast.

    Beyond Baking

    Yeast is used for more than rising bread. It’s essential for brewing beer and making wine, as well as other food products, such as soy sauce and vinegar. Regardless of what it’s used for, all commercial yeasts are select strains of the same yeast used for bread. Here’s a look at what makes each strain different.

    Brewer’s yeast comes in two basic types, top-fermenting and bottom-fermenting. Saccharomyces cerevisiae rises to the top of the brew during fermentation and is used for pale ales, stouts, and other top-fermented ales. Saccharomyces pastorianus settles at the bottom during fermentation and is preferred for lagers and pilsners.

    Winemaker’s yeast contains strains of S. cerevisiae selected for their vigorous fermentation and tolerance of the 10% to 14% alcohol in most wine.

    Yeast extract is a flavoring made from a salted slurry of S. cerevisiae and water. The salt encourages enzymes in the yeast to break down its own protein into its constituent amino acids. One of these is glutamic acid, which has a deep umami (savory) flavor and accounts for the primary taste of products like Vegemite and Marmite. Nutritional yeast is a mild-tasting strain of S. cerevisiae that’s been deactivated. The yeast is then rinsed, dried, and packaged as yellow flakes or powder. Popular among vegans, nutritional yeast has an umami flavor, is often fortified with vitamins, and is a good source of complete protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids.

    How much yeast do you really need?

    Yeast has a fruity fragrance and an eggy hint of sulfur that’s pleasant in low concentration, but too much can lend a harsh, mushroomy aroma and unpleasant alcohol aftertaste to finished bread. For the best flavor, use a minimal amount of yeast and a long rising time in fairly low temperatures (below 70°F).

    The exact amount of yeast needed to rise bread dough depends on three things:

    The type of yeast used. You need about twice as much cake yeast as active dry or instant to rise the same weight of dough.

    The temperature of the dough. A higher temperature makes the yeast more active, so you don’t need to use as much yeast in a warm environment. You also don’t need to use as much yeast in a cold environment if you’re doing a long, slow rise the only time you’d need more yeast would be for a quick rise in a cold environment.

    The length of rising time. The slower the rise, the less yeast you need. You can control rising times to fit your schedule by varying the amount of yeast and the temperature of the rise. For example, a recipe may call for 2 teaspoons of yeast and 2 hours of rising, but if you’re going to be out for the day, you can reduce the amount of yeast to ½teaspoon, rise the dough in the refrigerator overnight, and finish the bread the next day. The lower temperature and longer rising time will allow the yeast to multiply more gradually and create a more complex flavor.


    The process of making yeast-leavened bread involves a series of alternating work and rest periods. Work periods occur when the dough is manipulated by the baker. Some work periods are called mixing, kneading, and folding, as well as division, shaping, and panning. Work periods are typically followed by rest periods, which occur when dough is allowed to sit undisturbed. Particular rest periods include, but are not limited to, autolyse, bulk fermentation and proofing. Proofing, also sometimes called final fermentation, is the specific term for allowing dough to rise after it has been shaped and before it is baked.

    Some breads begin mixing with an autolyse. This refers to a period of rest after the initial mixing of flour and water, a rest period that occurs sequentially before the addition of yeast, salt and other ingredients. [6] [7] This rest period allows for better absorption of water and helps the gluten and starches to align. The autolyse is credited to Raymond Calvel, who recommended it as a way to reduce kneading time and thereby improve the flavor and color of bread. [8]

    'Proofing the yeast' is a hydration process that occurs when dry yeast is mixed with warm water and allowed to rest for a short time. The minimum weight of water required may be calculated: yeast weight x 4 = water weight . [4]

    Fermentation typically begins when viable baker's yeast or a starter culture is added to flour and water. Enzymes in the flour and yeast create sugars, which are consumed by the yeast, which in turn produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. Specifically, the grain enzyme diastase begins to convert starch in the grain to maltose. The baker's yeast enzyme maltase converts maltose into glucose, invertase converts any added sucrose to glucose and fructose, and zymase converts glucose and fructose to carbon dioxide gas which makes the dough rise, and alcohol which gives the baked bread flavor. Sourdough starters also produce lactic and acetic acids, further contributing to flavor. When the yeast cells die, they release high quantities of a protease which snip protein strands, and in large dieoffs result in soft, sticky dough, less baked volume and a coarse crumb, [2] but in smaller dieoffs, increase dough extensibility and baked volume. [10]

    Different bread varieties will have different process requirements. These are generally classified as either straight or sponge dough processes. Straight doughs will require only a single mixing period. [11] During bulk fermentation straight-dough recipes may instruct a baker to "punch down" or "deflate" the dough, while artisan bakers will use terms like "stretching", "folding", and "degassing", meaning to expel gas from the carbon dioxide bubbles that have formed. [12] Sponge doughs will need multiple mixing periods. [11]

    Overproofing occurs when a fermenting dough has rested too long. Its bubbles have grown so large that they have popped and tunneled, and dough baked at this point would result in a bread with poor structure. Length of rest periods, including proofing, can be determined by time at specific temperatures or by characteristics. Often the "poke method" is used to determine if a dough has risen long enough. If the dough, when poked, springs back immediately it is underproofed and needs more time. Some breads are considered fully proofed if the indent left by the poke springs back slowly, while others are considered fully proofed when the indent remains and does not spring back.

    A bread that is properly proofed will balance gas production with the ability of the bread's gluten structure to contain it, and will exhibit good oven spring when baked. A bread that is under- or overproofed will have less oven spring and be more dense. An overproofed bread may even collapse in the oven as the volume of gas produced by the yeast can no longer be contained by the gluten structure.

    Retarding may occur at any time during fermentation and is accomplished by placing the dough into a dough retarder, refrigerator, or other cold environment to slow the activity of the yeast. The retarding stage is often used in sourdough bread recipes to allow the bread to develop its characteristic flavor. A cold fermentation stage is sometimes used to develop flavor in other artisan breads, with a part of the dough ("pre-ferment") before the final mixing, with the entire dough during bulk fermentation, or in the final fermentation stages after shaping.

    Best recipes for stress baking during the pandemic, from beginner level to challenging

    Idris Elba, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are among some of the high-profile names who have tested positive for coronavirus. Wochit

    Looking for something to do while stuck inside because of the coronavirus pandemic? Grab your whisk and mixing bowl!

    Whether you're baking for yourself, your roommates or family members, remember to wash your hands before you do anything. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promotes hand-washing as a key way to prevent spreading the virus.

    • Common replacements for eggs include applesauce, mashed bananas, ground flaxseed and chia seeds.
    • You can also replace milk in many recipes with dairy-free versions found in your grocery store's non-refrigerated sections.
    • No powdered sugar? No problem! Simply grind your regular granulated sugar into a powder using a food processor or blender.
    • No flour? Try improvising with homemade oat flour, which you can make by grinding up oats.

    To help inspire you, we've compiled a list of great recipes to stress bake.

    For beginners

    Four-part pleaser: New to baking? Start off with a recipe that requires only four ingredients: pound cake. This recipe from Cookies & Cups uses just flour, eggs, butter and sugar. It's a great base that you can customize with fruit, chocolate chips or nuts.

    Semi-homemade: Have a box of brownie mix in your pantry? Jazz it up by making cheesecake brownies, which only require a couple of extra ingredients. recommends making the brownies as directed on the box, then swirling in a mixture of cream cheese, sugar and egg.

    Because making chocolate cake in a mug is more fun than it sounds.

    Party of one: If you don't want a whole cake or trays of cookies but want to satisfy your sweet tooth, go for a cake in a mug. Watch this video to learn how to make one in your microwave. No fancy baking tools required!

    Taking it up a notch

    Crowd-pleaser: Take the time at home to perfect your chocolate chip cookie recipe. Like it chewy? Like it cakey? Change up your go-to recipe to make it personalized to your taste. Or, if you're looking for a tried and true chipper with crispy edges and a chewy center, try Bon Appétit's best chocolate chip cookies.

    Better with booze: If you're looking to add a little spirit to your stress baking, try out Grateful's boozy chocolate truffles. And don't worry if your bar cart isn't fully stocked: The recipe can be made with Irish cream, Kahlua, tequila or whiskey.

    No social drinking for the foreseeable future? Have a boozy chocolate truffle instead. (Photo: Nataliia Sirobaba, Getty Images)

    A healthier take: Social distancing for some also means no gym time, which may mean you're looking for a lighter dessert to bake. If so, Grateful's healthier mud pie is here to save the day. Bonus: It's also vegan.

    Looking for a challenge?

    Keto-friendly cheesecake: Grateful's mini blueberry cheesecakes are perfect for sharing (or eating by yourself). These babies fall into the more challenging category simply because there are several moving parts (crust, cheesecake and blueberry puree), as well as not-so-basic baking method, but we know you can do it!

    Eyes on the pies: Try out another adorable miniature version of a classic: pecan pie. Grateful's mini pecan pies with brandy butter are sweet and satisfying morsels. They're also keto-friendly.

    These totally count as breakfast, right? Sweet potato pecan rolls with drizzling frosting. (Photo: David Flores,

    They see me rolling: You've had cinnamon rolls, but have you ever made pecan rolls? Grateful's sweet potato pecan rolls are a comforting upgrade to the traditional rolls we all love. Plus, they double as dessert and breakfast. Score!


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    The Overnight Ferment Method

    Today’s method variation involves a long, slow, cold ferment of the dough. Maybe you think that sounds like we’re doing something ugly to the dough, turning it into dough sauerkraut, or something but the term “ferment” is one of the 12 basic steps in yeast bread making (explained here). In layman’s terms, it’s the first rise, or the resting period after you knead the dough and before you shape it.

    Technically speaking, fermentation is the process of carbohydrates converting to alcohol and/or acid, by the action of a microorganism. In bread dough, the yeast is the initiator of this activity, and acts on the flour and any sugar present, turning them into alcohol and carbon dioxide (and a few important acids too, for good measure). And since we’re getting technical here, the processes going on in the dough at this point are the same as when you make yogurt, kimchi, beer, wine, cheese, and yes, sauerkraut. So the idea of “dough sauerkraut” isn’t actually that outlandish (except that the two foods are completely different)! Interesting side note: the study of fermentation is called zymurgy, and there is a beer homebrewing magazine called Zymurgy. Neat!

    But in breadmaking, other important things occur during fermentation. For one, the gluten you’ve just formed in kneading starts to relax, while at the same time continuing to form. How does that happen – relaxing and forming? Well, gluten is like a really uptight rubber band. Be rough with it (i.e, knead it), and it gets all tense and persnickity, and toughens up. But if you leave it alone, it calms down and relaxes. Remember what’s happening right now, though: the yeast is producing gases. The network of gluten traps those gases, and slowly gets stretched – like a rubber band. That’s why you need gluten in your bread without it, those gases would just escape.

    Another important thing that happens during fermentation deals with those aforementioned acids that the yeast gives off, lactic and acetic acids, most importantly. Those two are important dough conditioners, or things that make your bread taste better and keep longer. The longer the fermentation, the more time the acids have to act on the dough. Therefore, many experts have determined that for the best possible bread, a long and slow fermentation is best. This often means using less yeast (which will take a longer time to rise the dough), but it can also mean lowering the temperature at which the dough is fermented (which slows the yeast activity, preventing an over-risen dough).

    My experiment for today was to see what would happen to the texture and flavor of the bread when fermented overnight in the refrigerator. It’s a trick I use fairly often for example, when I’ve started a bread, and suddenly need to run an errand, or plans change, or any number of similar changes to the schedule. And to the best of my knowledge, the bread has not suffered as a result it always seems to end up okay. But I’ve never actually done a side-by-side comparison to see if I’m just fooling myself, so now’s the time!

    I did deviate from the standard straight-dough method in one other way than only the refrigerated fermentation: I used an autolyse for this bread as well. Ideally, I guess I shouldn’t have, but somebody’s going to eat this bread, and I’d rather it taste as good as possible. I know for a fact that an autolyse period makes a better bread why wouldn’t I use it here?

    To critique, the finished loaf looked suspiciously like the previous two loaves: a pretty golden brown crust that crackled and broke into tiny shards when cut, soft airy interior, evenly-spaced holes, blah, blah, blah. And honestly, it tasted very much like the autolyse bread from yesterday. I don’t know that there was a whole lot of difference between the two. It’s still much better than the straight dough bread, I can say that much. The complex depth of flavors from the autolyse were definitely there, and the texture was nearly identical.

    So, to sum up, if you need the extra time, don’t be afraid to stick you bowl of just-kneaded dough in the fridge for any length of time, up to about a day. As long as you let it come back to room temperature before shaping it, you should have no problems with it affecting taste or texture – and heck, it might even help, if you don’t use an autolyse period. Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.*

    The Overnight Ferment Method
    Makes 1 big loaf

    19 ounces (about 4 cups) unbleached bread flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (see note 1 below)
    1 1/2 cups hot water (115º to 130º F)
    1 teaspoon kosher salt

    1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together all but a handful of the flour and all the yeast. Add the water and mix with the dough hook at low speed until a rough dough forms, about 1 minute. Turn the mixer off, and without removing the bowl or the hook, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Let stand for at least 15 to 20 minutes, or up to 45 minutes.

    2. Remove the plastic wrap, and add the salt. Continue kneading the dough, at medium-low speed. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the dough forms a cohesive ball that clears the sides of the bowl, and becomes elastic. If the dough does not clear the sides of the bowl, add the reserved flour until the proper consistency is achieved. The dough should not be stiff.

    3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few times, forming the dough into a round ball with a skin stretching over the outside. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, smooth side up. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight, or for about 8 hours.

    4. Let the dough stand at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour before proceeding. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently deflate the dough, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten the dough into a slight rectangle or oval shape. Fold the two corners furthest away from you into the center of the dough, as though you were beginning to fold a paper airplane. Starting with that point, roll the dough up into a cylinder, pressing gently to seal as you roll. Press the final seam to seal. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet, seam-side down. Tuck the ends under if desired, to make a more attractive loaf. Cover loosely with lightly-oiled plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425º F, and place another baking sheet or oven-safe pan in the bottom of the oven. If you have a baking stone, heat it with the oven. If not, your baking sheet is fine.

    5. When fully risen, and using a sharp serrated knife or clean razor blade, make three decisive slashes in the top of the loaf at a 45º angle, evenly spaced. Transfer the bread to the oven (or baking stone, if using). Immediately throw 4 or 5 ice cubes into the hot pan on the oven floor. Bake for 10 minutes, adding additional ice cubes as they melt.

    6. After 10 minutes, remove the ice-cube-pan from the oven, and bake the loaf for an additional 15 to 25 minutes, or until deeply golden brown. Remove the bread to a wire rack to cool before slicing.

    1. If using active-dry yeast, your water should be a bit cooler, around 105º F to 115º F. Instead of mixing the active-dry yeast into the flour, you should dissolve all of it in a little of the warm water, in the mixing bowl. Let stand for about 5 minutes, or until foamy. Add the flour and salt, and proceed as directed.


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