revisiting an old favorite

Last summer I discovered a new favorite — grilling flatbreads.  They are quick and simple to make, and so much fun, and everyone loves to eat them.  Yesterday, I made Grilled Asiago Rounds and Zucchini Caponata from King Arthur Flour’s Bakers’ Banter.  Both recipes are so easy and sooooo good.  Check out the links above for the recipes as well as how-to videos.

I was outside grilling the breads yesterday morning so we could take them along with us into Boston for the fireworks.  L. said he could smell them in his sleep.  The last time I made this I thought it lasted a bit longer — maybe a couple of days, but the only reason we didn’t finish it all last night was because I only brought two-thirds of the batch of flatbreads and caponata with us.  We had other goodies as well, and really, who needs that much food for just one evening?  I took a lot of abuse for that decision.  Rest assured, we finished the rest of it today. 

english muffins, hitz-style

I recently finished my first year in the Baking and Pastry Arts program at Johnson and Wales University. Many of the formulas we used in my breads and Viennoiserie classes came from Ciril Hitz’s books, Baking Artisan Bread and Baking Artisan Pastries and Breads. Chef Hitz is our department chair at JWU and occasionally teaches in the weekend program (in which I am enrolled). So far, my interactions with him have been limited to relaying messages from him or hitting him up for equipment and/or supplies, including one occasion in which I narrowly missed (by inches!) whacking him in the face with a transfer peel. So unless he’s forgotten or he’s extremely forgiving, I’m actually pretty happy I haven’t had him for an instructor yet. Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure we all look the same in uniform anyway, so it probably doesn’t matter.

This English Muffin formula is from Baking Artisan Pastries and Breads. It’s different from my previous attempt in that these muffins are baked rather than cooked on the stovetop. The batter is scooped into the muffin rings and proofs on a sheet pan for an hour before they’re baked. Unfortunately, I only have four rings, which isn’t a problem when you’re cooking them the other way because you can only fit four rings in a pan anyway, but it is an issue when you have to proof a dozen at once. I ended up using the four rings, plus the four largest circle cutters from my school knife kit. I know: 4 rings + 4 circle cutters = 8 muffins, not 12. This was not apparent to me even though I was overfilling the molds because I had extra batter. There’s a reason all the math I do involves a calculator; I clearly can’t even count. At any rate, no serious harm was done, as they turned out fine.

We really enjoyed the chewiness from the multigrain soaker that was added to the batter. Chef Hitz suggests using a packaged seven-grain mixture, but I made my own three-grain combination — oats, flax seeds and wheat bran — basically what I could scrounge up from my freezer stash. There’s also some white whole wheat flour in the batter for additional nutritional oomph. The crumb wasn’t as filled with nooks and crannies as a store-bought muffin, but this might be due to my improvisational molding (and overfilling). I didn’t hear anyone complain though!

soft dinner rolls


I’m currently finishing up my next to last class for the school year — Principles of Artisan Bread Baking. It’s the first year class that I had been waiting for all year, and while it’s been fun and thoroughly educational, it’s also so well within my comfort zone that I haven’t felt terribly challenged. Perhaps it’s a mental thing — I’m simply not petrified of failing in this class. However, there’s one thing that has me completely stymied: “braiding” dinner rolls. I put that in quotations because it’s not really a braid — it’s made from a single strand of dough — but it’s twisted to look like a braid. I’ve been over it many times and had Chef and more adept classmates show me the technique again and again and I’m confident I’m doing it the same way they are…. it’s just that the final product doesn’t look quite right to me.

My practical is this Sunday and I know the dinner rolls are one of the products I will be graded on. I have to make a total of three shapes — the braid, a twist and a dog bone (sort of like a double twist). I’m not concerned about the last two. I made rolls today and practiced the braid. About halfway through the dough I think I may have had a breakthrough but then again, I’m not sure. We’ll see on Sunday.

classic french bread

Even though I’ve haven’t been posting regularly lately, I do still bake (recreationally speaking) very regularly. My hard drive is chock full of photos of baked goods, but I can’t find the time to blog any of it. However, JWU will be out for the summer in 12 short weeks and rest assured, I plan to resume my regular posting.

One of the things I’ve been making regularly at home has been bread. My go-to bread lately is the Classic French Bread from Peter Reinhart’s most excellent Artisan Breads Every Day (and I’m not just saying that because he thanks me — and over 500 other people — on page 215) — it’s just a straightforward, tasty, really consistent recipe. What I love most about it is that with a little bit of planning and very little fuss, we can have quality bread with dinner. Peter’s method in this book is to mix the dough the day (or a few days) before you intend to bake. You then refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 4 days). While the dough is in the fridge, the flavor develops and deepens. On baking day, you shape the loaves, then proof and bake. It really produces some of the best bread we’ve ever eaten.

scali rolls


I made these the other day when I needed something bready to go with the chicken chili I was making. The recipe is from Bakers’ Banter, and looked like something I’ve made a number of times before. Unfortunately, as it so often happens these days, I didn’t manage my time very wisely and when it came time to braid and divide the dough, I was scrambling. I haven’t braided dough lately and couldn’t quite remember how best to go about it and then I kind of hacked the braided loaves into irregular lengths. Oh well. They were still tasty.

garlic grilled bread and eggplant caponata

More grilled bread, more caponata! I made this to take along on our trip west to see James Taylor at Tanglewood (the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra), although we ended up eating much of it at home the next day since it poured the evening of the concert and it was difficult to handle a large golf umbrella and a glass of wine and bread and caponata all at once.

Like the earlier grilled bread and caponata, these recipes were from King Arthur Flour’s Bakers’ Banter. This dough was made with garlic-infused olive oil and contained no cheese. It also had a higher ratio of semolina to flour which gave it more of a pita bread (without the pocket) texture — chewier and less soft than the Asiago bread. Sadly, the garlic flavor was so subtle as to be barely discernible. I wasn’t crazy about this bread and found myself wishing for the Grilled Asiago Rounds.

The eggplant caponata was very like the zucchini caponata I made before, just with eggplant instead of zucchini. The chunks were a little less defined (mushier) than in the zucchini caponata — just a little different but still very tasty.

grilled asiago rounds and zucchini caponata

I made these grilled flatbreads outside yesterday during one of the drizzliest days we’ve experienced this summer. Not really how I planned it, but whaddya gonna do?

The recipe is from King Arthur Flour’s excellent blog, Bakers’ Banter. It’s not my first try at grilled bread, but it’s definitely my most successful. What’s better than moist cheesy bread, hot off the grill? Everyone raved about it! And it was so simple to make — definitely going to make this one again this weekend. Alongside the bread, I served this Zucchini Caponata. The basil was from our garden — it was fragrant and fresh tasting and we were happy to get to enjoy some of it before the bugs ate all of our basil plants to the ground.