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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Bread - Day Three: Rolls and Individual Breads

Breads - Day Three

Rolls and Individual Breads

Baked 07.09.14

Rolls and Individual Breads:
  • Bagels
  • Sicilian Sesame Rolls (Muffuletta Rolls)
  • Pretzel Rolls
  • English Muffins
Now things are getting good!

Individual breads - they are a way to eat an entire loaf, one deceptively manageable portion at a time (oh, the nights of ill-advised bagel-binging and the carb-induced comas that followed -- so excellent).

But confessions of a carb-junky aside, serving up single-serving breads introduces a number of unique baking techniques. How does poaching, grilling and "poisoning" dough sound (say what?!) 

Individual Breads and Rolls


Objectivity be damned, bagels are bread royalty. With a distinctive chewy exterior and a dense interior crumb, they are infinitely more satisfying than plain white bread. And bagels pull it off without the addition of any sugar or fats (i.e. eggs, milk or butter). Impressive!

I'm not alone in my enthusiasm for bagels. Some New Yorkers are outright fanatics - make a disparaging remark about someone's favorite bagel, and you're liable to start a street brawl.

I'm pretty lenient in my definition of a "true" bagel and enjoy the full range of offerings.

Plain, Sesame Seed, Poppy Seed, Salt, Onion, Cinnamon Raisin... sure, go crazy.

Slice the bagel and layer it with cream cheese & lox, peanut butter & jelly, or melted cheese... who am I to judge?

But a bagel must have that chewy texture. Here, I am unwilling to compromise. A roll with a hole in the center in not a bagel (I'm talking to you, Dunkin' Donuts!)

That chewy exterior and dense interior comes from the unique cooking process. Before a bagel is baked, it is poached in a simmering solution of water and malt syrup. The brief poaching creates a chewy coating to the bagel, which also restricts further rising of the dough while it bakes (similar to how a Pullman pan prevents the dough from rising beyond a certain point, also creating a denser bread).

The result... yum!

Bagels Boiling

Bagels with Salt, Sesame Seed and Poppy Seed Topping

Sicilian Sesame Rolls (Muffuletta Rolls)

Muffuletta Rolls are "individual" breads? Um, what?

Even I would be embarrassed to down one of these 3/4 pounders in a single sitting (particularly when you consider the 12 oz. weight is before the roll is loaded to become a sandwich).

But sure enough, that's what is happening (and has been for decades) at Central Grocery in New Orleans. Order yourself an original Muffuletta sandwich, and be prepared to receive a meal the size of a hubcap - a delicious, meat / cheese / garlic / olive filled hubcap.

On a recent trip down to the French Quarter, one of these bad-boys managed to feed five hungry travelers... (iPhone for scale... and shock value).

Muffuletta Sandwich Rolls at Central Grocery in New Orleans

Pretzel Rolls

What turns a simple white bread dough into a delicious pretzel roll? 

Why, it's lye! Horribly caustic, skin-dissolving, potentially fatal lye! And you thought your Big Gulp was food enemy #1.

It's true. The distinctive, deep brown exterior and the slightly sour flavor of a genuine pretzel is the result of dipping fully-proofed dough into a bath of water and food-grade (but still fatal when concentrated) lye.

Food grade lye is a specialty ingredient that you won't find at your local grocery store. And I wouldn't recommend substituting a few tablespoons of Drano (yep, lye is also used as a drain cleaner). Most recipes use a mix of water, malt syrup and baking soda as an approximation. Personally, I find the final product pales in comparison to the real deal. 

Pretzel Rolls

English Muffins

Who doesn't love a toasted English Muffin with all of those delicious "nooks and crannies"?

Wait, can I even say "nooks and crannies"? 

The secret behind how Thomas', the brand behind the gold-standard muffin, creates those characteristic craters is heavily sought after and heavily protected. In 2010, an executive at the company downloaded the recipes and retired with the intention of bringing the secret to Hostess. The courts ultimately ruled that the recipe was a trade secret and could not be shared.

Many bakers have tried to replicate the process, but no one has figured it out. 

How does one bake an impressive approximation? It would seem not baking the dough does the trick. Rather than place the muffins in an oven, the dough is placed on a red hot iron griddle for eight to ten minutes. The high heat creates internal pockets as moisture evaporates. Ta-dah! Nooks and crannies. They may not be as pronounced as a Thomas' English Muffin, but it's amazingly close.

Grilling English Muffins

Stack of English Muffins

Bread Week in Review:

  • Day One - Flatbreads and Crisp Breads
    • Ligurian Focaccia 
    • Habini Pita
    • Middle Eastern Flatbread
    • Grissini Breadsticks
  • Day Two - "One Step" Breads
    • White & Whole Wheat Bread
    • Golden Sandwich Bread
    • Old-Fashioned Raisin Bread
    • Pain de Mie (French Sandwich Bread / Pullman Loaf)
  • Day Three - Rolls and Individual Breads
    • Bagels
    • Sicilian Sesame Rolls (Muffuletta Rolls)
    • Pretzel Rolls
    • English Muffins
  • Day Four - Pre-Fermented Breads
    • Ciabatta
    • Tuscan Olive Bread
    • Challah
    • Zopf (Swiss Braided Bread)
  • Day Five - Whole Grain Breads:
    • Deli Rye
    • American Pumpernickel
    • Semolina
    • Spelt & Caraway

Questions? Comments? Send me an email or leave a comment.
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