Nángbĭng – Uyghur Flatbread #BreadBakers

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One of the things I enjoy most about baking is venturing into different cultures and learning about their histories and traditional foods. And so it goes with this bread, Nángbĭng, a traditional flatbread of the Uyghur (pronounced Wigger, at least according to a video I found online). Who, you may ask, are the Uyghur? Good question! So pay attention, class. There may be a quiz.

From Wikipedia (I know, I know. Shut up. The Uyghur American Society backs 'em up. So there.): The Uyhgur are a Turkic ethnic group, mostly Islamic, living in East and Central Asia, primarily in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China, where they are one of 55 officially recognized ethnic minorities.

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Bread plays an important role in almost all ethnic cultures and for the Uyhgur, that bread is the flatbread they call nang (not sure where the "bing" part of the name comes in but lets roll with it.) According to Saveur, which is where I found this recipe, it's typically rolled out, sprinkled with seeds and spices (or not) and baked in a tandoor. It's also made with a flour that's lower in protein than the typical American all-purpose flour, and it's this lower gluten flour that gives the nang a fluffy texture. Of course, since most of us have access to neither Chinese flour nor to a tandoor (What? I don't have a tandoor?!? Well, not yet anyway…) the recipe is adapted to use a baking stone and a combination of all-purpose and pastry flours. 

I love flatbreads and this one was no exception. Easy and fun to make, with a great fluffy texture, it's best eaten warm (I slathered mine with hummus—very multi-cultural). It was also a good way for me to ease back into baking, which, frankly, hasn't gone so well for a while. Most of my attempts, in fact, ended up looking a lot like this flatbread only they weren't supposed to. There's a saying the food affects your mood but I can tell you for a fact that mood affects your food too. And my mood until recently has been pretty black, oh, since around November of 2016, if you get my not-so-subtle drift. So it's good to be back (ish). 

This nángbĭng is my entry for this month's BreadBakers theme: Flatbreads with yeast or starter, hosted by Sonia. Make sure you check out the list below to see what the rest of the crew baked up. They're a super talented and creative bunch.

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Nángbĭng – Uyghur Flatbread

Ingredients

  • 1 1⁄2 tsp. active dry yeast 
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1⁄3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2⁄3 cup pastry flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 1 1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp. peanut oil
  • Optional toppings: sesame seeds, nigella seeds, fennel seeds, ground black pepper, sea salt

Directions

  1. Add the yeast, sugar and 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water to the bowl of a stand mixer and let sit for about 10 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.
  2. In a medium bowl stir together the flours, wheat germ and salt, then add to yeast mixture, along with the butter and oil.
  3. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until just combined, then switch to the dough hook and kned on medium speed until the dough is smooth, about 6–8 minutes. Cover the bowl, set aside and let rise at room temperature until doubled.
  4. Deflate the dough, then cover and let rise again until doubled. While the dough is rising, place a baking stone in the oven and preheat to 500°.
  5. After the dough has doubled for the second time, transfer to a floured board and divide it into 4 pieces. Round off the pieces, then cover and let rest for about 15 minutes.
  6. Using a rolling pin on a floured board, roll each piece into a 7" round and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover the rounds and let rise for about 30 minutes.
  7. Right before baking, prick the rounds all over, then brush with water and sprinkle on any toppings.
  8. Slide the rounds onto the baking stone, bake for 3–5 minutes or until the edges are just browned.
  9. These breads are best served warm.

Recipe source: Saveur

Notes

The original recipe says to add the salt in with the yeast, sugar and water mix but this just about killed me dead. All I could hear in my head was "YOU'LL KILL THE YEAST! YOU'LL KILL THE YEAST!"—a warning that's the bread baking equivalent of "You'll shoot your eye out!" I'm mean, that's a helluva lot of salt, so not wanting to be a yeast killer, I added it in with the flours instead, it worked just fine and I can sleep at night.

I only had whole wheat pastry flour on hand and I didn't feel like schlepping out to the store AGAIN so I rolled with it, no prob. I did find the dough to be very sticky though, so I added about another tablespoon of flour during the mix.

I baked in two batches, sliding the rounds and the parchment onto the baking stone. About 2 minutes in, I slid them off the parchment directly onto the stone to finish the bake.

I use a wide-tooth comb as a docking tool. Works great and it's a lot cheaper than a docker. It's probably the first time I opted for cheap over a gadget. Go me!

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#BreadBakers for April: Flatbreads with Yeast or Starter

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. Big thanks go to this month's hosts Sonia at Sonlicious and Stacy at Food Lust People Love.

 

 

Almond Flour Bread #BreadBakers

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This almond flour bread is another entry in the "not half bad" category. Again, as with my pistachio, rose and cardamom shortbread cookies, you might not think this is a ringing endorsement, but this bread is made with almond flour (because I'm sure you couldn't figure that out from the title). Almond flour comes from almonds (you probably couldn't figure that out either.) Almonds being a nut. And as regular, loyal readers (all 12 of you) of this blog know, I hate nuts with the power of a thousand blazing suns. So "not half bad" is actually pretty darned good.

At least once a year, I attempt something nutty in the hopes that I'll do a 180 and embrace the nut, because the damned things are everywhere and I'm tired of being a nutty pariah. I generally fail miserably but over the years, I've grown to marginally tolerate pistachios and cashews and sometimes, things of almond origin—excluding extract and the actual nut itself. I still, in fact, loathe the taste and smell of almonds, but for some reason, almond milk and almond flour aren't very almond-y to my palate. I make my own almond milk regularly (the leftover meal goes into the compost) and hello? Macarons? So while I was tempted to bail on this month's #BreadBakers challenge—breads with nut meals and flours—I decided to celebrate my limited acceptance of the nut and forge bravely ahead.

This almond flour bread is right up my alley. There are no nut bits to gross me out and it's a good old yeast bread, which is never a bad thing. It's extremely easy to make—basically dump it all in a bowl, do the typical bread-y thing…VOILA! You got yourself a bread. The taste isn't noticeably almond-y, the bread has a nice chew and the crumb is fine and dense, which makes for great toasting and sandwich loaf.  My only issue with it is that I didn't get a particularly good rise, which probably was the result of a little hesitancy on my part. You see, as soon as the weather starts getting hot, so does my un-air conditioned kitchen—my house is basically a giant proof box—so when I baked this up, the thermostat indoors registered 85°F. I always have a period of adjustment when I bake bread in the summer before I get things right, with changes to water temperature or rise times (which I watch nervously), otherwise I end up with an over-proofed loaf. I probably erred too much on the side of caution with this bread, because it's probably a bit under-proofed and I could have let it go a bit longer before baking, hence the less than stellar rise. Live and learn. It's still a darned good loaf, nutty origins or not.

Be sure to check out the links below to see what the other (non-nut averse) BreadBakers baked up this month. And thanks, Cindy, for the challenge!

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Almond Flour Bread

Ingredients

  • 570g/4 cups bread flour
  • 90g/1 cup almond flour
  • 2-1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2-1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 375ml/1-1/2 cups warm (105–115°F) water*
  • 3 Tbsp honey

Directions

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flours, salt, and yeast.
  2. Add the water and honey and mix on medium speed until you have a smooth, elastic dough.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, punch it down and divide in two. Shape each half into a loaf and place in greased 8x4 loaf pans. Cover the pans with plastic wrap that's been lightly sprayed with cooking spray (shower caps or Covermate bowl covers are even better and you don't need the spray). Let rise until doubled.
  5. Place the risen loaves in a preheated 425°F oven, bake for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375° and bake for an additional 15–20 minutes, covering the loaves with foil if needed to prevent over-browning. (The loaves should be golden brown.)
  6. Remove the loaves from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Notes

*If you live in a giant proof box like I do, adjust the water temperature as needed. My water was definitely on the cold side, to slow down the rise.

I've tried both Bob's Red Mill and Trader Joe's almond flour and prefer Bob's. It's much finer and bakes up nicely. Trader Joe's isn't bad but if that's all I've got, I generally sift it or run it through the food processor to get rid of the larger bits.

Recipe source: ChezCateyLou

#BreadBakers for June: Breads with Nut Meals and Nut Flours

This month's BreadBakers' theme is Breads with Nut Meals and Nut Flours inspired bread, hosted by Cindy at Cindy’s Recipes and Writings.

Enjoy all these creative breads using nut meals and nut flours from The Bread Bakers Group!

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

BreadBakers

Casatiello – Neapolitan Easter Bread #BreadBakers

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Casatiello may be a traditional Neapolitan Easter bread, but as with many traditions, if you ask 10 different Italians for their take on it, you're sure to get 10 different answers.  The constants are these: Casatiello is rustic savory bread, loaded with cheeses and cured meats (salumi). And there it ends. The cheeses and meats you choose are up for grabs—from favorites that your family has loved down the generations to whatever you have in the fridge (and actually, one school of thought has it that Casatiello was just that—a way to use up Easter leftovers). Then there's the shape—a classic ring shape, said to reference Christ's crown of thorns, or a large roundish loaf. Eggs? Often tucked on top under crosses of dough, but also without. And then it's eaten on Easter. Except when it's eaten on the following day, Easter Monday or La Pasquetta, when friends and family head to the countryside for a celebratory picnic. Whatever, I say, if the old traditions aren't your thing, just make up new ones. One thing I know for sure though, Easter Schmeaster. This bread is too bleeping good to eat just once a year.

It's hard to imagine that a bread that's positively loaded with cheese and meat could be anything but a brick, but this is the lightest, fluffiest bread I've ever eaten. Seriously, once baked, when I took it out of the oven it felt like I was picking up a hunk of styrofoam, it was so surprisingly light. Rich, golden, buttery and brioche-like, with salty bits of salami and glossy pockets of melted cheese, it was truly a revelation.

As I mentioned, there are as many variations on Casatiello as there are Italians and after checking out about a dozen recipes, the one that got my attention was from The Italian Baker, by the late Carol Field, arguably America's foremost authority on Italian baking. Hers differed from some of the others in shape (round loaf) and incorporation of the cheese and meat. In the ring version of this bread, the dough is rolled out, topped with the cheeses and meat, then rolled up and formed into a circle, and you could certainly do that here, although the dough is a bit soft. Here though, three of the four cheeses are grated and mixed into the dough. The remaining cheese and meat are folded and kneaded in. The dough is very soft and silky, especially before the first rise, not unexpected for a dough with 4 egg yolks, 4 whole eggs and a boatload of butter, but it's not difficult to work with (unlike brioche, this doesn't get a cold rise to firm it up). 

One note about the color. It's definitely way darker than other recipes I looked at, but it is indeed supposed to be this dark, at least according to the photo in Carol's book. Unfortunately, my crust may be a tad too thick and overbaked, thanks to an oven that's on life support. The temperature has been fluctuating wildly and there's a 75° difference between the two thermometers I've been using, so getting the heat just right is a real crap shoot.  Thick crust or not, the crumb, flavor and aroma of this bread are so incredible that it doesn't matter. 

Italian breads are the theme for this month's #BreadBakers challenge, hosted by Anshie over at Spice Roots. Be sure to check out the links below because you don't want to miss what this talented group came up with. Thanks, Anshie!

Casatiello – Neapolitan Easter Bread

Ingredients

Sponge

  • 12g (4 ½ tsps) active dry yeast
  • 20g (4 tsps) sugar
  • 300g (1 ¼ cups) warm water
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 300g (about 2 ½ cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 6.5g (1 ¼ tsps) salt

Dough

  • 4 large eggs
  • 120g (½ cup, plus 1 ½ tbsp) sugar
  • 6.5g (1 ⅓ tsps) salt
  • 550g (About 4 ¼ cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 250g (2 sticks, plus 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 60g (2 oz) pecorino romano cheese, grated*
  • 60g (2 oz) Parmigiano Reggiano, grated*
  • 30g (1 oz) Gruyere cheese, grated*
  • 50g (2 oz) provolone, diced*
  • 100g (3 ½ oz) Milano salami, diced*
  • 5g (1 tsp) coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten

Directions

  1. To make the sponge, in a medium bowl, add the water, then stir in the yeast and 1 tsp of the sugar and let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Whisk in the egg yolks and remaining 3 tsps of sugar, then add the flour and mix until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 45 minutes to an hour. It will be very puffy.
  3. To make the dough, in the bowl of a stand mixer, add the eggs, sugar and salt and mix with the paddle attachment. Then add in all of the sponge and continue mixing until blended.
  4. Add all of the flour and mix until you have a rough mass, then add the butter in chunks and continue mixing with the paddle until you have a shaggy dough.
  5. Add in the three grated cheeses and mix until roughly blended.
  6. Switch to the dough hook and knead for about 4 minutes at medium . The dough should be elastic and somewhat smooth. 
  7. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl or container (I recommend a 6 qt. Cambro so you can keep track of the rise), cover tightly and set aside until the dough has nearly tripled (see Notes regarding rise time).
  8. After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface and pat into a large rectangle about 3/4" thick. 
  9. Sprinkle half of the provolone and half of the salami over the top and half the pepper, pat in gently, then do a letter fold (thirds), pat the dough into a rectangle again, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, salami and pepper and fold in third once more. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes to fully incorporate the cheese and salami.
  10. Cut the dough in half, then shape each half into a taut round. Place each round in a buttered 2-qt. baking pan (paper panettone bakers work really well). The container should be half full. Cover and set aside to rise until the dough reaches the top of the pan.
  11. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F. Whisk an egg white and brush the top of each loaf. Bake for about 45 minutes until the internal temperature is 190°F. (The top should be dark and mahogany colored but cover with foil if it looks like it's browning too quickly.) Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Recipe source: The Italian Baker by Carol Field

Notes

The recipe calls for a first rise of about 1 1/2 hours, to which I say HA! Mine took just over four hours to triple in volume and that was in my proofer with the temperature cranked up to 80°. It's such a rich dough that I'm not surprised but don't get discouraged if yours takes a long time too.

*You can pretty much use any combination of cheeses and meats you like. I couldn't find Milano salami so I used a dry Italian salami instead. I would also use more next time because one can never have enough salami (I definitely thought these loaves could have used a bit more.)

As much as we all love warm bread fresh from the oven, I'd recommend letting this bread cool fully before eating.  I ate a slice (okay, 3 slices) while it was still warm and couldn't really taste the cheese. Once the bread was cooled, the cheesy flavor was much more pronounced.

#BreadBakers for April: Breads from Italy

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com