Guinness Brown Bread in CVap®

Guinness Brown Bread
Guinness Brown Bread

In a recent Winston blog, we prepared a full Irish breakfast. One of the key ingredients of that breakfast was Guinness Brown Bread. We thought this wonderful, dark bread deserved an entry of its own. We based it on a lovely recipe found on Good Food Ireland’s website.

This recipe takes a few liberties with the traditional Irish soda bread. One might think of brown bread as soda bread’s denser cousin. The original soda bread had just four ingredients: flour, salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. That basic recipe stems from the 1830s when much of Ireland was facing a serious famine. For many poor families, there would have been meals that consisted of only this bread. It kept them alive.

Soda bread also had the advantage of not requiring an oven to bake. It could be cooked in iron pots, or even directly on a stone over the fire. Yeast would have been hard to come but, not to mention expensive. Rather than using yeast for leavening, soda bread uses the chemical reaction between the baking soda and the acid in the buttermilk to leaven the dough. This works well with the soft wheat grown in Ireland.

Brown Bread vs Soda Bread

Guinness Brown Bread shares the same roots as soda bread. The key difference is the flour used. Irish soda bread is slightly sweet, (think scones). It uses white flour, which gives it a milder flavor. It’s a perfect snack or accompaniment to a hot cup of tea or coffee. On the other hand, brown bread has a nutty flavor that comes from the combination of Irish wholemeal flour and oats. It should be sliced think, and enjoyed with a schmear of Irish butter.

As is the case with any standard recipe, the standard baking settings needed a bit of modification for the CVap® ovens. We also needed to tweak the ingredients just a bit, since some ingredients aren’t easy to come by here in the U.S.

Ingredients (for one loaf)

  • 600g Wholemeal Flour (we substituted Whole Wheat Flour)
  • 150g Plain Flour (we substituted All-Purpose Flour)
  • 75g Oatmeal
  • 2 and 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 Teaspoon Salt
  • 2-1/2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 40g Butter
  • 480ml Whole Milk
  • 200ml Black Treacle (we substituted Molasses)
  • ½ Pint Guinness® Draught Stout
Guinness Brown Bread
Guinness Brown Bread

The Process

Mix butter with the dry ingredients until the dough develops the consistency of breadcrumbs.

Add the milk, molasses, and the Guinness draught.

Mix until you reach a wet dough.

The Settings

Preheat CHV/RTV-05 oven

  • Vapor Cook– 200°F
  • Air Cook– 350°F
  • Cook Time – 1 Hour

Portion the dough into standard greased loaf pans. Garnish with a few oats.

Bake for approximately 45-50 minutes, or until done.

To speed the bake time, we portioned our dough into mini loaves. This shortened the bake time to about 25 minutes. We also prepared a batch of muffins, which only took about 20 minutes to cook thoroughly. To make this a perfect addition to the meal, we served the warm bread with Kerrygold Irish Butter.

The Extras

In case you’re curious, there is a difference between Irish butter and the butter we’re used to here in the U.S. It turns out, Irish cows live a pretty good life. They feed exclusively on the lush green grass of the Emerald Isle. As a result, the butter they produce is higher in nutrients like beta carotene and is a little higher in fat content. Although the fat is only slightly higher, it is a difference you can taste. In addition, that fat keeps the Irish butter-soft, so it’s much easier to spread without tearing the bread. We highly recommend that you splurge on Irish butter. It will make this dark bread that much more delicious.

Of course, the Guinness draught speaks for itself. It’s a wonderful, dark, creamy stout. We highly recommend it.

Guinness Brown Bread

It’s All in the Proof! CVap Focaccia

proofing focaccia

Focaccia bread (Italian pronunciation: [foˈkattʃa]) is one of the most versatile breads. The bread can be baked thick or thin, and the endless array of topping choices compounds flavors in complex ways. Focaccia can be used in many ways, including as a pizza base, sandwich bread, or even as a cake.

Some folks are unaware that CVap® Cook and Hold Ovens and CVap Retherm Ovens are ideal for baking bread. In short, you can customize the oven’s environment to create the ideal proofing conditions.

Recipe:

  • Bread Flour – 1.82 Kilograms
  • Water – 845 Grams
  • Fresh Yeast – 60 Grams
  • Olive Oil – 140 Grams
  • Salt – 60 Grams
  • Sugar – 58 Grams
proofing dough punch and dock

Method of Prep:

  1. First, preheat Cook and Hold Oven to Vapor 90°F/Air 95°F.
  2. Next, mix the water and flour. Autolyse for 20 minutes. Autolyse is a fancy word for mixing flour and water and allowing the mixture to rest for a few minutes.
  3. Add sugar, olive oil, and yeast, and mix for five minutes.
  4. Add salt and mix for two minutes.
  5. Transfer the dough to a half-sheet pan greased with olive oil.
  6. Place dough in the center of the pan. Stretch the dough into a flat oval. Be sure both sides are coated with olive oil.
  7. Finally, place the dough in Cook and Hold Oven to proof for an hour and 15 minutes.
  8. When the timer goes off, pull the dough from the oven.
  9. Punch and stretch the dough to the shape of the pan. Make indentations in the dough with your fingertips.
  10. Place the dough back in the oven and set a timer for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove the dough from the Cook and Hold oven and preheat to Vapor 200°F/Air 350°F.
  12. Top the dough with desired toppings and place back into the Cook and Hold Oven. Bake for 45 minutes.

One of our focaccia loaves was topped with charred ramps, roasted garlic, and rosemary. The other was topped with dried figs and fennel seeds. Both were seasoned with Maldon sea salt.

Consistent, efficient proofing is crucial when preparing leavened bread. CVap ovens create a consistent proofing environment. Their ability to maintain a stable, moist environment at a relatively low temperature makes them perfect proofers. Consequently, this generates the fermented smell and flavors of great bread. CVap ovens can adjust the cabinet environment to tailor the proof. As a result, you can create compound flavors while the bread is fermenting (or proofing).

focaccia dough - 2nd proof
focaccia dough - 2nd proof topped

The Results

The crumb on the finished product was excellent. It created a light, soft finished product, without making the exterior of the bread too hard.

You might notice in the pictures that one of the pans of focaccia was too close to the top elements. This was due to my portioning of the dough between the two pans. My bad.

focaccia bread
focaccia bread

Focaccia Fundamentals

Focaccia has a rich history. As you probably know, it’s Italian. Or to be more specific, it’s Roman. In ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flat bread baked on the hearth. The name is derived from Latin panem (bread) and focus (hearth, place for baking). The basic recipe is widely associated with Ligurian cuisine. The name focaccia first appeared in 1300C.E. But to be honest, breads have been baked on hearths for millennia. There are similar historical recipes throughout Turkey, Greece, France, Spain, and throughout the Middle East.

The popularity of focaccia spread with the Roman Empire. It was probably considered a poor man’s meal, baked to feed peasants and slaves. Today, savory, and sweet variations of focaccia can be found throughout Europe and the Americas.

It Ain’t Pizza

Because it’s a classic flat bread, focaccia is sometimes considered to be a kind of pizza. The key difference is that focaccia is left to rise after being flattened, whereas pizza dough is baked immediately. It’s worth noting that the flat bread of ancient Sicily was called pitu, a variant of the Greek pita. There’s a good chance pitu etymologically evolved into pizza. But as The New York Times’ Eileen Weinberg described it, “focaccia connotes bread with a little topping and pizza connotes topping with a little bread.”

Focaccia

Variations of Focaccia

Because it’s so versatile, there are many variations of focaccia. Here are just a few.

Fugassa

The OG focaccia, this Ligurian staple is seasoned with olive oil, rock salt, and herbs.

Recco Focaccia

From the Recco region, this version is made from unleavened dough. It’s worked thin, filled with fresh cheese (usually crescenza) and closed again, then fired.

Focaccia Barese

From the southern Italy town of Bari comes this version, made with durum wheat flour, and topped with rosemary, tomatoes, olives, and salt.

A Fugassa cö Formaggio

(focaccia with cheese) – Traditionally a specialty reserved for All Saints Day celebrations. It’s a layer of melted soft cheese sandwiched between two paper-thin layers of dough. It’s so revered in Italy that it was granted IGP (protected geographical indication) status by the European Union in 2012.

Schiacciata

Originating in the Tuscan region, this bread is usually thinner than the Genoa-style focaccia and is often topped with rosemary. It ends to have a soft interior yet be crispy on the outside. During the harvest months it’s common to make schiacciata all’ve where the bread is sweetened and stuffed with wine grapes.