Intro

The Bread Baker’s Apprentice challenge (BBA Challenge) is a challenge to bake all of the breads from the book Bread Baker’s Apprentice, alphabetically from Anadama through whole-wheat.

That’s what’s happening here!

Breads

#31: New York Deli Rye (pp. 249-252)

Onions, lightly sauteeing One free-standing loaf and one sandwich loaf Finished onion deli rye breads, showing the crumb of the freestanding loaf

Another excellent bread. I came to realize during baking this that I’m one of those people who don’t really know the difference in taste between carraway seeds and rye flour since I have always tasted them together. Next time through with a rye bread I’m definitely goin no-carraway. Anyway, the onions cooking in this bread gave it a delicious, well… oniony aroma and it tastes amazing.

#30: Basic Sourdough Bread (pp. 245-248)

Potato-rosemary dough, proofing Two completed potato-rosemary loaves Crumb of the bread

I started out baking by making the sourdough from the Tartine book over and over again until I got a feel for it. I was interested to see how this recipe differed, and it certainly did differ! This one is knead-heavy before doing stretch-and-folds, there was no autolyse step, and instead of cooking in a dutch oven, you make your oven into a hearth oven.

Overall it worked… fine. I didn’t get the large oven spring I typically got from the Tartine bread, but it was sourdough, and the crumb looked just fine. Overall I prefer the Tartine method, no idea how much of the difference is simply using a dutch oven to keep moisture around the bread and how much of the difference is the many small differences between the recipes

#29: Pugliese (pp.233-237)

Dough, sitting in a bowl Two loaves proofing in bannetons Crumb of the bread

This was the most delightful surprise of the book so far. I love this bread a lot. Really big, airy crumb, dark but soft crust. 10/10.

#28: Potato Rosemary Bread (pp. 229-232)

Potato-rosemary dough, proofing Two completed potato-rosemary loaves Crumb of the bread

This bread was truly amazing: Rosemary, olive oil, roasted garlic, mashed potatoes. It was pillowy soft and tested delicious. I 100% want to make this one again.

#27: Portuguese Sweet Bread (pp. 226-228)

Two balls of dough in pans Two mahogany-colored loaves of Portugese sweet bread Crumb of the bread, surprisingly light given the sugar-browning on the outside.

Not 100% sure what to think of this one. I can’t call the bread “pillowy” as described in the recipe, the outer crust is actually shiny and crunchy, and the inside is sweet. It’s almost like a pound cake. Not really one for me, although it does look very pretty.

#26: Poolish Baguettes (pp. 223-225)

Ball of dough, pre-shaping Decorated pizza on a peel Completed pizza napoletana

Nice crusty baguettes. I got a bit lazy with the shaping so they puffed up and tore a little bit. This was the first time I followed some advice in a book that said when scoring the baguettes, “don’t be too careful” and found that three very rapid slashes with the razor actually worked a lot better than the careful picking I was doing up until now.

#25: Pizza Napoletano (pp. 217-222)

Ball of dough, pre-shaping Decorated pizza on a peel Completed pizza napoletana

Exciting one to start, I have never made pizza before. I ended up being 50% happy with the result. I didn’t get the big blistered bubbles I was hoping for, but it was a decent pizza with a good crunch to the crust. My main lesson here was really that I should minimize the number of toppings to let the crust shine through.

#24: Panettone (pp. 211-216)

Very sticky ball of enriched dough Pannettone proofing in paper pannettone pans Completed Pannettone loaves

Not a giant fan of this. I bought Fiore di Sicilia extract to go in this, which was a wildly overpowering floral flavor. The bread itself is… fine, I guess. Lots of Christmassy flavors that I’m just not a big fan of. Not one that I’ll make again.

#23: Pane Siciliano (pp. 198-201)

Big pile of dough, post proofing Dough shaped into two S-shaped loaves Completed pane Siciliano

Wasn’t expecting much from this one, it’s a curled up baguette. That said, this maybe turned out to be one of the best breads I have baked! The sesame seeds added a great toasty taste, and the loaf itself was big, airy and tasty.

#22: Pain de Campagne (pp. 195-197)

A large amount of lean dough. The Epi and Fougasse, pre-baking. From left-to-right:  Fendu, Epi, Fougasse

OK this was fun so I made an extra sized batch (enough for four loaves of bread). It is pointed out that this is a good dough to test out shaping of bread, and so I decided to try out a few different shapes. I didn’t do a great job with my scissor cuts, but the others looked beautiful. The breead itself was a satisfying white bread.

#21: Pain à l’Ancienne (pp. 191-194)

Very high hydration dough Dough shaped into three baguettes Completed Pain à l’Ancienne

I have been looking forward to this one for a while. Lean dough, with an interesting method where you use ice cold water when mixing to delay the yeast from waking up, and do a super long proof in the fridge.

Ended up with 6 crusty, rustic looking baguettes. Really am incredibly happy with this one.

#20: Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire (pp. 187-189)

Multigrain bread, proofing in a bread pan Finished multigrain bread First slice of multigrain bread

I have never been the biggest fan of multigrain bread, but here we are. It’s a white bread with brown rice, rolled oats, bran and cornmeal. Tasted a lot like multigrain bread, and as promised it made great toast. As with so many of these recipes, I’m mainly happy that I was able to make multigrain bread, but likely won’t make it again.

#19: Marbled Rye Bread (pp. 183-186)

Chunks of light and dark dough A pile of alternating colored pieces of dough, waiting for forming into a loaf Cut through a loaf of marbled rye bread

First surprise here was that most of the flour in this recipe was normal bread flour, second surprise was that the only difference between the light and dark doughs was the addition of brown food coloring. I genuinely assumed that they would be made with light and dark flour.

Great taste on this one, makes me want to construct a reuben.

#18: Light Wheat Bread (pp. 181-182)

Light wheat bread, in the baking pan Light wheat bread after proofing Finished light wheat bread, with crumb

Really fast bread to make, and I was genuinely delighted that it tasted a lot like store bought sandwich bread. Unfortunately, I baked the bread a bit askew in the oven so it’s lop-sided.

#17: Lavash Crackers (pp. 178-180)

Lavash cracker dough on a baking tray Lavash cracker dough after being cut and spiced Finished lavash crackers

Simple, fast and fun. Quick dough, rolled flat, covered in spices and baked. Tasted like those pita chips you can get in bags, and the recipe actually mentioned that this dough could be used for pita bread.

#16: Kaiser Buns (pp. 175-177)

Kaiser buns, pre-oven Finished kaiser buns Finished kaiser buns, with crumb

I’ll be honest, despite these being light, airy, tasty bread buns I’m a bit disappointed. I bought a kaiser roll cutter from Amazon specifically so that I could make the characteristic spiral pattern on top of these, and apparently I just didn’t press hard enough for the spiral to stay in (there are the merest hints in the photos). Ah well, another delicious bread!

#15: Italian Bread (pp. 172-174)

Italian bread, shaped into a large batard and some smaller torpedo rolls Italian bread, after slashing Finished Italian bread

Really, really liked this bread. It’s hard to tell from the photos but it was incredibly soft, and the use of the overnight biga gave it a really good flavor.

#14: French Bread (pp. 168-171)

French bread dough on the couche Completed french bread Completed french bread

I’m fairly happy with this one. It tastes like French bread. However, I chose to split the dough into 4 baguettes, with I had done three and made them a bit thicker. Rose just fine in the oven after scoring, I did a much better job with managing the steam this time.

#13: Foccacia (pp. 159-167)

Foccacia dough Foccacia, dimpled and covered with olive oil and herbs Finished foccacia

This is the bread that has gotten me the most compliments so far, and it was SO delicious. Very high hydration dough, more oil than I ever expected to use. 100% delicious. Probably my favorite so far.

#12: English Muffins (pp. 157-158)

English muffin dough, pre proofing English muffins cooking in a cast iron pan Finished english muffins

This may now be the best thing I have ever baked. Perfectly soft in the middle with a bit ofstructure put there by the pan cooked top and bottom. Absolutely delicious!

#11: Cranberry-Walnut Celebration Bread (pp. 154-156)

Cranberry-walnut dough, post-proofing Dough ready to be braided Finished cranberry-walnut loaf

This one stretched my patience. First time through I got careless and completely neglected to add water, leading to a very stiff dough that just didn’t change size. Second time, I forgot to oil parchment paper, and had to do a careful maneuver where I lifted an uncooked dough braid off the paper it was stuck to. End result tastes good though.

#10: Corn Bread (pp. 151-153)

Wet and dry ingredients for corn bread, about ot be mixed Corn bread in a cast iron, pre cooking Finished corn bread

Another pleasant surprise here, never been the biggest fan of corn bread, but this came out super moist, super tasty and also is incredibly fast to make. This quick bread being in a book that’s otherwise about yested breads is maybe a bit surprising but, still, I enjoyed making it.

#9: Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread (pp. 147-149)

Dough with cinnamon sugar Completed cinnamon bread with swirl Completed cinnamon bread loaves

This one was the best surprise of the book so far. I went big with the optional additions of cinnamon sugar (with a swirl inside the bread and cinnamon sugar coating) and this was the most delicious bread I have eaten in a long while. 5/5 would make again.

#8: Cinnamon Buns (pp. 143-146)

Cinnamon bun dough with cinnamon sugar Cinnamon buns proofing in a baking tray Finished cinnamon buns

Enjoyed these greatly. For some reason the recipe suggests making the icing drizzle with 4 cups of powdered sugar, which turned out to bee hugely too much, but the buns were absolutely delightful to eat.

#7: Ciabatta (pp. 135-142)

Ciabatta dough Ciabatta proofing on a couche Completed ciabatta

Finally a bake that feels a bit familiar to me, ciabatta is a wet dough with stretch-and-folds, much like the sourdough I learned from the Tartine book.

Overall, everything seemed to go to plan, and the ciabatta that dropped out look nice, golden and rustic. A little disappointing that I didn’t get the airy, bubble-filled crumb I was after (maybe because I wasn’t doing a great job of steaming up the oven, maybe I handled them too violently), but it’s a great tasting bread.

#6: Challah (pp. 133-134)

Challah being braded Challah loaves on a baking tray Completed challah

I was a bit intimidated starting this one. Challah bread is not something I have ever eaten, and I assumed the braiding would be tough to get right. However, after following the instructions, I was delighted when an airy, sweet, pretty looking bread dropped out the other side.

#5: Casatiello (pp. 129-132)

Ingredients for casatiello Casatiello after proofing Completed casatiello

I was very excited to start this. It is after all, cured meat and cheese in a bread loaf. Unfortunately I ended up not liking this one too much. The salami ended up too crispy for my taste, I would have liked more cheese, and the dough is very similar to brioche (very similar recipes, although the casatiello is lighter on the butter). Overall I think I baked it pretty well, just ended up not being to my taste. Meat and cheese in a leaner dough might suit me better and be something I should investigate.

#4: Brioche (pp. 123-128)

Brioche dough fresh from the fridge Brioche a tete in holders Completed brioche

I’ll be honest, I didn’t know the first thing about brioche before baking it. I did the “rich-man’s brioche”, which has 88% as much butter as it does flour, which is just insane.

Overall, the dough tasted nice, although I couldn’t stop thinking about the amount of butter in there. Unfortunately, I made a mistake somewhere, and instead of having nice little “heads”, the mini-brioches all fell over. A dough that was too slack, over proofed, or just too much in each container, I’ll never know.

Overall, not a giant fan, but I had fun making it.

#3: Bagels (pp. 115-122)

Bagels on a baking tray Bagel boiling Completed bagels

I was pretty excited to try this one, since I love to eat a good bagel, and they have such a different texture from most breads. Very many things in this bake I had never done before, from using high-gluten flour and a low-moisture dough, to boiling each bagel brielfy before baking it.

Overall they came out a little more flat than commercial bagels, but the taste and texture are definitely there. I made bagels!

#2: Artos: Greek Celebration Bread (pp. 111-114)

Artos bread dough with fruits and nuts Artos bread on a baking sheet Completed artos bread

The second bread in BBA is a traditional Greek celebration bread. Like the first recipe, I didn’t expect to like this one too much (cloves, cinnamon, allspice are not my favorite flavors in general), but this was a delicious bread.

I chose to go with the Christopsomo (Christmas bread), just because the cross decoration didn’t look too hard to do, and the flavors (walnuts, raisins, cherries, orange extract) sounded nice. This was a real blast of Christmassy cheer, and is a bread I could definitely see myself making again for the holidays.

#1: Anadama Bread (pp. 108-110)

Anadama bread dough Anadama bread in bread pans Completed anadama bread

Anadama is a traditional bread in New England that contains molasses, milk, and cornmeal (its history is not 100% certain, except it existed in Rockport Massachussetts by 1850). I honestly didn’t expect to like this one too much, since molasses is not a favorite of mine. Overall, though, I was pleasantly surprised that it tasted like a slightly-sweet sandwich bread.

Not my favorite bread in the world, but happy that it worked.