BBA Challenge #43: Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche

also known as…the END!

Trite as it may be, I do feel the need at this final post in the BBA Challenge venture to take stock, and consider what I’ve learned.  So before writing up this last bread, let’s pause for reflection.

I started this challenge 4th of July weekend of 2009.  I finished  this challenge June 26, 2011.  I won’t lie, the impending two year mark definitely gave me the final kick in the seat to bake that last bread.  (It did not, however, push me to post about it before this deadline of sorts, but close enough).

Two years ago, there was just little E, though not long after I started this challenge we found out that baby H was also in the oven.  (I can’t help the cliché/pun; I am writing a post about bread here).  I don’t know if the BBA Challenge somehow reached him in the womb, but the boy likes bread.  

Four years ago, living in London, I bought this book on Amazon marketplace for $5, after seeing it recommended on The Fresh Loaf.  I immediately started baking from it, but mainly made brioche.  I was intrigued by the Pannetone recipe but figured I’d never get around to making the sourdough breads.  Making my own starter just seemed all too intimidating, and I didn’t have any other eccentrics in my circle of acquaintances who could give me a bit of their starter.  After several failures at rearing my own, my sister-in-law scored  a Harvard Law School prof’s starter for me, which I managed not to kill.  Then I managed, with a bit more patience, to grow my own starter.  Now I’m a full-on sourdough snob!

I can’t guess at how many 5lb bags of flour I’ve gone through, not to mention weird specialty ingredients like fiori di sicilia and diastatic barley malt powder.  (Fortunately I live very close to the King Arthur Flour headquarters).  I’ve met a lot of other baker-bloggers (and have been sucked into further challenges, not all of which I have followed through with), and have even drug old friends into the challenge (not that they were kicking and screaming about it).  

I’ve also had my Kitchen Aid mixer (that appliance that is supposedly indestructible) blow out and have learned that there are only two places in the whole state that will fix it (and that fixing it is not cheap, but at least I got a trip to Salem out of it I guess.  Yes, that Salem from the witch trials).

I probably don’t remember but hazily (except for my posts) many of the breads I made along the way, and there were certainly some recipes that I never would have made but for the challenge.  Which was a good thing.  English muffins?  Pretty cool.  Casatiello?  Surprisingly addictive.  Stollen?  Still not sure about that one, but I will try it again, probably leaving out the booze was a bad idea. 

Most importantly I have gotten into the habit of baking bread nearly every weekend, which is a comforting, grounding ritual with everything else going on throughout the week.

Musings done.  On to this last bread (speaking of recipes I never would have tried absent the challenge).  I’d been told that this last one is a showstopper and I was not disappointed.  It was savory and rich  and I kept tearing hunks off against my better judgment (so it went to work, which as I’ve admitted I do as a  matter of self-preservation).  I halved the recipe (though almost forgot this at several points, which luckily I  realized before disaster ensued–can you imagine the horror, on my last challenge!  I am sure you shudder to consider it).  I took liberties with the variations as well:  I used red onions and jack cheese, to wonderful effect.  Red onions, being naturally sweet already, caramelize even sweeter.  Jack cheese, by the way, is delicious–I can’t remember how long ago I last had it, but I think I need to step away from the French and Spanish cheese counters a bit more often.

The dough was wonderfully smooth and developed, as you can see from the photo below–all the bits and bobs were held together by the dough’s surface tension, leaving nothing poking out.  In fact this only needed to be kneaded (hee hee) for four minutes to come out so nicely (which is one thing I still haven’t figured out–why was four minutes sufficient here, while in most cases Reinhart requires 8-10 minutes?  Anyone know?).  Because it was the last bread, I even kneaded it by hand.  I have gotten in the habit of using the stand mixer, even though I do enjoy kneading and feeling the bread transform from a sticky ragged mess to a smooth, springy ball under my palms.  Whacking the dough on the counter from time to time is fun too, if you have any latent aggression or stress.

All in all, an appropriate end to the BBA Challenge.    And now there’s nothing more left to say but hurah! 

(And…should I sign up for another challenge?)

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22 thoughts on “BBA Challenge #43: Roasted Onion and Asiago Miche

  1. I’m glad someone besides my mom and me, well not glad really, blow out our KitchenAids. I just hand knead a lot of dough after breaking the first one. What a great post. You’ve done a lot in two years! The bread by the way looks wonderful.

    • I hear you–it makes me feel better that I’m not the only one. All the bread baking books tell you to run the mixer on medium (and sometimes even high) speed while the instruction booklet says not to go past 2. Yet I was “good” and kept it on the low end and somehow tragedy ensued. My kitchenaid is so big (I’ve got the pro) that it’s sort of a pain to deal with in other ways…

  2. Congratulations! What a fun wrap-up post, I loved reading all of it, thanks for sharing. I blew out my mixer, too, and now it is fixed and I never put bread dough in it…I’m a hands on kneader only! Your final bread looks like absolute perfection! I think I have 10 left yet, something like that.

  3. This looks like a great recipe to end on – I remember you’ve been a bit ‘meh’ about some of the previous recipes, but this looks like a goodie!

  4. Congratulations on keeping a challenge (and such a challenge!) for such a long time (I have discovered your blog very recently). I am not disciplined enough to take on any cooking/baking challenge at all.
    I observe more and more people baking good sourdough bread and probably will never start baking my own, since even with my favourite (and only acceptable) baker very far from my house, I eat really too much bread (French baguette to be precise). I am really a bread addict and can’t even imagine what I would look like if I started to bake good bread at home!

    • Oh absolutely–why do you think these loaves keep ending up at work? We have a fantastic baker nearby too, so it’s a bad situation, overall 😉

  5. Congratulations!!! What an accomplishment! I am in the sour doughs and having some trouble with my starter and I’m determined to stay here and figure it out before moving on. I’m a sourdough snob wanna be right now. I can’t wait to get to this bread- hopefully before my 2 year mark too.

    • It took a lot of tries for me and the sourdough as well, as you’ve seen. You can always buy it online (king arthur’s or elsewhere) or I can send you some if you are desperate. Rye seems much easier to get going and you can always convert it to wheat later too just by feeding it with wheat flour. What I love about sourdough is that it goes stale so much slower than regular bread. It doesn’t quite last a week, but almost!

  6. Congratulations! Job well done. My husband is considering a job in White River Junction, which will cut down on postage from King Arthur.

    Why don’t you had over to mellow bakers? http://mellowbakers.com/ I personally am considering making all the breads in Maggie Glezer’s Artisan Bakers across America. I have really enjoyed every recipe that I have made so far.

    • I DO have the Hamelman book, after all…I did think about Mellow Bakers when it launched but figured I’d better finish up at least ONE challenge before starting yet another. Maybe now it’s time to re-evaluate. I have checked out Glezer’s book MANY times from the library and am always about to purchase it…I would LOVE to make that pandoro recipe in there someday. Tell me if you start with that one…

      • Maggie Glezer’s book is TERRIFIC! I’ve made many of the recipes in that book and they’re really good. She’s the baker who first taught me not to be afraid of seriously wet bread dough…

  7. That’s one mouth-watering loaf of bread – we’re proud of you for your tenacity in the Roasted Onion Asiago Quest . Trust you are close enough that you can get the ingredients you need – even with our construction! Happy Baking! Irene @ KAF

    • Thanks! I am seriously thinking about the Glezer book. I like Local Breads too but am afraid to make many of the recipes that require amping the kitchenaid up to speed 10!

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