Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Knotty Math Problems

One of the reasons of being part of a baking group, whether that's you and your best friend, or you and the thousands of Daring Bakers, is that you get stretched, challenged, and learn new things all the time. I find that to be true every month with the Bread Baking Babes.

This month's excursion into yeastland looked to be pretty straightforward. Ilva, our hostess for the month chose Italian Knot Rolls. That seemed fairly easy, the only things that gave me pause were the shaping of the rolls and the flour needed. Yes, it was time for another King Arthur order for Italian flour.

Just a quick note about this flour, which I have never used before. It is amazingly fine and soft. Rubbed between the fingers it is almost like powdered sugar. If you are a flour scoffer and say, "Ha, all flours are alike, I"ll just use all-purpose," you won't get the nice, fine crumb you'd get with this beautiful flour.

So, I've set you up for how easy these rolls are, right? And if you want to see beautiful, perfect rolls, go visit the other Babes pages to see how wonderfully they did with this challenge. As for me, I didn't.

My big stumbling block was trying to convert fresh yeast in grams to dry active yeast in teaspoons for the biga. It didn't help that my engineer husband who was trying his best to figure it out for me didn't know that fresh yeast was not the same as active yeast. After a period of time which involved some raised voices, in frustration I guessed at the yeast, threw it over the flour I had measured out into a a bowl, then dumped the water in on top of that.

Um, that's not how it's supposed to go. At this point, I didn't care. I just stirred it all up. Except it wouldn't come together. So I added more water. And more. And more. Then I left it covered to do whatever it wanted. If I came back and it bubbled, fantastic. If not, I'd start over again.

Well, it was bubbly, so I ploughed ahead with the recipe. But it was awfully slack dough. Really moist and sticky. So when I shaped the knots, they didn't stay in their distinctive knotty shape, but relaxed into a pile of ooze on the baking sheets.

That might have even been OK, but for some reason I grabbed my spray bottle and spritzed in the oven when I put the rolls in. Steam = crust. I didn't know how the rolls were supposed to turn out, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't supposed to be so crusty.

So, I'll have to give it another try. When my brain comes back from holiday. And I have a lot of people hungry for delicious, warm rolls.

Thanks, Ilva, for the recipe and the excuse to stock my pantry with yet more flour.

If you'd like to try your hand at making Italian knot rolls, bake them up, post them by May 30th, and send a link to Ilva and she'll send you a Baking Buddy Badge to proudly display on your blog.

Pane Di Pasta Tenera Condita (Italian Knot Bread)


500 g / 1.1 lb normal bread flour
5 g / 0.17 oz fresh yeast, 1/4 tsp dry instant yeast, or 1 tsp active dry yeast
240 ml / 1 cup water

- Dissolve the yeast in a little water and quickly work the dough together.
- Put it in a container, cover it with a half closed lid or kitchen towel and leave it for 15-24 hrs.


1 kg / 2.2 lb. flour (type 00)
60 g / 2.1 oz lard (or shortening)
30 g fresh yeast , or 2 Tbsp active dry yeast
450-550 ml / 1.9-2.3 cups water, handwarm
25 g salt (about 2 Tbsp)
50 g/ 1.7 oz extra-virgin olive oil
25 g / .88 oz honey
500 g / l.l lb. biga

- Put the flour either in a big bowl or on a baking board, add the lard (or shortening) and mix it with your fingers until it has 'crumbled' and is completely mixed with the flour.
- Dissolve the yeast in little tepid water and add it to the flour. Mix as well as you can.
- Mix salt, olive oil and honey with the handwarm water and add it to the flour. Now work it it until it holds together and then add the biga.
- Work the dough until it is smooth and doesn't stick.
- Put it into a big bowl, cover it with plastic film and leave to rise until it has doubled.
- Now take up the dough and divide it into 12 equal parts and roll them it into long strands (about 30-35 cm)
- To make the knots: (Ilva's page has pictures of this)
1- Roll out the dough into snakes and lay them out on a flat surface.
2- Make a semi-circle with the dough strands.
3- Twist the two ends together like in the photo.
4- Bring the two ends towards the upper part of the circle.
5- Lift/fold the top part over the twisted part.
6- Take the two end and join them together under the actual knot, this will make the knot part come out more and it hides the ends.

- Put the knots on baking sheets and leave to rise (covered) until they have doubled in size.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven (200°C/390°F) for 25-35 minutes until golden brown.


Lien said...

well slacky dough or not, your rolls look very good to me!
I understand the confusion with calculating g of fresh, dry active and dry instant yeast I find that very knotty too!

How To Eat A Cupcake said...

Mmm... Looks super yummy to me!! :D I love fresh bread! I've just recently gotten into it! Nothing beats the smell of yeast dough proofing in a warm oven!

Maria said...

They look perfect!! I love homemade bread of any kind!

Natashya said...

They are so cute! I love the shaping of them and I think a crusty crust would be wonderful!

Melinda said...

Your crusty little buns look very cute.
(I like writing/saying buns.)

eatme_delicious said...

Oh no! Sorry to hear about your frustrating bread experience. They do look gorgeous though.

breadchick said...

The KA Italian flour was like running your fingers through angel wings wasn't it.

I found shaping to be challenging but oh the taste and dough. Yum.

And I don't know about slack because your knots look pretty darn good to me.

Engineer Baker said...

I actually love crusty rolls - yum! But I'll keep that in mind; no steam on this bread :) Yours look pretty darned good though...

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Uh . . . yours look just perfect to me.
Yes, I did think this was very different flour (KA 00 Italian) I'm going to be happy to bake another bread with it. Love Mary's it feels like angel wings ;o)

The Mathster said...

And people say math they never use math in everyday life! It's everywhere!

Ilva said...

I did notice that they had a different kind of crust than mine and now I know why, I think I have to try that because they look so good! I am sorry the bread caused you so much trouble though-.

Peabody said...

Those are some tasty looking rolls. Roll one over my way please.

Marjoke said...

Well, you could have fooled me! Your bread dooesn't look as if things didn't wordk out as they should.
The colour is wonderful and I like the way the knots looks. And cripsy too; what else do you want!

görel said...

There is no way that one could notice that these rolls had been causing trouble and misbehaving. They look perfectly fine! And do try them again, I think you'll that it's worth it!

Baking Soda said...

It's about the only place I can do math; in the kitchen! Your rolls look really good, math or no math bake by feel. I love that!

Debbie said...

Homemade bread is so delicious. Yours looks wonderful!

The Blonde Duck said...

It looks very tasty!

Elyse said...

Oy...math, conversions...eek! You know what, though?! I think your knots look great. The picture of your pulling apart the knot looks absolutely delicious. Man oh man, yummy!

Abby said...

I'd never know they weren't right if you didn't tell. I'd love one right now!

monique said...

Good heaven , they look so and outside .Lovely and all equal...

ejm said...

I'm going to be baking Italian knots today (I hope - if I can figure out the knotting...) and am thinking it's a GREAT idea to have them turn out crusty. So good idea to spray them.


(I had a similar problem with figuring out how much active dry yeast to use - my husband, who is one of those irritating people who cooks really well - including bread - by feel rather than measuring just said, "You've made lots of bread; why don't you use the amount you think is right?" Rrrrrrrr.)

Sara said...

looks good though. i too had trouble with the yeast conversion....made my head hurt!

Web Development said...

I love choco crinkles..

Melanie Anne said...

Hi there Lynn--it has been too long since I stopped by! I somehow lost my favorites list of cooking sites--my little boys use my computer!--Anyway--I am glad to be back to your delightful sight! These bread knots look amazing! And the chocolate crinkle cookies sound decandent!! Yum!! Thanks for sharing!

Mermaid Sweets said...

Looks great to me. I am terrible at math, just terrible. I am finding it is a bit of handicap as a baker, if i had only known.

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