Vegetarian Meatball Sub

That’s what my gent said after biting into — then gorging on — these vegetarian meatball subs I made last night. Credit must be given to a) lentils, one of the most underrated legumes, and b) Jennie of In Jennie’s Kitchen, for her keen ability to realize this. The consistency makes for a very convincing mock meat, especially if the lentils are cooked and puréed well (Note: I used Cheddar cheese instead of Parmesan and Italian breadcrumbs instead of plain).

But it doesn’t stop there. Yesterday was a spectacular day. I had a relaxing four-hour-long henna hair dying session, resulting in an orange-red head hue. Today at work some old fuddy-duddy said my employer should be represented by a “blond bombshell” instead of a “firebomb,” but I am comforted by the fact that he is much uglier than I. Then I started sewing a skirt and whipped up a strawberry smoothie, all the while baking my first ever artisan breads, pane Francese (pictured above) and whole wheat bread.

Artisan Whole Wheat Bread

During my flight back to Seattle — when I wasn’t busy watching Animal Planet shows about octopuses, that is — I was poring over a magnificent book, Baking Artisan Bread by Ciril Hitz. Reading it has made me realize I will need a baker’s scale, among other things. Sans scale, I was a bit cautious about commencing with these two baking projects, but each one turned out excellent. The pane Francese (a.k.a. french bread) went perfectly with the mock meatballs and the whole wheat bread is, well, a damn fine loaf of bread.

Now, let’s get to those recipes.

Baking Artisan Bread by Ciril Hitz
Recipes from Baking Artisan Bread by Ciril Hitz




Pane Francese (French Bread)
Makes 16 to 20 square rolls, but this is a lenient recipe. I was able to make 12 rectangular sub-appropriate loaves out of it.

Note: You will need a baking stone and parchment paper, as well as a water-filled bowl you’re willing to place on the lower rack of your oven and throw ice cubes into. An oven thermometer also does wonders.

Prepare the biga by gently mixing together for 3 minutes, until ingredients are incorporated:

  • 2 cups and 3 tablespoons (280 g) bread flour
  • 0.75 cup (168 g) water at 77˚F (25˚C)
  • 2 tsp (2.1 g) instant yeast (TIP: instant yeast is often marketed as bread machine yeast)

The biga should feel smooth, tight, and somewhat rubbery after being mixed. Do not add more water. Place the biga in a greased container, large enough to accommodate twice the biga’s current size. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature 1 to 2 hours until doubled. The biga is now theoretically ready to use, but the flavor of the bread will be improved if you degas it by gently pressing down on the biga with your hands, cover it, and place it in the fridge overnight. (I did so with much success.)

Cut the biga into smaller pieces (2″ x 4″ or so). Place in a large bowl and then add biga pieces:

  • 1.33 cups (294 g) water at 95˚F (35˚C)

Add:

  • 3 cups and 3 tablespoons (408 g) bread flour
  • 2.25 tsp (12 g) salt

Mix slowly for 4 minutes, then increase mixing speed to medium for an additional 6 minutes. Gently pour the dough into a greased square or rectangular container large enough to accommodate doubling. Cover and let rest 90 minutes.

Invert container onto surface covered with:

  • Roasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 480˚F (250˚C) with both baking stone and container filled halfway with water inside for at least an hour before baking.

Divide dough into rectangles. The book’s recipe calls for about 2″ x 2″ squares, but mine were more like 5″ x 7″. Gently flip rectangles over (seed side up) onto parchment paper, cover with a cloth, and let rise 45 minutes. TIP: To make it easier to place the loaves in the oven, place the parchment paper on top of an upside-down baking sheet. This way, you can “shovel” the parchment paper directly onto the hot baking stone, although some careful tugging at the paper may be necessary.

Carefully transfer the parchment paper and loaves into the oven, directly atop the baking stone. Grab a few cubes of ice and place them in the water-filled bowl. Be careful — there will likely be steam. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the crust forms a nice golden color. Prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon handle for the last 2 to 3 minutes of baking to let extra moisture out.

Place finished bread loaves on a wire rack and allow to cool for at least an hour before eating.

Whole Wheat Bread
Makes two loaves

Prepare the biga by gently mixing together for 3 minutes, until ingredients are incorporated:

  • 1.33 cups and 1 tbsp (180 g) bread flour
  • 0.5 cup (107 g) water at 70˚F (21˚C)
  • 1.25 tsp (1.3 g) instant yeast (TIP: instant yeast is often marketed as bread machine yeast)

The biga should feel smooth, tight, and somewhat rubbery after being mixed. Do not add more water. Place the biga in a greased container, large enough to accommodate twice the biga’s current size. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature 1 to 2 hours until doubled. The biga is now theoretically ready to use, but the flavor of the bread will be improved if you degas it by gently pressing down on the biga with your hands, cover it, and place it in the fridge overnight. (I did so with much success.)

In a large bowl, mix slowly for 4 minutes, then at medium speed for 2 minutes:

  • Biga
  • 5.5 cups (657 g) whole wheat flour
  • - If biga has been refrigerated: 2 cups (462 g) water at 95˚F (35˚C)
    - If biga has not been refrigerated: 2 cups (462 g) water at 75˚F (24˚C)
  • 2.5 tbsp (52 g) honey
  • 0.75 tsp (2.5 g) instant yeast
  • 3 tsp (16 g) salt

Optionally, add slowly until fully incorporated:

  • 0.33 cup (50 g) roasted sunflower seeds
  • 0.33 cup (50 g) roasted sesame seeds
  • 0.33 cup (50 g) roasted pumpkin seeds

Place dough in greased container, large enough to allow for doubling. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and allow to rest 45 minutes.

Give the dough a stretch and fold it together, then let rest for an additional 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450˚F (230˚C) with a water-filled bowl on lower rack at least an hour before baking.

Divide dough in half using knife or dough cutter. Shape bread using batard shaping technique (see video).

To add oats to the top of your loaves, place newly-shaped batards on a wet facecloth, then lay wet side of loaves on a bed of rolled oats. The side covered with rolled oats will be the top half when you place the loaves into pans.

Place immediately into greased loaf pans, cover with a sheet of plastic (or make a tent out of a plastic bag), and let them proof 1 to 1.5 hours at room temperature.

Place loaves in the oven, then add several ice cubes to the water-filled bowl to create steam. Bake for 20 minutes. With loaves still in oven, adjust oven temperature to 380˚F (190˚C) and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pan and bake directly on wire racks for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove the loaves from the oven and let cool on a wire rack.

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