Fennel, Anise, Biscotti

Discussion in 'Cookies' started by Bob, Jan 4, 2018.

  1. Bob

    Bob Member

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    I have tried for a few years to figure out why the anise flavor in my favorite biscotti seems to bake off and really dissipate. I have used up to 3 tablespoons of fresh homegrown fennel seed, coarsely ground along with 1 tablespoon anise extract and still I cannot produce the strong anise flavor I am seeking.

    In the dough the flavor seems good and it is very fragrant. After the first baking the flavor is pretty good, but after the 2nd baking, the anise flavor really drops off. At this point I have to use 2 1/2 tablespoons of coarsely ground fennel seed to produce ok anise flavor--but not great.

    The recipe consists of flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder and baking soda, pinch of salt, ground fennel (sometimes anise extract is also added), and almonds. No fat is added; these are strictly dunking biscuits--every morning with my coffee!

    I bake at 350 for 30 minutes, cut, then bake again for 15 at 350 standing up.

    I have tried adding some butter, but this has not helped to hold the flavor. I don't like what it does to the texture of the biscotti.

    The only thing that seems to help if grinding the fennel seed very coarsely. A fine grind seems to accelerate the baking off of the flavor.

    Would anyone know what is causing the fennel flavor to dissipate??!! I've searched the web and cannot find anything.
     
    Bob, Jan 4, 2018
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  2. Bob

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I learned to make biscotti at a culinary school in Tuscany. We did not grind the fennel seed. This is the method I was taught and continue to use for fennel and almond biscotti.

    Place a tablespoon of sugar on a piece of parchment paper, set aside

    Heat a dry frying on medium low

    Dry roast seeds in a frying for a minute

    Place seeds on sugar. With a rolling pin, gently roll back and forth over seeds to bruise then and release the oils.

    Alternatively, you can place sugar and fennel in a mortar and gently bruise with a pestle.

    Mix into dough per recipe

    Just an aside, all biscotti contains fat as egg yolks are 33% fat. The distinction between authentic Italian biscotti (di Prato) and other biscotti is the absence of chemical leavening and additional fat. The lack of chemical leavening and addition fat produces a dense hard cookie that must be dunked to soften enough to chew. Biscotti made with leavening is softer. When carbon dioxide gas is released, it expanses the dough. That expansion creates air pockets. The result is a fluffier/puffer softer cookie.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jan 4, 2018
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  3. Bob

    Bob Member

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    I can't thank you enough for taking the time for your really interesting reply. It makes sense given my experiences. I will try it this weekend and post my results when I get the hang of it.

    Also, thanks so much for the not on authentic biscotti. Fascinating... I have wondered about pre-chemical leveners. I've read about bicarbonate of ammonia also, tried it, but did not like it. If you have any recipes you care to pass on for authentic old fashioned biscotti, I would sure love to see them!

    Again, thanks so much.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 16, 2018
    Bob, Jan 5, 2018
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  4. Bob

    Bob Member

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    Well, I tried your method twice. The first time I was not very successful; I think I rolled the fennel too much. The second time I rolled it much less and tried to only bruise the toasted seed as you said. This second time around I got excellent flavor and was very happy with the improvement. I think I have a ways to go on the technique (and the biscotti overall), but I may indeed be on the way to solving this problem thanks to you kind assistance.

    Thanks again!! I really appreciate it.
     
    Bob, Jan 16, 2018
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  5. Bob

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    I’m glad the technique achieved the flavor you wanted in your biscotti. You are correct that it’s important to just lightly toast and bruise the seeds . Ground or fully crushed seeds will release all their oils into vessel/parchment used to grind/crush, so oils will never makes it into the dough.


    I bake a lot of biscotti. I’ve discovered that Americans prefer biscotti that is crunchy, but not dry. Soft enough to bite through without dipping. They also prefer a much larger size biscotti than traditional Italian biscotti.


    What works best for me.

    Unbleached flour: very important for the texture. Unbleached flour produces a more open crumb. Bleached flour produces a finer smoother textured cookie.

    Flour protein content of 11% or higher: protein content below 11% produces a finer crumb, a less crunchy and softer cookie.


    Unmalted flour: malt is added to flour to enhance browning. Since biscotti is twice baked, I find malted flour produces an overly brown biscotti. Browning affects taste as it’s the caramelization of the flour. The more flour caramelizes, the more bitter notes it develops. Those bitter notes overpower the other flavors in the cookie.

    Do not over mix: over mixing compacts the dough making it more likely to crumble when sliced.

    Dough Handling:
    • Use a scoop to transfer dough from bowl to baking sheet
    • Slightly overlap the scoops of dough as you line them up on cookie sheet
    • Use very wet fingers to keep dough from sticking to hands while gently shaping dough into uniform logs


    Cool: first bake, after 5 minutes transfer biscotti logs still on parchment to cooling rack. Run off set spatula under logs to release from parchment. Slide parchment out and discard. Cool at least 20 more minutes. If biscotti logs are left on parchment stream condensation builds up on bottom. Biscotti too warm in center will crack when sliced


    Serrated knife: serrated knife with long strokes keeps biscotti from crumbling.


    Second bake: I prefer to set each but Scotty slice up right to allow for circulation on both sides of the cookie and to control browning. I do not bake to time. I bake to feel. Biscotti is done when cookies fell rigid with almost no give when squeezed between two fingers.


    Temperature: first bake 350°; second bake 300°


    My preferred flour brand and type is Central Milling Organic Artisan Craft a hard red winter wheat with 11.5% protein.


    https://centralmilling.com/product/organic-artisan-bakers-craft/

    First two photos are biscotti made with Artisan Craft unmalted flour. Note the color compared to malted flour biscotti below
    425AB53E-F6BD-43CF-B479-CF45F8123EEC.jpeg

    Unmalted Artisan Craft flour
    90088C2E-94D9-44E1-B383-F8B1549ED40E.jpeg


    King Arthur All Purpose flour. While the protein is good at 11.7%, the malt produces an overly brown cookie. I threw this batch out. The flavor was inferior to the Artisan Craft flour.

    3D899D39-88B1-455B-B576-F2F759491F15.jpeg
     

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    Norcalbaker59, Jan 16, 2018
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  6. Bob

    Bob Member

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    Wow, thanks again. Thanks for the pictures! They really look beautiful. Your chocolate dip on one side is really unique looks great. Your almonds are just how I like them: left whole... Something tells me you are a professional baker!! So, thanks again for taking time to pass on the tips. I have not found cookbooks too helpful for biscotti.

    There is a lot to think about and try here. After thinking and trying I'll get back to you.

    Thanks for confirming the light toasting and bruising. I suspected the oils were evaporating away, but couldn't figure out a way to avoid this. You really saved me and it would have taken some real luck to have stumbled on a solution.

    As for your flour recommendation, it sounds very interesting and I will look into it. I use 1 3/4 cups of grocery store brand of unbleached white flour (Wegmans) and, believe it or not, 1/4 cup of the same brand of whole wheat flour along with 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon baking soda. I am pretty satisfied with my texture of the cookie; my challenge has always been to get crisp almonds without burning the cookie. For the most part, I really like the white flour I use, but indeed, it is a bit sensitive to browning just as is the King Arthur you show above. You really hit the nail on the head again! You are SO right that browning just does not taste good with biscotti--this has always amazed me as I enjoy many cookies a bit over done. My second biggest challenge with the biscotti has always been crisping almonds without over browning the cookie. Your flour recommendation may help in this regard. I'm not sure if the 300 F second bake would be sufficient, I've experimented in the past but will experiment further as I'm bolstered by your success.

    One thing I've noticed is that when there is a lengthwise crack thru the almond after the second bake, well, it is then wonderfully crisp. However, this is hard for me to achieve.

    Do you use roasted almonds? I do. I've tried blanching to remove the skin and roasting myself, but while they taste and smell excellent for eating, I have not had success baking with them in the biscotti. Yet, a friend of mine has great success blanching and roasting...

    As for texture, I like biscotti very crisp and always eat mine by dunking in coffee or milk. They are a bit hard to eat without dunking. I have had some great biscotti that could be eaten with out dunking, but I have not yet learned any recipes for them. That said, my biscotti look similar to yours in shape--especially the first picture. The only other type of biscotti I've made is an anisette toast but I've not made them as often.

    I noted that you said to not mix too much. My dough is quite stiff. 3 eggs to 2 cups flour & 2/3 cup sugar. Are your proportions similar? Sometimes I actually knead them a bit to mix in the last of the sugar and flour.

    I bake biscotti at home once a week and we usually run out a day or two early!

    Thanks and I will experiment further and drop you a note.
     
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2018
    Bob, Jan 23, 2018
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  7. Bob

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Good morning Bob,

    While I’ve seen some Italian recipes specifically warn against over browning, since European flour is not routinely malted, it’s not something most European bakers need to consciously think about. When European bakers want to achieve enhanced browning in a product, they simply add diastatic malt powder.

    I believe the Wegman’s unbleached flour is malted. The package should list it in the ingredients.


    - Regarding almonds: I always use whole raw almonds to prevent over roasted nuts. I use unblanched nuts only because I think it’s more aesthetically suited to biscotti.


    - Regarding ratios: My ratios are a lot different. Depending on how you fill your measuring cup, your biscotti contains between 56% - 66% eggs. For a traditional biscotti (no butter) egg is usually between 35% - 45%. My traditional biscotti is 36% eggs, and biscotti with butter is 41% eggs. So considerably less egg.


    - Regarding leavening: I use some leavening, but never baking soda. I use baking powder within the standard of 5 grams (1 teaspoon) per 120 - 140 grams (1 cup) flour.

    Baking soda is drying and produces a denser tighter crumb. I prefer an open rustic crumb for biscotti.

    The standard for baking soda is 1/4 teaspoon per cup of flour. So 1 teaspoon of baking soda is enough for 4 cups of flour. Too much baking soda will impart a bitter chemical taste.

    - Regarding hard biscotti: traditional biscotti is definitely hard. But homemade biscotti tends to be rock hard.

    You can probably soften your biscotti some by increasing the sugar and eliminating the whole wheat. Sugar is a tenderizer. The whole wheat flour is probably countering any benefits from the extra egg. The only moisture is from the eggs. Whole wheat requires 100% hydration, which is nearly twice as much as All Purpose flour. So the use of whole wheat flour always requires a substantial increase in moisture.

    You could also try ribboned eggs. Use baker’s sugar. Make sure your eggs are at least 72°. Then beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture fades to pale yellow and when the beaters are lifted out, the mixture that falls off the beaters forms a ribbon and takes a few seconds to disappear.

    https://www.bakepedia.com/tipsandtricks/basic-baking-terms-until-a-ribbon-forms/


    - Regarding no dunk biscotti: If you want a biscotti that can be eaten without dunking, then you need less egg and some additional fat (butter). The recipe below makes a biscotti that is nice and crunchy and can be eaten without dunking. You can use any type of citrus or omit it. I actually increase it when making dried tart cherry and pistachio or pignoli and fennel seed biscotti.

    I noted the product brands I use since flour, butter, and salt differ substantially by brand. Diamond brand kosher salt is less salty than other brands. That’s the reason it’s used in commercial kitchens. If using a different brand of salt or table salt, I’d recommend you reduce the amount of salt. I only bake with cane sugar as sugar beet sugar does not caramelize properly.

    I bake by metric weight, so the volume measurements are approximations. Please see the note on measuring flour by volume. How it’s measured is important if not using a food scale.


    Biscotti

    200g cane sugar (approx 1 cup) (C&H brand. Domino brand on the East Coast and southern states is the same as C&H)

    Zest 1 large orange

    3 g Diamond Brand kosher salt (3/4 teaspoon)

    11g baking powder (2 teaspoons)

    122g butter (1 stick + 2 teaspoons) Kerrygold or Plugra

    10g vanilla extract (2 teaspoons)

    145g eggs, slightly beaten (approx 3 large eggs

    350g flour Central Milling Artisan Craft unmalted flour (approx 3 cups - SEE NOTE BELOW!)

    1 egg white (optional egg wash)

    Sanding sugar (optional topping)


    Add ins I normally use:
    • Montmorency tart dried cherries, roughly chopped (Trader Joe’s)
    • raw unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped

    Or
    • Fennel seeds, very lightly toasted and bruised
    • whole raw unbalanced unsalted almonds

    Or
    • Raw unsalted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped
    • Valrhona white chocolate, chopped

    OR
    • Raw unsalted pignoli (pine nuts)
    • Fennel seeds


    NOTE ON FLOUR VOLUME MEASUREMENT: stir flour to aerate. Spoon into measuring cup until flour is above the rim. Do NOT pack it down. Level the flour even with the rim of the measuring cup with a straight edge


    • First bake 350° approximately 25 - 30 min (I go by feel)
    • Second bake 300° until firm with only a slight give. Again, I go by feel
    Second bake, use two baking sheets to prevent overcrowding and allow adequate heat circulation. I also place cookies upright to allow heat circulation around the cookies. and to better control browning. Laying the cut side of the cookie on the hot tray just makes it brown more.

    Instructions
    Infuse sugar by rubbing zest into it with fingers. Let sit 10 min

    Mixer with paddle attachment

    Mix sugar, baking powder, and salt until well blended

    Add butter and cream on medium speed approx 90 seconds

    Scrape sides and bottom

    Cream 90 seconds more

    Scrape sides and bottom

    Add vanilla extract and half the egg, beat on medium low 30 seconds

    Scrape sides and bottom

    Add remainder of egg beat 30 seconds more. Mixture will look curdled.

    Scrape sides and bottom.

    Sift flour into the mixing bowl

    Mix on low until just combined. There will be traces of flour.

    Add nuts, seeds, dried fruit, just mix to distribute

    Form logs on parchment lined baking sheet

    Brush with egg whites and sprinkle with sanding sugar if desired.

    Bake 25 - 30 mins until just firm, but gives some when pressed lightly. Remove from oven.

    Reduce oven temperature 300°

    Cool 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack

    Run offset spatula under biscotti. Remove and discard parchment paper.

    Cool approximately 20 minutes

    Slice with serrated knife

    Place sliced biscotti upright on two baking sheets. Do not crowd to allow good heat circulation.

    Bake 10 mins

    Rotate sheets between the racks and turn baking trays 1/2 turn.

    Bake until done.

    Done can be another 10 - 15 mins. Sometimes a bit longer. Feel for doneness. Cookies should be firm, with a slight give, but feel dry.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Jan 24, 2018
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  8. Bob

    Bob Member

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    Just wanted to thank you for the reply. Work...has been crazy so have not been able to get to it.

    Still good luck with the bruising technique.

    This may sound crazy, but for some reason I like the flavor best with 1 t each of baking soda and baking powder. I've experimented with this for over a year. Baffles me after what you said...

    Anyway, my main goal now is to find a flour locally with no barley malt. Red Mill may be it. The shipping cost is just too much on the recommended flour--but it sure looks wonderful.

    Also, will go back to trying raw almonds over roasted.

    Thanks again. Hope to try your recipes... and give a better response later.
     
    Bob, Feb 2, 2018
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  9. Bob

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Yes shipping costs are always an issue. I’m fortunate that I live in the Napa Valley. So I just hop in the car and drive over to Keith Giusto Bakery Supply for the Central Milling flour.
     
    Norcalbaker59, Feb 2, 2018
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  10. Bob

    Bob Member

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    Well, I've tried 2 varieties of flour without barley malt: Bob's Red Mill and a local artisan flour from an organic foods grocery store. I would say that I have a bit less browning and much less near burning at the edges and points, but not quite as nice as your pictures above. Do you think the Central Milling flour is really that good that it could be the answer?

    I haven't yet solved the problem of consistently crisp almonds without over-browning the cookie. I tried several batches of raw almonds and several with roasted almonds. While I like the plumpness of the raw almonds better, I can't quite get them as crisp as I would like. Any suggestions on crisp almonds without over-browning the cookie?

    The method of toasting the fennel seed and rolling in sugar is just amazing. I can't than you enough!! However, I've had some problems with consistency of the anise flavor. How long do you toast the fennel (or anise) seed? Do you have any clues, such as color or smell or feel, as to when I have toasted them enough? I would estimate I toast the seed about 3-5 minutes on low heat, however, much of the time is used up in working up to enough heat as I don't want to over-toast.

    Thanks again!
     
    Bob, May 2, 2018
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  11. Bob

    Bob Member

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    Oh, haven't tried any of your recipes yet, but I will. Just too many irons in the fire now and for the foreseeable future. But thanks again, I certainly do appreciate it.
     
    Bob, May 2, 2018
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  12. Bob

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    Hello Bob, nice to hear from you again. Glad to hear you are still baking biscotti when you can. No worries about the recipes I posted. It’s there for info.

    So I’ll go through each question in the order you asked.

    Flour: yes, I believe Central Milling flour produces a better biscotti in both texture, flavor, and aesthetics.

    Of wheat flours, I stock 5 different types of Central Milling flours; 2 King Arthur flours; Gold Medal AP; and Softasilk cake flour. The Gold Medal and Softasilk have specific and very limited applications (e.g., sugar cookies, shortbread, and cake). So Central Milling and King Arthur are the two flours I use the most in my baking. I bake 3-4 times a week. So I’m very familiar with how these brands perform. I find the Central Milling produces overall better results.

    Aside from flour treatments (bleaching and malting), another factor that really effects the Maillard reaction (browning) is type of sugar.

    If more browning is desired, cane sugar is used as sugar beet sugar doesn’t brown well at all.

    Almonds: I do not think there is an answer for your desire to have both a plump and crunchy almond.

    All DOMESTIC almonds DISTRIBUTED through retailers are pasteurized or chemically treated to limit risk of salmonella.

    Pasteurization subjects the almonds to steam at 165°F for about 9 hours. This extensive steam treatment results in moisture loss and lipid oxidation.

    So DOMESTIC almonds arrive at market with less moisture and less flavor than unpasteurized almonds.

    If the pasteurized almond is then roasted, it potentially will lose more density (plumpness) than an unpasteurized almond. More flavor is lost as well as dry heat causes lipid oxidation (fat loss). Fat equals flavor.

    Other factors such as the farmers’ drying time and the bakers’ time and temperature will effect the density as well since these cause moisture loss.

    So the plumb quality you desire is from retained moisture in the nut, while the crisp crunchy quality you also desire is from a loss of that very moisture. Bob my friend, we all want our cake and eat it too;)

    Now you noticed I capitalized the words “domestic” and “distribution.” To pasteurized or not is regulated by almond origin and distribution method. So if you would like to use unpasteurized almonds, their are two sources to purchase them. In all honesty I don’t know if an unpasteurized almond will produce a better balance of plump and crisp.

    The federal law on almonds applies to domestically grown almonds from California and almonds sold through a third party. About 99.99% of domestic almonds are grown in California. So essentially the entire domestic almond crop falls under the law.

    But a farmer who sells in small quantities AND directly to the customer is exempt from the rule. Since pasteurization diminishes the flavor of almonds, a few farmers choose to skip it and sell unpasteurized almonds directly to the customers.

    Another source for unpasteurized almonds is imported almonds. Imports do not fall under the federal law. Keep in mind that imported almonds will be of a different variety, so a different flavor, moisture content, and size.

    Final word on this subject...almonds are no more susceptible to salmonella contamination than other types of nuts. It happened that two outbreaks were traced to almonds within a couple year period. So the government and California Almond Board decided to mandate almond sanitation.

    Some growers of other types of nuts also pasteurize their crops. But it’s not mandatory.

    Fennel seed toasting: There are many factors that will affect the level of flavor. Like nuts, seeds contain moisture vital to flavor. The loss of that moisture diminishes the flavor of the seed. So age, storage conditions, as well as time and temperature of toasting will affect the flavor. Since fennel seed has such a robust flavor, a small loss is noticeable.


    It’s impossible to know how much moisture is in the seeds. So it’s best to use seeds within two months of harvesting. And the older your seeds, the less time toasting.


    5 minutes is too long even for a fresh seed. Remember the seed is going to be baked twice as well. So keep toasting as short as possible. As soon as you smell the aroma, stop and immediately remove seeds from pan so cooling starts right away.


    Mark your containers with the date you harvested your seeds. Store your seeds in an air time container, in a cool dark spot.
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 3, 2018
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  13. Bob

    Bob Member

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    Hay, thanks. I'm making a batch tonight and I will toast the fennel less. Much appreciated!

    On the flour side of things, I'll keep on looking and maybe spring for come Central Milling in the future. Do you ever use these flours without barley malt with breads or pizza? If yes, what is the characteristic result?

    On the almond side, I think the "have your cake and eat it too" is a gene on the Y chromosome. lol. I can't seem to shake it. I'm sure you've used that one before...at this website...!

    Interesting on the pasteurization explanation; I never knew...! It is amazing how many things are pasteurized. (I did a bit of pickling last summer and ran into the Katz books... I found it all fascinating.) Is this is why some raw almonds are labeled as "blanched"? On the plumpness issue, I think the I will experiment a bit more with raw.

    Thank you again for your generous advice and scientific explanations.
     
    Bob, May 5, 2018
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  14. Bob

    Norcalbaker59 Well-Known Member

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    You’re welcome Bob, always happy to answer questions.

    Yes, I stock and regularly use two Central Milling flours without barley: Hi-Gluten High Mountain and the regular Artisan Bakers Craft. In fact I blend the two for pizza. See pic below.

    I find the flours produce an excellent pizza crust. While I wouldn’t say my pizza is on par with a pizza restaurant, for homemade its pretty darn good.

    I use both the Hi-Gluten and regular Artisan Bakers Braft for rolls and enriched bread as well. They performed beautifully. See pics below

    I use the regular Artisan Bakers Craft for pies, most cookies, and sweet rolls.

    Central Milling actually mills flour specifically for pizza. The wheat blend for the pizza flour was specified by Tony Gemignani, a 12 time world pizza champion. In developing the flour blend Gemignani tested the flour for six months in all his pizza restaurant to ensure it meet the taste, consistency, and performance quality he wanted in a flour. I’ve never used this particular flour as I have so many flours in my pantry.

    Regarding almonds, blanched almonds are almonds with the skins removed.

    These pizza made with blend of Hi-gluten and regular Artisan Bakers Craft
    54137DFE-AC70-409B-AC55-C57BF7E15B69.jpeg

    E0FEF674-0DF5-4E14-9368-91BB9B5452D1.jpeg

    I have no preference for malted or unmalted in chocolate chip cookies. I just know this particular cookie was malted Artisan Bakers Craft as I was developing a recipe that could be replicated with King Arthur all purpose.
    3C087427-4653-4752-804B-97ECDE21D5A8.jpeg



    The goods below were made from
    Regular Artisan Bakers Craft

    I apply an egg wash to the crust for increased browning and shine.
    515B62AD-BA61-48C4-A800-C6E00E9E1E1B.jpeg


    Unglazed cinnamon roll. The crumb is light and airy, the crust a nice golden brown even though the flour is unmalted.
    703B95B5-FCD0-43D1-B41D-2C1F8AF25D0D.jpeg

    Dinner roll Artisan Bakers Craft unmalted
    9FB97294-53AD-4CCA-88D2-7B4D7392A8F8.jpeg

    ======
    For comparison here’s a few pics products made with malted flours.


    This muffin was made with Central Milling Beehive, a lower protein flour with malting.
    88B94C71-C65F-4C7C-8D56-3F57309E990B.jpeg


    Malted Artisan Bakers Craft. These also have an egg wash for browning and shine.
    055C4F1E-DA59-4A59-9AD1-1BFCA3793429.jpeg
     
    Norcalbaker59, May 6, 2018
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