Sunday, December 20, 2009

Baguette Party

Here's a video that i made of my mom making baguettes at our house in Paris, France. Though we, as French people, are well know for this beloved bread, there are not a lot of people out there who can master the technique. It took several (we can say more than a 100) attempts to my mom to get to that point. So if you don't make it perfect the first time it is going to be alright! Never give up and always try again another time.

Ingredients to make 8 baguettes of 220 grams each
  • 1 kilogram of flour (type 55 preferably)
  • 15 grams of baker's yeast (i dont know the real name in english but it comes in small cubes and it's soft)
  • 22 grammes of salt
  • 70 centiliters of water
  • Plastic bin or bowl
  • Rimmed cookie sheet or cast iron frying pan
  • Four kitchen towels
  • Parchment paper or couche
  • Razor blade
The key is not to put too much yeast (15 grammes only) and not too much water (700 milliters/1 kilo of flour). If you feel like it's too sticky on your hand while kneading, just add a tablespoon of flour but not more.

Also all the utensils used are not professionals ones, meaning you can find find the "wavy"pans at a regular store. Sometimes the dough can stick to the pan so you can put the dough on parchment paper cut at the same shape and size of the baguette.

Step 1:
Stirr well the salt, water and yeast together

video



Step 2:
Knead the dough for about 20 mins til it gets soft on the surface. Let it rest for 2 hours and until the dough gets twice its size.

video

Step 3:
After 2 hours start shaping the baguettes. Then let them rest again for an hour, the baguettes need to rise a little.


video







video


Step 4: the baking
Put the baguette on a pan using greaseproof paper. Sprinkle some flour on the baguette and use a razor blade to notch them. Let them cook in already warm up oven 400 FÂș with a pan filled with water underneath the pan (to produce some vapor to make a crusty bread) until they get a golden color.
Enjoy!


video

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What fate had in mind for these croissants.

In the laborious process of making these croissants, I think we were meant to learn about either restraint or perseverance. In the end, we chose to only learn about perseverance. Despite all the obstacles that poor reading comprehension threw at us, Eric and I succeeded in making some buttery, if slightly smoky-tasting, croissants. We used the recipe in the beautiful Tartine cookbook. Some photographs:

Whatever you do, don't do this:


Laminating was not as tough as it sounded like it might be.


As Julia Child might say: "num num!"


The seductive power of croissants to compel you to eat them only grows stronger after baking:


Not for the faint of heart:


But definitely for the fancy-schmancy and almond-lovers:

Monday, June 15, 2009

Further forays into the baguette-o-sphere.

Oh man, I've had this post sitting in draft limbo for ages. Time to set it free:

A few weeks ago, Mark Bittman linked to this baguette recipe, so of course I bookmarked it. The link is very worth checking out - he links to some excellent videos demonstrating kneading techniques. Anyways, I've used this recipe twice now and both times the baguettes came out excellent.

Hypothesis
This recipe takes way more work than the faux-guette one that Eric Lindley hooked us up with. Will it be worth all the extra hassle? I had to change my scale's unit mode to grams, for Chrissakes!

Materials

  • 90 g sourdough starter, fermented 8 hours
  • 355 g King Arthur bread flour
  • 245 g all-purpose flour
  • 420 g water
  • 13 g sea salt
  • 2 tsp dry yeast

Note: the original Chewswise recipe calls for 590 g flour (all purpose or bread) plus 10 g whole wheat flour. The first time I made this recipe, I didn't have any whole wheat and only had 355 g of bread flour left over, so I improvised this blend instead. The second time, I did the 590 / 10 blend called for in the original recipe. Both came out and handled about the same.

Also, the original recipe calls for 100% hydration sourdough starter. I cannot say with any degree of certainty what percentage hydration my starter is: it is what it is.

Here is a gratuitous picture of the starter (from Eric Lindley's mother sponge):



Procedure

Day 1

I just don't see the point of re-writing what is already pretty well-explained in the original post. Here's a simple condensation if you're too lazy to click through, although I will likely bore myself to death in the process of typing it:

1. Combine starter, yeast, and water into bowl; stir so starter breaks up.

2. Add flours and salt; mix.

3. Knead for about 5 minutes. The first time we tried this recipe, we did it by hand, using the kind of throw-it-at-the-counter-and-fold-over technique. The second time, we just did it in the stand mixer with the bread hook. The latter technique is much easier. A good compromise is to start it off in the mixer and finish it by hand.

Be warned: the dough is not very easy to handle at this stage. This is what it looks like:



4. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.

5. Put dough back on the counter and stretch out until it's about 1-inch thick. Then it's letter-folding time! Fold in thirds, like you would a piece of paper you'd put in an envelope. Then fold in thirds again, the other way. Incomprehensible, you say? Whatever, watch the video.

6. Repeat steps 4 & 5.

7. Letter-fold one last time, then replace into a clean, lightly-oiled bin/bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.

Day 2

1. Put baking stone and steam pan in oven and preheat to 470.

2. Cut dough in half on floured surface. Place one half back in the fridge - will keep unbaked okay for a day or two.

3. Take the other half of dough and split in half again. Stretch each half into a rectangle of about 5x7 inches. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

4. Assuming you don't have a couche: while dough is resting, cut parchment paper to a size that fits your baking stone, dust with flour, and place on your peel. Tightly roll up three kitchen towels - slip these under the parchment so there are two nice nestling spots for your baguettes.

5. Now it's time to shape your dough into baguette loaves. This involves some funny maneuvers which totally escape my descriptive abilities. Luckily, there are lots of good videos on Youtube of the technique.

6. Place your shaped loaves into their nestling spots on the parchment paper. Make some slightly diagonal slashes along the tops, using a sharp knife or razorblade.



7. Remove the towels from under the parchment paper. Hopefully your oven is sufficiently heated by now. Scoot the parchment paper and loaves onto the baking stone, and then pour some hot water (about 2/3 cup) into the steam pan.

8. About 18 minutes later, your baguettes will probably be done! Take them out and let them cool on cooling racks before devouring them.

Results and Analysis





Pretty gorgeous, right? And delicious!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Testing Bittman's flatbread.

The most underrated food celebrity in the many-starred food celebrity universe: Mark Bittman. Not only does he write excellent cookbooks, make hilarious TV series which may be airing on your local PBS station, and often dress like a parody of a Frenchman, but he's also, thankfully, all over the Internet.

In April, Bittman did a great video demonstrating an easy flatbread recipe (go check it out, at least for the brilliant opening sequence), and Jon and I didn't get around to trying it until tonight.

In the basic recipe, Bittman suggests using whole wheat flour - although in the video, he suggests adding a bit of corn meal. For extra fanciness, he suggests adding light coconut milk in place of water, and even curried cauliflower - which seems like we're venturing pretty deep into uthappam land.

Anyways, we're gluttons so we obviously had no light coconut milk around. We also happened to be out of regular whole wheat flour, so instead, Jon improvised a blend of whole wheat pastry flour (less gluten) with bread flour (more gluten), plus some semolina for tastiness. Here is the rundown:

Hypothesis
Mark Bittman is likely NOT lying to us when he says this flatbread recipe is easy and good.

Materials
  • 0.25 C semolina flour
  • 0.25 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 0.5 C King Arthur bread flour
  • 1 can (14 oz) of coconut milk (full-fat!)
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Oven-safe pan

Procedure
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients - dry stuff first.

3. Heat olive oil in pan. Once pan is hot, pour batter in, then put the whole pan in the oven. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

Results and Analysis
This is what it looked like fresh out of the oven:


Then, Jon exercised his flipping skills so we could admire the flatbread's purportedly more attractive bottom:



I will not impose value judgments on the attractiveness of our breads. ALL of our breads are beautiful to me, top, bottom, and all-around. An edge shot:


Conclusion
This bread was easy, and tasty, and, indeed, flat. The biggest bummer was that it took 50 minutes to bake. Also, perhaps because we used full-fat coconut milk, it was a tad underdone on the inside while still nice and crisp on the outside.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Breads of novelty.

During the Glindster's second stop at our nameless Baltimore abode, three kinds of bread were made. One unfortunately escaped photographic documentation, which is really too bad because it took novelty bread to the next level. It involved scalded milk, browned butter, toasted flour, and burnt sugar -- plus lots of magical gluten (some might say, too much magical gluten.) We called it the Lindley Loaf, and it showed amazing staying power, as well as the ability to make Eric ill-at-ease.

Eric also made us English muffins - which we enjoyed in the form of eggs florentine, with Eric-made hollandaise sauce. (Were you even aware of it: hollandaise sauce is like warm mayonnaise! Delicious.) Needless to say, it was amazing:





In accordance with the Meal Plan we drafted on Eric's arrival, we made bagels on Sunday. We were also supposed to celebrate Hunter's Southern heritage with our wildly offensive caricature of what we thought that meant, breakfast-wise, but instead we showed some uncharacteristic restraint.

This is what the bagels looked like before boiling: moist, gleaming and naked:



This is what they looked like after baking:



They were nearly perfect in texture, and very neutral in taste. I think Eric used honey instead of malt? We suspect that malt might have made them more bagel-y. Anyways, they were excellent media for sandwiches of all sorts, or strawberry cream cheese.

Recipes for both the English muffins and bagels from the inestimable Bread Baker's Apprentice.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Perfect Day for Banana Bread

Doesn't anyone post on this blog anymore? Answer: I do I do!

What makes a perfect day for banana bread? Is it shell-shock? Suicidal tendencies? Possible pedophilia? No, no, and no! A perfect day for banana bread is when you have nearly rotten bananas that you need to use up.

Wait until you have approximately 5 bananas that are too ripe to be at all enticing. Two of these bananas will be totally rotten, to the point that they're a gooey mess that leaks all over your microwave (you never knew bananas could do that!) unfortunately destroying your portrait of Barack Obama, which was sent to you by your congressional representative, along with a note stating that he went to the inauguration and you didn't, probably because you live in his district and are therefore impoverished. But this is okay, because (a) The initial humor of the Barack Obama portrait had worn off, and now it just seemed creepy, having his image stare down at you from the top of your refrigerator, and you realized your friends laughed nervously when they saw it, wondering if it was some kind of shrine, and if you might be the kind of friend who would pester them to join you in phone-banking during the next election; and (b) You only need about 3 bananas to make this recipe!

You will use a recipe taken mainly from allrecipes.com, except you will add cinnamon and walnuts, because that sounds like a good idea. These are your ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened (except you never leave the butter out to soften ahead of time, so you put it on top of your oven to get some heat from the pilot light. But this is a delicate process, and you will almost certainly leave it a little too long so that a melty stream of it will curl around the top of your oven.)
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed banana (You know all about those bananas.)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9"x5" loaf pan. (Except you don't have a loaf pan, so you use a 9"x13" baking pan, which you block off at the 5" mark with a piece of foil, a technique that works sometimes, but not particularly well with bread, which pushes back the foil as it rises, so that instead of having a loaf shaped bread, you will end up with a funny square-shaped bread, but that's okay.)

2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl (except you use a medium-sized sauce pan, because your mixing bowls are in your parents' attic in San Jose, California, and while you could just buy new mixing bowls here, you keep putting it off because you believe that one day soon, you'll go there and actually bring back the mixing bowls, along with your backpacking backpack and your copy of Salinger's Nine Stories, which you just remembered you want to reread, after contemplating the title of this post) cream the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then the banana.

3. Stir in the flour, baking soda and cinnamon, then the walnuts, stirring just until combined. (! Stirring more messes with the density of your bread !) (So you've heard.)

4. Plop into your prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the pan, cool and eat up. Refrigerate or freeze to keep.

Serving suggestion: You will finish baking this bread at approximately 12:15 at night, at which point you will eat little pieces of it while it is still too hot to handle. You will do this because there is something deliciously decadent about completing a baked good in the middle of the night. You will then play online boggle and create bad video art. When you wake the following morning, you will try to decide if you want cream of wheat or toast for breakfast, and then you will remember with great joy that you have an amusing square of banana bread in the fridge. Your breakfast will thus look something like this: