VOILA’ LES BAGUETTES!

Second chapter on Cooking Projects 2012!

Five weekends. One hundred and twenty six ounces of flour. Blood. Sweat. A few tears. But, I am not afraid of shaping baguettes any longer. Is there room for improvement? No doubt, but the goal now shifts from shaping to baking: I must find a way to optimize the generation of steam.  Apart from that, I am pretty happy with my babies…
UN-KNEADED, SIX-FOLD FRENCH BREAD
(from Jeffrey Hamelman, Bread)

2 pounds + 4.5 oz  bread flour (8 + 1/4 cups)
1 pound + 10.6 oz water (3 + 3/8 cups)
3 + 1/2 tsp salt
1 + 1/4 tsp instant dry yeast

Place all the ingredients in a large bowl, and using your hands or a plastic scraper, bring them together forming a very shaggy mass.  The best way to do it is working the scraper down the sides of the bowl, and then rotating the bowl as you bring it up, and fold that part of the mixture on top. Do this movement about 20 times, which should mix everything together reasonably well at this stage.  Do not worry about how smooth the dough is, it will feel and look very “rough”.

Set a timer to go off every 30 minutes. You will fold the dough every thirty minutes, for a total of six times (at that point you will be 3 from the start).  At each cycle, fold the dough on itself using a scraper, for a total of 20 times,  either removing the dough to a surface, or folding it inside the bowl.  After the sixth folding cycle, leave the dough undisturbed for 30 minutes, then divide it in 12 ounce pieces (from the start,  you will be at the 3 hour and 30 minutes mark).  One full recipe makes 5 long baguettes.

Gently form each piece into a cylinder shape, and let it rest for 15 minutes (very important to relax the gluten, don’t skip this step).  Shape as a baguette, then roll the baguettes to stretch them to their final size (make sure they will fit over your baking stone or the surface you intend to bake them on).

Let the baguettes rise (preferably using a couche well coated with flour) for 1 to 1 and a half hours at room temperature (ideally at 76 F).  Score the baguettes and bake in a 460 F oven, with initial steam, for a total of 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments:   I like to do the first four of the six kneading cycles using a different technique:  I coat the granite counter top with a very light amount of olive oil,  and slam the dough on it 15 to 20 times.  You can see the technique demonstrated in this video.  The last two cycles I omit the “slamming”,  and simply fold it, so that the airy structure is not disturbed.   Phil insists that I should let him make a video of my “slamming technique”, but so far I resisted the idea.  Maybe one day… ;-)

As to the shaping, I will be forever grateful to Gary, my friend and baker extraordinaire, who went through the trouble of mailing me a DVD of Chef Jeffrey Gabriel CMC, from Schoolcraft College. Gary made the video during his class on French baguettes, and I watched it over and over… and over!   The main difference between Chef Gabriel’s technique and this one, is that he is not too concerned with where the seam of the baguette ends up.   On my initial attempts, I was so worried about keeping the seam up for the final rise, that I ended up manipulating the baguettes too much and messed up their final shape.   Gary’s method is much more user-friendly, and once you score the baguettes and bake them, the seam position seems to have no influence on the final look of the bread.

A few important pointers for success:

1.  Coat the surface where the baguettes will rise (after the final shaping) with flour.   They WILL stick if you forget this step, leading to intense grievance.

2. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes before shaping.  You need that or the gluten will keep fighting back like an elastic band.

3. The better you get at shaping the baguettes, the longer they will be.  If you want to bake them covered to create steam, this could be a problem.  Consider making shorter baguettes – not authentic, but easier to bake in a home oven.

4. Baguettes are scored  with an odd number of slashes. Usually 5 or 7.   Some advise you to wet the blade to do it, I prefer to use a dry blade, as I like the “spiky” look of the slashes.

5.  The baker’s blade is sharp.  Make sure you cover it with the protective plastic cap when you are done, or, if using a blade with no cap, put it away. Leaving it sitting on the counter top is a recipe for disaster.   (sigh)

After practicing several weekends in a row, I now settled on making half this recipe, and shaping either 3 long baguettes or 4 medium-sized.   The tricky part is baking them: I can bake two at a time, so the last one must go through a longer rise.  Sometimes it seems to be slightly over-proofed, and the resulting baguette is a bit flat.  However, the taste is spectacular, this recipe produces a very creamy crumb, with a flavor that transported us to the 7eme arrondissement in Paris.  Not a bad virtual trip to take!   ;-)

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: Cornmeal English Muffins

TWO YEARS AGO: Cornish Hens for a Sunday Dinner

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SPELT AND CORNMEAL ROLLS

Rustic, toothsome, flavorful, and if all that wasn’t enough, these rolls are a cinch to make.  In a classic Dan Lepard’s approach, the recipe calls for minimal kneading, and because they are baked as small rolls, shaping is  a breeze.  The rolls also freeze quite well,  individually wrapped, then placed in a low oven to come back to that freshly baked feel.

Per Mr. Lepard’s request,  I won’t post the full recipe.  But you can find it in the database of “The Guardian”  through a quick jump here.

I will, however, give you a quick outline of how this recipe comes together….

The cornmeal needs to be soaked in boiling water for a few minutes, once you do that, all ingredients – soaked cornmeal, spelt flour, water, honey, and yeast – are added to a large bowl, mixed quickly, and left standing for 10 minutes.

A kneading cycle of 30 seconds, a 20-minute rise (yes, that fast…), and you are ready to divide and conquer… rather, divide and shape in 8 rolls.

After shaping, they rest on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and dusted with flour.  Only 45 minutes to go before baking time!

Once they bake, they will more or less join together, let them cool this way, breaking them apart at serving time.

Adorable little rolls, dense, but in a good way… ;-)  We enjoyed them in  sandwiches – smoked turkey & provolone,  ham, cheese, tomato & pesto sauce – but also as plain small bites with our dinner of roast chicken. They will certainly be a favorite in your home too!

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…

ONE YEAR AGO: Roasted Potato and Olive Focaccia (another Dan Lepard recipe, another winner!)

TWO YEARS AGO: Salmon Curry

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WHEAT GERM & SAGE SOURDOUGH BREAD

Another example of a recipe that blew the doors of the competition once I spotted it at The Fresh Loaf forum. They highlighted this bread on their front page, since it is so unique and gorgeous. My starter was eagerly waiting for a chance to shine, I had wheat germ in the freezer, the only departure from the original recipe was the use of sage instead of rosemary.   Not for gastronomic preference, but because a “certain dog” – who used to wander the streets of Hollywood – destroyed our rosemary plant. The dog has a good lawyer, and is presently free on bail.


TOASTED WHEAT-GERM AND SAGE SOURDOUGH
(adapted from Ross’ recipe at The Fresh Loaf Forum)

150 g starter (white, 80% hydration)
335 g  water
490 g bread flour
20 g toasted wheatgerm
2 Tbs  fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
9 g  salt
Mix all ingredients, except the salt, until they form a shaggy mass, no need to worry with kneading yet.   Let it rest undisturbed for 40 minutes at room temperature.

Place the dough on a lightly oiled surface,  open flatten it out slightly, sprinkle the salt all over, and knead a few times to distribute the salt.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, let it sit for 1 hour.    Knead by stretching and folding a few times –  it will feel very smooth and easy to fold – put back in the bowl and let it rise 1 hour.   Repeat the stretch and fold one more time, cover the dough and let it rise for 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Form the dough into a ball, place it in a floured banetton type container, cover it and place in the fridge overnight.

Remove from the fridge 1 hour and 30 minutes before baking.  Bake in a 450F oven, using your favorite method to generate steam.  After 20 minutes, reduce the temperature to 425F, and bake for a total of 40-45 minutes. If you baked the bread covering with a roasting pan, remove the cover after 30 minutes.

Let it cool for at least 2 hours before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

What a delicious loaf of bread this one turned out to be!  I used very little sage because it is such a strong-tasting herb, so its flavor was barely noticeable.  This bread would be great at a Thanksgiving dinner.  The wheat germ lends a bit of moisture to the crumb, allowing it to last longer than your regular sourdough.

The crust, hearty and crunchy, was covered with those tiny blisters that make the baker very happy.  Inside, the crumb was open, airy, and light. Cannot ask for much more than that…  ;-)

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting, please make sure to stop by and marvel at her weekly display of breads. I know my Friday is not complete without it!

ONE YEAR AGO: Polenta-Crust Tomato Loaf

TWO YEARS AGO: Watermelon Granita

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CRACKED-WHEAT SANDWICH BREAD

My original idea was to do a sourdough cracked-wheat bread, I had the recipe printed out, and my starter going. Woke up on Saturday bright and early, in great spirits to attack the preparation. Surprise number 1: recipe called for a whole-wheat starter. Mine wasn’t. Surprise number 2: recipe suggested an overnight fermentation in the fridge before baking, but I absolutely had to start and finish the bread on the same day.   Not sure how many times in my life I’ve made the mistake of NOT reading a recipe carefully enough before baking day, and/or before shopping for ingredients  (sigh). Plan B had to be set in place, and quickly.  I found a recipe for cracked-wheat bread with a very interesting technique: spreading a dry mixture of flour, sugar and yeast over a fermenting “sponge”, forming a sort of a protective blanket over it.  All of a sudden my Saturday was bright again, and the best was that the bread turned out fantastic!


CRACKED-WHEAT SANDWICH BREAD
(adapted from The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum)

To make the sponge:
1/2 cup bread flour (78 g)
1/2 cup  whole wheat flour (72 g)
3/4 tsp instant yeast (2.4 g)
1/2 tbsp sugar (6.2 g)
1 tbsp nonfat dry milk (8 g)
1 tbsp agave nectar (20 g)
1 cup plus 2 tbsp  water at around 80F (266 g)

Flour mixture for topping the sponge:
2 cups bread flour (312 g)
1/2 tbsp sugar (6.2 g)
1/4 tsp instant yeast (0.8 g)

For the final dough:
1/2 cup cracked-wheat
1/2 cup  boiling water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 + 3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp melted butter

In a medium bowl combine the sponge ingredients and whisk until very smooth, about 2 minutes, trying to incorporate as much air as possible as you stir.

 In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour mixture ingredients. Sprinkle on top of the sponge to cover it completely. DO NOT MIX TOGETHER. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 1-4 hours at room temperature. The longer you allow it to ferment, the better. I fermented mine for 2 hours.

Place the cracked-wheat in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit in the water until all the water is absorbed, about 1 hour.

With your stand mixer, add the bulghur  and the oil  to the bowl and then add the dough and starter. Mix with the dough hook on low speed for a couple of minutes, until no dry bits remain, but do not overmix.  Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes. Sprinkle on the salt and knead the dough on medium speed for 12  minutes. The dough should be very elastic  but still slightly moist.

Scrape the dough into a  greased container. Lightly spray or oil the top of the dough. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours (mine took 90 minutes).  Scrape the dough onto a floured surface and press down very gently to form a rectangle, don’t try to get all the air out of it. Give it a business letter fold, turn it 90 degrees and do another business letter type fold. Smooth the edges and return the folded dough to the bowl.  Cover, and rise until doubled, 1 to 1.5 hours (mine took only 45 minutes).

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape it as a loaf.  Place into oiled loaf pan. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise until the center is about 1 inch higher than the rim of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees for 30 minutes before baking. Place oven rack at the lowest shelf and place baking stone on top. Place a sheet pan on the floor of the oven and  have some ice cubes handy.

Once the dough has risen, brush the top with the melted butter, then cut a 1/2″ deep slash down the middle of the dough. Quickly set the load pan on the baking stone. Take a 1/2 cup of ice cubes and quickly throw them onto the sheet pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until golden brown and the internal temperature is 200 F.  Remove pan from oven, remove bread from pan and set on wire rack. Brush with remaining melted butter. Let it cool completely (yeah, right… ;-) before eating.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Cracked-wheat (an ingredient similar, but not exactly the same as bulghur, for a nice explanation click here), gives this bread a perfect texture, and just the right amount of ‘grain-feel’.  You can substitute bulghur if you have trouble finding cracked wheat.

It is a very easy dough to handle, as most of the kneading is done with a mixer. It would be possible to knead by hand, but it would take a lot longer and you must develop the gluten fully to get the right texture – go for the Kitchen Aid, is my advice.   It is fun to make, the photos below show the sipping of the fermenting sponge after 1.5 hours, the addition of cracked-wheat, and the amazing first rise, probably due to the temperature in our home these days.

If you make this bread during warm weather, as soon as you shape the dough  start heating your oven, because mine took only 35 minutes to fully rise. You don’t want to risk overproofing, so that the bread will still rise during baking. Catch it around this stage, brush it with butter, slash the top and place it in the oven.

Sandwiches with cheese, ham, lettuce, a light touch of mustard were absolute heavenly!

I’m submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event…  Nice to be able to join that party after what seemed like too long a break!  ;-)

ONE YEAR AGO:  Au Revoir, My Bewitching Kitchen (hard to  believe it’s been one year already!)

TWO YEARS AGO: Teriyaki Chicken Thighs

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HOEGAARDEN BEER BREAD

I don’t regret that many things in my life, but if I could go back to the period  that I lived in Paris, I’d take some time to travel to Belgium.   I was so close to that beautiful country, but never saw it in person… it’s a shame and it’s sad. Plus, I’ve never met a person from Belgium who wasn’t super-nice!  All my Belgium friends have a great sense of humor, a great appreciation for the fun side of life, and many positive things to say about their home country, that excels in so many things.  Two of their special delicacies are chocolates and beer!  The very best of both are produced in small quantities and not exported,  but some excellent Belgium beer makes it all the way to the US, examples being Chimay, Leffe,  and Hoegaarden, the latter of which is a beer that brings fond memories of my days as a single woman in Paris…   ;-)

I don’t drink beer anymore, but I still like to cook with it, or include it in  breads- for a quick flash back, click here.  So, when I saw this post not too long ago, I changed all my baking plans for the weekend, to accommodate a little Hoegaarden sourdough, and take the Bewitching Kitchen on a virtual trip to Belgique!

HOEGAARDEN BEER BREAD
(adapted from Fab Food Blog)

For the sponge:
120 g 100% hydration sourdough starter
60 g bread flour
45 ml Hoegaarden white beer

For the final dough:
235 g bread flour
65 ml Hoegaarden white beer
40 ml lukewarm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped

Mix all the ingredients for the sponge in a small bowl, mix well and leave it overnight at room temperature.  It should be very bubbly and more than double in size.  If it rises too much and collapses, it’s fine.

Next morning, place the sponge, flour, beer and water in a large bowl. Mix for a few minutes until barely combined, then let it sit for 20 minutes undisturbed. Add the salt, fennel seeds, and rosemary, and mix by gentle kneading.  Let the dough rise for 30 minutes,  knead again (20 seconds cycle),  let the dough rise for about 40 minutes.  Do one more cycle of quick kneading  and let the dough rise for another 40 minutes.  Knead one final time and let the dough rise undisturbed for 1.5 to 2 hours, until almost doubled in size.  Shape as a ball, and place with the seam side  up inside a well floured banetton type container.

Let it rise undisturbed for 2 hours.  Heat the oven to 450 F with baking stones or tiles inside. Invert the dough on the tiles, quickly score the surface, and bake with initial steam. If covering the dough, remove the cover after 30  minutes, reduce the temperature of the oven to 425 F and bake for 10 to 15 minutes more, until golden brown.    Cool for at least 1 hour before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: 
This recipe makes a  small boule, so if you want to serve it in a dinner party for several people, consider doubling the recipe and baking two loaves.  The bread smells wonderful during baking, and fennel is the dominant flavor.   As to the beer, it would be interesting to bake two loaves side by side, substituting water for beer in one of them – I imagine that there will be a slight difference in sourness and complexity of flavor, but it’s hard to know for sure with the competing taste of fennel and rosemary (which, by the way, I increased a bit from the original posted recipe).   In my experience, fresh rosemary has a tendency to lose its punch once it’s incorporated in bread dough, so I now use it with more abandon.

Fennel lovers:  pair this delicious bread with some hearty Italian type sausage, for a double-fennel kick…   Don’t like fennel?  Simply omit it, the bread will still be delicious with a nice crust and moderately open crumb.

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting event… stop by and visit her weekly showcase of breads.

ONE YEAR AGO: Ancho-Chile Marinade: Pleased to meat you!

TWO YEARS AGO:  The Handmade Loaf (the book that got me into sourdough baking!)

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BUTTERMILK CLUSTER

One of the English expressions that puzzles me the most is “easy as pie.”  That’s because I don’t see anything easy about making the dough,  rolling it out, and mastering the finishing touches that result in a gorgeous pie.  But, I promise  that this bread is  a cinch to make, and much, much easier than pie!  It quickly comes together,  so you can wake up on a sunny Sunday morning and make this bread in time for  brunch.

BUTTERMILK CLUSTER
(adapted from The Fresh Loaf Forum)

Makes 12 to 18 rolls, depending on size

6 to 6 1/2 cups (750 grams) bread  flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 envelope (2 1/2 teaspoons)  instant yeast
1 tablespoon warm water
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon honey

Glaze:
1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Topping:
1-2 tablespoons seeds (poppy, sesame) or grains (cracked wheat, rolled oats)

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Combine the warm water and yeast in a small cup and allow to proof for 5 minutes.

Pour the yeast, buttermilk, and honey into the flour mixture and mix to form a shaggy mass. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes, then do a 10-20 seconds kneading.  Cover the dough with plastic film, and let it rest for 15 minutes. Repeat the minimal kneading two more times, at 30 and 45 minutes, then let the dough rise for another 45 minutes undisturbed or until almost doubled in size (total bulk fermentation will be  about 90 minutes).

Divide the dough into 12 to 18 pieces. Shape each piece into a neat ball and place in a round dish or spring-form pan close together.

When all of the rolls are in the pan, cover again with plastic and set aside to rise again for 45 minutes to an hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425.

Uncover the rolls and brush gently with the egg wash. Sprinkle on the grain topping. I used sesame seeds.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until the rolls are firm and spring back when tapped.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I didn’t have a springform pan, and my smaller round cake pan could only fit 11 of the dough balls.   So, I shaped the leftover dough as a small loaf and baked it separately.

            

As I munched on these soft, springy rolls I kept thinking about Thanksgiving dinner :  they are perfect for that occasion, so keep them in mind. Thanksgiving is such a busy cooking day, and this recipe is so easy  that it will be something to give thanks for.  ;-)

Something strange and unexpected happened to the individual loaf I baked.  I sliced it, then placed on the kitchen counter to wrap in plastic and freeze.  But,  I forgot about it for a couple of hours and when I went to search for it, it was gone!   My beloved husband was not around, and one of the dogs is too short to reach the counter, which left two possibilities:

1. I have a double-personality disorder and the “other me” has no self-control.

2. The “other dog” knows how to get the most of those long skinny legs.

I guess we know which one it was (sigh).

I am sending this to Susan’s Yeastspotting

ONE YEAR AGO:  Grilled Lettuce Salad   (you’ve got to try it!)

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