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…
(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.


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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Before I even start talking about last weekend’s bread, I urge you to visit Joanna’s blog to see her wonderful article about one of my favorite bread baking books, Bread.  Her post is a  must-read for anyone who might feel intimidated by  Hamelman’s masterpiece.  Great job, Joanna!

After the cracked wheat sandwich bread, our cravings for bread with grains incorporated in the dough only intensified.  As usual, on Thursday evenings I start considering the possibilities for baking in the weekend, so I grabbed Hamelman’s book, and opened it at random.  To my delight, the recipe on that particular page read: Five Grain Levain.  Seemed too fitting to ignore.  Plus, for a sourdough bread, the recipe could not be much simpler, the secret behind its simplicity lying in the use of commercial yeast to speed up fermentation.   All I had to do the day before was soak the grains, and give a final feeding to my starter.

(adapted from Hamelman’s Bread)

for the liquid levain
4 oz bread flour
5 oz water
2 Tbs mature sourdough starter

for the grains mixture
1.5 oz cracked rye
1.5 oz flaxseeds
1.2 oz sunflower seeds
1.2 oz oats
6.5 oz boiling water
1/2 tsp salt

for the final dough
8 oz bread flour
4 oz whole-wheat flour
4.2 oz water
1/2 Tbs salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
all soaker prepared
all liquid starter prepared

Prepare the liquid levain 12 to 16 hours before you plan to start the dough.  Let it stand at room temperature, preferably around 70 F.  When you make the levain, prepare the grains too, by pouring boiling water over the grains and the salt in a small bowl.  Leave at room temperature.

Make the dough by adding all the ingredients into the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer, knead on first speed for 3 minutes, then increase the speed to the second level and mix for 5 minutes.  Place the dough in a slightly oiled bowl, cover, and let it ferment for 1.5 hs, folding the dough on itself three times after 45 minutes to increase elasticity.

Shape the dough as a boule or batard, place in a banetton or appropriate container of your choice, and let it rise for 1 hour.

Bake at 460 F for 40 to 45 minutes, generating steam in the beginning, by either covering the dough with an inverted roasting pan, or adding ice cubes to an empty pan at the bottom of your oven.   Allow it to cool completely before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:   This loaf of bread lasted 5 days, and held up pretty well up to its end.  Usually, after the second day we opt for toasting, but this particular loaf was good enough with a very brief warming in our electric oven.  We kept it at room temperature over the cutting board with the cut side down, and sliced only what we were going to consume right away.  It goes well with pretty much anything, from ham to turkey, jam to peanut butter, or butter with paper thin slices of radishes and a little sea salt… delicious!

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

ONE YEAR AGO: The Nano-Kitchen

TWO YEARS AGO:  Kaiser Rolls

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Make this bread!  Even if you’re yeast-0-phobic,  even if you think you can’t  bake a bread to save your own life, …PLEASE  make this bread.  I’ll hold your hand throughout, and toast your success at the end!

(from Hamelman’s Bread)

For the poolish
1 lb bread flour (3 + 5/8 cup)
1 lb water (2 cups)
1/4  tsp instant dry yeast

For the dough:
all the poolish made the previous day (about 2 lb)
6.1 oz water (3/4 cup)
1 lb bread flour (3 + 5/8 cup)
0.6 oz salt (1 Tbs)
0.17 oz yeast (1 + 1/2 tsp)

Make the poolish the day before: add water to a bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top, add the flour and mix until smooth with a large spoon.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it stand at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours (ideal temperature: 70 F).

This is what the poolish will look like the next day….

Prepare the dough:  add the flour, water and fermented poolish to the bowl of a Kitchen Aid-type mixer.   Don’t add the yeast or the salt yet.  Mix on first speed (or by hand) until it all comes together in a shaggy-looking mass.  Cover the bowl and let this mixture rest for 20 to 30 minutes.

Add the salt and the yeast over the dough, turn the mixer to the second speed and mix for 2 minutes.  Ideally, the temperature of the dough should reach about 76 F.  If kneading by hand, then work the dough until it’s smooth, about 6 minutes.

Cover the bowl and let it rest for 25 minutes.  Give a quick couple of folds to the dough (as shown here), let it rest 25 more minutes.   Fold the dough a couple of times again, and let it rest 20-25 minutes more, undisturbed.

Gently divide the dough into two pieces, trying not to deflate it too much, and place them over lightly floured kitchen towels. Cover,  and let them stay for 20 to 25 minutes at room temperature, for a final quick proofing.  No need to shape the loaves in any particular way.

Invert the dough over parchment paper, so that the floured side is now up.  Slash the bread quickly with a single stroke of a razor blade or sharp knife.

Bake the loaves in a 460F oven, with steam (add ice cubes to a baking pan placed at the bottom of the oven, or use any method of your choice to add steam in the initial baking time).  The bread will be ready in about 35 minutes.   Let them cool completely on a rack before slicing.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  My expectations were not too high for this bread when I first made it:  no wild yeast, no involved kneading and shaping.  When the loaves were ready to go into the oven, they seemed too flat, with a tendency to spread.   However,  they had  nice oven bounce, and the simple slash perfectly coached them into the final shape.   Each loaf was light as a feather, with a nice crumb and subtle sour flavor, thanks to the poolish.

Even though this recipe comes from Hamelmn’s book,  I did not make it as part of the Mellow Baker’s Challenge.  I had to take  a step back and turn into an avid observer of the group instead of a participant.  But make sure you jump over there to see what they are baking,  some great breads for the month of August, including baguettes…  😉

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yestspotting

ONE YEAR AGO: A Souffle to Remember…  Julia Child

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The Mellow Bakers challenge scheduled three breads for May:  grissini, miche Point-a-Calliere, and cornbread.  Today I jump-started myself by baking the grissini, which I’ve  never made before.  It was  easy, in that I kneaded the ingredients  in my Kitchen Aid for a few minutes until they formed a smooth and supple dough.  After an hour at room temperature I divided, stretched and rolled the dough into sticks that went into the oven for 20 minutes.    Piece of cake…  😉

I only made half the recipe, because neither my husband nor I are too crazy about breadsticks.  I love bread, and I love crackers, but grissini have a personality conflict:  they’re not quite sure what they are, bread or crackers.   Still, I enjoyed the opportunity to learn a new method in bread baking.

Here’s the dough  at the end of rising…

Divided into 12 equal pieces….

… that are formed into sticks, some left plain, some rolled in parmiggiano-cheese with a little black pepper

After baking, they’ll keep for several days  in an air-tight container….

Comments: They were fun to make, but perhaps a bit too bland.  The variations proposed in the book might be better (roasted garlic or cheese in the dough, instead of just used to roll the sticks before baking).  If I make these again, I’ll use the alternative method of opening the full dough in a large rectangle and cutting the individual sticks  from it, which will considerably reduce the time to stretch and roll each stick.

You can see how some of my fellow Mellow Bakers made their grissini by following these links….

Abby, from Stir it! Scrape it!

Anne Marie, from Rosemary & Garlic

Steve, from Burntloafer

Looking forward to miche Point-a-Calliere, a close relative of the amazing Poilane bread….

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Two food items that I can’t survive without are bread and cheese.  When I lived in Paris I had a permanent smile on my face because it seemed like every street corner had a fantastic boulangerie, with wonderful fresh bread.  Often, not far away was a strategically placed  fromagerie wafting the intoxicating smells of cheese through the neighborhood, the best possible form of advertisement.

My favorite bread is a sourdough loaf with delicate flavor, a hardy crust, and a creamy crumb with open, uneven holes. Simple to say, but a little harder to accomplish.   After more than a year of experimenting with different recipes I’m ready to share one of my favorites, not only because it delivers on all these counts, but because it’s excellent when prepared in the evening and baked the next morning.  To me, it’s the perfect way to make bread during the hot Summer months.

The recipe comes from a book that should be part of any bread baker’s library, called quite simply: “BREAD: A baker’s book of techniques and recipes,”  by Jeffrey Hamelman. You can find it here. This post will be my first submission to Yeastspotting.

(adapted from Hamelman’s “Bread”)

Liquid Levain
2.4 oz bread flour
3 oz water
1 oz mature liquid levain (see comments at the end of the post)

Final dough
12 oz bread flour
1.6 oz whole-wheat flour
7.4 oz water
5.4 oz Liquid levain
0.6 oz salt (1/2 T)

Make the liquid starter (levain) 12 to 16 hours before preparing the dough, and let stand uncovered at room temperature. If you don’t have a sourdough starter, follow this link for a great lesson on how to make it.

Add all the ingredients for the dough (except the salt) in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on first speed (or by hand) just until they are combined into a shaggy mass. Cover the bowl and let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes to 1 hour (this is called autolyse). At the end of autolyse, sprinkle salt all over and mix with the dough hook on second speed for 1 to 2 minutes (or knead by hand about 4 minutes).

Let it rise (ferment) at room temperature for 2.5 hours, folding the dough at 50 and 100 minutes (see my photos after the jump).

Shape the dough into a ball ( “boule”; great youtube video for shaping all kinds of bread can be found here), place it with the seam up  in a round container (banettons are your best option) lined with a fine cloth and transfer to the refrigerator for 8 to 12 hours. Remove from the fridge a couple of hours before baking (Hamelman says it is not necessary, that you can bake it straight from the fridge).

If using a clay baker (my favorite way), place the baker in the cold oven and turn it on to 440F. Allow the oven to warm to that temperature for at least 10 minutes. Using mittens, open the lid and quickly transfer the dough to the baker, so that the seam is now down, then slash the surface according to your liking, and close the lid.

Bake covered for 30 minutes, open the lid (don’t forget the mittens), and allow it to bake for at least 15 more minutes. You want a dark crust and internal temperature of at least 200F. Allow it to completely cool on a rack before cutting the bread (2 hours should be enough).


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