Featured in Alltop

Summer Fun

Larry Kilbourne

Nicoise olive and Vidalia onion fougasse

While this has not been the most pleasant summer in the Washington, D.C. region - what with record high temps - it still beckons foods that are most enjoyed during the summer season.

And for a baker, that means fougasse - a bread originated in the Provencal region of France and made to be enjoyed in picnics and outings.

This could be described as pizza without the sauce: instead of toppings, you just decide which ingredients to wrap into the dough.

In this case, I lightly cooked sweet Vidalia onions in a little olive oil until just translucent, cooled them and added nicoise olives.  In a commercial setting, a spiral mixer would mix these with already moderatedly mixed dough without a lot of trouble.  But with a kitchen stand mixer and dough hook, I've learned that only bad things happen - the olives are never incorporated into the dough but eventually get mashed up.

So, I've learned to incorporate the olives by hand: stretching the dough out into a square, adding the olives, and then turning the dough in on itself until the olives are finally distributed throughout.  It's a bit of work, but the outcome is well worth the effort!

In the case of the lightly sauteed onions, the dough hook was effective at mixing them into the dough, and after I added the olives.

This is a crust-heavy bread - and intentionally so.  It's a snack, like pizza, and the cuts, as you can see, not only create more surface crust, but also make it easy to break off bite-sized pieces.  As I said at the outset, a wonderful picnic bread... and definitely one that draws attention!


Day-off Baking

Since February I've been Head Baker at Farmers & Fishers and Founding Farmers restaurants in Washington, DC.  A great job, a daily challenge for someone with so little experience (I'm blessed with bakers who know a lot more than me!), and a fabulous opportunity to learn more about bread.

But it's left me with little time for posting on my learnings...and my bakings.  But this weekend I took a deep breath, baked at home as I love to do, and decided to share the results on this blog.

The first bread I baked was a favorite rye of mine: A 72% rye - making it what I call a cocktail rye - that includes both a rye soaker and a flax seed soaker.  The latter makes the seeds more digestable; the former simulates a 'mash' and yields a sweetness that you otherwise can't get.

As you can see, this is a very wet rye that resembles mud more than dough.  Indeed, high percentage, high hydrated ryes more resemble puddings than bread dough.  And they are baked and subsequently treated similarly.

No commercial yeast was incorporated in this: I used my rye levain and because of necessities actually retarded the shaped dough during its final proof - something that isn't normally done with high-rye percentage rye doughs.

But I'm quite happy with the results.  The loaf is amazingly moist (I keep it wrapped in aluminum foil instead of plastic wrap, so to retard molding) and amazingly sweet.  With a good goat cheese or aged Emmentaler it's heaven!


The large bubbles at the upper left hand of the loaf indicate that I'd pushed its final proof about as far as I could without overproofing it.








  The second bake was a traditional pain au levain (sourdough) taken from Jeffrey Hamelman.  It uses mixed levains - both a wheat-based sourdough and a rye-based one - and incorporates a little whole wheat flour to give it a wonderful character in terms of flavor. 

In this instance, I was forced to retard the shaped loaves for 23 hours.  This is something Hamelman counsels against because of the effect of retarding on flavor - yielding a more noticeably sour tang with the long retardation.  But I had no choice and so decided to do what I had to do.











Although the loaves had a mild tang from the long retardation, it was in no way the sharp sourness that many associate with (and either love or hate about) San Francisco style sourdough). 

I'm especially pleased with the honeycomb structure of the crumb - a good sign of a loaf that is well-risen when it's baked.  


This is a wonderful everyday sandwich bread.  And a reminder that commercially produced bread will never achieve what a home baker can, with a little patience and care. 


Riffing on Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain

Today was a much needed day off from work. I love the new job, but we're pushing out about 650# of dough per day with an average of 3.4 bakers, and as our production is increasing we're going from comfortably busy to close to overwhelmed.

Anyway, a day to sleep in and generally relax, and of course, do some baking.

I fired up my white and rye starters last night, not certain what use I would put them to.  This morning I came downstairs and decided I wanted some good multigrain sandwich bread and turned to Hamelman's Five-Grain Levain.  Of course, I had neglected to make a soaker using the seeds the previous night, but I went ahead and mixed about a cup and a half of the following: sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed and rolled oats, and poured about 240g of boiling water over them.  Lidded the container and let it sit for about 40 minutes.

From that point I pretty much followed Hamelman's recipe, with the exceptions that I used my rye starter to supplement my regular levain, and also in place of the cracked rye he uses as one of the five grains.  I also added a small portion of sunflower seeds and rolled oats not used in the soaker directly into the dough which was quite wet.

Bulk fermentation was 1 1/2 hours, with a fold at 45 minutes.  By that time, a very slack dough had firmed up considerably due to the thirsty seeds.

I divided the dough, preshaped, rested and made one boule and one bâtard.  Fnal proof was just a little over 1 1/2 hours. 

The breads were baked at 450 degrees F for 40 minutes.  I didn't get a whole lot of oven spring because I really pushed the proof, but as the bâtard clearly shows that the cuts opened nicely, so the dough had a bit of final push in it.

As Hamelman comments, this is a lovely table bread.  The flavors of the grains, seeds and mixed levains are pleasant and complementary, and the crumb is wonderfully light and moist.  Hamelman comments on the fact that the 98% hydration of the dough is not a misprint, but testament to the capacity of the grains and seeds to absorb moisture. 

Even so, the texture of the crumb is light and fluffy.


A perfect sandwich bread!  And tomorrow (and another day off), I'll be piling cold cuts high on it.


Spring Croissants


I've been out of the loop for sometime now, and indeed, this may be a brief 'coming up for air.'  I have a new job baking at a restaurant which provides the breads for itself, its sister restaurant, and another adjacent restaurant.  Right now we mix and bake about 600 - 800 lbs of dough per day, but that will increase as summer nears.  In addition, our restaurant group is planning on opening two new locations in the area between now and September, so our production requirements will increase substantially in the coming months.

Our major doughs are ciabatta (we'll bake 250- 300 lbs of 1 lb loaves per day, plus a couple hundred small 'ciabattinis'); pain au lait which is used for hamburger, slider and lobster rolls; English muffins; loaf breads (rye, white, multigrain), and a line of hearth breads we're just in the process of rolling out for retail sale at the restaurant.  And then there's homemade biscuits and cinnamon buns for Sunday brunch.

So I'm finding myself both overjoyed at the opportunity (we may be getting our own bakery built toward year's end) and overwhelmed by all that's happening.

Today, on my day off I practiced a bake of a new biscuit recipe.  And then decided to keep some long-neglected promises to provide croissants and pain au chocolat to my doctor's office (which has, over many years, provided 'no charge' treatment and advice on occasion) and the head chef at my local pub who provided my last 50# of KA Sir Galahad gratis.  It is a good thing to repay debts - particularly debts of kindness.

The recipe I used can be found here.  It's an adaptation of Dan DiMuzio's in his excellent textbook (as opposed to cookbook), Bread Baking. My only deviation was to up the butter content by 5% (it was convenience, not conviction).

The dough I made last night, and this morning I incorporated the butter block.  I gave the dough two series of single-folds, followed by a double-fold.  It was refrigerated for 20 minutes between the butter block incorporation, two-single folds and double (book) fold.  I then placed it in the refrigerator for 3 hours to chill well, before my final manipulation.

After 3 hours I removed the dough, which measured about 7"x 16" and cut it in two unequal parts, leaving me with one piece 7" x 10" long and one 7" x 6" approximately.  One I returned the the fridge and the other I proceeded to roll out to a rectangle about 14" high by 21" long.  After lightly flouring the surface I folded the dough top to bottom, to form a rectangle 7" x 21".  From this I cut out triangles of 4 1/2" width. 

The first batch of dough yielded 14 croissants.  The second piece I rolled out to a height of 8" and a length of 18".  I again folded it width-wise and cut in into 3 1/2" lengths, yielding 10 rectangles for the pain au chocolat.


Proofing was 3 1/2 hours, which is fairly lengthy, but my house temperature was at about 70 degrees F, so I allowed it to proceed at its own pace.  I covered the croissants and pain au chocolats with plastic wrap during final proof, but did not apply eggwash until just before placing them in the oven.

Bake was for 15 minutes: 5 min at 425F, 5 min at 400F, and 5 min at 375F.


In future bakes, I want to up the recipe amount: I think my current dough yields croissants that are a wee bit smaller than I'd like them to be.


A little baguette fun...

One of the things I love about baguettes is that with just a little manipulation once they are proofed, you can take the "stick" and create an array of dinner rolls that are barely linked: the épi de blé is the obvious example.  But recently, after watching a video series called Formes de pains that a The Fresh Loaf member posted, I became fascinated with another forme using a baguette shape as the starting point: la margueritte.

So I decided to have a little fun, and instead of just creating my usual two or three baguettes, to play with them a bit.

The impetus was my attempt to arrive at a dough weight that I am happy with for the home baguette; something, in my case, that is maximum 16 - 17 inches long.  I've always made 10oz (283.5 g) baguettes, but I'm not altogether pleased.  Their girth is more appropriate to a sub roll than a classic baguette.  So I decided to go with 8oz (227.8 g) dough weight to see if that produced a slightly more lithe baguette - a ficelle, actually.

Because I wanted to play with the dough more than anything else, I decided to make a straight baguette, essentially using Hamelman's French Bread recipe, but decreasing the hydration to 69% and doing a hand, rather than machine, mix.  Bulk fermentation was a little over 3 hours, and folding was done in the container though sets of 8 folds at a time.  The initial fold was done 10 minutes after mixing, and then 2 additional folds were made at hour intervals.  The dough was divided and preshaped into 3 pieces with a 25 minute bench rest.

When it came time to roll out the baguettes, it was evident that the amount of folding had really increased the elasticity of the dough, even though I had done nothing more than a quick minute-and-a-half mix of the ingredients by hand.  So it was necessary to roll them out partially, let them stand another 5 minutes and then finish the shaping.

They were couched for 1 1/2 hours while I preheated the oven to 500 F.

I decided to place them on parchment paper on my peel to make loading more easy, and to construct la margueritte right on the parchment.

As you can see from the picture below, it is essentially a baguette with the tips of each end cut off (they are used to make the little dough ball in the middle which acts like a glue for the structure).  It is then cut diagonally into 6 more or less equal pieces, and they are place in a circle with the dough ball in the center.  The video for this can be found here.  It's quite easy to make and once formed the top is lightly dusted with flour and then each 'ear' is lightly slashed.


The epi, below, is of course simply the baguette shape cut diagonally with scissors with pieces then turned right and then left (or left and then right) and also dusted with flour.  


The oven was presteamed, and hot water was added to my lava rocks when I loaded the bread and then twice more in the initial 2 minutes.  The bake was at 475 F for 21 minutes, and I rotated the breads after 10 minutes to get even browning (made easier by the parchment paper they baked on).

Both la margueritte and the epi create, in effect, separate dinner rolls that are lightly conjoined.  It just seems such a unique and conversation-generating way to present rolls that otherwise would be placed in a basket and just passed around a table.  The videos present several other interesting ways of manipulating baguettes to create new formes de pains.

The ficelle turned out nicely as well, with its grignes opening up well.  Crumb shots below as well.



Methinks a tomato-basil bisque would be a wonderful sop for these!

Page 1 ... 4 5 6 7 8 ... 13 Next 5 Entries »