Thursday, June 27, 2013

What makes a good cook book?

A good friend of mine borrowed me a cook book published by a well known food writer from New Zealand. I do admit, I am ot a huge fan of Anabel Langbein. And even that might be an understatement. don't like her. Yes I was prejudiced which mainly came from browsing through her books in book shops and the local library. I had a better look now at her book "The Free Range Cook" and I admit - I do like her even less now. Most of the pictures are so full of "lifestyle" that I almost felt sick browsing through the pages. The author is pictured in many "lifestyle" situations. For example out fishing, having caught a fish and presenting it to the camera. She wears a mint cardigan and a brilliantly white spanking clean top. Everybody who ever set foot on a boat fur the purpose of catching a slimy fish will know that it takes a nanosecond and your white top would be - well - not white anymore. The book is filled with these clean, emotional, look how down to earth I am , "lifestyle" imagery. It also makes me wonder "Does she own another cardigan than the mint one?"

But it could still be a good cook book, right? Theoretically yes. But is it?

The well known author who is "one of New Zealand's best loved food writers" and is the "star of her own international TV series" is not a trained chef. My experience is, you do see this throughout her recipes. The knowledge is missing. The background is missing. She leaves the reader with too many unanswered questions. She gives too many incorrect information. She, who is decorated with prizes and has her "own international TV series" just lacks the professionalism of a Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey.

Examples? Ok. "3 tsp dry yeast granules" What the heck is that? And how much is it? She has a conversion table in the back which tells me a tsp is 5ml. But "ml" is a measurement for liquids! And what are yeast granules? Is it Instant Dry Yeast? Which you can add straight to the flour? Or is it Dry Active Yeast which needs to be started with some liquid and maybe some sugar? We don't know. Does she?

Rule #1: A good cook book uses weights for ALL ingredients. We don't know how much "3 medium eggs" are but we do know how much 275 gms egg is. 3 tsp = 15 ml of salt can be 10 gms if you use rocksalt or 25 gms if you use fine grained salt. 6 cups of flour can be anything between - I don't know - 850 gms and 1 kg. Yes nowadays we have google and can convert it. But do we want to? Do you cook with your laptop on your side? What's wrong with saying "Use 850 gms of flour"?

Rule #2: Be precise. If you say dry yeast you should know that there are different types of dry yeast. Another recipe lists "mixed spices". What spices are mixed? Don't let your readers feel stupid standing in front of a shop shelve and not knowing what to buy. "200 gms of mushrooms" there are hundreds of mushrooms. If it doesn't matter then say "200gms of mushrooms, you can take any you like".

How much of doing it yourself do you expect in such a cook book? Would you expect a recipe for a pie to include how to make the pie crust? Or would you be happy if it says "1 pack of ready-rolled pie pastry"? I would expect from a good cook book to have probably a pie crust recipe in a general section and refer to it in the recipe. Maybe with a comment saying if you are n a hurry you can as well use a ready made pie crust.

Rule #3: If you take shortcuts clearly mark them as such. If I want to make a pie I will be disappointed if I don't get a recipe for a pie but rather get a recipe for a pie filling using supermarket pie crust.

Rule #4: Don't bullshit! You might get away with it. Sometimes. But not always. Do you really want to risk it? Saying things like "creamy Haloumi" and "I prefer to use Cypriot-style haloumi" is bullshitting. Haloumi, a cheese from Cyprus is anything else but creamy. And here comes my favorite bullshitting part of this specific book: A recipe for Soft Fresh Cheese introduced with the words "There is something wonderfully satisfying about making your own cheese ....". The recipe asks the reader to drain yogurt overnight and voila - say cheese! Sorry but that's bullshit.

One rule this specific book doesn't break is Rule #5: Don't use exotic ingredients nobody will ever find in any shop in their country. So that's a plus. How often have you read "Use 2 tsp of Japanese Toko Yakishima grown on the south side of Mount Fukujikajaki harvested at full moon by Geisha Virgins"? Don't google that, I made that up! Honestly, a cook book which has ingredients like this goes straight back onto the shop shelf. I currently have another book on my desk I got from the local library. This actually saddens me even more since I would love to see books in libraries people find useful. Who made the decision to order a book which - and I swear by the god of chopped onions I just opened it randomly - asks for 4 tbsp of Yuzu Juice or 2 tblsp of Sriracha sauce? This book is an example of an absolutely useless recipe book. At least it doesn't even have lots of sickening "lifestyle" photographies showing the author who has her "own international TV show". Still useless!

What do you expect from a cook book? I do expect easy, clever, healthy recipes. Recipes which work and don't leave me with questions what the author had in mind when writing it. Recipes I can actually cook without having to travel to South Korea to buy a bottle of some sauce. I love tips and tricks. I love shortcuts as long as I don't have to use them. I would expect mainly shortcuts in a "Make a 3 course menu in 15 minutes" cook book. I want to make the food at home. Don't use tools and things not everybody has. One of my pet hate is a microwave used in recipes. That might be rule #6. We don't have a microwave so why do you write recipes using a microwave. Don't make assumptions. If you write for one group of people make it clear. If you have your "own international TV series" and you use ingredients only available in New Zealand then people living in the UK might find your book not that helpful.

Julia Child was not a trained chef. But she knew she needed training and attended the Le Cordon Bleu Institute and became a chef. Ask yourself what the qualifications of the author are. Why should they give you instructions how to cook? What qualifies them? Nice photographs are not a qualification.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

How we change the (food) world

 

And with “we” I mean you and me. With every decision we make when shopping for food we have an impact on the way food is produced, marketed and sold. We can not afford to think that we are not part of it. The food world has producer, supplier and consumer. All three roles define the world of food as a product.

I would like to use the bakery business and the baking industry as an example. My example is located in Germany, the country where I was born and grew up. Don’t think this is far away and doesn’t affect us here. This is wrong, the situation the bakeries are in Germany is replicated around the world and all across the entire food industry.

Bakers and bakeries go back almost 8,000 years. The oldest remains of a bakery was found in Egypt and dates from 3,000 BC. The German Bakery Haeberlein-Metzger has its roots in 1492 and is still operating.

When I was a boy of 6 years of age we had many bakeries in the small village I grew up in. One bakery was across the school and made a whopping business with us kids. And after school I bought the bread and buns my mum wrote down on a piece of paper. There were about 5 different types of bread, maybe 4 - 5 different kinds of buns and rolls and cakes and Danish etc. Our village also had many other shops, two butchers, one or two grocery stores, a dairy shop where you got milk from the pump and loose cheese. There was no supermarket in sight.

10 years later, the landscape had changed. The village grew into a little town, supermarkets moved in, packaged bread became available but the bakeries were still there. Most of them. One or two gave up because the owner retired and the children didn’t’ have an interest in getting up at midnight and bake bread. They rather went to bed at midnight (or sometimes later). The bread range increased to about 10 - 15 different bread types, a lot of them with added grains. But we still had bakeries run by a baker.

Fast forward another 10 years. Many family owned bakeries have closed. The bread range is huge. Shelves are loaded with breads from all across Europe. 10 or so different types of rolls and buns. Baguette, Italian flat breads, wholegrain, white loaves, dark loaves, pumpernickel, sourdough, half wheat / half rye. Pretzels, buns with poppy seeds, buns with sesame, buns with oats, buns with a mix of grain, buns with sunflower seeds.  A number of bakeries jumped onto this bandwagon. Opened branches, grew bigger, had central bakeries and delivered their bread by truck to the number of branches they had all across the region. Franchising was the word.

Today? Bakeries are almost extinct. People buy their bread in Bakery Supermarkets like “Back-Werk” (BakeAndTake in the UK), Back-Factory and “Back-Koenig” who all have double figure growth rates. The range is huge, no small bakery can afford to offer 20 different types of breads, 10 - 20 different kinds of buns. The prices are below rock bottom.  Bread and buns and all other products are baked on site. But are they made on site?

No, a recent German documentary I watched (“Billige Broetchen” - Cheap Buns (Movie in German only)) shows how it works. Huge factories which look like oil refineries are located in low wage countries like Poland. They produce 1.5 Mill. buns a day, pre-baked, frozen, stored for up to 9 months and shipped around Europe, delivered to bakery-franchises, put in a bake-off oven and sold as fresh buns to customers. For a quarter of the price you would pay in a small family bakery. The owner of one of these bread-supermarkets interviewed in the documentary wasn’t even a baker, he was a gas and heating plumber. The ingredients are lab-tested and adjusted using artificial flavours and enhancers.

Digest these numbers: In the documentary a company owner was interviewed saying they sell 7 Mill. deep frozen buns per month alone in Berlin of one product. The company Diversi Foods in Poland has an immense range of breads. They produce 1.5 million buns a day. And that’s only one of their products. If you want to have a look inside, here is their company video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90WJV6A8TiU&feature=youtu.be . Compare this with a village bakery and you understand the unbearable pressure small businesses are under.

The owner of Diversi foods blames the consumer (“Geiz ist Geil” - “Stinginess is Cool” a slogan under which many Germans currently live and consume) for the decline of the German bakery business.

German’s Bakeries are dying. This is a fact. They can’t find apprentices nor can they afford them. Most of them are reduced to husband and wife operations, often working 16 - 20 hours day in shifts. A pretzel selling for 0.50 EUR in a bakery is on offer for 0.08 EUR in a big franchise operation. The biggest food discounter Aldi recently introduced “Backstationen” Baking Stations. The shopper presses a button and out comes the bun or bread. And all for a price way below the material cost a conventional baker has. Many of my German countrymen and women think Aldi should open in New Zealand (they are already in Australia). I had some very heated discussions because I believe it would destroy the remainder of our food system. I think it is a very selfish dream to ask for food which is cheaper than anyone can produce it. That’s the concept of Aldi. You think the Warehouse is bad? You ain’t seen nothing yet!

So who really is to blame. Of course there are the producers and suppliers who want to make a profit. Why should they care about some small outdated family businesses? But what about us? What about the consumer? Aren’t we part of this, too? Aren’t we actually a big part of this? Does it make sense that we ask for cheaper and cheaper products? Do we actually care where our food comes from, who made it, who makes money with it? Or is all we care about what we can buy as cheap as possible. Are we aware that this is actually a self-contained system? You apply pressure at one end and pressure comes out the other end? Why are we surprised that we have so many food scandals. Why are we still surprised by the usage of 2.9 Mill. tons of antibiotics in the production of beef alone in the US? Why are we still wondering why Monsanto creates more and more Frankenfood? Why do we still get upset about chemicals in the milk? Do we all live in La-La -Land and think our actions won’t make a difference? Do we really believe it is all someone else’s fault? Do you really think you are not part of this? Do you really think you are the victim and not the villain?

And don’t make the mistake to believe this is all happening far far away from us. Here in Kaitaia our only butcher closed. The owner couldn’t find a successor. Nobody saw any potential for a small butchery while having the “Big Yellow Stick Man Monster” in town. All we have left now is pre-packaged meat from the shelf.

Will we all soon be fed from factories? We do have a choice. Buy local, buy from small suppliers. Every dollar you spend at a small local shop will help. Every dollar you spend at a big supermarket will be a lost opportunity. Let’s all save our local businesses.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What makes a bread? Flour!

It is like Milk and Cheese, like fruits and jam, like eggs and Pavlova. The flour dictates the bread. You need to chose the right type of flour for your bread. Try making a Ciabatta with a low-protein (low gluten) whole grain flour – Failure!

So where do you get your flour from? Well there the problem starts. I am still in the process of setting up my little farm bakery. Of course I use organic products. Of course I wouldn’t use anything else than local products. Yeah Right. Organic isn’t the problem, local is.

A while ago I read an article on Azelia’s Kitchen Blog titled "The broken relationship between farmer, miller and baker". Don’t let the blog title fool you. It sounds like Annabel Langbein or something from Women’s Weekly. But Azelia has a huge knowledge about flour, grains and the process of baking. If she does something she does it right meaning she has an almost scientific approach to everything.

Now the core message in her article is that the three roles – Farmer, Miller and Baker – need to be experts in their field but also need to talk the language of their customer. So the farmer has to understand what the miller says and the miller needs to know what the baker wants.

This made me realise one thing – and it came as a shock: we do not have millers in New Zealand! (I do exclude big flour factories like Champion and Weston on purpose. They don’t provide NZ Organic flour as far as I know) We have farmers who operate a grain mill. I am sure they understand everything about growing wheat etc. But they sadly don’t understand a lot about flour. And even worse, they do not understand what the baker wants. What the baker needs.

I contacted local organic flour companies and asked for a flour analysis. They can not tell me what type of flour they sell. They do not blend the flour. They can not provide a consistent quality. Imagine, baking a bread blindfolded, not knowing what is in your flour bin! Impossible!

On top of this, the flour is especially milled for my order. They even say it should be used in 4 weeks after receiving the shipment. This is proof that there isn’t a lot of knowledge around. Green flour is not the best flour. Flour needs to oxidise and is best after a couple of months after milling. In the case of flour, fresh isn’t best! If you want to read more, here is another excellent post from Azelia: "oxidising fresh flour"

This all sounds very harsh. Which is not my intention. The problem is that these companies do sell their flour to some bakeries. So the “Well other people don’t have this problem” argument might be used. But bakers I talked to confirmed to me that they would never even consider using a flour they don’t know anything about. So how does one make bread, organic healthy bread on a high level, from local flour? The answer: You can’t in NZ!

I meanwhile buy from a company who import flour from Italy and Turkey. Which drives me insane when I start thinking about food miles (which I try to avoid – the thinking and the food miles).Talking to them about the NZ local flour situation I was told that they would love to sell local organic flour but that their customers are not happy with the quality and the inconsistent variations of the quality. Every flour they sell has a fact sheet which lists the nutrients and most importantly the proteins. Even if the quality would change, at least I would know about it and would know how to adjust my recipes.

It fills me with sadness that I can’t use a New Zealand flour and still produce a high quality product.It actually took away a big part of my dream to create a local healthy food. So what is the solution? I only see one way and that is to have a milling culture in New Zealand. We would need small mills with flour experts who can produce local flour from local grain. We already grow the grain, but we don’t mill and blend it properly. But I don’t think there is a market for this. Or let me re-phrase this: I don’t think anyone sees the market for this. One baker in Auckland tells me he would love to use NZ Organic flour if it would be available in different types and blends. I would guess judging from the silos he gets from Champion or Weston that his demand would already use a big part of a local mill’s production. And thinking of bakeries like Paris Berlin, Zarbos, Olaf’s, Two Hands Bread, Matakana Bakery and The Loaf to just name the few I can list from the top of my head I wonder why there is nobody who sees the market. None of them seem to use NZ Organic flour.

Will we ever be able to bake New Zealand bread with New Zealand flour?

Cheers

Peter
Coquo, ergo sum.

Baguette Rolls

CIMG9372_02

This is a variation on the Pain a l’Ancienne theme. To be honest, I struggled with the Pain a l’Ancienne recently. I switched to another flour and it just couldn’t take the 79% water the recipe asked for. The dough was like liquid mud. It tasted great but the Baguette I made were flat. Not nice! So with this recipe I reduced the water to 65%. And hey presto, wonderful.

Ingredients:

500 gm Bread Flour (organic) (100%)
10 gm Salt (2%)
3.5 gm Active Dry Yeast (0.7%)
325 gm Water – ice cold (65%)

Process:

Same as with the Pain a l’Ancienne, everything should be cold. I added ice cubes to the water, 30 minutes before I used it. But don’t get the ice cubes into your dough because the water wouldn’t get incorporated into the dough. If you can put the mixing bowl into the freezer and maybe the flour as well – even better. The colder you can get it the better. Put a bowl into the fridge you will use later to put the dough into. I love to use the 7 liter Clip-It containers from Systema. They are great for this.

This is really an easy and straight forward bread. Mix all ingredients for 2 minutes on low. Then increase the speed to medium and mix for 10 minutes. Take this as a guidance. The longer you mix the more the dough will take on temperature. And you want to keep it cold. A guidance that you might stop the mixer is when the dough gets off the sides of the bowl but still sticks to the bottom.

Spray the bowl from the fridge with cooking oil. Scrape the dough into the container and put it straight into the fridge. Leave for at least 10 – 12 hours. I prepare the dough in the evening and leave it over night in the fridge.

Take the dough out of the fridge and put at a warm place. I had it at 30 deg C (use a styro box or a chilly bin and add hot water in a bottle). Leave there for 2 –3 hours.

Make sure you heat your oven so that it is hot after the 2 – 3 hours period. Heat it to 240 deg C or hotter. As hot as possible.

Lightly flour a bench and tip out the dough onto the bench. For the rolls I cut 90 gm pieces and form them as little rolls or mini-batards. Don’t work the dough to much. You don’t want to deflate it more than necessary. Score (cut) them lengthwise with a sharp serrated knife or razor.

Put them straight into the oven and steam the oven with a steam pan or spray half-baked baguette rollssome water into the oven. Bake until they have a dark golden brown crust. I baked at 245 deg C for 15  -20 minutes (on a stone). I also baked some for only 10 minutes, packed them in plastic bags after they were cool and put them in the freezer for later finishing.

 

I was very pleased with the result. The cold fermentation brings out a huge amount of flavour. And with the reduced moisture the crumb was perfect as you can see below.

CIMG9374

This whole process fits nicely into our current activities. I put them into the warm box before we start milking, set the oven on the timer and when we come up from milking it is just a 20 minute bake (and 10 minute cooling) and we have fresh rolls for breakfast. And I can make them in advance for later finishing. Haven’t tried it yet but I would think if I put them frozen into a cold oven, set at 200 deg C and bake until golden brown they should be just right.

Any feedback is more than welcome. Enjoy!

Cheers

Peter
Coquo, ergo sum!

Is your food sterile?

I hope not. Because to me it then wouldn’t be food. Sterile food is e.g pink slime. It looks like food, they make it taste like food but is it really food?

Let me first tell you what inspired me to write this. A good friend of mine from way back when I studied Software Engineering in Germany made a comment on one of my blog posts. My friend meanwhile has a family, one son and lives in Germany. We both studied IT in Heidelberg as part of a retraining. Me retraining from a Gardener (who used to work with soil/dirt), him retraining from a baker who had a flour dust allergy. We both became software engineers. I am telling you this to give you a bit of a background. My friend was a baker with passion. On our weekend break he went home and worked at his old workplace, wearing goggles and a breathing mask. That’s how much he loved his work.

Now some 15 years later …. I moved to New Zealand and live a very much self-sufficient life, he is back in Germany and started a family. We couldn’t have changed more and moved apart more. I meanwhile slaughter animals, shoot pest/game, go fishing, bake bread, brew beer and wine and make cheese. I think cow shit actually has some sort of a nice smell to it. And the cheese making was what led to his comment. I posted something about an experiment I wanted to do to make a cheese the same way as it was done hundreds of years ago. I took the Swiss mountain shepherd and dairyman in the Swiss Alps called a “Senner” as an example who lived up in the mountains from beginning of spring until the dawn of fall. They had to be self-reliant. The next shop was a walking distance of one or more days away. They milked the cows and made cheese. This was the birth of Swiss cheese. But they didn’t had a web page where they could mail-order their freeze dried cheese cultures. They didn’t use any. They used the bacteria in the milk and in the air. That’s what made the Swiss cheese typical. So that was my experiment (which failed in its first stage and is delayed for now but this is not the point of this post).

Now the comment of my friend was something like:

“You can’t be serious! I am very worried about you and your health. You surely don’t want to eat this food which is loaded with bacteria. Baking is a different matter, baking with wild yeast at least uses heat as a steriliser. Do you really want to kill yourself?”

Now let’s look at this. There are two main ideas in this comment: 1st - Bacteria are bad and 2nd - food needs to be sterile.

We have 10 times more bacteria in our body than we have cells. We need bacteria for a healthy life. We even have E. Coli in our guts. Yes that’s right, E. coli which got all the bad press recently.

The modern food industry supported by government authorities tell us that bacteria are dangerous. The first thing what comes to people’s mind is “dirty”. Bacteria are a synonym for dirty, unsanitary conditions. And who really wants to eat dirty food? But our definition for clean and dirty has changed over the years. Clean was just this: naturally clean. Nowadays clean means sterile. One only has to watch TV commercials and you think we are under constant attack from germs and bacteria. I sometimes wonder how we survive out there.

When I was young, we lived a life outside. We ate disgusting things. We took fruit from trees without washing them first. We ate sugar beets we stole from the fields and broke open on a rock. We dared each other to eat earthworms and snails. I wonder how much sand and soil we involuntarily swallowed when we were rolling around on the ground (usually fighting with other boys). We cut our knees open and didn’t care about dirt in the wound. Nobody used antibiotic soap and disinfectant spray. We washed our hands with soap (if at all). We played with dogs and horses. We had hamsters and pet rabbits. So how did we survive? We had something called an immune-system. And boy was it strong! Because it was highly trained. It was hardened over time, right from the beginning. We sucked it in with our mother’s milk and strengthened it in the sandbox and on the playgrounds. And it was under attack a lot. But it was under attack from natural normal bacteria. Not under attack from antibiotics and antibacterial soap. We need to re-define our understanding of clean and dirty again. We need to bring it back to a normal, a natural level.

Now the second part is about “food has to be sterile”. Where does this come from? Food was never sterile. Everything based on fermentation is using yeast fungi. Bacteria are part of our food. Almost all dairy products are based on bacteria. But the real problem is, food which is alive is perishable. And this doesn’t fit into our modern food system which is based on Just-In-Time delivery, long term storage, filling demands, transportation and lean production systems. The only reason why our food is full of preservatives and chemicals is purely for profit. Why do you think do we have flavour enhancers? To make you more happy because it tastes better? Why do you think we have artificial flavours? To make you happier? Why do we (according to a cheese factory owner in NZ) pasteurize our yogurt after it was cultivated and then add some beneficial bacteria later on? To make it healthier for you? Why does the government put up a big fight and argument every time the raw milk discussion comes up? To protect you from harmful bacteria? There is only one answer to all these questions: It is to support the modern food production, to support the long term storage of food in warehouses, to support the long transport around the world - to make profit! This is the only true reason.

Are you happy to eat and drink all these additives and preservatives and colours and artificial flavours so that some food business can make more profit? I tell you one thing for sure, Goodman Fielder doesn’t want artisan bread which lasts only a week. They want pre packed bread, all in one size which fits nicely into a tray, which goes into a rack and gives an optimum of space usage in their trucks. Fonterra doesn’t want raw milk and raw milk dairy products. They want products which can be ripened in huge warehouses and carted around the country and overseas. They want yogurt made from milk powder because that stores way better than raw milk. Coca Cola doesn’t want fresh pressed fruit juice. They want fruit drinks based on apple juice concentrate which is freeze dried and pasteurized and can be stored in silos which are imported by ship from China.

Dead sterile food is profitable and manageable and needs additives to appear nourishing. Live food is perishable, seasonal and healthy. But sorry, food which is alive contains bacteria, fungi germs and the occasional snail shit! I can live with that. I actually want to live with that. What do you want?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pain a l'Ancienne - Baby its cold out there!

Thinking outside the box most of the time results in some pretty amazing things. The box in this case is "Dough needs temperature to rise". Which is true. But also "Dough needs time to develop flavour". Peter Reinhart is one who thinks outside the box. His passion is slow rise. He actually dedicated a whole book to it: Brother Juniper's Bread Book: Slow Rise as Method and Metaphor.

The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Making Classic Breads with the Cutting-edge Techniques of a Bread MasterIn his other book (see on the left) he has a recipe for Pain a l'Ancienne which is used to make Baguette and can be used for other breads as well. Because it introduces a method rather than a specific recipe: cold fermentation. The secret is to keep your dough as cold as possible and maintain a cold temperature for a long time to develop maximum flavour.

In his recipe he states that the water should be at 4 deg Celsius. But since I use my new dough mixer and this mixer is quite efficient in doing its job I wanted to keep the friction temperature to a minimum. The idea is to put the stainless steel bowl and the dough hook for 30 minutes into the freezer as well. I meanwhile learned that people even put the flour in the fridge overnight before using it.

Ingredients:
1000gm strong wheat flour (100%)
20 gm Salt (2%)
14 gm Instant Active Yeast (0.7%)
795 gm Water (79.5%) at 4 deg Celsius
Additional flour for dusting.

Tools:
Dough mixer
Scraper
Scoring knife
bowl or bin
Refrigerator
Baking paper
baking trays (2)

This dough is very wet so it is recommended to use a machine for mixing. If you want to knead by hand I recommend to use a sturdy wooden spoon as long as possible. This will also keep the dough cooler as if you knead too long with warm hands (which will become cold anyway ;-) )

Mix flour, salt, yeast and water (leave some out for later adjustment) with a paddle on lowest speed for about 2 minutes r until all is combined. Switch to the dough hook and knead for 5 - 6 minutes on medium speed. The dough should come off the walls of the bowl but still stick to the bottom. If it is too water add some more of the water. If too wet add a little (!!!) flour.

Oil a large bowl or bin (I use the Systema Klip-It 7 litre storage container), scrape the dough into this container and put straight into the fridge (5 - 8 deg C). Leave at least overnight.

You dough should have now risen slightly but not too much. This is expected at these low temperatures. Get the bowl or container out of the fridge and leave for 2 -3 hours at room temperature (21 - 25 deg C).

Don't forget to preheat your oven. It need to be ready by the end of the 2 -3 hour period. Set it as hot as possible. Mine goes to 265 deg C. If you can get it to 290 even better. Add a steam pan at the bottom. Straight onto the floor of the oven.

If you want to bake on a stone, prepare a baking tray which is as wide as your oven, use it upside down and put a piece of baking paper on top. This will act as your oven peel. Sprinkle it with semolina and set aside. Otherwise line a tray with baking paper and sprinkle with semolina.

When the dough has doubled, scrape onto a well floured bench and sprinkle flour over the top of it. Be gentle. The less you degass the dough at this stage the better it will rise in the oven. Coat the dough with flour. At this stage you should use a lot of flour on your hands and on the bench etc. The dough will be almost liquid and will flow into a flat oblong shape. Try to steer it gently to get a wider oval shape.

Use a big dough scraper or bench scraper (plastic or steel) and pinch off strips of dough. Everything now has to be done gently and with feeling! Transfer the strip of dough onto your baking paper and stretch it gently to the length you want. Don't force it. If it doesn't want to stretch, leave it for 5 minutes to relax the gluten. Transfer other strips onto your tray, leave a 3 cm gap between the pieces.

I got 7 baguettes from the dough so I needed to bake in two batches. Cover the second tray with a tea towel and keep out of drought.

Score the bread using a razor blade. This can be a bit tricky because the dough is very soft. Peter Reinhart mentions to use some sharp scissors but  haven't tried this.

Put into the hot oven and pour a cup of ht water into the steam pan. Be careful to not burn yourself from the steam. Close the oven door as quick as possible to not loose to much heat. Bake for 10 - 20 minutes. Don't get too hung up on the times but rather the look of your baguettes. Bake them to a deep golden brown. Still stop the time how long it takes to know for the second batch how long to bake.

Let cool on a rack.

So that's it. Really simple. But the results, well taste it for yourself. With the organic wheat flour I use it comes out really delicious. You can taste the grains and some nutty-ness and maltiness. This is one of those breads where I actually don't want to eat anything on top. Maybe some homemade butter. I had it with smoked fish which was great. But I love to just eat it plain and enjoy the flavor of the bread without any distractions.

Cheers

Peter
Coquo, ergo sum!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sauvignon Blanc Loaves - Drunk Grain


I do admit I have a lot of cooking books. I should have kept some statistics about how many recipes we made from each book. This would easily show what the good books are and the books we bought - well maybe because of their shiny pictures? Jamie Oliver's "Jamie's Italy" and the two River Cafe cook books would be on top of the "most used" list it wouldn't be for the superstars of my cooking books: bread making books. I have never made so many recipes from books as I have made breads from my baking books. I might put up another book review post sometime later.

The Handmade Loaf But meanwhile, here is another one I made: Based on Dan Lepard's "Alsace loaf with rye" in his book "The handmade loaf" (I am still waiting for my own copy, fishpond.co.nz!!! I still use the local library's one). I call it Sauvignon Blanc loaf because of the lack of Alsatian white wine here in New Zealand.





Ingredients:
For the grains
200g whole rye grains
Water to cover
200g New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Buy a bottle, you will find something else to do with the remainder)

For the dough
100% Flour made up of:

  • 350 g strong white flour (70%)
  • 100g wholemeal flour (20%)
  • 50 g rye flour (10%)

325 g water (65%)
3/4 tsp fresh yeast or 7 g active instant yeast (1%)
25 g honey (5%)
150 g sourdough starter - rye (30%)
15 g salt (3%)
25 g melted butter (5%) or oil

The day before baking:
Put the rye grains into a small pot and cover with water. Let boil and turn down the heat to simmer for 45 minutes. You need to keep an eye on it because the grain soaks up the water. Refill every now and then with boiling water from your kettle to maintain the grain being covered with water.
After 45 minutes, drain the water from the grain (keep the water and use it for the dough) and let the grain cool. Once cool,cover the grain with Sauvignon Blanc and put in the fridge overnight.

Baking day:
Take the grains out of the fridge and give them time to warm up to room temperature. Try some,they are delicious. But don't eat too many!

Dan Lepard's recipes do not use a lot of kneading. It is an interesting deviation from your usual "knead and knock the shit out of it" technique. I quite like it and the results so far are very good. So here we go...

Mix the flours together in a bowl. In another bowl mix the water (use the water from the grains), the honey and your yest and leave for 10 minutes. Add the sourdough and the grains and mix well. Add this to your flour and mix with your fingers until all is combined. Leave for 10 minutes covered with a cloth. Out of any draft as usual.

Melt the butter and prepare the salt.

Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and spread it our a bit and pour the butter over it and add the salt. Knead. But not for longer than 10 - 15 seconds. Return to the bowl.

Leave for 30 minutes

Knead again for 10 - 15 seconds.

Leave for 30 minutes then fold. Meaning,put your dough onto a lightly floured surface, stretch it very gently (don't knock out the bubbles) to a slightly oval shape, fold the long edge opposite you in 1/3 and fold the edge nearest to you over the fold. Now do the same with the left and right edge of the dough. So you get layers of dough. Form gently (that's where yo need a feel. Treat the dough like your girl/boyfriend. Gosh I hope you are not one of these rough S&M people. Anyway, gently,soft, smooth, with feelings - these are the words which you should keep in mind when handling dough) - where was I? Ahh yes! - form the dough gently into a ball and put back into your bowl. By the way, good bakers clean the bowl between steps to avoid that dried dough will get into your loaf which will later show as hard floury parts in your bread. Not good!

Leave for another 30 minutes. And fold again.

Leave another 30 minutes.

Prepare a kitchen towel and flour it very well. Rub the flour into the towel. This will be used as a baker's couche (see the top picture on danielsrusticbreead.com). If you are good you can convince the person who does the laundry that a baker's couche aka "the tea towel" you use will NOT be washed. Then your bread doesn't taste like the latest creation of fabric softener.

Divide the dough into 250 g pieces using a dough cutter/scraper. Use a scale! I still have trouble to estimate dough weight when I cut it into pieces. I guess you need to do baking for 10 or so year to be able to do it without a scale. If you don't use a scale you will risk that some loaves are bigger and some are smaller. The smaller ones will be baked faster than the bigger ones.

I shaped the pieces like I would shape small baguette rolls. I shaped a ball, flattened it, folded in the long edges and then fold it together and press the ends together. Place the loaves seam side up into the folds of your couche. Cover with another cloth and let rest for 60 minutes. Which is about 1 hour.

Pre-heat your oven to 210 deg Celsius. I use a peel for most of my oven loading. You can also use a cutting board. Sprinkle the board with semolina, upturn one or more of the loaves onto the peel and score (cut/slash) the loaves diagonally about5 mm deep. Load them into the oven. And here comes one of my secrets. Well it isn't a secret,, many of you will do this or similar all the time. The secret to a nice crust is - steam! Lots of it but not too long. What does it do? It slows down the caramelizing process on the outside of the bread. The crust forms slower and becomes - well more crusty! So I load my oven and on the bottom of it I have a flat oven tray sitting. I filled this tray with those lava stones you use in your BBQ. They do increase the surface a lot. This is in my oven when I switch it on. SO the tray and the stones are hot. Before I load the oven I prepare a teapot with boiling water. Once all the loaves are in the oven, I fill the tray with the stone with boiling water. You need to work quick here to avoid losing too much heat while the door is open. I almost never spray using a pump bottle as recommended in many of my baking books. I think I lose too much heat if I open and spray and as some recommend after 30 seconds I open the oven again and spray. But a couple of warnings: Steam is hot! Yeah who would have thought, eh? Still, be careful. And another one: Water on a hot glass door is not a good idea. Same with water on a hot baking stone! This is why I boil my water when I use it. Honestly, I can be as careful as much as I want I almost always get some water either onto the glass door or onto my stone. It always scares the shit out of me. I cracked a coupe of stones (but I use cheap granite slabs from the stone masons)but I don't want to destroy the oven door glass.

Back to the fun.  Bake for 30 minutes and then let cool on a rack (Do I have to repeat that the cooling process IS PART OF THE BAKING!!!!!!!!!!! So take your fingers off those hot buns, my friend!)

The loaves came out very nice. The rye grains are a bit crunchy but I found the next day they have softened. I also found the sweet winy taste came more through the next morning (I made the loaves in the evening). Overall a nice chewy moist bun/loaf with some sweetness in it. I had them this morning with cream cheese and homemade strawberry jam. They should also go well with smoked salmon or any other fish.

Just got an idea, what if .... I would soak the rye in beer? Hmmmmm.