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.

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.

Dough mixer
Scoring knife
bowl or bin
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.


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,!!! 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.

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 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.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Knaeckebroed - Crunch! Crunch!

This is a flat crisp bread common in the Scandinavian countries. I make it from 100% Rye and it is a Sourdough/Yeast starter mix. My wife Lilo loves crisp bread instead of norm al bread from time to time. But the ones you can buy in the supermarkets in my opinion rather taste like cardboard than bread. It is like, crunchy and is a perfect snack for on the road. One variation I want to try is to shift the whole focus to northern Italy, add some spices and make a Vinschgauer which is a crisp bread the farmers took with them up the mountains. But that's another blog entry.

Original Recipe: "The handmade loaf" by Dan Lepard
The Handmade Loaf

200 gm Rye Flour (100%)
200 gm Water (100%)
100 gm Rye Sourdough Starter (50%)
2 gm active instant yeast (1%)
4 gm Salt (2%)

Mix the liquid ingredients and the yeast in a bowl.Mix the flour and salt in your mixing bowl. Add the liquid to the flour/salt and mix until you get an even batter. Put at a warm place and let rise for 3 hours.

Prepare sheets of baking paper as big as your baking tray. Put the batter onto the paper and flour heavily. One thing with this dough is you need to use a lot of flour for rolling it out. As soon as it becomes a bit sticky, use more flour. Don't worry this is intended. I know most of the time people say you shouldn't use to much flour when working the dough but with this bread it is different. Now roll out your dough on the baking paper very thin. About 5 mm thick. This takes a bit of practice but once you get the hang of it it is easy. Try to avoid to get the corners too thin because they will burn easier than the thicker middle part. You can also trim the corners if you want to create a more even square piece of rolled out dough and get rid of the thinner parts. Once rolled out, cover it with a tea towel and let it rest for 2 hours at a warm place with no draft.

Heat the oven to 225 deg Celsius.

Use the end of a wooden spoon or anything with a rounded tip and indent the dough slightly. Don't punch holes in it just do indentations. With a dough scraper or a knife (or a pizza wheel) cut the dough in pieces. I do approximate 10 x 10 cm but it is really up to you.

Bake for 30 minutes at 225 deg C. Now the original recipe I used said 40 - 50 minutes. I always follow the instructions when I do a recipe for the first time. But I ended up with burnt bread. I now bake for 30 minutes and that's perfect. I suggest you keep an eye on your oven. If it becomes golden brown and the edges start to darken it is ready. I want to try next time to maybe lower the temperature to 200 deg C and bake a bit longer.

Once finished baking put on a cooling grid and let cool. Let dry overnight or until really crisp. There shouldn't be any soft parts to the bread. It needs to be crisp all the way through.

This bread can be stored for a long time. As long as it is kept dry it won't go mouldy. This was the purpose of this bread. People used it for long time storage. It is light so they could take it with them when they went on a hunting trip.

Goes well with cream cheese.

May your dough always rise.

Coquo, ergo sum!