29 February 2008

Daring Bakers and Julia Child's Baguette



This month's challenge, posted on Leap Day, comes from our brilliant hosts Mary from The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like to Cook. Always curious as to what the challenge will be, I was thrilled to see they chose Julia Child's baguette recipe. It made it even better that it was something relevant to what I am doing now, which is learning the art of the baguette.

In the past, my go-to baguette recipe was ACME Baguettes from the book Artisan Baking and even though I always mean to try another, I usually stick with what I know when I need the end product to come out well. The difference between the ACME recipe and Child's recipe is the former has an old dough and poolish, as well as foldings interspersed throughout the rising time, whereas the latter is just a straight dough with two fermentations, form the shapes, then rise and bake. I was curious about this recipe ever since I had watched Julia Child making baguettes with Danielle Forestier in these videos.


After the initial mixing and resting for a few minutes, this is what the dough looks like. Very shaggy and wet, but you can tell it's not an entirely soft dough that lacked any shape.


After the kneading time, which took me 20 minutes and created an ache in my right bicep (yes, I have been far too lazy...), I produced a gluten-developed dough with a taught skin, though still soft. (This was after the kneading, a brief rest, and 1-2 more minutes of kneading. It's amazing how that short resting time really made a difference in the texture of the dough.)


I do not know why I couldn't tell this picture had a pinkish hue when I was editing it. Annoying.


After the first rising time of 3 hours, the dough pretty much tripled in size and developed a lightness when you gently press it.

There was a second fermentation, about 1 ½ hours, after which:


The dough is weighed into three equal pieces, shaped into a ball, and left to rest for a bit.



After the folding session, which is done to develop a taut skin and help hold the shape.


The baguettes are placed into my makeshift couche and covered to rise. (I pressed and sprinkled the towel with brown rice flour, as I find it keeps the dough from sticking better than regular flour does.)


I then moved one piece onto my makeshift baker's peel, also sprinkled with rice flour, and proceeded to slash and brush with water. (I need to work on my slashing skillz so it won't deflate the dough as much as it did here.)



The first is a picture of the baguettes during the last water-brushing time, the second is right after the baguettes finished baking.



A close-up on the crust. Remember the loaf of bread insect in Alice in Wonderland? This is what the insect version of a baguette would look like.


Fast forward past my patience, aka the cooling time, I was anxious to see the crumb development so I sliced and stared in awe. Look at the webbing!

I was very please with this recipe and am glad it was chosen. The finished product produced a crispy crust, magnificent innards with a slight fermented smell and a beautiful off-white color due to the long fermenting process. The flavor was great, too. Thanks again to Mary and Sara!

Be sure to read the other Daring Baker's blogs and see what they thought of it. The link is on the sidebar.

I'll leave you now with two closing pictures to whet your appetite until next month! ;)


25 February 2008

The Panettone That Couldn't

The following took place on Christmas Eve of December 2007.


Three years ago (2005), I made my first panettone from The Bread Book by Linda Collister and Anthony Blake. Looking back on it, my success was due in part to constant bread baking despite being a beginner, and going into it with no apprehension because I was a beginner. Basically, beginner's luck. This time, however, wasn't quite like that first, successful experience.


The deep, yellow hue is because of the many egg yolks in the recipe. This is an extremely rich bread.


After the butter was kneaded in.



Kneading in the sultanas.



A somewhat sticky, otherwise smooth ball of dough.



Fast-forward past the first two risings, the dough is re-shaped into a ball and placed in the greased 1 gallon coffee tin.


After it has risen, the dough is slashed and a pat (to be technical, a tablespoon) of butter is pushed ¾ of the way into the middle.


You would think that I'd be stoked at the incredible rise and magnificent, Everest-like grandeur of my panettone, but just wait until...


What you are seeing is what I prefer to call "Epic Failure". I'm thinking it wasn't cooked long enough to stabilize, which was evident by the soggy innards. Sigh. The only way to fix it was to place it on a baking sheet and continue to bake it.


The resulting texture was dry and straw-like, though still buttery and decently flavored. I can't even describe the texture of the crust.

In the end, I noted what went wrong so at least I came away with answers to any questions that may arise in the future. Despite the epic failure, it was still enjoyed by one and all.

And to all, a goodnight.

17 February 2008

Alton Brown

I've heard of the wonders of Alton Brown many times, but I've never made any of his recipes. From everything I've heard, Brown has the intensity of Martha Stewart in that he strives to find the best ways to do things, but he's down to earth and realizes that frou frou-gourmet isn't necessarily always the best. I appreciate people like that.

This week, one of the cooking clubs I'm a part of had Alton Brown's Baked Macaroni and Cheese as the recipe to make. As I looked at the ingredients, I could tell that this was a straight-forward recipe that would yield a great, flavorful dish. It deviated a bit from the recipe for the macaroni and cheese I usually have, but I like to try different variations for the sake of experimentation.



First you make a roux which consisted of butter, flour, and dried mustard powder, then I added the diced onions, paprika, and my addition of horseradish mustard and let it cook a bit before adding the milk. After the milk-mixture cooks a while and is thickened, I added the tempered egg, 3/4 of the cheddar cheese, and the kosher salt and coarse black pepper.


The important part about making baked pasta dishes is to take the pasta out of the water a bit before it's al dente, as it will continue to cook in the oven.


When making the breadcrumb topping, it's a good idea to use a big enough skillet... (Note to self...) You are looking for all the breadcrumbs to have a moistened, slightly clump-ish look to it. Don't add more butter, just keep mixing it around. (If I had better bread on hand, I would have used fresh bread crumbs.)


After placing the coated noodles in a casserole dish, sprinkle it first with the remaining cheese and then evenly coat with the bread crumbs.


Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.



What's missing from this plate? Vegetables! But don't worry, I had a salad before this.

I used about five more ounces of dried pasta than the recipe called for, so it was less saucy than it otherwise would have been, but it still had enough so it wasn't dry. Next time, I'd use 10 ounces total of dry pasta. Other than that, this recipe had a wonderful flavor from the dried mustard, the hint of onions, and the sharp cheddar. It wasn't an intense cheesiness, but it was enough so that you knew what it was without questioning its authenticity.

What I liked most about it was the ease of preparation. Everyone came together smoothly and didn't take much time at all. Definitely a keeper!

A quick note about the other foods on the plate, I didn't make them. They were wonderful, though. The chicken breasts, which usually are reminiscent of sawdust, were wonderfully moist and had an amazing lemon taste that played well off the coating of chili sauce. The grain dish is a barley-rice mixture coated with some ingredients I'm not sure of exactly, but had golden raisins, rinsed black beans, sliced green onions, basil, salt... But it was an excellent grain salad that pairs well with just about everything.

15 February 2008

I'm Tagged

I've been tagged by Ema at Ema's Edible Experiments.

No offense to Ema, but I almost was going to ignore this because it seems very narcissistic, but I figured I was being a n00b and decided to play along. =P

Rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

Meez:

1. I just got my copy of The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook in the mail that I won from The Kitchn and I'm very stoked about it!

2. I have smoked the kitchen before by walking away from a pan of cooking bacon and forgetting about it.

3. I was featured in Cooking Light's Reader's Recipes feature a few years ago. I sent in the recipe a few years before they called and told me I won, so it was quite the shock!

4. My cat, Cat, bit off a small chunk of my ear, thus earning the title of "Cat Tyson".

5. I'm a runner that likes running and competing in races, but currently am procrastinating about getting back into it. Oops...

Tagged:
1. Emiline @ Sugar Plum Sweets
2. Gretchen @ Canela & Comino
3. Jen @ Milk and Cookies
4. Mary @ The Sour Dough
5. Robyn @ The Girl Who Ate Everything

08 February 2008

Paczki Day

The following took place on Fat Tuesday, aka 5 February.


Paczki are a yearly tradition in this area, having to do with the large Polish community, and are sold at many bakeries up until Lent begins. Typically, paczki are supposed to be eaten on Fat Thursday, but most bakeries start making them on Fat Tuesday.

The difference between paczki and other filled doughnuts is that paczki are made with a richer dough, lard/butter, eggs, sugar, and sometimes milk. The trouble is finding a paczek that tastes differently than a typical filled doughnut. From last year I remember eating dry, so-so jelly-filled paczki.

The first paczki I ate were from Mrs. T's Bakery in Bremen, IN. At a race I was at, cookies from this bakery were at the food table and they were some of the better cookies I have eaten that I didn't make (peanut butter-oatmeal-M&M cookies -- very well flavored and chewy). The other time was at Macy's where they made the cakes for the induction of the Martha Stewart baking line. At first I wasn't going to eat the cake sample, but after finding out it was this bakery I did and it was wonderful. I had high hopes for their paczki.



Here you see half of a Bavarian cream or custart-filled paczek and half an apricot-filled paczek.

Like many I've tested, the crumb tasted dry (surprising for being made that day) and didn't taste any differently than a typical doughnut. I also didn't really care for the Bavarian cream or custard filling. A) If it was Bavarian cream, it wouldn't really explain why I thought it tasted okay on its own, but watery when eaten with the paczek. The only real difference between Bavarian cream and custard is that the former is thickened with gelatin and additional whipped cream is folded in at the end and the latter is thickened solely by the egg yolks. (Pastry cream (crème pâtissière), though it has egg yolks, is thickened with cornstarch or flour.) B) Whatever it was it lacked richness.


Dry innards


This cookie looks very pretty (despite the "I love you!" connotation...), well-decorated, and tasty. But I didn't really like it. The cookie itself was decent, soft and chewy, probably preserved due to being encased in frosting, but the frosting, which I thought was royal icing, tasted bake-shoppy and vanillin; it left a rather disgusting aftertaste in my mouth after only eating 1/4 of the cookie.

The next stop was Macri's Italian Bakery, which is the primary source for paczki in the area, selling about 10,000 total. They have their famous strawberry shortcake paczek, which I didn't buy nor did I take a picture of.


The back entrance. I don't know those people in the reflection.


Display case of their paczki


Coincidentally, with the backdrop of the counter and the box colors, it's the Italian flag!


The powdered are lemon-filled, the sugar-coated are prune-filled, the lone paczek on the right is raspberry, and the two in the front are cherry.



As I bit into the first paczek from Macri's, I knew this one was great. The crumb was softer (though still a tad dry) and seemed a bit richer than Mrs. T's paczek. The coating of sugar added a pleasant crunch and the filling was better than the other ones, which were basically jelly (and I've had better preserves than what these were filled with), and it was thick and slightly sweet. They didn't skimp on the filling, either. I'm guessing the prune filling wasn't pumped in because of how thick it was.





This cherry paczek, which I ate simply for the bready-mass, was nice and had a decent cherry taste. I'm pretty sure it was more on the sweet- than tart-side, but not sickly sweet.

I also ate half a lemon paczek, but I didn't think it was super, more like a jiggly lemon filling that looked suspect. Not that it was, but whatever. My favorite was the prune paczek. I love prunes!

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