Showing posts with label chewy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chewy. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Classic French Bread - A Baguette (kind of...)

OMG!! I'm sitting here at the keyboard chewing on a baguette (or as close as I've ever gotten) stuffed with really spicy salami and slathered with hot Dijon mustard. The bread doesn't really get bitten off but more like torn. It's that chewy. I'll try not to get saliva on the keyboard. It's that good. Really.

This is not one of your usual breads that take 3-4 hours start to finish. This bread is a two-step process using a starter, called pate fermentee (literally fermented dough, in French). Don't despair. It really is not ac complicated as it sounds. Just remember that one of the tools we have at our disposal to bring out even more flavor from the dough is time. By increasing the time it takes to proof the dough we can bring out lots and lots of flavors trapped in the flour even when we have the simplest ingredients. This dough, for instance has no sugar at all. No oil (except in the oiled bowl used for proofing). No nuts or seeds. Nada.

I have been reading a lot lately about 'starters' used to enhance flavor in bread dough. Essentially there are three main types called poolish, biga and pate fermentee, used here. It is actually dough that is nade up the night before and allowed to ferment slowly (in the refrigerator) overnight. After that the recipe is fairly easy.

Here's what you'll need for the starter:
1 1/8 cups (5oz or 150g) AP flour
1 1/8 cups (5oz or 150g) bread flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast
3/4 cup warm water

1. Mix the flours, yeast and salt together then add the water. Mix to form a 'shaggy' dough.
2. Move the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth.
3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let is rise, covered, until doubled in bulk.
4. Gently de-gas the dough. Then form it into a ball and place it back in the bowl, covered.
5. Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day...
Here's what you'll need for the bread:
3 cups of the starter (all of it actually)
1 1/4 cups AP flour
1 1/4 cups bread flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp yeast
3/4 cups warm water

By now you've noticed its the same recipe except the dough from yesterday has fermented overnight.
1. Remove the pate fermentee from the refrigerator, cut it into about 10 equal-sized pieces and leave it, covered to come to room temperature.
2. Mix together the flours, yeast, salt and pate fermentee with the water until it is evenly distributed and a nice soft, pliable smooth dough is formed. Knead it for a few minutes to achieve this.
3. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl and let this mixed dough ferment at room temperature, covered for 2 hours.
4. Gently remove the dough from the bowl to a lightly floured surface being careful to de-gas the dough as little as possible.
5. Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces then, gently roll the dough to the desired length and thickness. 

6. Place each piece on a floured baking peel or a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Cover and let it rise, at room temperature until about 1 1/2 times in size.
7. In the meantime, about 30 minutes before baking time, pre-heat the oven for hearth baking, to 500 F (230 C) or as close as you can get in a home oven. Place an empty loaf pan in the oven for steam.
8. When the oven reaches the temperature (it will be more stable if you have a baking stone), quickly open the oven door and pour about a cup of boiling water into the loaf pan and close the door. After about 1 minute, use a spray bottle to spray the sides of the oven with water and close the door quickly. Be careful not to spray the glass!!. Do this twice more a minute apart so that steam builds up in the oven. 
9. Only after this place the dough in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes at 450 F (220 C). After 10 minutes turn the bread 180 degrees to ensure even baking and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown. 

10. Cool on a rack waiting at least 40 minutes before slicing open to eat. (If you can manage to wait that long). The crust will be chewy and the crumb will be soft with nice sized holes. And the flavor... the tang is incredible!

This is a little intensive but believe me, well worth the effort!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Convenience and Style- The New York Water Bagel

Truth be told, bagels don't necessarily come from New York. Or at the very least, they don't only come from New York. That said, most people associate the very best bagels with the Big Apple. And the secret to the bagel's popularity isn't really much of a secret, after all. Bagels are boiled in a water bath before baking. This is what gives them their characteristic super thin crust (flavored) and the chewy texture. Probably they originated in Eastern Europe and came to New York at the turn of the 20th century with the millions of immigrants coming by the boatload. I remember eating great bagels in Nova Scotia baked in the famous (at least to me) Bernie's Bakery I spoke about in previous posts. And that is very far indeed from New York, in both body and soul, so to speak.

Bagels are first cousins to bialys (or pletzel) also from previous posts. Yet, there is something special about the bagel. The hole in the middle is part of it, of course. Still the combination of the texture and its supreme utility as a platform for smoked salmon, cream cheese, butter or really just about anything, is what makes the bagel so very popular. It is in some ways, the ultimate bread-based snack food. Small, convenient and oh, so tasty!

Bagels as bread may seem even more complicated than regular yeast breads but that is not the case. Actually, there is only one real rise so they take less time than regular bread. By the way, the dough, when made into a regular loaf of bread is also supremely delicious. Enjoy!

Here's what you'll need: (for about 30 medium bagels)
1 or 2 large potatoes (about 3/4 pound - 350g - total)
2 1/2 cups water
2Tbs yeast
1 1/2Tbs sugar
1 1/2Tbs salt
7 to 7 1/2 cups bread flour or AP flour
1/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
Egg glaze plus some seed toppings if desired

Here's what you'll need to do:
1. Peel the potato, cut into chunks, and boil in water until soft. Drain off 2 1/2 cups of the water, let it cool to 120F (55C). The potato can be used for something else.

2.Mix the yeast, sugar, salt and about 2 cups flour in a large bowl. Add the potato water and the oil then mix together. If using an electric mixer mix at medium speed for about 2 minutes, then add 1 more cup of flour and the eggs and beat for another 2 minutes. 

3. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you have a soft, smooth dough that 'cleans the bowl' is formed. Remove it from the bowl to a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes to develop the gluten and make the dough very smooth.

4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until roughly doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

5. Now for the fun part, forming the bagels. Deflate the dough, gently and remove it to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into quarters, then each quarter into 6 or 8 pieces. Shape each piece into a round ball, then flatten into a disc. Poke your thumb through the disc, making the hole, then gently widen the hole (without breaking the circle of dough). Don't worry if each bagel looks slightly different, or if they slightly misshapen. These are homemade bagels after all. If you want factory-made, go to the grocery store!!

6. There is another school of thought on shaping bagels (of course!). The second method involves taking each piece of dough and forming a 'snake'. Pinch together the two ends to form a loop then roll the seam on a surface to unite them into one piece. 
You choose, they both seem to work just fine for me! Either way, the dough does not now need a second rise.

7. Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). While the oven is heating, boil several quarts (liters) of water in a large pot. For New York bagels, add two tablespoons of either salt or sugar to the water. This gives the traditional taste to the ultra-thin crust formed by the boiling. In Montreal, they add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to the water, equally delicious I assure you.

8. Using a slotted spoon, lower a few bagels at a time into the water after it comes to a gently rolling boil. They will sink, so don't panic. When the rise in a few seconds, flip them over and let them boil for about 2 minutes, then flip over again and let them boil for 1 minute more. When they are done, remove them to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. At this point they can be 'painted' with egg glaze and seed coated.

9. Bake then for about 25 minutes until a rich golden brown. Let them cool on a rack.