Posts tagged ‘Baking’

December 12, 2011

Christmas Cookie Extravaganza

Do you have a Christmas cookie making tradition? A recipe you can’t live without? While we have favorite cookie recipes throughout the year, we do not usually do the traditional cookie baking day at Christmastime. This year however, our friend Lisa got inspired to make cookies and invited us along to make a day of it. What we thought might take a few hours ended up as a full day of flour, butter and sugar…lots of sugar! We made 8 kinds of cookies covering all shapes and sizes; some traditional, some experiments and some personal favorites. We think we ended up with about 450 cookies! We kept making plates for people and it didn’t seem to make a dent. We divied up the stash and will be sharing some with friends and family and some with some US Marines who are looking out for us this holiday season. After we finished, we took some notes for next year over a glass of wine and decided we are on a cookie baking break. I have to say, this is a great way to spend a day getting into the holiday spirit with some good friends. Stay tuned for our favorite recipes this week!

While we each had some people who were interested in joining our extravaganza, we decided to try it out before including others in our craziness. We cook together a lot and managed to find a good rhythm and system. If you find yourself making LOTS of cookies, here are some things that helped:

  • Gathered all of our combined baking supplies and laid them out to survey and plan
  • Made a photo copy of each recipe (this is a REALLY good idea to simplify)
  • Pulled out butter out to soften ahead of time
  • Laid out the mise en place for each recipe individually, putting each on a sheet pan for easy transport
  • Created separate work spaces for separate tasks
  • Each found a task that suited us and worked on multiple recipes
  • We were lucky to have two ovens and several kitchen timers
  • We all pitched in on the clean up!

P.S. We all knew in advance that clean up help is a given in our group, but if it isn’t in yours, our suggestion is to confirm that part of the deal in advance. It is not so bad if you all pitch in!

P.P.S. Check out our photo montage below! Thanks to Lisa for hosting and for the photography!!

Kelly & Mary


 


 

October 6, 2011

Baking Bread Part 2: French Bread

Bread is one of those things that I remember my mom making at young age. I think dough is so cool; it’s alive and always changing. Most people talk about how baking is an exact science but we disagree, dough is really forgiving. As long as you know the steps, you can make adjustments if need be. In fact, we have found that our bread is different based on the humidity, heat, etc. so you need to be ready to make a few changes. Eventually, you will start to know the feel of different kinds of dough. This one is a great all purpose bread that we make a lot. It is great with soups, salads, and especially for sopping up great sauces like: Chicken Piccata or Chicken Cacciatore Stew! You might notice that these photos are different from the last time we featured this bread, like I said, it is ALWAYS different. Just play with it and have fun! Yesterday we shared with you the Pâte Fermentée. That is where this recipe begins. It seems like a lot of steps, but there is a lot of down time and I promise it is worth it! I have to stress again, that if you are serious about baking bread, please please please, pick up Peter Reinhart’s books. We have several and all are excellent. Enjoy!!

Kelly

French Bread

Courtesy of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart

Makes 3 baguettes

3 cups (16 ounces) pâte fermentée

1 1/8 cups (5 ounces) unbleached bread flour

1 1/8 cups (5 ounces) unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (6-7 ounces) water, at room temperature

Semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting

Remove the pâte fermentée from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough. Cut it into about 10 small pieces with a pastry scraper or serrated knife. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let sit for 1 hour to take off the chill.

Stir together the flours, salt, yeast and pâte fermentée pieces
in the bowl of the electric mixer. Add ¾ cup of the water, with the paddle attachment until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball, about 1 minute. Adjust the flour or water according to need so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. (He says it’s better to err on the sticky side since it is harder to add water once the dough firms up.)

Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter to knead by hand for about 10 minutes or knead in a mixer with the dough hook for about 6 minutes or till the dough is soft and pliable, but not sticky and all the pâte fermentée is evenly distributed. The internal temp should be 77-81 degrees F.

Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 2 hours or until it doubles in size its original size. If it doubles before 2 hours have elapsed, knead it lightly to degas and let it rise again, covered until it doubles from the original size.

Gently remove the dough from the bowl and transfer it to a lightly floured counter.

For baguettes, cut the dough into 3 equal pieces with a pastry scraper or serrated knife. Again, take care to degas the dough as little as possible. Form the pieces into baguettes. (Check this video out for the technique.)

Proof at room temperature for 45-75 minutes, or until the loaves have grown to about 1 ½ times their original size.

They should be slightly springy when poked with a finger.

Prepare the oven for hearth baking as in this video. You will need a baking stone (unless using the pan), a steaming pan preheated with the oven, and a spray bottle.

Generously dust a peel, the back of a sheet pan, or a baguette pan (as shown) with semolina flour or cornmeal (or baking parchment as we do) and gently transfer the baguettes to the pan or peel. Score the baguettes using a serrated knife.

Transfer the baguettes to the baking stone or bake directly on the pan. Pour 1 cup hot water into the steam pan and close the oven door.

After 30 seconds, spray the oven walls with water and close the door. Repeat twice more at 30-second intervals.

After the final spray, lower the oven setting to 450°F and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the loaves 180 degrees, if necessary, for even baking.

Continue baking until the loaves are golden brown and register at least 205°F in their center, anywhere from 10-20 additional minutes, depending on your oven and how thin your baguettes are.

If they seem to be getting too dark but are not hot enough internally, lower the oven setting to 350°F (or turn it off) and continue baking for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Remove the loaves from the oven and cool on a rack for at least 40 minutes before slicing or serving.

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October 5, 2011

Baking Bread Part 1: Pâte Fermentée

I started baking bread when I was 14, when I became a vegetarian. I’ve gone on and off with baking over the last 40 years. Sometimes I thought there wasn’t time. But there CAN be time if you break it up. I never got a bread machine == that’s not because I am a purist; whatever helps you get *fresh* bread on the table is great. My Kitchenaid works fine for me. The main reason I don’t usually do it by hand is because it seems like less to clean up, but I’m not really sure if it’s true.

One day this week, we made bread on a work day. Here’s how it was possible. I made up this starter one day and kept it in the fridge. Another day at lunch I mixed up the dough. Luckily, Kelly came home and shaped it up to rise and we baked it that night. If you do things in steps, it feels much easier. I promise you too can do it!

Another way (maybe less crazy) might be to make the pre-ferment on one weekend and make the bread the next weekend. You can freeze it.

The main thing is– people make a lot about how hard it is, how long it takes and how exact you have to be. I find bread to be super forgiving and resilient. So go ahead and give it a try and get some hot *fresh* bread on the table—with real butter, of course.

Mary

For the Pre-Ferment (Pâte Fermentée):

This recipe is from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Peter Reinhardt is my dough guru. Except I only used the directions for the Kitchenaid. That’s what I do.

1 1/8 cups (5 ounces) unbleached bread flour

1 1/8 cups (5 ounces) unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (6-7 ounces) water, at room temperature

  1. Use a kitchen scale (a measuring cup works too, but the scale is more accurate) to measure your dry ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer.

  1. Stir together the flours, salt and yeast
    in the bowl of the electric mixer. Add ¾ cup of the water, with the paddle attachment until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball. Adjust the flour or water according to need so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. (He says it’s better to err on the sticky side).

  1. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter, knead for 4-6 minutes. Or knead in mixer with the dough hook for about 4 minutes or till the dough is soft and pliable, but not sticky. The internal temp should be 77-81 degrees F.

  1. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 1 hour or until it swells to 1 ½ times its original size.

  1. Remove the dough from the bowl, Knead lightly to de-gas, and return it to the bowl, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. You can keep this in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze it in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

This is what you are going for…you will use this as starter for your fabulous bread!

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow!

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