La Baguette

Here's a recipe for our daily bread. It's not artisan, it's a yeasted straight-dough. It's got a wicked crust, tender interior and it's done in 3 hours. I usually program the mixing and first rise to be done by the dough cycle of my bread machine, but here, I present it using hand kneading.

There will be a separately published faq for this recipe. A repository of observations justifying just about everything. It's a special preparation and I repeat it often. This is the best I have to date. This recipe is basically Julia Child's baguette recipe from The Way to Cook with 3 critical changes:
i. The yeast is rapid rise; any brand seems to be just fine but it has to be fresh. I guarantee this by using individual packets. I've had good luck with: Fleischman's bread machine yeast, RedStar Instant Active Dry Yeast, a rapid rise SAF type and even Kroger makes a rapid rise yeast. They all seem to work with equal efficacy.
ii. I use 2.5-3 grams of shortening per 500 grams of dough; I currently use Crisco (it's a cheat but the results are worth it).
iii. I use a baguette pan as the cooking surface, NO clay tiles.

The baguette in 18 simple steps in under 3 hours.


1. Whisk unbleached white flour (300 grams or 2 cups + 3 T), salt (5 grams kosher or 1.5 t), rapid rise yeast (1.5 level teaspoons), vegetable shortening (ca. 3 grams, 1/2 t).
2. Add water (200 grams or 3/4 C + 1T, ca. 110-deg-F) mix with a spoon and let sit for 10 minutes, kind of a mini autolyse, it'll make kneading easier.
3. Plop dough on counter and knead at least 7 minutes.
4. This is the dough after 2 minutes kneading.
5. This is the dough after 7 minutes kneading, rounded.
6. Place the ball of dough in a container to rise for 1 hour 15 minutes. I use a 2.4 L (10 C) plastic container with a hole punched into the top. This allows the gas to escape.
7. This is the risen dough after the first rise. Do not coat the dough with anything!
8. Plop out the dough on the counter, round it and cover with a moistened lint-free towel for 20 minutes and NOW, preheat the oven to 450-deg-F.
9. We're going to convert it to a baguette form in the next 5 steps. First squash it into an oblong shape and press a groove into the middle.
10. Fold the bottom half to the middle.
11. Fold the lower half onto the upper half, should be a tight roll.
12. Repeat steps 9-10.
13. Repeat step 11, finish elongated baguette shape by rolling gently on the counter. I don't care what Rinehart says, it should be tight and dense.
14. Place the loaf into the baguette pan, it's 16-17 inches long.
15. Cover the rising baguette with a moistened, lint-free towel and let rise for 20-25 minutes.
16. Dust the loaf lightly with flour, it facilitates a clean slash. With a visciously sharp implement, slash the loaf several times along the top nearly paralell to the length of the baguette (I never bothered with a lame; I use a chef's knife).
17. Bake in the lower third of the oven and upon adding it spray the oven floor and/or sides with a squirt bottle of water for steam. Use at least 50 mL of water (ca. 2 ounces).
18. Remove from oven in 25-30 minutes, should be golden on the outside. Do not cut it for at least 15 minutes. As it cools it should crackle. It's awesome.
Printable version.

[technorati tags: , , , , ]



Frankie's mobility coupled with her attention span (that of a gnat) place certain limitations on our food preparation. This dish satisfies our love of greens, adds a vegetable side to our much needed repertoire of veggies and can be prepared faster than Frankie can climb a couple stairs. I found it in the paper the other day and altered it a bit. I was surprised at radicchio's rich flavor when it was sauteed and the texture was pleasant, not too soft.

Sauteed Radicchio - serves 2
red onion, small one, finely shredded
1 head radicchio, coarsely shredded
olive oil, 2 T
balsamic vinegar, 2 T
sugar, 2 t
cran raisins, 1/4 C
walnuts, 1/4 C
salt, pepper

Saute onion in olive oil till translucent in wide frying pan. Add everything else and lower heat, stirring occasionally as all the radicchio wilts (steam comes from the rinsed radicchio and the balsamic vinegar). I heated the entire mixture about 15 minutes on low heat toggling between stirring and chasing Frankie. I served it with a couple fried pork chops and couscous. About 25 minutes total prep. Take that Rachel Ray.



The Weber_cam's been slow lately. Jobs, daycare, commuting, utilitarian meals - not been easy and not much extra time for fun cooking. Last night though, I watched Alton Brown do one of the most skillful preparations I have ever seen and just wanted to have a link here for it so I'll have the details when I get around to it. And I will. It's a galette. A free form fruit tart. The fat incorporated into the flour was a combination of room temperature butter and very cold butter (one for tenderness and one for flakiness). And the way he incorporated water, a small bit at a time followed by the bread-making equivalent of an autolyse, a rest in the fridge in which hydration of the flour would take place to minimize the water needed. It was masterful. The filling was decadent too, pears and blueberries, cooked a bit with some sweetener, allowed to cool and baked in this tart. Alton is a god.



I usually make my focaccia according to Dan Leader's recipe. It's a straight dough that sits in the fridge for about a day. It's alright, but I could be swayed to another prep. I've been recently hooked on this new site The Artisan. They have a fantastic treatment of yeast (fresh, dry, instant dry); how it's manufactured and how active dry differs from instant active. I've recently used instant active in my baguettes and have had no regrets (honest, someday that'll be posted here).

I tried their Focaccia recipe the other night (the one using the starter, half way down the page. I loved it. Trish did too. Because the week was hectic, it was unfortunately finished after dinner, but it still made for a nice after dinner nosh. It was even great the next day. I think I should've cooked it a tad longer but I was pretty thrilled with it. It was nice and thick too, a personal preference of mine. Give it a shot, really easy. I did use a bread machine for the initial knead (I used a 10 minute machine knead) and topped mine with fresh rosemary sprigs and very coarse crystalline sea salt. Yum.



When Frankie turned 1 year old, Julian's Mom came over to sadly tell us he was sick and couldn't come to her cupcake party. She did not come empty handed. She brought us a lovely card and Peeps. Many of them. Trish and I vary in opinion on many things. But we both know the proper way to eat Peeps is stale. The cellophane wrapper was carefully sliced and now, almost two weeks later, they are waiting to be harvested. But no rush, they have an 18 month shelf life.

NPR has the best coverage of Peeps I've seen. A video clip of them being manufactured, links, etc. I'm even going to try their recommendation of warming one up in the microwave. Did you know the eyes are made of wax and applied with a pneumatic device?

Thanks Elizabeth!


The North End

This past weekend the family and I trekked to Boston to Frankie's Nona and Grandpa's house to attempt to fatten up the little tyke. Whenever we go to Boston, we undoubtedly take a walk through the North End of Boston, weaving in and out of the streets off Hanover and usually make a quick stop at Modern Pastry for Torrone. I once got an urge to make this, but when I have theirs, I savor it so much, I'd rather not ruin the experience by making it too common. Then we stroll around the corner to J. Pace & Sons market; a collection of food finds in the North End. Unfortunately, it was Good Friday and closed. We finished our walk with a leisurely stroll through Faneuil Hall, just in case we didn't nibble enough, and finally back on the T. We never get tired of that area of Boston and I think Frankie likes it too.



Last night, Trish, Frankie and I participated in our first Seder. We were fortunate enough to be invited to a Friend's for the ceremonial feast. Seder is the food ritual performed on the first two nights of Pesach (Passover). A great explanation of the ritual is described here. I kind of wish I had time to have read it before the meal. At least I'll be ready for next year. Although lengthy food rituals aren't quite suited for the three little ones under the age of 2 at the table, we had a great time. Thanks Sharon and Dan.


Dave's Wine? [Lot No. 1024]

Having a visitor for the weekend was great. I could escape (for a bit) to the basement to engage in some hobbying. I've heard a lot of good things about wine kits* and decided to give it a shot. This kit is a Chianti and makes about 30 bottles. I mixed it up yesterday, added "oak", aerated it with my turbo mixer, did a final dilution and just let it ferment. It's going as we speak. It should be done in about 4-6 weeks. I figured I'd tell folks when it was going to be finished in case anyone wanted to "make plans to go away for the weekend". This entry will plot it's progress. I'll keep reposting it when something new happens.

03/14/04: Mixed kit, sp. gr. 1.085.
03/15/04: Sp. gr. 1.085, "krausen" apparent, getting ready for the big exothermic kick.
03/16/04: Sp. gr. 1.080, massive CO2 rush in the headspace.
03/17/04: Sp. gr. 1.074
04/04/04: Sp. gr. 0.994 (!), It's working well. Slow because it's cold in the basement. Racked it for the first time today. I'll be degassing it over the next few days-2 wks. Residual CO2 is leaving the solution of the fermented juice. I racked it to a glass carboy fitted with a rubber stopper and airlock and about 1/2" headspace. Next step is addn of isinglass, let settle overnight, bottle, wait a bit and have party. Stay tuned.

*If Mario and Amy (who have excellent taste in wine) are reading, don't worry, I'll only ask you to taste this stuff once.


Just Two Boules for Frankie

No big entry. Just a repeat of my recent poolish entry. Made these for Frankie's little party the other day. One is a white (left) and the other a walnut/rye/wheat. They were pretty good.