Next Project

Why the obsession with the baguette? It's quick and it cools quickly. Although it's tempting to eat bread when it's warm, it's a no-no. The loaf is supposed to cool completely before cutting in and eating. That's probably the biggest reason I like the baguette shape. Good crust to crumb ratio and with all that surface area, it cools quickly - all the way to the center.

So, speaking of daily bread, can I optimize what I have to have a loaf in the oven in the time it takes to preheat it (say 20 minutes) or can the loaf be ready and proofed as I walk in the door; preheat, slash the top and go? A neighbor of mine asked me the other day about freezing dough. I had never done it but it put a thought in my head that won't go away. I figure it's just a matter of experimentation to get the thaw/final proof time and temps. It's got to be better than those torpedoes of overly-conditioned crap from Pillsbury. Here's my initial plan. Although this plan only has two rises, they're each pretty slow. I think it'll work. But, unlike most real scientific literature, I'll actually disclose the results whether it works or not. Failures are always more instructive than the successes.

1. Mix baguette recipe and machine knead for 15 minutes or so and plunk in fridge for first rise (12-24 h).
2. Scale dough to dinner size loaves, ca. 400 g (320 g post-baking weight); good for a small family.
3. Form into loaf shape and place on baguette pan or other cylindrical holding device (lined with freezer paper) and cover loosely with plastic.
4. Now, the tricky part. Remove from freezer in morning before work and leave on counter probably in the pan it'll be cooked in and covered with something that doesn't touch the surface of the dough (so it won't stick). It might have to be sitting on parchment in the bread pan too to prevent it from adhering to the pan too tightly because the pan's perforated.
5. Come back 8-10 hours later, slash top and bake away.

I'll be thinking about this for a while. Chime in with any suggestions in the comments.


Baguette, it's the speed

Last Sunday night we had our favorite meal: bread, cheese and salad. My baguette was on its game that night. I used olive oil (ca. 5 grams/500 g dough) which is not what I usually use as the source of "catalytic shortening" and made it with no overnight delays; just a straight dough, machine kneaded and a heavy yeast charge of Fleischmann's instant active dry (ca. 2 t). It was absolutely killer. It was voluminos with a razor crust and tender interior (but not Wonder brad type tenderness) and excellent flavor.

I realize anyone reading is bored with my daily bread obsession but I depicted a few of the key observations of a great end product. In the first image there's a good indication of the result of powerful oven spring. The final slash opened wide during the initial moments of baking. In the second image is the crackled, mosaic-like crust that occurs in the first minutes of cooling out of the oven. Finally, the third image is the cross section of the sliced loaf. Not big holes but not too fine either (again, not Wonder bread). Yeah, it's the result of yeast and it's not as virtuous as starters and all that but I guarantee even a Frenchman (or woman) would enjoy it.

It was great the next day too. The "next day test" for me is important. A good loaf should be good the next day even if a bit drier and slightly stale. The flavor should still be good. I was disheartened the last time Trish and I went to France. We were staying with a friend and actually had a couple loaves in Dijon which looked great but tasted only mediocre and the next day they just weren't that good. But the loaf was from the Supermarche. Sorry for the digression. I just wanted to point out a few endpoint observations that aren't included in original prep.


My new read, it's Saucy

My most recent find in new food blogs was by Molly at Orangette. She writes a fun story culminated by a classic but modified recipe. She's now writing for a new site called Saucy. Her first contribution's, worth a read.


Frankie and I make focaccia

Saturday, I wanted to do a quick focaccia to accompany dinner. I intended to do something different but I got distracted, tossed something together and liked what I came out with. Instead of herbs and a bit of Reggiano on top, I just mixed some tarragon, basil and rosemary (all dried) into the dough and topped it with just a skim of EVOO. Prior to tossing it in the oven, we had to dock it (put lots of indents in the dough so it doesn't come out like a big pita). That's where Frankie's skill was especially useful. She pounded the surface of the dough quite handily just before I tossed it in the oven. This image is us looking at in the oven. If you look carefully, you can see our reflection.

Herbed Focaccia, free form
water, rt, 200 g
olive oil, ca. 20 g
unbleached white, 300 g
tarragon, rosemary, basil, ca. 1 t each dried
honey, ca. 10 g
salt, ca. 5-6 g
Fleischmann's instant active yeast, 1.5 t

0. Preheat oven to 450F.
1. Dough cycle for kneading and first rise.
2. Squashed and rested 20 minutes.
3. Pushed dough out to ca. 10" diameter circle and let rest 20 minutes.
4. Docked by pounding little fists over the surface.
5. Painted surface with olive oil.
6. Baked (on parchment) about 15 minutes till golden brown. Mmmmm, here's a final pic.


The real Dave's Beer

I think most food blogs had their start in hard copy. This is an image of the original and still-used-today notebook where I keep my beer brewing activity. It's the only component of my fermenting empire that hasn't made it to the web.

And, it never will.

For some reason, I enjoy scratching down my beer recipes as I go and keeping notes in a bound notebook where no mistake will ever escape for good. It's a lab notebook in the truest sense of the concept. A place where pages are dated and numbered, mistakes are crossed out such that they can still be read and updated as close to the time the actions occur as possible. There's nothing pretty about a lab notebook, it's about data integrity.

Why not share? I make extract brews and there's a whole class of purists who believe it's a useless pursuit if you don't grow the grain and malt it yourself and I don't have the energy to try to convince them they're wrong nor can I tolerate the undue criticism. So I keep my brewing to myself. I will, however, share the brew. Stop by sometime and have a sip.