Monthly Archives: April 2010

Pie, Pie

I keep wanting to try Sherry Yard’s blood orange curd, and I’ll probably make it this weekend. The problem is that her method is very labor intensive, so I keep putting it off. But today I decided to try a hybrid version of lemon curd. I processed the zest with the sugar, and I used less sugar. I also used no cornstarch and then baked the tart.

I’m no longer sold on this method. The tart isn’t very lemony, and the curd isn’t stiff enough, although maybe I haven’t let it sit long enough. I’ll try the blood orange curd, though.

Well, that was dessert. For dinner I made the Spring Salmon Pie in the Spring Baking Sheet. The crust is cracker crumbs held together with melted butter and beaten egg, and it was awfully crumbly in the pie plate, and it was still crumbly after the pie was baked. Next time I’ll follow my instincts and add something to the crust—maybe a couple teaspoons of olive oil. The filling was good, although it called for Worcestershire sauce, and I don’t have any so I didn’t use it, and I can see that it needed some kind of added zip. You separate the eggs and beat the whites and fold them in, and when the pie came out of the oven it was very puffy, like a soufflé.

The sourdough culture is bubbly but not extremely active, as it has been. The smell is better. It doesn’t smell like starter yet, but it doesn’t really stink, either.

Reference
Spring Salmon Pie. King Arthur Flour: The Baking Sheet 21;3(Spring 2010): p 15.
Master Lemon Curd. In Sherry Yard: The Secrets of Baking. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003, pp 75-76.

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Garlic Bread

I couldn’t wait to try that really beautiful way of decorating a loaf of bread. Dr. Science likes the idea of garlic bread, and it’s going to be a week before the sourdough culture is a sourdough starter, so last night I put together a pre-ferment and a soaker for pain meunier, and this morning I made a couple of 1-lb loaves.

After I divided the dough into two pieces and let them rest, I patted one piece out into a circle, spread the garlic paste on that, and then formed the boule. The other piece I patted out into a rectangle, spread the garlic paste on it, and then rolled it into a kind-of batard. Then I decorated both with parsley leaves, more or less the way Susan did. Susan used a clove of garlic on hers, but I only have white garlic, and hers is red, which is very pretty. I thought about coloring a clove with beet powder or something, but then I realized a grape tomato would probably work. I cut out the stem end and squeezed out the seeds and liquid, then I stuck that in the middle of the round loaf with the cut part up, because I thought that would give the best flower effect, and it worked:

Two decorated loaves of garlic bread

Two decorated loaves of garlic bread

I proofed these upside down and then dusted them with white rice flour, which I know doesn’t burn. The flour keeps the decorations from burning. I baked them at 350℉ for 35 minutes, but I think they could’ve used another 5 minutes. The bread is good, though—nice and garlicky but not overwhelming.

The light has gone on, and I realize now that probably any herb will work for this kind of decoration. This weekend is going to be warm and sunny and a good time to get some herbs planted in some window boxes on the porch.

Meanwhile, this morning’s culture looked good but smelled somewhat disgusting:

Sourdough culture after the first 12-hour rise

Sourdough culture after the first 12-hour rise

Reference
Pain meunier. In Michel Suas, Advanced Bread and Pastry. Clifton Park, N.Y.: Delmar Cengage Learning, 2009, pp 254-255.

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Sourdough Culture

Well, apparently what I’m culturing here is Leuconostoc spp, but something’s happening, anyway:

Sourdough culture at 24 hours

Sourdough culture at 24 hours

And yes, that culture at 24 hours definitely stinks. Now that I’ve removed all but 75 g and mixed in the flour and water for day 2, it stinks less.

I’ve also decided that I can’t wait to try that garlic-and-parsley design, so I’ve just started a pre-ferment for a pain meunier, which I’ll make with the garlic paste but not the cheese. The only garlic available now is white, although there must be red or purple garlic somewhere. Anyway, I’ve bought some white garlic to experiment with. It won’t be as pretty, but I’ll be able to see how to handle the design and learn to make the garlic paste.

Reference
Pain meunier. In Michel Suas, Advanced Bread and Pastry. Clifton Park, N.Y.: Delmar Cengage Learning, 2009, pp 254-255.

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Sourdough Culture Medium

Look at this bread; isn’t it gorgeous? I must make it! There’s just one catch: It’s sourdough, and I have no starter.

I’ve used sourdough starter (and made sourdough bread). Dr. Science really likes sourdough bread. I’m not wild about it, but I’m happy to make it. Maintaining the starter is another story. This loaf is so beautiful, though, it’s worth dealing with the sourdough starter. Fortunately, Susan gives directions for starting your own starter.

I figured I’d get that going this morning, but I forgot to leave water out overnight so the chlorine could dissipate. (Chlorinated water isn’t a yeast-friendly environment.) So I drew water today, and tonight I mixed up the ingredients. It’s a starter when it’s ready to use, it’s a culture when it’s growing, and at this point, before any life forms appear, it’s a culture medium.

Sourdough culture medium, day 0

Sourdough culture medium, day 0

I also did a little baking today:

Strawberry kiwi tart

Strawberry kiwi tart

It looks kaleidoscopic, doesn’t it? I think it’s prettier in the photo than in life.

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Baking Artisan Breads and Pastries with Ciril Hitz

The pastries and breads in the class I took yesterday were from Ciril’s book, Baking Artisan Pastries and Breads. I’ve made some of the recipes, but I’ve been saving some for after the class. There’s a lot to be said for being shown how to do it rather than trying to figure it out on your own.

Ciril calls himself a baker rather than a pastry chef because he likes working with yeasted doughs. Yeast is alive, so it’s more of a challenge to work with. I’ll bake anything, so we differ there. Anyway, a lot of what we learned was about yeast. Many professional bakers swear by fresh yeast, which is superior to active dry yeast because active dry yeast performs unpredictably. Unfortunately for home bakers, fresh yeast needs to be used quickly, and it’s hard for home bakers to use it up fast enough. That’s where instant yeast comes in.

Instant yeast is a dry yeast, and it’s readily available in the supermarket, where it’s packaged in jars and usually labeled “bread machine” or “rapid rise” yeast. I get the Fleishmann’s yeast at the supermarket, but Ciril swears by SAF, which is a French brand. SAF with the red label is regular instant yeast, and the one with the gold label is osmotolerant and works best with enriched dough. Actually the osmotolerant yeast works fine with everything, as does the SAF red label yeast (or other instant yeast), but the gold-label SAF yeast grows well in environments where it’s competing for liquid, namely, dough with eggs, butter, and, especially, more than 7% sugar in the formula.

“Fresh yeast has served its purpose,” says Ciril. He thinks instant yeast outperfoms fresh, and he won’t use fresh yeast. I just bought a huge jar of Fleishmann’s instant yeast, but when that runs low, if I’m looking for ways to spend my ample spare cash, I might try the SAF.

Most of the things we made yesterday were from dough that Ciril made for us in the VMI spiral mixer. We mixed our own dough for gibassier and muffins. Mostly we were seeing how the dough is supposed to look and feel and smell, and then we were learning to shape it. This was really helpful and an excellent use of the time.

He also gave us a tutorial on how to make a butter block. I’ve learned this before, but I’ve had trouble with it, probably because I was learning how to do that in addition to so much else, and I was having trouble absorbing all the information. One thing Americans are always told is to knead flour into the butter block, and yesterday I learned why. European butter is at least 82% fat, but American butter is usually 80% fat. The flour is a way of dealing with the higher water content in American butter, and if you can use European-style butter, you don’t have to add the flour. A butter block made with American-style butter can break up as you’re laminating the dough, which has been one of my problems. So now I’ll see what I have to do to get European-style butter (probably take out a second mortgage). Ciril suggests making up a bunch of butter blocks some day when you’re bored and then storing them in the freezer for future use. I love this idea, but I don’t know how practical it is at my house; Ciril probably has a lot more freezer space than I do.

We made bagels from Ciril’s dough. These are cinnamon-raisin whole wheat bagels. Ciril uses the traditional shaping method of rolling the dough into a rope and joining the rope. I’ve always found this leaves an obvious seam in the finished bagel, so normally I shape the dough into balls and then punch a hole in the middle of each. I might still prefer that method, but the method we learned yesterday makes a nice-looking bagel. Unfortunately, I forgot to take some of these, so I don’t have a photo. I’ll make some this week and take photos then.

Bostock, like french toast, is a way of using up stale bread. Leftover brioche makes good bostock. You slice the bread, brush both sides with syrup flavored with fresh orange slices, then top each slice with almond paste and sliced almonds and bake that for a few minutes.

Bostock made with brioche that was baked in a Pullman pan

Bostock made with brioche that was baked in a Pullman pan

The laminated dough we used is what Ciril calls all-purpose Danish dough. The dough is made with yeast, and it’s basically what you use for croissants, which is what we made, although you can shape it (and fill it) any way you want. These croissants are wonderful, and I’m going to have to figure out where to get the right butter so I can make more. Ciril’s suggestion for using up the dough trimmings is to make a kind of mini monkey bread: Chop up the dough scraps, put them in muffin cups, top them with something, and bake them.

Croissants made with "all-purpose danish" dough

Gibassier looks like a bear claw, but it’s not filled. The dough has anise seeds, candied orange peel,and orange blossom water in it, and it smells wonderful. (They taste wonderful, too.) To shape the individual loaves, you form the dough into balls and let them rest. Then you pat those into ovals and slash them; the slashed dough looks a lot like a tiny fougasse. As the individual pastries rise, the holes fill in. When they’re done, you brush them with melted butter and toss them in sugar:

Gibassier

Gibassier

The last thing we made was muffins. Ciril doesn’t believe in using melted butter (or other liquid fat) in most baked goods; one exception is olive oil in foccacia. We used room-temperature butter in the muffin batter, which makes the batter quite stiff. Then we added frozen raspberries and blueberries, and the batter pretty much solidified. We scooped the batter into muffin cups, and it really was like scooping ice cream. Then we sprinkled a topping on them and baked them. (I can do without the toppings on muffins because I find them messy and distracting.)

Mixed-berry muffins

Mixed-berry muffins

We made stollen, but I can’t get a good picture. Ciril soaks the fruit in Myers’s Rum, and he starts soaking the fruit six months before he’s going to use it, so in May or June for Christmas stollen. I’m going to have to start this soon if I’m going to make stollen in December.

References

Ciril Hitz: Baking Artisan Pastries and Breads. Beverly, Mass.: Quarry Books, 2009.
King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/baking/

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Norwich, Vermont

Here I am in Norwich, Vermont, at the Norwich Inn. I’m spending the night here so I can walk down to King Arthur Flour tomorrow morning and take a baking class: Baking Artisan Breads & Pastries with Ciril Hitz. I’ve brought the book to get autographed, too. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring the camera. I’ll take pictures of the pastries when I get home, but I can’t take a picture of this really charming room in the Inn.

I’d give a link to the class, but the way the site is set up, that’s not possible. So here’s the description, which I hope KAF doesn’t mind my sharing verbatim:

Baking Artisan Breads & Pastries with Ciril Hitz

“Muffins and bagels and Danish, oh my! Find out how easy it is to transform a few everyday ingredients into a kitchen full of artisan-quality pastries and breads that will surely be a welcome addition any family breakfast table or holiday spread. As inspiration for this class, Ciril Hitz has hand-picked a few of his personal favorite formulas from his book, Baking Artisan Pastries and Breads. From quick breads like the Multi-Berry Muffin that are ready within the hour to more decadent enriched dough products such as a holiday Stollen to the flaky laminated layers in a Danish, this class presents the core concepts involved in baking breakfast breads and pastries. The formulas in this hands-on class will cover a wide range of techniques, such as creaming a muffin batter, mixing an enriched dough, and making a layered laminated dough. Additional treats include the provincial French Gibassier, hearty whole wheat bagels, and the almond-laced Bostock.”

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Comparing Lemon Curds

I’m going to try making the blood orange curd today, but it occurred to me that the way to see if Sherry Yard’s lemon curd is worth the effort is to make two lemon tarts, one with her involved curd and one with my usual quick and easy lemon curd. Normally I use cornstarch in my lemon curd to stiffen it a bit; then when I cut a slice of tart, the curd doesn’t run everywhere. However, Sherry Yard wants you to bake the tart to set her curd, so I’m thinking this is my opportunity to try that with my curd, too. So yesterday’s plan was to prebake two tart crusts, fill them with the two kinds of curd, and bake the tarts. That took a lot longer than I realized it would, so I’m only just comparing them today.

Sherry’s curd has 3 eggs and 4 yolks, and it has butter. Mine has 3 eggs and no butter. I used a little more sugar in mine, and we used the same amount of lemon juice, but I used water, too. Sherry’s curd is opaque, and mine is translucent, and the yellows are different: I think Sherry’s is the color of cooked egg yolk and mine is the color of lemon.

Lemon tart made with Sherry Yard's curd

Lemon tart made with Sherry Yard's curd

Lemon tart made with my usual lemon curd

Lemon tart made with my usual lemon curd

One slice of each tart: Sherry's in back and mine in front

One slice of each tart: Sherry's in back and mine in front

I took her curd out of the fridge and spooned it into the crust. It was pretty stiff, and I had trouble getting it smooth, even with an offset spatula. It might have been less stiff if I’d let it come to room temperature. I baked that for 20 minutes. My curd hadn’t thickened as much as usual because I didn’t use cornstarch. (At 160℉ it still hadn’t thickened; I brought it to the boil, as usual. It thickened some as it cooled, though.) It was the consistency of cream, and it poured into the crust—no smoothing required. I baked that for 20 minutes, too, and it set perfectly. I’ll have to decide if I want to forgo the cornstarch now and bake the tart, but that adds another step and more time to the process. For lemon meringue pie, however, which goes in the oven to cook the meringue, maybe the curd will set with 10 minutes at 350℉ followed by the usual 10 to 12 minutes after adding the meringue.

As far as flavor, I can taste the butter in hers, which I don’t like, but it might be more lemony. Mine is lemony, but Dr. Science says it’s sweeter than Sherry’s, and he finds hers more lemony, too. I’ve been thinking that processing the lemon zest with the sugar in the food processor might be worth the trouble. I’ll try that with the next batch and see what happens. After that I’ll see what happens if I cut back on the sugar to ⅔ of a cup from 1 cup.

Reference
Sherry Yard: Master Lemon Curd. In The Secrets of Baking. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003, pp 75-76.

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