31 August 2011

Currant 'Seed'uction



When I was pregnant with my daughter Josie, my midwife told me to stop eating bread.  I tried the whole "good breads, bad breads" approach but she didn't want to hear it.  She said I need to eat lots of protein and veggies.  Of course I had to find a way to continue eating bread and still have a healthy pregnancy, so I created Josie's Bread, a sprouted grain bread.

Now I have two toddlers and I'm pregnant with my third munchkin.  I don't have quite as much time to sprout grains and grind them into a paste to bake into a bread as I used to but I still want to eat healthy breads.  Currant Seeduction Bread is a new, lower labor, pregnancy friendly loaf.

I used the same levain I use for my miche.  It's rather stiff and comprised of 90% wheat and 10% rye flour.  The final dough is mostly coarse wheat flour with a little white to lighten it up.  Then I packed in toasted seeds: sunflower, sesame, flax, pumpkin and hemp.  I also included a hefty amount of currants for extra zing.  Finally, I topped it off with black strap molasses which is loaded with iron and helps to prevent leg cramps (if you've ever carried a baby, I'm sure you'll understand).

After running the formula through a nutrition analysis, this bread qualifies as an excellent source of energy, fiber, protein and iron.  It is a good source of vitamins B6, potassium, iron, folate (naturally occurring folic acid), zinc, omega 3's and omega 6's.  I think my midwife will approve!

If you would like the recipe, please email me!

I am submitting this bread to YeastSpotting.

My friend Hani was kind enough to take the photos of these loaves.  Visit her blog, Haniela's, to see more beautiful photos of her yummy creations.

12 August 2011

Hazelnut Raisin Baguette


One of my customers requested a baguette with hazelnuts and golden raisins.  After several trials, this is the end result.  My first dough was a basic baguette dough with pre-soaked golden raisins and chopped, toasted hazelnuts.  It didn't pack the flavor punch I was hoping for.  Next, I ground a portion of the nuts and introduced them to the dough in the very beginning of the mix.  I could be making this up, but I think the heat generated during the mixing process helps to pull all the oils out of the ground nuts which imparts more flavor into the dough.


I was much happier with the results after adding the ground hazelnuts but the formula still wasn't quite where I wanted it to be.  I switched from a white poolish to a wheat poolish to add even more nuttiness and texture to the dough.  I also soaked the golden raisins in apricot juice to add more complexity and sweetness to the bread.


The golden raisins disappear into the dough.  Normally, I would want to see them when I cut into the baguette but I like that, through the soaking process, they plump up and burst apart during mixing.  This helps distribute the flavor and it keeps the bread super moist.


The baguette tastes like an upscale peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  The grape flavor from the juicy raisins is the first taste, followed by the earthy, nutty crunch of the toasted hazelnuts.  I drizzled honey on my baguette for breakfast this morning.  It would also be the perfect addition to a cheese plate and it would make an ultra-classy turkey sandwich. 

If you're wondering why there's a stick in the photo, it's because my 3 year old woke during my photo shoot and insisted I take a picture with the stick she brought home from the park yesterday.  How could I turn down that request?!?


After the stick entered the photo, I thought it would be fun to get Josie's help getting one last shot of the whole baguette.  So, in addition to the stick, here are two of the cutest, most helpful, three year old hands in the baking business!

If you have any questions about my breads or if you would like the complete recipe for Hazelnut Raisin Baguettes, please email me.

This post is being submitted to YeastSpotting! 

04 August 2011

the Art of Eating: Article Review


I couldn't have been more excited when I saw the cover of the Spring 2011 issue of the Art of Eating. Pop art brioche!  It doesn't get much better. This quarterly, advertisement free, food literature magazine is based out of Peacham, VT.  I first became acquainted with it while baking at The Patisserie in Milford, PA where it regularly appears on their newsstand.  

Upon receiving the this issue, I immediately skipped to the article "Brioche" by James MacGuire...a man after my own heart.  MacGuire included details about the history, travels and types of brioche along with a recipe and instructions to make your own.  Through his text and dialogues with French bakers, brioche was romanticized in a way that would make Proust (and his madeleine) proud.

He writes: "Within the chestnut-colored exterior lies a yielding delicacy.  So complex is the mix of the buttery fermented flavors of the crumb and the contrasting dark, well-baked toastiness of the crust that brioche is often used as a metaphor to describe yeasty, full-flavored cuvees of Champagne - a compliment to both."

MacGuire also discusses how underrated brioche tends to be.  Pastry chefs are too wrapped up in chocolate and cakes to care about baking a yeasty delicacy.  On the other hand, bread bakers are too consumed with baguettes and sourdoughs to work with a fickle, buttery dough.  Alas, the poor brioche gets stuck in the middle...not quite a bread, not quite a pastry.  MacGuire himself fell into this trap.  In pastry school he admits he was too "busy" to learn how to make brioche.  However, he confesses, "When I did learn to make it, I understood Maurice's [the head baker] insistence that something so delicious yet so simple must be perfect."  This took me straight back to my days at The Culinary Institute of America where I was required to present six perfect brioche a tete in order to graduate.

If you haven't had the pleasure of reading an issue of the Art of Eating, order a copy from their website. You won't be disappointed.  I highly suggest ordering this particular issue as "Brioche" was far and away the best article I have encountered to highlight the joys of eating and baking this special bread.

01 August 2011

Fougasse du Temps Perdu


I'm always looking for creative ways to use extra dough.  Laminated Fougasse is a perfect solution for those of you who have a few chunks of French dough lying around.  I learned this technique from Christian Vabret at a Bread Bakers Guild of America event in 2007.  Vabret is the creator and mastermind behind the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie (World Baking Cup).  It was an honor to attend one of his courses.  He, like many seasoned French bakers, glowed with passion and joy when talking about bread.

Fougasse is a traditional French flat bread.  Just like its cousin, the Italian focaccia, it is often used as a means of getting rid of bits of leftovers.  Most often, fougasse is filled with olives, lardons, cheese, and/or nuts.  My fougasse is a throwback to my grandma's raisin stuffing while embracing the traditional roots of the classic French fougasse, thus..."Fougasse du Temps Perdu" or "Fougasse of Times Past."

I should note, I majored in French in college, during which time we spent no less than 3 days discussing the madeleine scene from Proust's A la Recherche du Temps Perdu.



To assemble this loaf, first, make the filling.  I pureed raisins, caramelized vidalia onions, rendered bacon fat, coarse black pepper, fresh sage, rosemary, and thyme in a food processor.  The resulting paste is a little bit sweet and a little bit savory, just like the stuffing I remember.



Use a one pound scrap of French dough for the base of the fougasse.  Roll the dough into a 12" by 6" rectangle, spread four ounces of the paste onto half of the dough and fold the dough over.  If you've ever laminated puff pastry or croissant dough, it's the same idea.  Press the edges of the dough together to seal in the paste.  Roll the dough into a second rectangle, this time 6"x 18" and fold in thirds toward the center as shown above.  You may need to use a liberal amount of flour when rolling the dough but be sure to brush it off before making the folds.  Let the dough rest for 20 minutes and repeat this step.  



Let the dough rest for an additional 30 minutes before rolling into a 12"x 6" rectangle.  Cut through the rectangle using a pizza cutter or dough knife in the pattern illustrated above.  When you pick the dough up to transfer it onto the peel (I recommend using a piece of parchment as it can be really sticky), pull the cuts open to transform the lump of laminated dough into a beautiful fougasse.  I baked mine at 425°F for about 20 minutes.  It should be slightly puffy and crispy but not too dark.  After it is baked, while it is still hot, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.



This is the perfect bread to present to your host(ess) the next time you're invited over for dinner.  Fougasse is  a very communal loaf.  It's fun to break off pieces and pass around as an appetizer or meal time treat.

If you would like more information about the recipe or procedure for making this fougasse, please email me!

All photos courtesy of my dear friend Hana from Haniela's Food & Photography

I am submitting this bread to The Wild Yeast Blog's weekly YeastSpotting post.