Baking


Pizza cooking on the bottom of cast iron pan

Pizza cooking on the bottom of cast iron pan

Two days to make pizza calls for two days of blog posts.  Seems fair to me.  Yesterday I went over the process I used to make what I consider the ultimate pizza dough.  When we left off the dough was relaxing, fermenting, and possibly rising a very little bit in the refridgerator.  After its overnight stay there it has to be left to stand at room temperature for two hours (three is probably better if, like our apartment, you keep your kitchen around 17 degrees celsius).

(more…)

Advertisements

Pizza 4

(Here’s the second part of the series that deals with the technique of cooking this pizza.)

We eat a lot of pizza.  More to the point we eat it a lot of different versions of pizza.  Pizza for Kat and me can be a quick lunch, a convenient delivery when we don’t feel like cooking or a more involved from-scratch process.

When making pizza at home the shortcut that I am least willing to take is the use of pre-baked shells.  I find that they taste both inauthentic and, well, bad.  Canned tomato sauce: Serviceable and with a bit of spices mixed in even very good.  Pre-shredded cheese: Not great but not totally offensive.  The pre-baked shells though, have the taste and mouth feel of the cardboard they are packaged with.

Having reached this point I have turned a bunch of times to either making my own dough or buying the balls of dough from the grocery store and using them that day or later, out of the freezer.  I have definitely had varying degrees of success, especially when it comes to transforming the dough from a  ball into a very thin round that can be topped and slid into the oven without tearing.  Repeatedly, I read the recommendation that if the dough resists being stretched thinly enough it should be left to rest for five to ten minutes.  This sometimes works but nearly as often just gives the dough round an opportunity to slowly recede in the inward direction while maintaining its resistance to stretching.

(more…)

Boston Brown Bread, baked beans, and a canned peach half

Boston Brown Bread, baked beans, and a canned peach half

In Toronto the weather the last few days has finally started to show signs of spring.  Birds, rain, warmer temperatures during the day, the usual yadda yadda.  The weather forecasts predict, though, that things will get cold (negative double-digits at night) again next week.  Food wise, early spring is actually the time when it is probably most difficult to eat seasonally and locally in places like southern Ontario.  The spring’s first delicacies (ramps, fiddleheads, morels, and asparagus) won’t be ready until May and by the latter half of March and into April the fall crops that were stored for the winter will begin to falter (most potatoes, some apples, and cabbage for instance).  One crop that lasts a lot longer in storage is dried beans.  These are great as baked beans and even better if accompanied by the classic Boston Brown Bread. (more…)

Today I have put together a photographic run-down of the bread adventures I have been on in the past few weeks.  All of these were made from recipes take from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  BBA has replaced The Bread Bible as my top breadmaking reference.  I’m planning to do a full side-by-side review of the two books but in the meantime I think it suffices to say that I prefer BBA because it has more consistently guided me to good results.

Baguettes

Baguettes

These baguettes were absolutely amazing. Light but chewy; flavourful but a perfect complement to cheese or butter; and unlike the last time I made baguettes, nearly five years ago, I avoided giving myself a painful burn by touching the blazing-hot oven wall.

Sourdough Starter / Barm

Sourdough Starter / Barm

The sourdough barm / starter (I haven’t really figured out the difference yet) from the Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I will definitely be writing more about the particularities of sourdough baking because it is a topic that fascinates, challenges, and sometimes frustrates me. For instance the detailed schedules that lead up to a loaf of sourdough (move the barm from the fridge one day before mixing the starter eighteen hours before mixing the dough, etc.) seem on one hand to be the product of “well, we don’t totally know what is going on here and these precise steps worked for me so if you choose to wander at all from my path you’re on your own” and on the other to be a sensible consideration for the mystery of how water, flour, a little salt and some very wild yeasts mixed together can produce a great loaf of bread.

Poilane-style Miche

Poilane-style Miche

This recipe is, apparently, based on the famous Parisian bread that is in such great demand that it is flown around the world on a daily basis. Mine tasted good enough but was way too dense and heavy.  I blame this failure on an injury to my kneading arm that week (seriously) and also on the fact that I believe I forgot to put a steam pan in with the dough.

Auvergnat with a tilted hat

Auvergnat with a tilted hat

The pain de campagne from BBA.  For no particular reason I chose to use the auvergnat style of loaf.  The darker brown part that is tilted to the right in the picture is just a small ball of dough that is rolled flat and placed on top of the main ball of dough while it proofs.  The recipe directs you to press in the centre of the “hat” to form a connection with the main ball.  I suspect that I inadvertantly created a firmer connection on one side and that caused this weirdly-shaped oven rise.  Still tasted great but if I was going to do this again  I would attach the hat after the final proof just before the bread goes in the oven.