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Bread, Bread, BREAD!

February 11, 2010

French Baguettes, Pain a l'Ancienne, Epi Baguette

I’m hosting a wine night this evening, but possibly more important than the wine is the bread to accompany it.

After my bread’s success at the last wine night, I decided I needed to up the quantity.  I also figured why not up the variety as well?  So after much prepping, kneading and baking here we are.  I made Pain a l’Ancienne (an old favourite), French Baguettes (a new addition), and an Epi Baguette out of Pain de Campagne (I love the shape!). 

Fourteen scruptious loaves of bread and about five dozen breadsticks.  Yes, FOURTEEN loaves of bread! I think I went a bit overboard with this project, but it was fun… I used approximately 7 lbs of flour.  I started making pre-ferments on Tuesday, maked breadsticks and made the Pain a l’Ancienne dough on Wednesday, and then started working on the final doughs and the baking at 8:30 AM today (Thursday).  By 11pm tonight it will probably be all gone (and I’ll be exhausted)…

…maybe I have greedy friends, but I like to think they just have good taste and this bread is GOOD!

Italian Breadsticks

February 4, 2010

Another success from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice!  These were made from the Italian bread recipe and were a huge success.  Quite a lot of work, but completely worth it.  I made this batch as a sample for next week’s wine night.  A made them with a variety of different seasonings: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sea salt, Parmesan and pepper, and a spicy chili mix.  Of the seasonings, the hits were the poppy seed and the spicy chili mix which consisted of a mix of ancho chili powder, onion powder, kosher salt, cayenne, and a small amount of smoked hungarian paprika.  I highly recommend giving them a shot!

Holiday Eating

December 30, 2009

For many people, the holidays means a glut of sweets .  The numerous dinners with different iterations of the family probably doesn’t help the overwhelming feeling of over-fullness.  However, they are also meals that people look forward to all year long (or at least part of the year!).  What types of food traditions do you have?  Have you changed any of your foodie traditions?

For Christmas eve every year, my family has fresh dungenous crab.  We’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember — well before it caught on.  Now you go to the grocery store on Christmas eve morning to be greeted by a line of people waiting to get their crab fix.  People used to be surprised when my Mom announced that we always have crab for dinner on Christmas eve… sadly (because I liked being different) that is a thing of past now.  Crab was originally my mom’s solution to the need to have a good dinner that was relatively easy to put on the table and could be scaled up to serve the larger group of people (grandparents, aunts, uncles…) who would be joining us for Christmas eve.

Christmas eve dessert is another foodie tradition that is unwavering for us.  We always have See’s candy.  I think maybe this started because my grandparents always used to bring a box for Christmas eve.  Now, even though they are no longer with us, we continue to pass a box around vying for the best pieces.

You might be thinking, “Wow, how boring! The same stuff every year!”  While our Christmas eve tradition may remain the same year after year, this New Year’s will not duplicate any previous New Year’s Eve.  After the massive onslaught of rich, fatty foods throughout this holiday season, we’ve opted for a lighter option.  We’re going with a sort-of Mediterranean finger food theme.  So instead of having just one main course and a couple of sides, there will be loads of small bites that people can help themselves to.  We’ll have hummus with pita bread, tapenade and homemade bread, home cured olives, stuffed mushrooms, and some mini-meatballs (for the people who just have to have some meat with their meal) and tomato feta dipping sauce.  Still thinking about a couple of more additions.  Let me know if you have any suggestions! Of course, we’ll also have some champagne for our midnight toast!

I’m in charge of all of this… so I guess I’d better get cooking!  See you in the new year!

Truffles!

December 21, 2009

For Christmas I decided to make boxes of assorted truffles to give out.  I started with a recipe from Tamami (check out the recipe here). From there, I made one batch of plain chocolate flavored truffles.  The next batch I made features a spicy kick with the addition of cinnamon and cayenne.  And finally, I tried a batch with a bit of raspberry jam swirled in for a fruity twist.

These ganache fillings were then coated in a hard layer of dark chocolate and topped with hazel nuts (the plain truffles), milk chocolate shavings (the spicy truffles), and white chocolate shavings (the chocolate raspberry truffles).  They look absolutely gorgeous in the little clear plastic boxes I bought to package them in, and they taste just as delicious as they look.  My personal favourites are the peppery cinnamon ones, but that is probably because I don’t like things that are overly sweet.  Somehow, the spicy kick of these truffles seems to neutralize some of their sweetness.  Pairing these with a bit of zinfandel or port and a good book is absolute heaven!

Pain a l’Ancienne

November 24, 2009

I’ve now made this bread twice.  It really isn’t that hard, and the results are delicious.  I made four baguettes for a wine night with about 10 people, and all four baguettes were quickly devoured and deemed the star of the show (despite the three tasty wines that we tasted that evening)!

The dough is mixed the day before baking and then left in the fridge to retard overnight.  The next day, it is set out at room temperature for 2-3 hours before being turned out on a floured surface and shaped into the baguettes.  The baking only takes 20 minutes in an extremely hot oven (i.e. as hot as home ovens go).

Challah

November 18, 2009

When I was little I always used to look forward to Thursdays in pre-school when we celebrated an early Shabbat.  My primary reason for enjoying this celebration was the challah.  We’d make it in the morning and then have fresh, warm bread in the afternoon when we started Shabbat.  I’ve never found bread that quite tasted like I remember that bread tasting, but I’ve maintained my love for challah (and all other bread really…).  So, I was excited to start making my own challah.  And even more excited when I discovered how easy it was!

This recipe comes once again from Peter Reinhart’s cookbook, so I will not reproduce the recipe here (though feel free to email me or leave a comment if you want to know more about it).  The recipe is an enriched dough recipe, so it’s a bit easier than some of the more crusty breads. However, easier does not necessarily mean significantly less time consuming.  Be prepared for it to take about half a day between the mixing and rising.  Most of that time you don’t have to do anything, but you will need to be available to periodically to knead, de-gas, shape, and bake the bread.

The basic recipe in the book makes two loaves, but it can be halved or doubled as desired.  I chose to make two loaves.  That way there was one to have with dinner and one to send home with our dinner guests (though we almost caved and kept it for ourselves!).

The challah itself can be topped with any number of things or left plain.  I chose to use poppy seeds, but sesame seeds are another popular choice, and I imagine topping with toasted onion, while less traditional, could be very tasty as well.

Dough in its final rise

Challah In Oven

Bread in Action

November 9, 2009

Here’s a quick video of Peter Reinhart talking about bread.  For those who aren’t familiar with Peter Reinhart, he wrote the book The Bread Maker’s Apprentice which brilliantly teaches the art of bread making. (All of the breads I have made on this blog are from his book.)

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