Friday, January 22, 2010

#16 - Kaiser Rolls

Look! Kaiser Rolls! Homemade, Hand-formed Kaiser Rolls! Amazing!

In all my years of bread baking, not once did it ever occur to me to make Kaiser Rolls. Sure, I’ve bought them at the bakery from time to time when making uptown turkey or veggie burgers, but make them? It never even entered my consciousness to try.

But along comes the BBA Challenge, and voila, here I am, making Kaiser Rolls. I must confess, though, this was one of those formulas that I thought I had to “get through” to move on to more interesting breads. So I went about mixing and kneading the dough, let it rise, shaped them (which took some practice) set them for their final rise, and baked them.

I had friends over for dinner that evening, and we all let a whoop and a holler when we saw them come out of the oven. They actually looked like Kaiser Rolls! As always, though, the real test is the flavor. These were amazing! They were everything one could possible want in a dinner roll – great flavor and texture. When one of my dinner guests went back for seconds, I knew I had a winner.

The next day, I made paninis with the leftover rolls. Even better! I used smoked turkey from the deli counter, provolone, sliced tomato, and fresh basil. Fabulous!

In the Oven

Close-up While Still in the Oven

The Finished Product – They Weren’t Around Long!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

#15 - Italian Bread

Italian Bread

I found this bread to be almost identical to the French bread, with the French edging past with superior flavor. I attribute that to the pate fermentee vs. the biga. I find that interesting, though, since one of my favorite "go to" breads is from Martha Rose Shulman and relies on a biga. (It is her Whole Wheat Country Bread from her latest book, Mediterranean Harvest.) After comparing the French with the Italian, I think I'll stick with the French.

After Rising - Ready for the Oven

In the Oven

Check Out That Texture!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

#14 - French Bread

The French Bread

Many years ago, I was baking several breads from Bernard Clayton's wonderful tome, The Complete Book of Breads. During this time, Mr. Clayton (the Peter Reinhart of his time) returned from an extended journey throughout France, where he visited countless bread bakers learning their trade secrets. The outcome of this journey was the publication of his great masterpiece, The Breads of France. I baked several different versions of our beloved French bread during those years, finally choosing one to call my own. It was Monsieur Monfort's French bread, and I believe it was from the Complete Book of Breads.

I made this bread so many times over the years I have long since lost count. I became somewhat famous, at least among my family and friends. In fact, my then sisters-in-law said that I was making them look bad by having this amazing bread coming out of my oven on a regular basis. My two children grew up on this bread, and it is as much a part of their childhood memories as their favorite books and toys.

When I read that this challenge would include a French bread, I sniffed with disdain. Why would I need to make this, I wondered, when I already had perfected this fabulous formula?

I am happy to say that I was wrong. When this bread came out of the oven, with its deep, golden-hued crust, it literally crackled as it met the cool air outside of the blast-furnace oven temperature of 500 degrees. And the flavor is far and away superior to my previous formula. I think it is the extra step of making the pre-ferment. It gives just a hint of added flavor without it tasting like sourdough. Not that there's anything at all wrong with that tart, pungent quality in a good sourdouch loaf, but that is not French bread, whereas this is.

This was so amazing that I made it again for my birthday party in November. At first my daughter, who grew up eating the now iconic Monsieur Monfort's bread, was skeptical. "Nothing could be as good as your 'old' French bread, Mom." Later, though, she changed her mind, reluctantly agreeing that this current formula yielded a superior loaf. Everyone at the party concurred, and even though they all know about this project of mine, they were still amazed at this fantastic bread.

Here I am with my daughter, Cate, at my birthday party.

Dough - Ready for Shaping

Pinching the seam of the underside of the baguette helps to seal it.

The formed baguettes before rising.

The Risen Loaves Ready for the Oven

In the Oven

The Trio of Baguettes
Look at that crackling, golden crust!