Friday, February 29, 2008

[Daring Bakers] Julia Child's French bread

Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

Here again I will be all about the secret society: the Daring Bakers to name it.
February challenge was a great one (but aren't they all great and challenging anyway?). This month recipe was the Julia Child French bread. Well yes the greatest, the goddess of cooking: Julia Child you read me correctly. When I recipe my secret mission I was reading -no kidding- her biography: Appetite for life. The other very challenging part of the mission was: French bread!!! As you may know I'm 100% French and living in France, so I know a lot about good and bad breads.
Our hostesses for February are: Mary from "the sour dough" and Sara from "I like to cook"
Here my bread:

and the recipe:
Pain Francais (French Bread)
(From Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume Two by Julia Child and Simone Beck)
Daring Bakers Challenge #16: February 2008

Recipe Quantity:
3 - baguettes (24” x 2”) or batards (16” x 3”) or
6 – short loaves, ficelles, 12 – 16” x 2” or
3 – round loaves, boules, 7 – 8” in diameter or
12 – round or oval rolls, petits pains or
1 – large round or oval loaf, pain de menage or miche; pain boulot

Recipe Time: 7 – 9 hours

Additional Information about Challenge Recipe

Flour: French bakers make plain French bread out of unbleached flour that has gluten strength of 8 to 9 per cent. Most American all-purpose flour is bleached and has slightly higher gluten content as well as being slightly finer in texture. It is easier to make bread with French flour than with American flour.

(Mary and Sara Note: This was true when this book was written in the late 50s but today it is very easy to find unbleached AP flour. In addition, you can source French style, lower gluten AP flour from several specialty millers such as King Arthur Flour)

Bakers’ Oven Versus Home Ovens: Bakers’ ovens are so constructed that one slides the formed bread dough from a wooden panel right onto the hot, fire-brick oven floor, a steam injection system humidifies the oven for the first few minutes of baking. Steam allows the yeast to work a little longer in the dough and this, combined with the hot baking surface, produced an extra push of volume. In addition, steam coagulating the starch on the surface of the dough gives the crust its characteristic brown color. Although you can produce a good loaf of French bread without steam or a hot baking surface, you will a larger and handsomer loaf when you simulate professional conditions.

(Mary and Sara Note: Julia provided a very nice step by step of how to make a simulated bakers oven at home at the end of the recipe. We will provide those same steps plus a few of Mary’s bread making/baking tips she uses for those of you Daring Bakers who want to take it to the limits!)

Stand Mixer Mixing and Kneading of French Bread Dough: French bread dough is too soft to work in the electric food processor, but the heavy-duty mixer with dough hook works perfectly. The double-hook attachment that comes with some hand held mixers and the hand-cranking bread pails are slower and less efficient, to our mind, than hand kneading. In any case, when you are using electricity, follow the steps in the recipe as outlined, including the rests; do not over-knead and for the heavy duty mixer, do not go over a moderate speed of number 3 or 4, or you risk breaking down the gluten in the dough.

(Mary and Sara Note: When this book was written the average home heavy duty stand mixer was less than 300W and the hand mixer was less than 250W. Today you can find stand mixers with much better wattage and torque. Mary has made this dough using both her old Sunbeam Mixmaster from the late 80s with a 325W motor and her Kitchen Aid 7 speed Ultra Power Plus Handheld and had both struggle quite a lot. She has also made this dough with a Kitchen Aid Artisan (350W) and it did OK but also struggled a bit at the end so if you have an Artisan, keep your eye on it, especially at the end of the kneading as the gluten really develops. Mary has made this recipe several times with her Kitchen Aid Pro V Plus (450W) and it had no problems what so ever with the dough. So, a good rule of thumb to use to decide between making the dough by hand or by machine is probably 350W or better for motor power in your mixer, either hand or stand. If it looks like your mixer is struggling, finish the dough by hand. One last reminder, always follow the speed directions of your mixer manufacturer for using the dough hook. The Kitchen Aid recommendation is not to go over Speed 2 when using the dough hook on their mixers.)

Equipment Needed: Unless you plan to go into the more elaborate simulation of a baker’s oven, you need no unusual equipment for the following recipe. Here are the requirements, some of which may sound odd but will explain themselves when you read the recipe.

4 to 5 quart mixing bowl with fairly vertical rather than outward slanting sides
a kneading surface of some sort, 1 1/2 to 2 square feet
a rubber spatula or either a metal scraper or a stiff wide metal spatula
1 to 2 unwrinkled canvas pastry cloths or stiff linen towels upon which the dough may rise
a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood 18 – 20 inches long and 6 – 8 inches wide, for unmolding dough from canvas to baking sheet
finely ground cornmeal or pasta pulverized in an electric blender to sprinkle on unmolding board so as to prevent dough from sticking
the largest baking sheet that will fit in your oven
a razor blade or extremely sharp knife for slashing the top of the dough
a soft pastry brush or fine spray atomizer for moistening dough before and during baking
a room thermometer to verify rising temperature
Mary and Sara also recommend the use of an oven thermometer

Making French Bread:
Step 1: The Dough Mixture – le fraisage (or frasage)

(Mary and Sara Note: The metric measurements were converted from an online conversion chart and then checked for us by Baking Soda, who gets a Golden Loaf Award for standing in her kitchen in her pjs and while she drank her first cup of coffee scooping flour onto scales.)

1 cake (0.6 ounce) (20grams) fresh yeast or 1 package dry active yeast
1/3 cup (75ml) warm water, not over 100 degrees F/38C in a glass measure
3 1/2 cup (about 1 lb) (490 gr) all purpose flour, measured by scooping
dry measure cups into flour and sweeping off excess
2 1/4 tsp (12 gr) salt
1 1/4 cups (280 - 300ml) tepid water @ 70 – 74 degrees/21 - 23C

(Mary and Sara Note: if you are using instant yeast, you may reduce the amount to 1 3/4 tsp or 7 gr but you will still want to "proof" it because that is important for taste development in this bread)

Both Methods: Stir the yeast in the 1/3 cup warm water and let liquefy completely while measuring flour into mixing bowl. When yeast has liquefied, pour it into the flour along with the salt and the rest of the water.

Hand Method: Stir and cut the liquids into the flour with a rubber spatula, pressing firmly to form a dough and making sure that all the bits of flour and unmassed pieces are gathered in. Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky.

Stand Mixer: (Mary and Sara note: Julia did not give detailed instructions about how the dough comes together other than “combine the ingredients using the dough hook”, therefore these directions are based upon their experiences) Using the dough hook attachment on the speed the mixer manufacturer recommends for dough hook use or the lowest setting if there is no recommendation, slowly work all the ingredients together until a dough ball is formed, stopping the mixer and scrapping the bits of flour and chunks of dough off the bottom of the bowl and pressing them into the dough ball. Continue to mix the dough on a low speed until all the bits of flour and loose chunks of dough have formed a solid dough ball.

(Mary and Sara Note for both methods: Depending the humidity and temperature of your kitchen and the type of AP flour your use, you may need to add additional flour or water to the dough. To decide if this is necessary, we recommend stopping during the mixing process and push at your dough ball. If the dough is super sticky, add additional flour one handful at a time until the dough is slightly sticky and tacky but not dry. If the dough is dry and feels hard, add 1 Tbsp of water a time until the dough is soft and slightly sticky. Mary likes to keep a soup or cereal bowl of flour and a 1 cup measure of water with a tablespoon next to her mixer for this.)

Both Methods: Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky. Let the dough rest for 2 – 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl (and the dough hook if using a stand mixer).

Step 2: Kneading – petrissage
The flour will have absorbed the liquid during this short rest, and the dough will have a little more cohesion for the kneading that is about to begin. Use one hand only for kneading and keep the other clean to hold a pastry scrapper, to dip out extra flour, to answer the telephone, and so forth. Your object in kneading is to render the dough perfectly smooth and to work it sufficiently so that all the gluten molecules are moistened and joined together into an interlocking web. You cannot see this happen, of course, but you can feel it because the dough will become elastic and will retract into shape when you push it out.

Hand Method: Start kneading by lifting the near edge of the dough, using a pastry scraper or stiff wide spatula to help you if necessary, and flipping the dough over onto itself. Scrape dough off the surface and slap it down; lift edge and flip it over again, repeating the movement rapidly.

In 2 -3 minutes the dough should have enough body so that you can give it a quick forward push with the heel of your hand as you flip it over. Continue to knead rapidly and vigorously in this way. If the dough remains too sticky, knead in a sprinkling of flour. The whole kneading process will take 5 – 10 minutes, depending on how expert you become.

Shortly after this point, the dough should have developed enough elasticity so it draws back into shape when pushed, indicating the gluten molecules have united and are under tension like a thin web of rubber; the dough should also begin to clean itself off the kneading surface, although it will stick to your fingers if you hold a pinch of dough for more than a second or two.

Stand Mixer: (Mary and Sara note: Julia did not give detailed instructions about kneading the dough other than “knead”) Place dough back into the bowl and using the dough hook attachment at the recommended speed (low), knead the dough for about 5 – 7 minutes. At about the 5 minute mark, stop the mixer and push at the dough with your fingertips. If it springs back quickly, you have kneaded the dough enough. If it doesn’t spring back continue to knead, stopping the mixer and retesting every 2 minutes. If the dough sticks to your fingers, toss a sprinkling of flour onto the dough and continue to knead. The dough should be light and springy when it is ready. Mary also recommends always finishing with about 1 – 2 minutes of hand kneading just to get a good feel for how the gluten is formed.

Both Methods: Let dough rest for 3 – 4 minutes. Knead by hand for a minute. The surface should now look smooth; the dough will be less sticky but will still remain soft. It is now ready for its first rise.

(Mary and Sara note: From here out in the recipe, there is no difference for the hand vs. stand method)

Step 3: First Rising – pointage premier temps (3-5 hours at around 70 degrees)
You now have approximately 3 cups of dough that is to rise to 3 1/2 times its original volume, or to about 10 1/2 cups. Wash and fill the mixing bowl with 10 1/2 cups of tepid water (70 – 80 degrees) and make a mark to indicate that level on the outside of the bowl. Note, that the bowl should have fairly upright sides; if they are too outward slanting, the dough will have difficulty in rising. Pour out the water, dry the bowl, and place the dough in it (Mary and Sara Note: Very lightly grease the bowl with butter or kitchen spray as well to prevent the risen dough from sticking to the bowl).

Slip the bowl into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic, and top with a folded bath towel. Set on a wooden surface, marble or stone are too cold. Or on a folded towel or pillow, and let rise free from drafts anyplace where the temperature is around 70 degrees. If the room is too hot, set bowl in water and keep renewing water to maintain around 70 degrees. Dough should take at least 3 – 4 hours to rise to 10 1/2 cups. If temperature is lower than 70 degrees, it will simply take longer.

(Mary and Sara Note: If your oven has an oven light, turn on the oven light when you start making the dough. By the time you are ready for the first rise, the temperature in your oven will be around 70 degrees. You can check with your oven thermometer. If you don’t have an oven light, like Mary, you can turn the oven on to its lowest setting about 5 minutes before you begin your rise. Leave on for 1 – 5 minutes until the temperature is around 75- 80 degrees. Turn off oven, when you open the door to put the dough in to rise, your oven will be around 70 degrees. Another trick is to put your dough on top of your hot water heater. Place a folded towel on top of the hot water heater and let rise. Also a heating pad works well. Mary also has used those give away shower caps from hotels to cover her bowls and the bowl covers for the metal mixing bowls work well too. Always lightly grease the plastic wrap or bowl cover so if the risen dough touches it, the dough won’t stick.)

When fully risen, the dough will be humped into a slight dome, showing that the yeast is still active; it will be light and spongy when pressed. There will usually be some big bubbly blisters on the surface, and if you are using a glass bowl you will see bubbles through the glass.

Step 4: Deflating and Second Rising – rupture; pointage deuxieme temps (1 1/2 to 2 hours at around 70 degrees)
The dough is now ready to be deflated, which will release the yeast engendered gases and redistribute the yeast cells so that the dough will rise again and continue the fermentation process.

With a rubber spatula, dislodge dough from inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface, scraping bowl clean. If dough seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour.

Lightly flour the palms of your hands and flatten the dough firmly but not too roughly into a circle, deflating any gas bubbles by pinching them.

Lift a corner of the near side and flip it down on the far side. Do the same with the left side, then the right side. Finally, lift the near side and tuck it just under the edge of the far side. The mass of dough will look like a rounded cushion.

Slip the sides of your hands under the dough and return it to the bowl. Cover and let rise again, this time to not quite triple, but again until it is dome shaped and light and spongy when touched.

(Mary and Sara Note: You may need to lightly re-grease your bowl and plastic wrap for the second rise to prevent sticking)

Step 5: Cutting and resting dough before forming loaves
Loosen dough all around inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Because of its two long rises, the dough will have much more body. If it seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle lightly with flour.

Making clean, sure cuts with a large knife or a bench scraper, divide the dough into:
3 equal pieces for long loaves (baguettes or batards) or small round loaves (boules only)
5 – 6 equal pieces for long thin loaves (ficelles)
10 – 12 equal pieces for small oval rolls (petits pains, tire-bouchons) or small round rolls (petits pains, champignons)
2 equal pieces for medium round loaves (pain de menage or miche only)
If you making one large round loaf (pain de menage, miche, or pain boulot), you will not cut the dough at all and just need to follow the directions below.
After you have cut each piece, lift one end and flip it over onto the opposite end to fold the dough into two; place dough at far side of kneading surface. Cover loosely with a sheet of plastic and let rest for 5 minutes before forming. This relaxes the gluten enough for shaping but not long enough for dough to begin rising again.

While the dough is resting, prepare the rising surface; smooth the canvas or linen towelling on a large tray or baking sheet, and rub flour thoroughly into the entire surface of the cloth to prevent the dough from sticking

Step 6: Forming the loaves – la tourne; la mise en forme des patons

Because French bread stands free in the oven and is not baked in a pan, it has to be formed in such a way that the tension of the coagulated gluten cloak on the surface will hold the dough in shape.

For Long Loaves - The Batard: (Baguettes are typically much too long for home ovens but the shaping method is the same)

After the 3 pieces of dough have rested 5 minutes, form one piece at a time, keeping the remaining ones covered.

Working rapidly, turn the dough upside down on a lightly floured kneading surface and pat it firmly but not too roughly into an 8 to 10 inch oval with the lightly floured palms of your hands. Deflate any gas bubbles in the dough by pinching them.

Fold the dough in half lengthwise by bringing the far edge down over the near edge.

Being sure that the working surface is always lightly floured so the dough will not stick and tear, which would break the lightly coagulated gluten cloak that is being formed, seal the edges of the dough together, your hands extended, thumbs out at right angles and touching.

Roll the dough a quarter turn forward so the seal is on top.

Flatten the dough again into an oval with the palms of your hands.

Press a trench along the central length of the oval with the side of one hand.

Fold in half again lengthwise.

This time seal the edges together with the heel of one hand, and roll the dough a quarter of a turn toward you so the seal is on the bottom.

Now, by rolling the dough back and forth with the palms of your hands, you will lengthen it into a sausage shape. Start in the middle, placing your right palm on the dough, and your left palm on top of your right hand.

Roll the dough forward and backward rapidly, gradually sliding your hands towards the two ends as the dough lengthens.

Deflate any gas blisters on the surface by pinching them. Repeat the rolling movement rapidly several times until the dough is 16 inches long, or whatever length will fit on your baking sheet. During the extension rolls, keep circumference of dough as even as possible and try to start each roll with the sealed side of the dough down, twisting the rope of dough to straighten the line of seal as necessary. If seal disappears, as it sometimes does with all purpose flour, do not worry.

Place the shaped piece of dough, sealed side up, at one end of the flour rubbed canvas, leaving a free end of canvas 3 to 4 inches wide. The top will crust slightly as the dough rises; it is turned over for baking so the soft, smooth underside will be uppermost.

Pinch a ridge 2 1/2 to 3 inches high in the canvas to make a trough, and a place for the next piece. Cover dough with plastic while you are forming the rest of the loaves.

After all the pieces of dough are in place, brace the two sides of the canvas with long rolling pins, baking sheets or books, if the dough seems very soft and wants to spread out. Cover the dough loosely with flour rubbed dish towel or canvas, and a sheet of plastic. Proceed immediately to the final rising, next step.

(Mary and Sara Note: Empty paper towel tubes and/or bottles of spices work well as braces as well)

For Long Thin Loaves – Ficelles: Follow the steps above but making thinner sausage shapes about 1/2 inch in diameter. When they have risen, slash as with the Batard.

For Oval Rolls – Petits Pains, Tire-Bouchons: Form like batards, but you will probably not have to lengthen them at all after the two foldings and sealings. Place rolls on a floured canvas about 2 – 4” apart and cover with plastic to rise. When they have risen, make either 2 parallel slashes or a single slash going from one end to the other.

For Small, Medium, or Large Round Loaves – Pain de Menage, Miches, Boules: The object here is to force the cloak of coagulated gluten to hold the ball of dough in shape: the first movement will make cushion; the second will seal and round the ball, establishing surface tension.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.

Lift the left side of the dough with the side of your left hand and bring it down almost to the right side.

Scoop up the right side and push it back almost to the left side. Turn the dough a quarter turn clockwise and repeat the movement 8 – 10 times. The movement gradually smooths the bottom of the dough and establishes the necessary surface tension; think of the surface of the dough as if it were a fine sheet of rubber you were stretching in every direction.

Turn the dough smooth side up and begin rotating it between the palms of your hands, tucking a bit of the dough under the ball as you rotate it. In a dozen turns you should have a neatly shaped ball with a little pucker of dough, le cle, underneath where all the edges have joined together.

Place the dough pucker side up in a flour-rubbed canvas; seal the pucker by pinching with your fingers. Flour lightly, cover loosely and let rise to almost triple its size. After unmolding upside down on the baking sheet, slash with either a long central slash, two long central slashes that cross at right angles, or a semi-circular slash around half the circumference.

For Small Round Rolls – Petits Pains, Champignons: The principles are the same here as for the preceding round loaves, but make the cushion shape with your fingers rather than the palms of your hands.

For the second stage, during which the ball of dough is rotated smooth side up, roll it under the palm of one hand, using your thumb and little finger to push the edges of the dough underneath and to form the pucker, where the edges join together.

Place the formed ball of dough pucker side up on the flour rubbed canvas and cover loosely while forming the rest. Space the balls 2 inches apart. When risen to almost triple its size, lift gently with lightly floured fingers and place pucker side down on baking sheet. Rolls are usually too small for a cross so make either one central slash or the semi-circular cut.

For Large Oval Loaf – Pain Boulot: Follow the directions for the round loaves except instead of rotating between the balms of your hands and tucking to form a round loaf, continue to turn the dough from the right to the left, tucking a bit of each end under the oblong loaf. In a dozen turns you should have a neatly shaped oval with tow little puckers of dough, le cles, underneath where all the edges of have joined together.

Place the dough pucker sides up in a flour-rubbed canvas; seal the puckers by pinching with your fingers. Flour lightly, cover loosely and let rise to almost triple its size. After unmolding upside down on the baking sheet, slash with parallel slashes going diagonally across the top starting from the upper left and going to the lower right.

Step 7: Final Rise – l’appret - 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours at around 70 degrees

The covered dough is now to rise until almost triple in volume; look carefully at its pre-risen size so that you will be able to judge correctly. It will be light and swollen when risen, but will still feel a little springy when pressed.

It is important that the final rise take place where it is dry; if your kitchen is damp, hot, and steamy, let the bread rise in another room or dough will stick to the canvas and you will have difficulty getting it off and onto another baking sheet. It will turn into bread in the oven whatever happens, but you will have an easier time and a better loaf if you aim for ideal conditions.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees about 30 minutes before estimated baking time.

Step 8: Unmolding risen dough onto baking sheet – le demoulage.
(Mary and Sara note: we are only going to describe the unmolding of The Batard but the unmolding process is the same no matter the shape of your loaf or loaves. The key to unmolding without deflating your bread is slow and gentle!)

The 3 pieces of risen dough are now to be unmolded from the canvas and arranged upside down on the baking sheet. The reason for this reversal is that the present top of the dough has crusted over during its rise; the smooth, soft underside should be uppermost in the oven so that the dough can expand and allow the loaf its final puff of volume. For the unmolding you will need a non-sticking intermediate surface such as a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood sprinkled with cornmeal or pulverized pasta.

Remove rolling pins or braces. Place the long side of the board at one side of the dough; pull the edge of the canvas to flatten it; then raise and flip the dough softly upside down onto the board.

Dough is now lying along one edge of the unmolding board: rest this edge on the right side of a lightly buttered baking sheet. Gently dislodge dough onto baking sheet, keeping same side of the dough uppermost: this is the soft smooth side, which was underneath while dough rose on canvas. If necessary run sides of hands lightly down the length of the dough to straighten it. Unmold the next piece of dough the same way, placing it to the left of the first, leaving a 3 inch space. Unmold the final piece near the left side of the sheet.

Step 9: Slashing top of the dough – la coupe.
(Mary and Sara Note: We will only describe the slashing for the Batard here. All other slashes for the other shapes are described in Step 6: Forming the Loaves)

The top of each piece of dough is now to be slashed in several places. This opens the covering cloak of gluten and allows a bulge of dough underneath to swell up through the cuts during the first 10 minutes of baking, making decorative patterns in the crust. These are done with a blade that cuts almost horizontally into the dough to a depth of less than half an inch. Start the cut at the middle of the blade, drawing toward you in a swift clean sweep. This is not quite as easy as it sounds, and you will probably make ragged cuts at first; never mind, you will improve with practice. Use an ordinary razor blade and slide one side of it into a cork for safety; or buy a barbers straight razor at a cutlery store.

For a 16 to 18 inch loaf make 3 slashes. Note that those at the two ends go straight down the loaf but are slightly off centre, while the middle slash is at a slight angle between the two. Make the first cut at the far end, then the middle cut, and finally the third. Remember that the blade should lie almost parallel to the surface of the dough.

Step 10: Baking – about 25 minutes; oven preheated to 450 degrees (230 degrees C).

As soon as the dough has been slashed, moisten the surface either by painting with a soft brush dipped in cold water, or with a fine spray atomizer, and slide the baking sheet onto rack in upper third of preheated oven. Rapidly paint or spray dough with cold water after 3 minutes, again in 3 minutes, and a final time 3 minutes later. Moistening the dough at this point helps the crust to brown and allows the yeast action to continue in the dough a little longer. The bread should be done in about 25 minutes; the crust will be crisp, and the bread will make a hollow sound when thumped.

If you want the crust to shine, paint lightly with a brush dipped in cold water as soon as you slide the baking sheet out of oven.

Step 11: Cooling – 2 to 3 hours.
(Mary and Sara Note: We know this will be the hardest thing to do for this challenge. But, if you do not let the French bread cool, the bread will be doughy and the crust will be soft. If you want to have warm French bread, re-heat the bread after it has cooled in a 400 degree oven, uncovered and directly on the oven rack for 10 – 12 minutes if it is unfrozen. If it has been frozen see the directions below)

Cool the bread on a rack or set it upright in a basket or large bowl so that air can circulate freely around each piece. Although bread is always exciting to eat fresh from the oven, it will have a much better taste when the inside is thoroughly cool and has composed itself.

Step 12: Storing French bread
Because it contains no fats or preservatives of any kind, French bread is at its best when eaten the day it is baked. It will keep for a day or two longer, wrapped airtight and refrigerated, but it will keep best if you freeze it – let the loaves cool first, then wrap airtight. To thaw, unwrap and place on a baking sheet in a cold oven; heat the oven to 400 degrees. In about 20 minutes the crust will be hot and crisp, and the bread thawed. The French, of course, never heat French bread except possibly on Monday, the baker’s holiday, when the bread is a day old.

Step 13: Canvas housekeeping
After each bread session, if you have used canvas, brush it thoroughly to remove all traces of flour and hang it out to dry before putting away. Otherwise the canvas could become mouldy and ruin your next batch of dough.

The Simulated Bakers’ Oven
Baking in the ordinary way, as described in the preceding recipe, produces an acceptable loaf of bread but does not nearly approach the glory you can achieve when you turn your home oven into a baker’s oven. Merely providing yourself with the proper amount of steam, if you can do nothing else, will vastly improve the crust, the color, the slash patterns, and the volume of your bread; steam is only a matter of plopping a heated brick or stone into a pan of water in the bottom of the oven. The second provision is a hot surface upon which the naked dough can bake; this gives that added push of volume that improves both the appearance and the slash patterns. When you have the hot baking surface, you will then also need a paddle or board upon which you can transfer dough from canvas to hot baking surface. For the complete set up here is you should have, and any building-supply store stocks these items.
For the hot baking surface: Metal will not do as a hot baking surface because it burns the bottom of the dough. The most practical and easily obtainable substance is ordinary red floor tiles 1/4” thick. They come in various sizes such as 6 x 6, 6 x 3, and you only need enough to line the surface of an oven rack. Look them up under Tiles in your Directory, and ask for “quarry tiles” their official name.

(Mary and Sara Note: When this book was written, quarry tiles had a fair amount of asbestos in them. Today, in North America and Europe, they normally are made of clay. Make sure if you decide to go purchase some quarry tiles you only purchase unglazed quarry tiles because most of the glazes used contain lead or some other nasty substance that could get transferred. A large pizza stone will also work but make sure it is at least 1/4 inch thick because the thinner ones can break when used at the high heats that baking bread requires. Make sure you never put wet tiles in the oven because they can shatter or worse as the oven heats up.)

For unmolding the risen dough from its canvas: A piece of 3/16 inch plywood about 20 inches wide.

For sliding the dough onto the hot tiles: When you are doing 3 long loaves, you must slide them together onto the hot tiles; to do so you unmold them one at a time with one board and arrange them side by side on the second board, which takes place on the baker’s paddle, la pelle. Buy a piece of plywood slightly longer but 2 inches narrower than your oven rack.

(Mary and Sara note: Today, you can buy a real baker’s paddle easily online or at a restaurant supply store for about the same money as a piece of plywood and it will have a bevelled edge that will make sliding loaves in and out of the oven easier)

To prevent dough from sticking to unmolding and sliding boards: White cornmeal or small dried pasta pulverized in the electric blender until it is the consistency of table salt. This is called fleurage.

The steam contraption: Something that you can heat to sizzling hot on top of the stove and then slide into a pan of water in the oven to make a great burst of steam: a brick, a solid 10lb rock, piece of cast iron or other metal. A 9 x 12 inch roasting pan 2 inches deep to hold an inch of water and the hot brick.
(Mary and Sara note: Other ways to get steam in the oven is pre-heat the oven and then to fill a pan with ice cubes put it on the lower rack and then pour warm water into the pan. The temperature difference between the ice cubes and the warm water will create steam. Also you can toss ice cubes on the bottom of the oven. Put a metal baking sheet on the bottom rack, pre-heat the oven with the baking sheet in the oven and right before you put your loaves in, spritz water onto the pan.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Heidi's crackers

Note: French version is on my other food blog La cuisine de Babeth

Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

Do you know Heidi and her 101 cookbooks? She's the Californian woman behind blog. She's sharing with her readers very original and healthy recipes and stunning pictures.
I must recommend her poppy seeds pancakes, they're not FDA approved but they're Mathieu approved, it's even better. I didn't have buttermilk (kind of tricky to find here in France) so I replace it with a plain yogurt and half of the proportion of the buttermilk by regular milk.

At the beginning of the year I bought on amazon her book: Super natural cooking, a great bible for organic cooking with a twist.

I want to share on jewel of her book: her animal crackers, with my twists.
-Japanese crackers
-Provence crackers
- and sweet versions

-1 package of won-ton skins wrappers
-1 egg
-1 big spoon of heavy cream
-cookies cutters

1- Combine the egg and cream in a bowl.
2- Cut the won-ton wrappers with the cookies cutters.
3- Place them onto a parchment sheet.
4- Brush them with thin glaze of the egg mixture.
5- Bake for 5 to 8 minutes at 350F.

Japanese crackers

Note: French version is on La cuisine de Babeth

Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

Travel to Japan with the diet menu :-)

-here the plain crakers recipe

-poppy seeds
-chips of nori (you can do it yourself with sushi sheets)
-kosher salt

1- Mix 1 tablespoon of kosher salt and a pinch of washabi.
2-After following the plain crackers recipe directions (here), sprinkle on top of them some chips of nori and the salt mix.

Crackers with a smell of Provence

Note: French version is on La cuisine de Babeth

Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

Olive oil and herbes de Provence I bet you smell Provence already!

-here the plain crakers recipe
-olive oil
-herbes de Provence

1-After following the plain crackers recipe directions (here), brush some olive oil on top of the cut won-ton skins and sprinkle some herbes de Provence.

cinnamon-caramel vanilla-caramel crackers

Note: French version is on La cuisine de Babeth

Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

Here the sweet version of those delicious crackers. They will be the best companions for your ice-creams, puddings or just a cup of fine tea.

-here the plain crakers recipe

-For the cinnamon-caramel ones:
-brown sugar
-ground cinnamon
-poppy seeds
-sesame seeds

-For the vanilla-caramel ones:
-brown sugar
-vanilla extract
-poppy seeds
-sesame seeds

1- For the cinnamon-caramel gaze: mix 2 tablespoons of ground sugar with a little bit of ground cinnamon with few drops of water. You will have a gross thick mix.
1-or- For the vanilla-caramel gaze: mix 2 tablespoons of ground sugar with 3 or 4 drops of vanilla extract. You will have a gross thick mix.
2- After following the plain crackers recipe directions (here), put a some nut-size of the sugar mix. Sprinkle some seeds on top.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Brussels sprouts guest star on winter savory muffins!

Note: French version is on my other food blog La cuisine de Babeth

Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

Girls from the 7th muffins day contest challenged me. I had to come up with savory muffins, cute and eatable (as I must add).

I wanted to come up with muffins fully loaded with seasonal ingredients.

I saw some interesting videos (mostly on the Today Show) and read recipes (see Heidi's one) about Brussels sprouts. Well you may have the same unappealing souvenir of them, yep you had the same boiled ones at your school cafeteria, yeurkkk! Really not tasty.
But in all those recipes I saw and read, Brussels sprouts were not boiled just stirred, and that looked yummy and vibrant green not mashed and dark green like school cafeteria's ones.
I wanted to try ,so as soon as Brussels sprouts arrived on my farmer market stalls I bought some. Here I was in my kitchen looking at them and thinking how I could accommodate them . I must say that Mathieu was not very pleased by my new ingredients-friends (I guess he had the same cafeteria recurrent nightmares).
I was creative and stay tuned for more recipes featuring Brussels sprouts.

Here my muffins:

Ingredients: (for about 20 mini-muffins or 10 regular size)
-1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
-2 tbsp of baking soda
-1 egg
-1 cup of milk
-2 tbsp of melted butter
-1 tbsp of chestnut oil
-1 tbsp of ground cumin
-1/4 cup of lardons (stripped bacon)
-1/4 cup chopped onion
-1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
- 5 to 6 Brussels sprout heads
- fresh cilantro
- olive oil

1- Preheat oven at 375F.
1- Wash the Brussels sprouts, trim their ends and remove the yellow leaves. Quarter them.
2- Heat some olive oil in a skillet at medium heat, gently and slowly cook the Brussels sprouts for about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.
3- Cooked the lardons in an other pan. Set aside.
4- Whisk in a bowl the milk, egg, melted butter as well as 1 tbsp of chestnut oil.
5- In an other bowl combine the flour, baking soda, onion, ground cumin, Brussels sprouts, Parmesan cheese, some chopped cilantro leaves and lardons.
6- Blend well the milk mix into the dry ingredients one.
7- Fill your muffin cups, bake for 20 to 30 minutes depending on muffin size and your oven.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Madeleines in memory

Note: French version is here on La cuisine de Babeth

Instead of talking too much about the glacial cemetery last Saturday, I want to share again with you my grand mother's madeleines' recipe, recipe I featured here as my first one on this blog.

Ingredients: (for about 30 madeleines)

-the madeleine pan if you don't know where you can find this essential French cuisine item go here
-250g of sugar
-250g of flour
-150g of unsalted butter
-6 eggs
- half of a tea spoon of baking soda (or levure chimique, the most famous one in France is in a pink paper package)
- 1 tea spoon of vanilla sugar ( or vanilla extract)


1- In a large saucepan under low heat melt the butter (it should never become brown), add the eggs and whisk.
2- Remove from the heat, add the sugar and whisk. When the mix is plain and light white add the flour, baking soda and vanilla sugar and whisk again. (Oh! I forgot to say that this recipe requires some whisking skills)
3- If you don't have a non-sticky madeleine pan brush it with butter onto it -your life will get definitely easier and it's way cheaper than a life coach- . Fill the molds with a spoon.
4- Place in a preheat oven for 10 minutes at 180 Celsius degree (350 F degree).

Note: You can replace the vanilla sugar by orange or lemon zest

Madeleines also featured in that post.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wine bar, Antibes

Note: French version of this post is here on my other food blog La cuisine de Babeth

Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

Last week we tried for the third time a new wine bar down to our place. It's located in the old part of Antibes in a charming street. From the farmer market you turn onto the bar à Absynthe's street and here you go!
The wine bar itself is all gray, very trendy! Didn't they say gray is the new black ? hum :-) Anyway you enter a tiny old boutique, downstairs: wines on display, upstairs: the bar itself no more than 10 to 12 seatings.
The wine is served with homemade finger food and you can order some more if you feel like it.
Our wine, Sauternes one of my favorite, was served with foie gras mousse with gressinis (long Italian bread sticks) and some charcuterie.

Bar à vin: Les Sens
10 rue Sade
06600 Antibes
tel: 04 93 74 57 06

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I was tagged, 6 frivolous things about me

Note: French version of this post is here on my other food blog La cuisine de Babeth

Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

At lunch time I received an email from my friend Anne, she tagged me.
"tagging" in blog-world dictionary is a friendly invitation to reveal 6 small things about yourself.

Here the great 6:

1- Without my black coffee in the morning, no sugar, I'm not fully with the other human beings.

2- I don't like to do the dishes, and our apartment is to small to have a dishwasher.

3- Insects scare me.

4- I looooooove chocolate.

5- I have more than 10 nail polish bottles in my fridge.

6- Laying on the beach bores me ... too bad I'm living at walking distance to sand beaches.

Here the people I'm tagging:
Fabienne: Eggs&Mouillettes
Fanny: Foodbeam
Loukoum: Beau à la louche
Rosa: Rosa's Yummy Yums
Lolotte: Le blog-notes de Lolotte
Stella: Stella de la Rhune

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ranting and raving about this pink atmosphere

Note: French version of this post is here on my other food blog La cuisine de Babeth

Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

Where am I heading to? I’m going to churn out a post about tomorrow… about Valentine’s day. No no I wasn’t brainwashed in pink. The sheer idea Valentine’s day makes me shrug in despair, it’s just a commercial event to sell more flowers and chocolate. They don’t fool me. I can’t stand it:

-when you’re single it’s just a mean mirror of stupid-cute couples, making a fuss about giving and receiving flowers and chocolates. And God, all those fussy almost tacky pink heart-shaped decorations in every single shop? It’s way worst in the US.

-and when you have that someone special, either you’re on the same line no overpriced flowers or chocolates just because they say so. You cannot go out for dinner or you will be attacked by pearly pink decorations. Or if you have the bad luck –very bad- to be with a lover of pinky-pearly-hearts, ouch … That happened to me once. I should have run away and avoid a terrible free fall. Yep someone served me the red rose petals scattered all over the apartment and a fussy dinner. Since he dumped me by text message shortly after, now I can say thanks to his boorishness:

-I dieted for free right before the summer that year

-I did go out more often and I met great people

-I took more acting classes

-I met Mathieu and we got married

But let’s go back to our subject here: who was Saint Valentine anyway? What did he do to deserve such a pinky-heart shaped torrent? Well he loved human beings but his life story is pretty sad. He lived at the 1st century in Rome and was beheaded by the emperor Claude the second. Pretty gloomy isn’t it?

Anyway if you’re passing by Antibes or you’re not working, the city is organizing a little something. Definitely not for workers: it’s all Wednesday and Thursday from 10am to 6pm!!

-free distribution of croissants at the farmer market, marché provençal Antibes

-water coloring initiation, Atelier Urbani 11 impasse Aubernon Antibes

-oenology class, Pressoir de Bacchus 11 rue Fontvieille Antibes

-coffee secrets revealed, Le Negus Blanc 20 rue de la Republique Antibes

Monday, February 11, 2008

Looking for a room in Brooklyn starting March 2008

My dear friends one of my brother is going to New-York, Brooklyn to be more precise to do a 6 months paid internship at an architecture studio.
My brother, ok it's my brother, is non-smoking fun, creative and serious guy. He's looking for a room near F or G train for max $850 per month.
If you have a room to rent or sub-let or know someone who is looking for a roommate, contact me at cuisinedebabeth[at]gmail DOT com or contact him.
He created a web page for is room hunting, how creative is that? His webpage is here.

In the search for cured pork with green lentils recipe

Note: French version of this post is here on my other food blog La cuisine de Babeth

Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

A wedding list is never really complete until it gets some cast iron cookware, at least over here in France. Since we received one of these fine Le Creuset cast iron oval pot on our list , we had to figure out a way to break it in in style with something worthy.

My taste buds guided me toward the lentil-bedded cured pork, a dish that brings me back to my childhood with the fondest of memories. You know in the movie Ratatouille when the critique eats the ratatouille and has a flashback to his youth? That's what petit salé does to me, it's my madeleine de Proust. My Grandmother used to cook it when we visited them on vacations out in their countryside home in Limousin and even me, the difficult little girl loved it. The sweet, still-a-little-pink meat and the subtle taste of salt was just divine.

Problem is, kids weren't tolerated for long in the kitchen as we were more of an impediment than help so I'm not certain how she prepared this dish. Grandma, however, did take us along for errands, me and my little red purse with a bunch of cents in it - oh so many responsibilities, I was so proud to be entrusted with such a fortune. The village is pretty quiet now but at the time it had 2 butchers, a post office, many bakeries and even a patisserie. My grandparents usually went to the butcher down the street but for petit salé, Grandma went out of her way to go the the other butcher. It was that important.

So here I am 20 years later in my kitchen, surrounded by cooking books and the mighty power of the internet at my fingertip to uncover this culinary secret of yore. I found many references but remained doubtful. Yet I went along and special-ordered the jarret from my favorite butcher (Chez Philippe, cours Massena Antibes). The result was delicious but definitely not what I was looking for. I'll have to ask around and dig into dusty recipe books at my Grandfather's house. The search is on.

- salted-cured shank half pork (tell your butcher the number of people you plan to feed)
- French green lentils (check on the box proportions), rinsed in cold fresh water
- 2 big carrots
- 1 plump onion
- 4 bay leaves
- cloves
- peppercorns
- thyme
- extra virgin olive oil

1- First let do some maths: check what your lentils box says about cooking time. It's T_cooking_lentils. Now you will have the time: when to add lentils by substracting it to 1h30:
T_when_add_lentils = 1h30 -
T_cooking_lentils. Yep, I'm still a geek, a geek-cook :-)

2- Soak the meat in fresh cold water for 2 hours. Change the water after 1 hour. Drain, pat dry and set aside.

3- Peel the onion and pin into it the cloves ( I used about 8). Peel and cut the carrots.

4- Heat some extra virgin olive oil in your cast-iron pot, at medium heat. When the olive oil is singing crush 3 or 4 peppercorns in the pot. Add the carrots, 3 bay leaves and onion. Sprinkle some thyme. Stir well till they are fully coated with oil. let them cook for few minutes. It will smell good!

5- Add the pork meat, pour fresh water to cover completely the mix. Cover and simmer. Once in a while open your pot and scum it (i.e remove the foam).

6- When it's T_when_add_lentils time add the green lentils and 1 bay leave.

Other pork recipes:
- Garlic pork roast with its crispy potatoes
- Carrot and turnip pork roast

Friday, February 8, 2008

Baked potato or mister potato comes to the rescue

Note: French version of this post is here on my other food blog La cuisine de Babeth

Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

My dear friends it's time to find a way to beat hoar frost. It's not really the time for fresh salads or citrus desserts but not at all, it's time for comfort food. Mister Potato

came right into my plate to comfort and rescue me (yes I must admit I'm a chilly person). To reproduce at home you will need very few ingredients and it's totally safe. Pick a chubby potato , as big as your fist, some slices of raclette cheese, crème fraîche, scallions and sprouts. Since we are just among us let me unveil my secret and magic recipe which you could right away add to your kitchen black book.

Ingredients: (for on comforting mister Potato)
- 1 large potato
- 2 tablespoons of crème fraîche
- 2 slices of raclette cheese
- 1 scallion, chopped
- sprouts
- kosher salt

1- Let bake the potato in a large saucepan filled with salty water. Check with the tip of a knife if it's cooked. (after about 1 hour). Remove from water.
2- Create a dotted line from end to end with your fork, then crack the spud open by squeezing the ends towards one another. It will pop right open. Place the raclette cheese inside. Preheat the oven at 350F.
3- Wrap it into aluminum foil.
4- Place on the oven rack, bake for 5 minutes at 350F.
5- Serve with
crème fraîche, chopped scallion, kosher salt and sprouts on top.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Guest post: Husband in the kitchen

Note: French version of this post is here on my other food blog La cuisine de Babeth
Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

Guest post: Husband in the kitchen

Babeth's message:
Today, my guy takes care of the cooking. For the Chinese New Year, he proposes a wok chicken ginger stir fry!

As you can imagine, living with a food blogger is truly a delight, menus don't get boring and we talk a lot about food, tastes and techniques. Perhaps the only downside is that we sometimes eat cold because we have to take so many pictures before we can actually eat! ;-) But it's for a good cause...
Nevertheless, I do have a couple of cooking skills of my own. As some may know, I am from Quebec, a land of potatoes and meat pies which also offers a surprisingly good variety of international products. I guess it's a side effect of having such a short history (when compared to Europe or Asia): we imported and integrated a lot of culinary tastes from abroad. My family was no exception and for some unknown reason, wok-cooking was quite popular at home when I was younger. It stuck with me and since I'm a guy, it's also a good fit because it's straightforward cooking: throw everything in the wok, stir, serve. More or less.
Before diving in with the recipe, a few key points on cooking with a wok:
Asian cuisine works on colors: choose colorful ingredients
Asian cuisine works on textures: choose only crunchy veggies and don't overcook them! NO tomatoes and NO squishy squashes.
Asian cuisine is about proportions: Dice all the ingredients in similar size servings. It'll be easier to eat with sticks and easier to achieve even cooking and keep those veggies crunchy and firm.
It's called a stir fry: everything should fry in a small amount of oil in the wok.
So without further ado, here's the basic chicken ginger wok stir-fry:


1/4 pound chicken breast
Half yellow pepper
Half red pepper
10 snap peas
A handful of peanuts or cashews
Ginger (fresh if possible)
1 Garlic pod
sunflower oil + (optional) nut oil
1 floz soy sauce
3.5 oz of asian dry noodles:

Pre-cooking prep:
Soak the noodles in cold water for 2 minutes, then boil then for 2 minutes.
Drain and set aside.
Cut the chicken and vegetables in similar sized pieces slice the garlic.

Pre-heat the sunflower oil in the wok for a couple minutes at med-high. Add a few drops of nut oil to add taste.
Add the chicken, garlic and grated ginger.
Fry the chicken for a 5 minutes until brown.
Remove and set aside.
Add some more oil in the wok and let warm for a minute
Add all the diced vegetables
Add the peanuts
add half the soy sauce (~2 floz)
stir-fry for 5 minutes. The key word here is stir...
Add back the chicken and the noodles
Add the remaining half of soy sauce ( 2 floz)
Mix and cook for 3 minutes

Serve and enjoy!

Asian grocery shopping in Antibes:

Les Comptoirs de l'Asie et des Indes
2 av Tournelli 06600 ANTIBES JUAN LES PINS
04 93 33 38 64

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Back from London!

Note: French version of this post is here on my other food blog La cuisine de Babeth
: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

I'm back from London where I spent the week-end with my family. We had a great time there and we survived the gusty and chilly weather. God it was freezing! Freezing but at least the sky was clear of any hostile clouds. We stayed in a nice hotel near Victoria Station, so we were very close to any touristic places. The week-end started hectically, but a fire alarm at midnight on Friday. We all ended up on the street in pajamas waiting for the firemen. Luckily it was nothing.
We started, filled with enthusiasm by Notting Hill, to browse antique shops on Portobello rd.

In London museums are great: it's free and not crowded and of course they have masterpieces on display. We checked Tate Britain, where there's a stunning Turner's watercolors exhibit ( a must see) and the Tate modern. The Tate modern is open till 10p.m.
We finished by sites seeing with all the tourists ...

And at this point you are asking me: but what about the food? Where did you eat?

Well well well, we didn't go to gastronomy restaurants (way to expensive abroad. It's just like in the US when they put French on something the prices skyrocketed ) we went to an Italian place near our hotel, food was good but not very welcoming. I guess smiled and attention was not on the menu that evening. I was so slow we changed our mind and skipped the appetizers. We rushed out, oh well not exactly even to bring the bill they seem to go to Italy.
The following evening we went to a Portuguese place called Nandos, a good bargain!

Note: French version of this post is here on La cuisine de Babeth

Friday, February 1, 2008

Chandeleur versus Groundhog day ?

Note: French food blog version of this post is here on La cuisine de Babeth.

London is calling! I'm going to London with all my family for my mother's birthday, so I need to discuss right now important food related events that will occur over the week-end. In France this week-end we are celebrating La chandeleur , basically in every French household crêpes (thin French-like pancakes) will be flying of the pans!
And in the US , ok it's Super Bowl but also I'm pretty sure all Americans anxiously waiting for report from Punxsutawney on ground hog Day. More precisely from Phil, the groundhog. Punxsutawney Phil is the only true weather forecasting groundhog. The others are just impostors.

There has only been one Punxsutawney Phil. He has been making predictions for over 120 years! On February 2, Phil comes out of his burrow on Gobbler's Knob - in front of thousands of followers from all over the world - to predict the weather for the rest of winter.
According to legend, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather. If he does not see his shadow, there will be an early spring.

But Chandeleur and Groundhog day are quite similar, crêpes are symbolic representation of the sun and Phil is announcing when the winter is over, so when the sun will be back.

I don't have any Groundhog cookies recipe for you, but let me give you my secret crepe one!

What is so great is that you can let your imagination goes and fill them with whatever you like!
-for savory ones (here it's better to substitute the regular flour by wheat one) : sunny egg+gruyere+ham, spinach+goat cheese, salsa+bacon ...
-for sweet ones:butter+sugar, butter+sugar+lemon juice, jam, crème de marron (chestnut purée), nutella, pear+hot chocolate+whipped cream

Ingredients: (for about 12 crêpes)
-2 cups of flour
-2 cups of milk
-3 eggs
-2 oz of butter
-1 beer or (any sparkling water)

1- Melt the butter. Set aside.
2- Combine in a large bowl milk, egg, 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the melted butter and the flour and whisk well.
3- Add about 1/3 of beer to the mix and whisk. The beer or sparking water will make it airy.
4- Set aside for about 1 hour with a clean cloth on top.

Important: don't forget to check: Help beat sarcoma

Note: French version of this post is here on La cuisine de Babeth.

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