bread

I almost want to hide the fact that the theme of this post is “Gluten Free”

Let’s not get into a big debate about gluten hype. You all know I adore the stuff. But my daughter, who I love more than bread, has recently become (thanks to a nasty virus), gluten intolerant. We are all hoping it is temporary, but in the meantime, life, and a delicious one, must go on.

My baking adaptations have been…uneven. I have determined that the best two “all-purpose” gluten-free flours are Bob’s Red Mill BLUE LABEL (the red label one is pretty icky), and Maison Canelle All-Purpose.

So far, I can say that both flours can be used exactly as my regular wheat AP, and things turn out ok. Anything cakey is perfect the first day, but gets gritty if it sits around. Cookies are fine.

This week I have decided to make Gluten Free Hamentashen, Challah, and Sticky Toffee Cake. The cookies and cake are regular recipes, and the “Challah” is one specifically for Gluten Free flours.

I am intrigued to see how restaurants adapt to this food restriction. Whether it is to beat wheat bellies, or to accommodate true allergies and intolerances, many restaurants and bakeries are offering “glutard” options (no, it isn’t politically correct, but come on, it is kinda funny).  A few weekends ago in NYC, we noticed Les Halles offers a gluten-free (I will just use GF, ok?) menu. Great – we sat down, and looked at the breakfast selections. Eggs and toast. French toast. Um, server, are we missing something? “You can have a fruit cup”. NEXT…

Friedman’s Lunch (one in Chelsea Market and one on W. 31st.) does it right. Can you say chicken and waffles? Pancakes? GF reuben sandwich (yes, the toast did crumble).

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Want something a little less sinful? Bistango offers a full selection of Italian-esque GF deliciousness. Meatballs without breadcrumbs, great GF pastas, and yes, desserts. All choices were seriously good, on their own merits, and not just because they had GF options.

Perfect GF pasta

Perfect GF pasta

If budget is not a concern (to put it mildly) , 11 Madison Park (3 Michelin stars) makes GF adaptations of everything they serve.

One of these things is NOT like the other...

One of these things is NOT like the other…

my baking report: the hamentashen were ok, but not easy to fold. Nice thought, not worth redoing. Or taking a photo!

The sticky pudding cake recipe is a winner – gluten free or not. Here is the original recipe from Bonnie Stern:

STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING WITH BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE

3/4 lb pitted dates (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 cups boiling water
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3  eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (regular or gluten-free)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Butterscotch sauce:

3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed

The recipe mentions serving it with additional whipped cream, but I never do!

Butter a 9″ springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper, or bake individual cakes in 12 muffin pans

  1. Combine dates and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Add baking soda and let rest 5 minutes. Puree. Let it cool.
  2. Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs one at a time. Whisk flour with baking powder and salt. Gently fold into batter alternately with dates, starting and ending with the flour. Transfer to prepared pan.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350F/180C oven for 35 to 45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. (Muffin sized ones usually take about 25 -30 minutes.)
  4. Meanwhile, while cake is in the oven, make the sauce by combining sugar, cream and butter in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Simmer gently 5 minutes until slightly thickened.
  5. When the cake comes out of the oven, let it cool for a few minutes, then prick holes and drizzle half the sauce over the top
  6. When serving,  drizzle with remaining butterscotch sauce and if you want to, some whipped cream.

 

Makes 10 to 12 servings

and now…..

GLUTEN-FREE CHALLAH

The following recipe is courtesy of www.glutenfreegirls.blogspot.ca so thank you.

The Challah is worth tweaking – next time I will replace some of the sugar and water with honey, just so it tastes a bit more like my “standard”.  That said, it is probably the tastiest “white bread” I have eaten in a long time. It is delicious toasted, and incredibly, it is NOT crumbly!

seriously rising

seriously rising

IMG_3486IMG_3487

 

2 cups rice flour (I used almost half and half brown and white rice flours)

1 3/4 cups tapioca flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons sugar

3 teaspoons xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup lukewarm water

1 cup lukewarm water

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

4 eggs

sesame seeds, poppy seeds or my favourite, pearl sugar (optional)

 

  1. In mixer, combine the flours, 1/4 c sugar, xantham gum, and salt.
  2. Dissolve the 2 tsp sugar in the 2/3 cup of water and mix in the yeast. In a separate bowl combine the butter with the additional 1 cup water and vinegar.
  3. With mixer on low speed, blend the dry ingredients. Slowly add the butter/water mixture. Blend in the eggs, 1 at a time. The dough should feel slightly warm. Pour the yeast mixture into the ingredients in the bowl and beat at the highest speed for 2 minutes.
  4. Place the bowl in a warm spot, cover with greased plastic wrap and a towel, and let rise approximately 1 hour.
  5. Return the dough to the mixer and beat on high for 3 minutes. Spoon the dough into a greased, floured loaf pan. Fill 2/3 full, you may bake the remainder in greased muffin tins, etc. (or make all rolls~about 18). Sprinkle tops with sesame seeds. Let the dough rise until it is slightly above the tops of the pans, about 45-60 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 400 F and bake the large loaf for approximately 1 hour. Bake the rolls 25 minutes.

Personally, I think the bigger loaves taste much better, but try it out and see!

 

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A Bakery Worth the Drive

The last few years I have spent a lot of time on the road. I’m not a “road trip” fan, but have made a conscious decision to embrace them. As much as possible, I try to do a bit of pre-drive research and seek out a few interesting places along the way – or not too far out of the way.

One of my recent trips through the Berkshires gave me the chance to discover Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Housatonic, MA, just beside Great Barrington. What a delightful discovery!  Run by Richard Bourdon – born in Quebec, trained in Europe, THIS PLACE GETS IT RIGHT. The fresh milled flour is right – the technique is right – and the “art” of bread…is right!

Their croissants are the best I have tasted in a very long time, on BOTH sides of the Atlantic. They are a perfect combo of flaky and elastic such that the layers pull apart beautifully!  The bakery is really well known for their “bread and chocolate” a sourdough full of dark chocolate chunks. Saveur Magazine recently wrote a glowing review.Click the link to have a read.

This photo is courtesy of the Saveur article - my bread was devoured in the car and never lasted long enough to be photographed!

This photo is courtesy of the Saveur article – my bread was devoured in the car and never lasted long enough to be photographed!

Of course I had to try replicating Bread and Chocolate as soon as I got home….how could I resist? My reading told me I would have to increase hydration of my sourdough. A lot. So I did. I used 100% hydration, meaning that for 1000g of flour that I added to my levain, I added 1000g of water, rather than my usual 700 g. My dough was a goopy mess! I was sure it was going to be a disaster. When it finally flopped into the pan,  I imagined myself throwing it into the garbage 40 minutes later.  But wait, it was a little less “high” coming out of the oven than my regular loaves, but…it was amazing. The dough inside was glossy and stretchy. I don’t really understand why the chocolate dictates a higher hydration level, but hey, as long as it works, I’m ok with it!

Hmm. I wonder if I could get there by the time the next batch is out of the oven. Think I will fill up the car. I want a croissant. And a pizza. And….

Montreal…. Hip vs. Hype

I hope I don’t offend anyone here, but I have some laundry that needs airing, and the only way I know how to speak is honestly.

There is a LOT of NEW on the Montreal food scene, and to simplify, I will skip the new restaurants (yes, Vin Papillon is the best addition to the scene!) and go straight to the new places to BUY food.

This summer, I excitedly subscribed to Lufa Farms. It is a great story!  Veggies organically grown on Montreal rooftops and local farms, delivered to collection points across the city. Too bad my boxes had either wilted and bruised produce, or were underweight (some items are sold by weight).  I sadly unsubscribed.

I am a breadie.  My nickname is “Carbie Barbie”. I have tasted Jeff Finklestein’s breads over the last few years, at restaurants and they are, good.  I just don’t understand why people love them so much, and what the buzz is about.  Wanting to feel the magic, I passed by the new bakery, Hof Kelsten this weekend.  A small point, but I don’t understand the décor. A place that offers a chopped liver sandwich and borscht seems incongruous with a precious bakery case and a huge open eating space.

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The sourdough bread was soft, the crust chewy, and it had few air pockets.  Maybe I should have bought a rye bread instead, but it looked kind of sorry.

just can't get excited about this.

just can’t get excited about this.

The oatmeal raisin cookie was good, but that should be the case. The raspberry rogelach was passable. Granted, rogelach are very hard to come by in this city, but they were too sweet and needed some cinnamon.

I am really sad that the bread isn’t better.  All the ingredients are there – a well- trained baker, great media coverage and a killer oven. I really hope I passed by on an “off” day, and will give it another try in a few weeks.

We continued up St. Laurent to Boulangerie Guillaume, where I bought one of their “fancy” breads to nibble– a baguettine with figs and cheddar. It was tasty, but I got grossed out when I witnessed one of the bakers blow her nose and then go back to work without washing her hands. I KNOW disgustingness happens in kitchens, but I really don’t like seeing it.  Guillaume’s breads are good, but it has been too long since I tasted one of their uncomplicated varieties to be able to comment on the actual “bread” quality.

Next stop: Boucherie Lawrence. It is rare that a butcher shop smells good, let alone clean. Knowledgeable, friendly (hip too) butchers prep orders beautifully, washing hands between every activity.  The sandwich corner is kept completely away from the raw-meat area. Everything looks fresh and inviting.  And now, onto our steaks: 30 day aged waygu. Have you ever unwrapped steaks and noticed how delicious they smell? That they smell nutty and buttery? Me neither, until now.  I am not a steak lover, but I could be converted.  I read an article recently about how it is always a good idea to befriend your butcher. I have just found my “guy”, and I look forward to going back soon.

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Whenever I am at the Jean-Talon market, I pick up a bread at Joe La Croute. It is always decent, and sometimes, even really good. There is a certain voodoo with bread, and sometimes it is better than others.

There have been some other noteworthy additions over the past year or so, like KemCoBa (the best ice cream in town aside from Joe Beef), and Rustique Pie Kitchen (my go-to if I don’t have time to bake and need a great dessert), but this rant/post is limited to a few kilometers along the Main.

I have heard a lot about breads at Les Pains Aux Voiles, and Les Touriers. I will let you know how they fare. In the meantime, I am preheating my oven to bake 2 sourdoughs at home to satisfy my craving.

To me, this is what bread should look like:

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Rye-ing in the New Year

My bread has been bettered. By a lot!

I have just consumed the better part of a loaf of bread. With butter. And it was worth it. A good friend introduced me to her good friends about a year ago.  They now live in Vancouver, and own Bigsby’s Bakehouse. We liked each other immediately, and launched into foodtalk. And breadtalk. I finally made it to the bakery this week.  We passed by on our way to the airport, stocked with sandwiches, bread, brownies and cinnamon buns for the long trip home. The sandwiches and brownies were devoured in a minute. Smoked turkey skin, tomatoes and pea shoots on dark rye….mmmmm.  Tuna with olives, pickles amd cukes on delicious baguette….messy and yummy. Perfect brownies. Just perfect. We walked into the house and shared a bread. This morning we polished off the seriously cinnamony buns, and the final bread. Ok, i feel a LITTLE full. But determined to bake bread like that. Moist. Chewy. Deeply flavourful. With great appreciation to our friends at Bigsby Bakehouse, here goes, with a few adjustments:
For 2 loaves, using the technique and baking instructions from Tartine (refer to my older posts)
200g starter (levain)
600g Unbleached four
400g Dark Rye Flour ( I used pumpernickel)
700g water ( I actually added a bit more when I folded it the first time because it seemed a bit tough)
20g of sea salt
70g molasses
1 tsp cocoa powder
A small handful of caraway seeds if desired.
How it looks when first mixed

How it looks when first mixed

The dough is sticky and never gets as silky as regular wheat doughs.  Dark rye is not a glutinous flour. The “folds” are not as easy as the country bread, but it works.
After a few hours....

After a few hours….

Bigsby’s lets the final rise (after shaping) go for 18-24 hours in the fridge. That makes it really easy.
YUM.  My first loaf is out of the oven….here comes the butter.

Rye Bread #1

Rye Bread #1

Challah-lew-ya

I’m not usually a “ritual” person. I like change and find routine boring. Except when it comes to making Challah on Friday.  I’m not religiously observant by any stretch of the imagination. But there is something that happens when I start my day making dough.  It just feels good, and it does set the day apart from the rest of the week.  I have come across several good recipes, but this one (posted previously) is my go- to favourite.  If it is hard to handle when you are mixing it, just let it sit for 15 – 20 minutes and then go back to it. It will have “relaxed” (hopefully, so will you).

This makes 2 HUGE breads, or 3 – 4 normal size loaves.

3 tbs.                    active dry yeast (instant or regular)

2 ¼ cups               warm water, divided

¾ tsp.                   sugar

5+1                       eggs (room temp. if possible)

1 1/3(ish) cups    clover or other light honey ( or you can substitute part with maple syrup)

¾ cup                    canola oil

2 ¼ tsp.                salt

10-12 cups          All-purpose flour ( I use organic unbleached, sometimes some bread flour…it really isn’t a finicky recipe)

Directions:

In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, 1 ½ cups of the water, and sugar. Let sit 10 minutes and make sure it proofs.

In a very large bowl beat the 5 eggs with the honey. Add remaining ¾ cups of water, oil and salt. Add the yeast mixture and mix well.

Add 5 cups of the flour and start mixer. (can add raisins now – 3 cups or so).  Keep adding flour until you have a shaggy mess. 2 options – keep adding flour and mix until you get a dough that is pretty stiff (almost done here) OR, you can let it sit now for 20 minutes – it makes the final knead really easy.

If you are hand kneading, do it now. Add enough flour to get a stiff but not dry dough. Think of “baby’s bum” as what you want here.  If you are machine kneading only, keep adding flour carefully until you get the right texture.

Let rise in a clean bowl, covered with damp towel for 2 – 4 hours. It is forgiving. OR let rise in fridge overnight.  If you refrigerate, it needs 4 – 6 hours to rise the next day)

When dough has risen, punch down and turn onto board.   Give it a good knead for 3-5 minutes Divide dough into a multiple of 4. (this recipe makes 3 -4-5 loaves) Roll each lump into a ball, then pull the ball onto itself, making a seam at the bottom (to develop surface tension). Let balls rest 10 minutes at least (cover if they seem like they will dry out)

Roll balls into sets of 4 ropes. Let ropes rest a few minutes (covered).  Add flour to roll the ropes if necessary to keep from sticking, but you still want the dough to feel soft.

Do a 4 rope braid:

IMG_0341

(Pinch ropes together.  Number them 1,2,3,4. Put 1 between 2and 3, put 3 where 1 was then take 4 and put it between 3 and 2, and take 2 and put it where 4 was. Continue and tuck the ends under the loaf. If you need to see it, there are you tube videos.

Put braided challahs on a cookie sheet with parchment. Cover with damp towel (or do egg wash, but don’t sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds) and let rise 45 mins – 1.5 hours.  Again, it is really forgiving. Just make sure it is puffy and doesn’t spring much when you press it.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Do the egg wash (maybe for a second time) and sprinkle seeds – sesame or poppy, or my kids’ fave, pasteurized or sparkle sugar.

Bake for approx. 45 minutes. You may need to cover loosely with foil if it browns too fast.  Test for doneness by tapping bottom of bread and listening for hollow sound.

I just wish I could somehow post the aroma.

challah

Oh, and you can use the same recipe to make a KILLER bubka.

Bubka

Bubka

No, “Extra Virginity” by Tom Mueller is NOT the “Fifty Shades of Grey” for Foodies.

But it IS an incredibly compelling book that is changing the way I taste and buy olive oil. My “go to” favourite is from Chateau D’Estoublon.

It is hand-picked, cold pressed from a single varietal and worth every penny (and that is a big pile of pennies.) My taste buds know that it is delicious. It tastes of sunshine, grass, and artichokes. But after a morning of reading I now know why so many other oils taste like… oil, while others are the elixir of the gods.

My lazy Sunday read has reminded me that there is great food writing that recognizes how process, whether it be growing, cooking or eating can be life(style) changing.

Listening to “Blood, Bones and Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton on several long car trips this summer transported me to Italy. The Interstate signs disappeared as I saw and smelled the kitchens described in the book. Once back home, Gabrielle’s gritty voice inspired me to (unsuccessfully) grow puntarelle in my garden this summer. While the actual plant grew perfectly well, I was faced with an impossible reality – I had no clue how to harvest the plant and force it to produce the crunchy shoots that make this variety of chicory so deliciously irreplaceable. I sautéed the bitter leaves and they were…ok. If anyone has any clue, please let me know – I have the seeds safely stored in case I try again next year.

Another few hundred miles led me to listen to “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister.  It is a story about life, people, and the magic of food. The book follows the lives of eight students who meet weekly for a cooking class. That doesn’t sound promising, I know, but soon you see that each student is looking for more than recipes, and they are taught by a woman who is complicated enough to understand the power of food.

My bedside reading this week is “52 Loaves, a Half-Baked Adventure” by William Alexander.  In his own words, it is “My take on the six-thousand-year-old staple of life, 52 Loaves explores the nature of obsession, the meditative quality of ritual, the futility of trying to re-create something perfect, our deep connection to the earth, and the mysterious instinct that makes every person on the planet, no matter their culture or society, respond to the aroma of baking bread.”  For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that I’m a “breadie” and this book is right up my alley.

Enough writing for now, I’m eager to learn more about the “sublime and scandalous world of olive oil”.  I will share my knowledge in the days to come.  In the meantime, here is an image of how food and words sometimes don’t work.

Unexcelled? Even my spell-check is shaking its head; and why the American spelling of “Flavour”?

Bad Bread. Why?

Why is it in the culture of “heirloom” this and “artisanal” that there is still so much bad bread? I’m not talking about the stuff sold in bags in supermarkets (which I admit, makes great pb+j and grilled cheese sandwiches). No, I’m talking about the $3 and over loaves we all buy at our local bakeries.  No argument works for me. It doesn’t cost more to bake good bread, or take more time.

If you mix flour, yeast, salt and water, let it sit for 12 – 18 hours, you can bake a great loaf of bread at home. NO kneading, no mess, no fuss. The secret is a good, heavy oven-proof pot. Here’s what I use.

My secret to baking great crusty bread

If you want to see how to do it, watch Mark Bittman’s video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13Ah9ES2yTU   Now you are done the hard part of the process! (Really.It is that easy!)

Recipe for 1 minute bread:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 tsp. yeast

1 1/4 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cup water

For EXCEPTIONAL bread, follow Chad Robertson’s recipes. They are in a book named for their bakery in San Francisco, Tartine.  If anyone would like sourdough starter, e-mail me and I will send you some. Otherwise, it is a fun and easy project to make your own. Buy his cookbook for lots of amazing options. Here’s a video from Tartine’s site: http://www.tartinebread.com/video.html

Tuesday’s Sourdoughs

yum!

Martha Stewart (no comment) has the basic recipe on her site. Here is the link: http://www.marthastewart.com/907240/chad-robertsons-tartine-country-bread?NULL#NULL

Challah really deserves a post of its own. If bread could be a hug, this would  be it. Here is my go-to all time favourite recipe. Warning – do not eat it with butter. Or Nutella. Or jam. Or anything.  There’s no going back to regular, crappy bread if you do.

4 braid challah

Challah

3 tbs.                    active dry yeast (instant or regular)

2 ¼ cups               warm water, divided

¾ tsp.                   sugar

5+1                       eggs (room temp. if possible)

1 1/3(ish) cups    clover or other light honey ( or you can substitute part with maple syrup)

¾ cup                    canola oil

2 ¼ tsp.                salt

10-12 cups          All-purpose flour ( I use organic unbleached, sometimes some bread flour…it really isn’t a finicky recipe)

Directions: This makes 2 HUGE breads, or 3 – 4 normal size loaves.

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, 1 ½ cups of the water, and sugar. Let sit 10 minutes and make sure it proofs.
  2. In a very large bowl beat the 5 eggs with the honey. Add remaining ¾ cups of water, oil and salt. Add the yeast mixture and mix well.
  3. Add 5 cups of the flour and start mixer. (can add raisins now – 3 cups or so).  Keep adding flour until you have a shaggy mess. 2 options – keep adding flour and mix until you get a dough that is pretty stiff (almost done here) OR, you can let it sit now for 20 minutes – it makes the final knead really easy.
  4. If you are hand kneading, do it now. Add enough flour to get a stiff but not dry dough. Think of “baby’s bum” as what you want here.  If you are machine kneading only, keep adding flour carefully until you get the right texture.
  5. Let rise in a clean bowl, covered with damp towel for 2 – 4 hours. It is forgiving. OR let rise in fridge overnight.  If you refrigerate, it needs 4 – 6 hours to rise the next day)
  6. When dough has risen, punch down and turn onto board.   Give it a good knead for 3-5 minutes Divide dough into a multiple of 4. (this recipe makes 3 -4-5 loaves) Roll each lump into a ball, then pull the ball onto itself, making a seam at the bottom (to develop surface tension). Let balls rest 10 minutes at least (cover if they seem like they will dry out)
  7. Roll balls into sets of 4 ropes. Let ropes rest a few minutes (covered).  Add flour to roll the ropes if necessary to keep from sticking, but you still want the dough to feel soft.
  8. Do a 4 rope braid (pinch ropes together.  Number them 1,2,3,4. Put 1 between 2and 3, put 3 where 1 was then take 4 and put it between 3 and 2, and take 2 and put it where 4 was. Continue and tuck the ends under the loaf. If you need to see it, there are you tube videos.
  9. Put braided challahs on a cookie sheet with parchment. Cover with damp towel (or do egg wash + sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds) and let rise 45 mins – 1.5 hours.  Again, it is really forgiving. Just make sure it is puffy and doesn’t spring much when you press it.
  10. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Do the egg wash and sprinkle seeds – sesame or poppy, or my kids’ fave, pasteurized or sparkle sugar.
  11. Bake for approx. 45 minutes. You may need to cover loosely with foil if it browns too fast.  Test for doneness by tapping bottom of bread and listening for hollow sound.

I just wish I could somehow post the aroma.