Sunday, October 22, 2017

Another Sunday October 22

On Sunday, October 22, 2006 I wrote the first post for this blog. Blogs were still pretty new ways to communicate with a larger community and there weren't the hundreds of thousands of food blogs that exist today. It was an exciting time and I was inspired by some food blogs I had been reading for a few weeks. It seemed like fun and like something I could do. Turns out both were true.

I wrote, "Food is one of my earliest enthusiasms. Baking was how I got started and it remains one of my favorite ways of being creative. Then there are all of the beautiful fruits and nuts just outside my back door in season...pretty California...apples in the fall, but we've gone through blackberries, plums, peaches, pears, walnuts, quince, persimmon in their turn over the years. I grow tomatoes, green beans and lots of summer squash, plus herbs.

Other enthusiasms are painting & drawing, photography, gardening (flowers, too) and writing a bit. Seems like most of these can be enjoyed while blogging or will add to the blog.

I love trying new things and have been cooking long enough that I take the results of new recipes, untasted, to parties and often make small changes to recipes the first time I try them.Foolish? Intrepid? Confident? Who knows?

Looking forward to tasting new things, making new friends and having a good time.


Here is a photo from that first fall.

So now, as I begin the twelfth year of blogging,  I look back I find that I did make new friends, and I've certainly had a good time. I've expanded by skills and confidence in the kitchen, tried new techniques, discovered new (to me) cuisines, honed my photography skills, and posted over 1,000 recipes.

These days the main reason I blog is to have recipes that I want to make again easily available for me. The secondary reason is to participate in the Bread Baking Babes and Cake Slice Bakers monthly events, mostly because I really enjoy the other bakers. I also like to host guest bloggers like NoHandle.

So here we go, into the new blogging year, with one of Sweetie's favorite ways to enjoy fish -
Garlic Microwave Fish.

This works best with firm fish fillets. We often cook snapper this way but this time it was tilapia. I am going to do directions more than amounts because it works just as well for small amounts and for big ones...just add or subtract the butter and garlic to taste.

Start with a microwave safe flat dish or pan with low sides. I use a glass pie plate. For larger amounts I use a glass baking pan.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter for each pair of fillets (about .75 pound total weight) in the dish in the microwave.
Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic, cover with waxed paper, and microwave on high for 1 minute. (1 minute will become familiar in this recipe.)

Take the fish fillets and dredge them through the butter/garlic mixture, on both sides. Lay them on top of what is left, cover with waxed paper, and microwave on high 1 minute.

Uncover. Turn the fillets over, cover again with waxed paper, and microwave on high 1 minute. Uncover and test to see if fish is flakey, especially in the thickest part. If not, cover again with waxed paper and microwave on high 1 minute. Continue to test and microwave 1 minute at a time, turning fish once more at this point,  until fish is flakey.

Serve with the garlic-y juices. Squeeze a quarter of a lemon over if desired. Serve hot.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Cake Slice Kugelhopf

We are almost at the end of baking from World Class Cakes by Roger Pizey. This month I chose the Chocolate Kugelhopf from our choices, but changed it to Apricot Kugelhopf since I'm not a fan of chocolate and yeast bread. I used 1 cup of moist dried apricots, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 cup of water to make the filling, simmering until the liquid was syrupy. Then I put the fruit and liquid from the pot into a food processor, added 1 tablespoon lemon juice to cut the sweetness a bit, and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract since I was putting almonds on the top of the cake. It smelled heavenly! It also made a pretty pattern in the cake.

The cake dough was another story. I liked the idea of the three bowls, but questioned the published "1 cups flour". I've made similar yeast doughs and with all the egg and egg yolk, plus the milk in the yeast mixture, there is no way that 1 cup is enough to form a dough. I started adding extra bread flour 1/4 cup at a time and lost count of how much extra, but I think the amount was closer to 3 cups than 1 cup. The dough was tacky but not sticky and rose well...too well as a matter of fact! I didn't have fresh yeast, so I used a full packet of dry yeast...that may have been too much. Since the cake dough rose so much, the top of the cake was mostly dough.

I had to cut off the top of the cake (which became the bottom) because it rose unevenly in the oven...great oven spring, but lopsided. As you can see in the photo above, the crumb is lovely and moist. The flavor with the rich dough and tangy apricot filling is delicious, too. It makes a pretty cake with the apricot jam glaze and almond decorations on top.

I'm not going to give a recipe for this because there were too many flaws with the recipe as given and I don't have time to type up all the corrections. If you have a favorite brioche dough, that will work well here. I used a small Bundt pan and the apricot filling described at the top. Happy Baking!

Check out the other Cake Slice Bakers October cakes!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Seasonal and Sensational Bread Baking Babes World Bread Day Bread

This has been a long, strange week here in Northern California. A week ago, very early in the morning, a neighbor phoned and woke me up and said she smelled smoke. Her husband is a Napa Sheriff and he had deployed to the Atlas fire in Napa, so smelling smoke here, so far away from that fire really made her nervous. We checked and there was no fire nearby, but Sweetie heard that there was one in the northern reaches of Napa, plus the wind was blowing in our direction, from the east, rather than the usual direction, from the west and the ocean.

By morning there was a lot of smoke and we could see the flames in Santa Rosa and further south from our upstairs, east-facing deck. The wildfire had spread rapidly with the high winds and already destroyed a large area in northern Santa Rosa. The fire even jumped over a six-lane freeway! Evacuations had begun just about the time my neighbor called. Thus began a week with over 40 dead, over 6 thousand structures destroyed, many, many acres burned and many thousands of people displaced. It took until today for the major evacuations to be rescinded, although there are still evacuations happening elsewhere as the fire continues to spread. Fortunately it is finally beginning to be contained by all of the brave and exhausted first responders and public safety folks from far beyond the borders of California.

We are blessed in that we have never been at risk (although I was packed and ready if the wind shifted the wrong way) and could offer our home to evacuees. The photo above is from this morning where the sun was again red due to the smoke in the air.  The smoke has been bad most days, but that has been the worst of it for us. Thank you to all who sent good wishes and prayers.

This afternoon I was able to finally find some time to make the delicious seasonal bread brought to us by our Kitchen of the Month, Judy of Judy's Gross Eats. Pumpkin Cornmeal Bread sounds sort of mundane, but this bead is not. It is moist and a little fluffy.

Mine had a good rye flavor, some pumpkin flavor, but I reduced the molasses a bit so that it didn't overwhelm the other flavors. I also used some walnut oil for the oil part which gave it a subtle nuttiness. The cornmeal provided some chew and more flavor. This is a really flavorful bread. Thank you Judy for picking it!

I decided to make 12 dinner rolls in a spiral shape and a good size braided loaf. We had some of the rolls with dinner and I really enjoyed them.

You'll love making this bread. Because it has a lot of dry yeast, it is sure to rise for you (as long as you keep your ingredients barely warm or even cooler) and it is easy to work with and shape. To be a Buddy, just bake it, take a photo, and send it by Oct. 29th to Judy. She'll send you a badge for your blog.

Be sure to check out the lovely bread made by the other Babes...and Happy World Bread Day!

Pumpkin Cornmeal Bread
Yield:  2 or 3 loaves or 24 dinner rolls

1 ½  tablespoons active dry yeast (1 ½ packets)
Pinch of sugar
1 cup warm water (105˚ to 115˚)
1 cup warm buttermilk (105˚ to 115˚)
5 tablespoons melted butter or oil
1/3 cup light molasses
½ cup pumpkin purée (either canned or homemade)
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup fine- or medium-grind yellow cornmeal
1 cup medium rye flour
4 ½ to 4 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour

In a large bowl, combine yeast, sugar, salt, cornmeal, and rye flour.   Whisk to mix well.

Add warm water, buttermilk, melted butter/oil, molasses, and pumpkin purée.  Beat until smooth (1 to 2 minutes) using either a whisk or the paddle attachment on a mixer.

Add the unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour, ½ cup at a time, until it becomes a soft dough. Knead until smooth and slightly tacky, either by hand or with a dough hook.

Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the top; cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise at room temperature until double, about 1 ½ to 2 hours, depending on how warm it is.

Turn onto work surface and divide the dough into 2 or 3 equal round portions.  Place on parchment-lined baking pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 45 minutes.

To make dinner rolls, divide the dough into 24 equal portions and shape as desired.

Place on parchment-lined baking pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until doubled, about 20 minutes, or place in refrigerator for 2 hours to overnight.

Twenty minutes before baking, heat the oven to 375˚, using a baking stone, if you wish.  While the oven is heating, brush the tops with melted butter.

Bake in the center of the preheated oven until golden brown:  40-45 minutes for loaves or 15 to 18 minutes for rolls.  Remove from oven, let cool on rack until completely cool.

(adapted from Bread for All Seasons by Beth Hensperger)

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Spiced Gingerbread Waffles

Strange how different things can be in less than a week. On Saturday evening a week ago I stirred together a batter for the next morning. We were having our neighbors over for breakfast on Sunday and I wanted to try out a recipe that I had cobbled together for a seasonal waffle. Somehow gingerbread always seems like a fall treat to me, with the richness of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves and the added heft of dark molasses. A long time ago I took those flavors and made donuts, filled with lemon curd. They were sooo good.

This time I wanted to take my favorite overnight waffle recipe and turn it into a gingerbread waffle recipe. I had made some great gingerbread that included all those signature ingredients, plus stout, so I decided to use them all in the batter. Well, it turns out that putting both the molasses and the stout into the overnight yeast mixture was a mistake. The mixture rose pretty high in the bowl, then subsided, so by the time I was making the batter, the yeast wasn't helping things rise, plus the batter was sort of flabby once cooked. Not my idea of a good waffle for sure. We still had them for Sunday breakfast and they had good flavor, but I was determined to try again and see if I could get a better waffle. I do enjoy a good waffle!

In the meantime, we had strong winds Sunday night, which blew a firestorm our way, wiped out the homes of friends and acquaintances, and sent us smoke and unease through last night. This morning the smoke was far less and we heard that the fires were being contained, although there is still some danger. Last night I knew that strong winds were called for that could have started things up again, but I wanted to be hopeful, not fearful.

So last night I whisked together the flour, yeast, spices, salt and milk, covered the bowl and let it all sit overnight so that we could have Overnight Gingerbread Waffles. In the morning the dough looked fluffy, just as I hoped it would.

To the melted, cooled margarine (cuz I can't do butter) I added the molasses and stirred it together well. I beat the egg a bit to break it up and loosen the white, then added it and the butter mixture to the overnight mixture. No stout was used this time.

These made really great waffles, even better in flavor than the Sunday ones. I think that the stout had intensified the spices, so the waffles did taste spicier, but also somewhat bitter. Maybe one day I'll figure out a way to include just a small amount of stout. In the meantime, these are delightful, seasonal waffles if you like gingerbread. You can decrease the amount of ginger a bit, too, if you want it blander, but I'm quite happy with these spicy waffles!

Spicy Amazing Overnight Gingerbread Waffles
based on a recipe from Mollie Katzen's Sunlight Cafe' Cookbook

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt

2 cups milk (I used soy milk)
1/4 cup dark molasses

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg (I used ¼ cup egg substitute)
Nonstick spray
Butter for the waffle iron
Lemon curd – optional, but nice
OR Applesauce - especially home made - wonderful

OR Pure maple syrup – hard to resist on waffles
whipped cream - hard to resist on anything

Combine the flour, spices, yeast, sugar, and salt in a medium bow. l Stir the milk  into the flour mixture until blended. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand overnight at room temperature (or put in the fridge if room temp. is over 70 degrees F.)

The next morning, preheat the waffle iron. Melt the 6 tablespoons butter and let cool a bit, then stir in the molasses. Beat the egg in a small bowl (unnecessary if using egg substitute) then beat it into the batter along with the melted butter. The batter may be a bit thin.

Lightly spray the hot waffle iron with non stick spray, top and bottom plates, and then butter a piece of bread and use that to rub some butter on top and bottom plates. Make sure that indicator light/gauge shows iron is still hot enough. If not, let it heat a little more.

Add just enough batter to cover the cooking surface…this varies by waffle iron…about 2/3 cup. Lower the top and cook until dark golden brown…it’s OK to check now and then. It takes about 2-3 minutes. The steam usually almost stops rising when it is done.
Serve hot, right away, with lemon curd, applesauce or maple syrup, whipped cream, or toppings of your choice.

Note; If you have too many waffles for the number of people you are feeding, bake the leftover batter a little less than the ones you are eating, let cool on a baking rack, then freeze and store in the freezer tightly wrapped. Re-heat in the toaster.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

It's Been Wild

The photo above is from Monday morning from our back upper deck...and the 'clouds' are not that, nor fog, but are smoke!

Sunday evening the winds were really strong, setting the wind chime to chiming and various things to bump and thump as the wind shifted them. Lots of the walnuts still on the tree above the deck bounced down with lots of rattling. It was hard to go to sleep.

Around 1:30 am I was woken by a call from a neighbor. Her husband was off fighting a fresh wildfire in Napa Co. and she smelled smoke here, very strongly, and she was worried. Sweetie checked and there were no fires near us. Turns out she was smelling the smoke from a firestorm that started in Calistoga, on the other side of the hills that run between Napa and Sonoma County. The wind was blowing at about 50 miles per hour from Napa towards Sonoma County, westward, and the fire quickly grew. By 3 am they were evacuating Santa Rosans on the northeast side of the city where many, many houses burned to the ground, and not too long after that the fire jumped the freeway (Hwy. 101) and burned commercial buildings and whole neighborhoods west of the freeway.

Similar things were happening in Napa and in the southern part of Sonoma County. By morning the smoke was intense and thousands of people had been evacuated and about 1,500  had lost their homes and businesses. Tuesday and today the fires continued.

We have been fortunate to be far west of the destruction and have hosted an evacuee and will probably be doing more of that tonight as the fire continues to find new sources of fuel and more people are displaced from other areas in the counties.

Although we have been blessed so far, I do have bags packed and we are ready to leave if we need to. It is very, very unlikely, but not impossible if the winds pick up too much and head this way.

Thank you to the many people who have been praying for our communities here in the fire areas. Thank you also to the friends and relatives who have asked how we are doing. Thank you to the people collecting donations and making donations and taking care of stray animals escaping the fire.

Grandma Loyce made a big pot of soup for the firemen and women who are next door (when they aren't out fighting the fires). They worked something like 18 hours the first day and some even went to Napa to help out there. Short rest and they are back at it again. We are so lucky that these men and women volunteer their time and risk their lives at times like this. You probably have public safety folks in your community who do the same. I know some of you like to bake...make and take them some cookies...just because. They will love it!

No recipe today, but maybe one tomorrow if we are still here.

Thanks for being there.


Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Chicken Stew with a Pastry Crust

Waking up to a temperature of 41 degrees F is such a nice change. I love the cooler weather of fall, even if the daytime temperatures have still been in the mid-80s and this weekend we'll be in the 90s again. Evening temperatures have been dropping a bit, too, which means it's OK to bake things for dinner like this great Chicken Stew with a Pastry Crust. The house still cools down overnight, so we still have that cooler thermal mass to help the living space stay cool without air conditioning.

You could call this dish a chicken potpie, but I made it in a skillet not a pie pan, so I like this name better. Either way it is a savory, comfort food sort of dish and great as the weather starts to turn cooler in the northern hemisphere.

Now you may think that this is a dish for the weekend when you have a lot of time, but really, if you have a rotisserie chicken, pre-rolled pie crust like the Pillsbury Ready Bake kind, and frozen mixed vegetables, you are halfway there. Don't be intimidated by the cream sauce. When you add the liquid all at once to the cooked flour, don't will seem lumpy. Just keep stirring like crazy and you will be amazed to find yourself with a wonderful white sauce to bind all the pot pie ingredients together. In case you are wondering, I made this without a recipe using proportions that I knew from past experience work.

I made the cream sauce that holds all the elements together with non-dairy butter and soy creamer, but you can easily make it with butter and whole milk, evaporated milk, or half and half. If you make it with lower fat milk, it will still be delicious, but less creamy tasting.

The sauce goes together in about 10 minutes.  Getting the chicken off the bone and cut into bite sized pieces while the frozen veggies defrost is about another 10.The sauteed veggies take another 10 or so. By that time the oven is probably preheated and then you bake it about 15 minutes to bake the crust and heat everything through. So you can have this on the table in 45 minutes or less. Toss together a salad while the crust bakes and you have a great meal. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

Chicken Stew with a Pastry Crust  
Serves 6-8

3-4 cups cooked chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (from a rotisserie chicken or leftover are good)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 a red bell pepper, stem, seeds and ribs removed, chopped
1  stalk celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 cup frozen peas
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/4 cups milk
1 cup chicken broth
1 pie crust, rolled out (if  using refrigerated crust, bring to room temperature first)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

In a large oven-proof skillet, saute the onion, bell pepper, celery and carrot until the onion is translucent and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook, lowering the heat to medium, and stirring often, for another 4 minutes. Set aside.

Cook the frozen veggies in a large bowl in the microwave  2 minutes. Add the cooked chicken that has been cut into bite sized pieces. Microwave 1 minute (unless the chicken is already warm). Remove from the microwave and scrape the cooked onion mixture into the bowl. Stir to combine.

In a medium saucepan melt the butter. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon or flexible spatula. Stir while flour cooks a bit, about 1/2 minute.  Add the seasoning and the thyme, some salt and pepper (what you would usually use for a sauce) and stir to combine. Place the milk and broth together in a container with a spout (I use a large measuring cup). Add the liquid to the hot flour mixture all at once, then stir briskly to combine the flour mixture with the liquid. Continue to stir as the mixture cooks for 3-4 minutes and becomes thickened. Pour over the chicken and veggies in the bowl and stir gently to combine.

Wipe out the oven-proof skillet with a paper towel. Scrape the chicken stew mixture into it and top with the pie crust. Tuck the end under or let them come up the side if the crust is larger than the pan. Cut 2-3 slits in the crust for steam to escape.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust becomes golden brown. Serve at once.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Batards with Sourdough

Sometimes it's a pain having a sourdough starter...trying to remember to feed it within a certain window of time means I can't have as much of a senior brain as my brain seems to want. Still there are advantages, too. Last weekend I fed the starter, then fed the 'toss off', let it sit overnight in the fridge, then made a lovely batard dough with it. My batards might have been ficelles...whatever you call them I got three fairly long and one shorter loaf.

I still don't have a good tool for making the crucial slashes on the top (la coupe), so I tried using a scissor and using a sharp knife. Neither worked very well, but they did the job. Strangely shaped batardes are the result, but they still taste wonderful. I did bake them on a baking stone and I did mist them with cold water every few minutes as Julia Child recommends, but I didn't really do enough steam, plus my convection oven seems to sometimes get in the way of good crust browning...or maybe I just took them out too soon. Whatever the reason, they are pale with a thin crust but the backs were dark. Still delicious. Hoping to make one into crostini for bruschetta while the tomatoes are so wonderful.

I'm including all of the many pages of Julia and Simone's recipe because you may want to try a different shape or may want to make it the classic way with yeast instead of wild yeast.

Pain Francais (French Bread)
(From Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume Two by Julia Child and Simone Beck) but my sourdough variation
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 hour

Additional Information About the 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.

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.

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.

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

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
(Note: I used 1 cup of my 100% hydration sourdough starter, plus a feeding of 1 cup water and 1 cup flour instead of the yeast and water and some of the flour)
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

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: 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.
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: 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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.
For Long Thin Loaves – Fincelles: 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 degreesThe 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.
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.
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.
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.

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.

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.