Sunday, December 28, 2008

Semolina Bread--Baking From New Christmas Cookbooks

Saturday, December 27, 2008
I got two new bread cookbooks for Christmas--Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes, by Jeffrey Hamelman and Savory Baking From the Mediterranean by Anissa Helou. I don't think that either of these books will be my go-to book on a regular basis, but they both offer recipes and techniques that will be a challenge.
Hamelman's book is probably more technique than recipes, although it's got a fair number of recipes too. The first 100 pages explain ingredients and techniques. There's a whole chapter on braiding--from the one-strand roll to the seven-strand triple-decker bread. (I don't believe I'll be doing that in this lifetime). Then there's information on "advanced braiding," in case the seven-strand bread doesn't present a challenge. Most of the breads require a poolish or biga, which means that they are two-day affairs, but that doesn't really bother me. Savory Baking has Moroccan, Algerian, Sicilian, French, Turkish, Greek, etc. recipes, some of which look pretty easy, and some of which don't. There are a lot of weird ingredients, like mastic, kopanisti, sumac, and mahlep, not to mention pigeons for pigeon pie.
The first recipe I tried--from Hamelman's Bread book, however, didn't have anything weird in it, and it's a bread I've made before in various incarnations--plain old semolina bread, made with durum flour, one of my very favorite flours. This bread required a sponge, but instead of sitting around overnight, the sponge only had to bubble a little before being mixed with the rest of the ingredients, so the bread can easily be made in one day.

Another oddity about this book is that it tells you quantities for 25 loaves, 23 loaves, or 2 loaves. The two loaves is the "home" recipe. Not surprisingly, I chose to make two loaves, which is still about one loaf more than I usually make, so I have a spare in the freezer.
Because the recipe is bigger than I'm used to making, I ran out of durum flour and had to substitute bread flour for the rest of it, so the texture and color are slightly different than previous semolina breads I've made. Hamelman is big on folding the bread while it's rising--or, as he says, durings its period of bulk fermentation. If you start talking about bulk fermentation, people may think you're knowledgeable. Or they may just think you're boring. At any rate, the dough gets prettier after it's been folded.

If I weren't such a slave to directions, I'd use my bannetons more often. I'm always excited when I find a recipe that instructs me to let the dough rise in willow bannetons because I have them, and because I love the way bread looks with the circular flour pattern on top. Sometimes I realize that I could put any bread in a banneton. I wouldn't really have to run to Target to find a 4 x 8 loaf pan--I could just put the second loaf in the banetton. But then I realize that I will never be that devil-may-care person, and at least I will continue to be happy when I run into a banneton recipe.

This is what I'm talking about. I love the way this looks.

And it looks even prettier when it comes out of the oven. Despite not having the proper amount of durum flour, the bread still had the golden hue that semolina breads have, as well as the lovely, sturdy texture--not the big holes of French or Italian bread, but not the fine, even texture of typical American bread. A real peasant bread, perfect for sopping up soup or for pairing with a hearty cheese. We did both, and we still have a loaf in the freezer for other uses.

I'll be using Bread again, and I want to try Savory Baking soon.

22 comments:

Melinda said...

I like the way the banneton looks too. Very peasanty, Marie.

When I was in Egypt there were pigeon towers keeps made of clay. They are very pretty and I must have taken a picture of every one of them I saw. I guess Egyptians love pigeon and raise them for food like we do chickens.
They stuff them with dates and raisins, and the tour guide lady said they are delicious!
I am sure Minnesota has some pigeons you can catch.

By the way, I am ready for another bake with the Lazy Bakers. Your pick this time.

breadbasketcase said...

Melinda,
If I were to start targeting the neighborhood pigeons, I would soon become the most popular person in south Minneapolis, but I don't think I'll be making pigeon pies anytime soon.
I have a couple of breads that are possibilities for the next Lazy Bakers project--I want to pick something I haven't made and not something so complicated it will scare off the people who suffer from Fear of Yeast.

Doughadear said...

Marie,
That is one very handsome loaf. I love the design the banneton leaves on the bread. I have looked in every kitchen gadget store for a banneton and have had no luck finding one. I guess I will have to order one on-line.
I had an aunt in Italy who was quite an accomplished cook and one of her specialities was pigeon soup. I bet this bread would have been very good with it.
Oriana

breadbasketcase said...

Oriana,
Williams-Sonoma has the bannetons, if you have a W-S store near you. Expensive, of course. Did you ever eat the pigeon soup? I guess there's no reason to eat chicken and not eat pigeons--other than squeamishness about the unfamiliar. Our little urban neighborhood could keep us all supplied with pigeon and squirrel if the recession gets worse. In that case, I'll request your aunt's recipe.

Doughadear said...

Marie,
I checked W-S here and they didn't carry them. I don't know why they do in the U.S. and not here. I can't even find a Canadian site on-line that sells them. Fortunately I have someone in the States that comes here regularly and I can have my order shipped there and save on the expensive shipping rates to Canada.
I'm not at all squeamish about eating pigeon. My dad was an avid hunter and would bring home all kinds of wild birds and game. Now squirrel might be a different story. I think I may have had the pigeon soup once back in the 70's on a trip to Italy. If it is the soup I remember its presentation was really something. The pigeon broth (it was basically a stock made of pigeon instead of chicken) was ladled in a large rectangle pan and on the top of it lay toasted slices bread, the soup was then ladled into soup bowls and topped with a piece of the bread. That was many years ago so I can't really remember what it tasted like but my mother has often raved about it so I'm sure it was delicious.

breadbasketcase said...

Oriana,
I googled Italian pigeon soup and got this recipe:
Here is hearty peasant fare from Treviso and the mountains north of Venice. "Dishes for the poor take longer too cook," Francesco observes. The pigeon soup enriched with bread is a second-day bonus using leftovers or extra pigeons (or ducks, for that matter) that have been sautéed or roasted. "This is traditional food, not something we would serve in a restaurant," Francesco says. Yet the result, a dramatic puff of bread layered with game, consommé, and cheese, is as magnificent as it is delicious.
Ingredients: 4 sautéed pigeons
6 cups well-flavored veal, beef, or duck consommé
9 thin slices firm textured white bread (approximately)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
4 tablespoons (30 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for the table
Description: Remove the meat from the pigeons, chop it, and set aside. Place the pigeon bones in a saucepan, add the consommé, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove the heat and strain, discarding the bones. Line the bottom of a deep 3½- to 4 quart casserole with a layer of the bread. Scatter half the chopped pigeon over the bread and sprinkle with half the rosemary and 1 tablespoon of the cheese. Cover with another layer of the bread, then with the rest of the pigeon, the remaining rosemary and another tablespoon of the cheese. Cover with the remaining bread.

Pour about 4 cups (1 L) of the consommés over the casserole, adding just enough so the consommés comes to the level of the top layer of the bread. Sprinkle with another tablespoon of the cheese. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Cover the casserole with a sheet of foil, place in the oven, and bake for 1½ hours. Add a little of the remaining consommés to the casserole if it begins to look dry.

Uncover the casserole and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of the cheese. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Cover the casserole with a sheet of foil, place in the oven, and bake for 1½ hours. Add a little of the remaining consommé to the casserole if it begins to look dry. Uncover the casserole and sprinkle with the remaining tablespoon of cheese.

Bake, uncovered, about 30 minutes longer, until the bread is puffed and browned. Reheat the remaining consommés. Ladle the sopa coada directly from the casserole into shallow bowls, serving each guest a small cup of hot consommés on the side that can be used to sip alongside or to moisten the sopa coada at the table. Pass Parmesan cheese at the table.


Now if I only had a few pigeons....

Anonymous said...

Marie,
I've probably told you before that my hubby is Greek. Mastic and Mahlep have very interesting tastes and can usually be found in middle eastern markets. I personally can not stand mastic! Greeks put it in gum and ice cream, among other things. It's sort of an anise type of thing - you either like it or you DON'T! Mahlep is tolerable in bread, but vanilla is a nice substitute if it's a sweet bread.
Anna

Anonymous said...

Marie,
I've probably told you before that my hubby is Greek. Mastic and Mahlep have very interesting tastes and can usually be found in middle eastern markets. I personally can not stand mastic! Greeks put it in gum and ice cream, among other things. It's sort of an anise type of thing - you either like it or you DON'T! Mahlep is tolerable in bread, but vanilla is a nice substitute if it's a sweet bread.
Anna

Doughadear said...

Marie,
You've just got to love the internet! You can find out everything about anything just with a click of a button. By the way my parents are from Treviso, a beautiful medieval town about thirty minutes north of Venice and my aunt and uncle ran a small trattoria there for years. I also wanted to mention that her pigeon soup was so well known it was mentioned in her obituary.
Thank you for sending the recipe, I'll have to show it to my parents.
Happy New Year
Oriana

Anonymous said...

Your bread, as usual, looks splendid! You have been very busy lately, Marie, putting me to shame, but I have had the dreaded lurgy over Christmas so have not felt like baking anything but necessities. Looking forward to your next choice for the Lazy Bakers! Jeannette. Happy New Year by the way, or as my husband , a Scot, would say, 'Lang may your lum reek'! Translation- long may your chimney smoke.

breadbasketcase said...

Anna,
Thanks for the insider's tips on mastic and mahlep. They must be acquired tastes. I guess maybe I won't go out of my way to track them down.

Oriana,
It sounds like the lives of your aunt and uncle would give you the makings of a fascinating book! I think you really are going to have to try your hand at duplicating that famous soup.

Jeannette,
I wish you and your husband would have been at our New Year's Eve party. I was going to try to ring in the new year with a hearty "Lang may your lum reek!" but, when I practiced, it kept coming out "Lang may your rum leak," which doesn't have the same ring to it at all. We needed an authentic Scotsman!

evil cake lady said...

Happy New Year, BBC! I too love the look of the banneton rings on a loaf of bread. I look forward to some of the fascinating breads you'll make from the Mediterranean cookbook.
Regarding the Lazy Bakers: I am ready for bread! I don't really suffer from Fear of Yeast, more like a tinge of the Yeast Shyness. So its time to get better acquainted!

breadbasketcase said...

ECL,
And happy new year to you too! I'm so glad you're ready for bread--I'm looking for a recipe that will be fun to make and help you overcome your Yeast Shyness!

Goody said...

I have some mahlep in the fridge I bought to make a Lebanese bread and never did. My understanding is that it is made from dried cherry pits or something like it. The mastic, I'm told is like eating a pine tree. I see jars of it around, but I'm so severely allergic to nuts that I've avoided it because it has some cross-reactivity issues. Besides, who wants bread to taste like a pine tree?

If you change your mind and can't find either locally, I'd be happy to send you some as they are easily found in Omaha where people apparently love the taste of pine in their food.

-G
eattheblog.blogspot.com

breadbasketcase said...

Goody,
Cherry pits? I always thought there was cyanide in cherry pits! I think you should get rid of the mahlep. As for the pine-tree mastik, it's true that pine-tree bread doesn't sound appetizing, but some people think that gin tastes like pine trees, and I've always been partial to gin.
I'm not so sure about the mahlep/mastik idea, but I sure appreciate your offer!

jini said...

i just googled fear of yeast and there doesn't seem to be a phobia listed for it, so i guess that means it's all systems go! i did discover another one that might fit: atychiphobia, which is fear of failure. :(
your bread does look fabulous marie, and obviously you do NOT suffer from this fear.

breadbasketcase said...

Jini,
If there's no phobia for fear of yeast, that must mean there's nothing to fear! I do suffer from fear of failure, but I've managed to get over it for baking bread. I figure the worst that can happen in bread failure is 1) a funny story followed by 2) a trip to Rustica Bakery.

Anonymous said...

What great looking bread!
Sumac is a middle eastern spice (often found in Lebanese recipes). It is sort of lemony in flavour, but more tart - quite nice actually. It is a key ingredient in Lebanese bread salad (fatoush) which is very tasty.

Sue

breadbasketcase said...

Sue,
I'm amazed at how knowledgeable people are about these (to me) obscure herbs and spices! There's a recipe for fatoush in the Mediterranean Baking book that looked very good. Thanks for the info!

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