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.