Trying out some baking formulas from a French boulanger site, I've had mixed results with wet doughs. Known as eau de bassinage, it literally means to bathe, moisten or add water. Having trouble managing them, I queried some baker friends. Susan of Wild Yeast gave me this definition of bassinage:
"Well, as I understand it, eau de bassinage is water that is held back initially, then added if needed to make the dough the proper consistency. This is how they teach it at SFBI (although not called that), and yes, I think the consistency of the dough is most important. Better to adjust dough consistency with water than with flour!"
With a seeded baguette, no problem! But with a high extraction baguette, I had flat, unmanageable dough, flavorful but aesthetically ugly. On the next effort I tried to go for the feel rather than simply follow the formula. The last bread I tried is called "Triticum," and for this I left out the eau de bassinage, judging that it was adequately hydrated.
As my baker friend Vincent Talleu joked, "maybe French flour is stronger?" Maybe. Flours behave differently in various places, from milling to flour types and proteins. For me, it's still a trial by fire. Or, in this case, trial by water. It'll tell you if it's thirsty!
Back in the U.S. Army where I first trained in institutional kitchens, "tartines" were open-faced white bread sandwiches served with mashed potatoes, roast beef and brown gravy. Crude. Basic. Unremarkable. Though my co-producer at Stir the Pots, Jonathan Field, actually likes white bread open faced sandwiches with greasy gravy, he's missing out on the genuine Tartine, a delicate marriage of pairings of flavors layered carefully on delicious bread. Here are some I made for a light appetizer or summer meal.
Cherries macerated with rosemary, pepper and salt, walnut mustard and foie gras.
Vinegared sweet peppers, Reggiano parmigiano, jicama, and ancho harissa
Hackleback caviar on buttered toast and Greek yogurt
Baked fruit tarts are a favorite of mine, simple and a snap to bake! Here are some I made this summer. You need a basic tart dough. Fillings can vary, just pick your fruits. Some of my favorite combinations are almond cream with peaches, plums, stone-fruit, and strawberries. With berries, cherries and kiwi I like a simpler combination; 1 egg, about 100 g confectioners sugar and just a teaspoon of flour. Fill with fruit and bake. If you want to try something, check out appareil, a prepared mixture of ingredients used alone or as an ingredient in another preparation. Voila!
Looking through my dusty work notes, I stumbled on a recipe for empanada Gallega, a dough from the Iberian Penninsula whose description inspired cravings. Having a glimpse of a empanadas being made by this Spanish crew featured at The Loaf In the box, well, I put inspiration into motion. Olé!
My first recollection of saffron buns (lussebullar) was in bread baking class at the French Culinary Institute. My instructor David Norman made a batch for a foreign diplomat, and since then I have remembered the look and smell from these sweet saffron-hued buns. Recently I found this infomative Swedish baker's blog that had a great video of how to make them, and had to give these buns a go. Though apparently they are usually made for St.Lucia's Day in December, I couldn't wait. Easy enough to make, I still had questions, and reaching at to my friend Ibán Yarza, who coined the phrase juicy buns (saftig bullar), and Johanna Kindvall, who agreed that these buns are good no matter what season!
Since first hearing about Gérard Rubaud, most recently from my former chef Jean-Michel, I decided to revisit his style of "old" school baking. His signature loaf has been showing up online a lot recently. So before heading on vacation, I made a final batard in his honor.
Pain Brié is a bread that I've wanted to make for a long time,not usually baked using a natural levain. I opted finally to just do a pre-fermented version. I was pleased with the results. Its crisp crust from a low hydration gives a divine tight white crumb. Though it's name is brie bread there is no cheese in it...instead I sliced a wonderful piece of Humboldt fog cheese to annoint it.
The term brié might come from Norman language briér to pound, as the dough was often kneaded with a rolling pin due to it's low hydration. The shaped loaf is pre-cut, and is shaped either in a boule or batard.The loaf should be a pale golden color with some caramelization around the cuts.
Though this isn't the more rustic type of bread I usally adore for flavor profile, surprisingly enough this is a delicious and good long shelf life sort of bread.
Dan Lepard had an interesting version of a slider bun, the rage for mini burgers. I adapted it for my obsession for a soft bread roll common in Latin markets, but with a twist, using plantain flour. Plantains, a staple in Latin America, are fried, boiled, and mashed. In truth, the ways to use them are endless. They have a certain comfort feel and texture.
In Peter Gordon's book "Sugar Club," there is a rendition using shredded plantain which caught my eye. Ever since I've made unsucessful versions of it with levain. When I tried with plantain flour, often it tasted raw and unpleasant. Cooked in Dan Lepards method, the sweet starch of plantain makes for a pleasant savory plantain flavor. So I spiked the flour with garlic, cumin and substituted achiote oil in place of butter. This gave a familiar delicious flavor combination of the Latino spice profile. In Dan's recipe he called for instant yeast. I had none, so used ADY (active dry yeast) with an inclusion of my liquid levain for a boost.
Cooked plantain flour with milk, achiote oil to substitute butter.
Dough risen with an inclusion of powdered garlic, cumin and pimenton, change the flavor profile for a latin profile.
Small slider size rolls with cumin seed..a larger 175 gram roll and a banana shaped batard, maybe for a jamon sanduche?
Finished, shiny, aroma of spice, sweet palantain cooked and heady cumin. Just add a fresh cheese campesino and some ham or pulled pork!