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More Musings on Mixing…

In a previous post (Musings on Mixing…), I described what I believe to be a fundamental difference between bread baking at the commercial scale and bread baking atthe much smaller scale of the home baker. At the commercial scale,spiral and obliquedough mixers are quiteefficient at incorporating air into the dough during mixing, makingoveroxidation of the dougha real concern for the professional baker. For the home baker, however, the opposite concern comes into play. Conventional tabletop stand mixers are relativelyinefficient atmixing dough. Therefore,the home bakerhas to look for ways to increase air incorporation during mixing. I concluded in the previous postthat the only way for the home baker to do this effectivelywas through hand mixing.

Hand mixing, whether it be by a slap and fold technique like the one shown here or by just a series of folds during the first fermentation,can produce a nicely developed dough whichyields a loaf havingthe desired open crumb with many large air cells (alveoli). However,it is a technique not without its own challenges. If performedimproperly, hand mixing can lead to a loaf with large alveoli embedded within an otherwise doughy mass.The more I thought about it, the more convinced I becamethat there must be an easyway to use a conventionalhome stand mixer to produce a dough that wouldrival the quality of a professional, spiral-mixed dough.

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Sometimes, a wonderful creation can be stuck with a terriblyunfortunate acronym.When first published in theMay 2005 issue of Modern Baking, Steve Barnhart of Bennison’s Bakery in Evanston, ILchose to call his richly-flavored bread, laden with tomatoes, Asiago cheese, roasted garlic, rosemary and Parmesan cheese, “TARRP” bread. Littledid he know that only 3 years later, an almost identical acronym “TARP” (Troubled Asset Relief Program) would come to represent the U.S. government’s response to the greatest financial crisis this country has seen since The Great Depression.

Its unfortunate moniker aside, this version of TARRP bread works wonderfully as a surprising synergy of what one might at first glance expect to be strongly competing flavors. But make no mistake; this is a specialty bread. TARRP bread is not one to have as a daily bread with meals but rather can almost be a meal in and of itself.

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Sticky Buns

I know. It’s hard to get excited about yet another baking blog posting a recipe for sticky buns. But before you leave here to go send those”Happy New Year”e-mail messages to friends and family that you should have already sent(Freudian projection, anyone?), just takea few more minutes to read further. These aren’t your ordinary, run-of-the-mill, sticky buns. Taking a cue, once again,from my friend and baker extraordinaireJames McNamara, these sticky buns are made with croissant dough, rather than the standard sweet dough used to make more conventional buns. The result is a sticky bun which is light, flaky, sweet, gooey andnutty.I guess I’ll just have to makegoing on that diet my resolution for the next New Year!

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Cloverleaf Rolls

For some reason,dinner rolls have always beenthe preferred styleof bread at my family’s holiday table. Perhaps it’s simply the comfort of tradition.Or maybe the reason is a bit moreutilitarian;the convenient individual serving size saves the spaceneededto slice bread at the table and makes it easier for everyone tohelp themselves.

Among the many types of dinner rolls, cloverleaf rolls makean ideal accompaniment to a holiday meal. They are quick and easy to make, plusthey have a rich, buttery flavor. Their 3-lobed design alsolends a festive look to anyholiday table.

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Peanut Bread

Ever since George Washington Carver first started experimenting with the peanut plant in the early 1900’s,the peanut has become one ofAmerica’s most versatilelegumes.The peanut has become so ingrained into American culture that the USA team competing at the 2005 Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie decided to presenta peanut bread as one of itscontest entries.Team USA named their bread”Jimmy’s Bread”, a tribute tothe 39th president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, who was once himself a peanut farmer.

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Cherry Pecan Bread

While trying to decide upona bread to bake for the Thanksgiving Day table, I remembered a wonderful cranberry pecanbread that I had the pleasure of sampling some monthsago. The bread was a creation ofa good friend of mine, James McNamara, the talented head baker at Wave Hill Breads in Wilton, Connecticut. Cranberries, beingatraditional staple of Thanksgiving here in New England, are what brought this bread to mind although, truth be told,cranberriesare not one of my favorite fruits. Not being one to shy away from breakingwith tradition, I decided to substitute cherries for the cranberries. The resulting bread is so good thatit has me seriously rethinking mytendencytosteerclear ofbread ‘blend-ins’.

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Corn Bread

Lately, I’ve been so fascinated by various regional French breadsthat I’ve all but forgotten thatNorthAmerica has its own traditional breads. A case in point is corn bread. To many people, the term ‘corn bread’ conjures up visions ofthe dense,sometimes sweet, chemically leavened quick bread that is a staple of many aThanksgiving Day table. To my mind, corn bread is a yeasted bread, based on wheat flour but with a substantial amount of corn flour used for its flavor, color and texture.

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Pain Normand

For those of you who areregular readers of this blog, you may have surmised that I am not a real big fan of heavily flavored breads.To me, the essence of bread baking is finding new ways to coax out the natural flavor of the wheat or whatevergrainis being used. Save the ‘blend-ins’ for ice cream,cakes and cookies. One notable exception to this proclivity is pain Normand, an apple-flavored bread named for the apple-producing Normandie region of France. Apple cider and small piecesof dried apple are what give this bread itssubtle apple flavor without anycloyingly sweetness.

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Pain de Beaucaire

I’ve always been fascinated by how the different regionsofFrancehave managed to maintain their unique culturalidentities.These regional identitiescan be evident even inthe type andshape of the local bread. For example,inAuvergne,bread is oftenbaked in the Auvergnat form, a shape that is evocative of atype of hat worn by residents of the region. InBeaucaire,breadistraditionally shaped through afolding process that is uniqueto the area.

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If I had to choose asingle pastry that isthe embodiment ofall that is French viennoiserie, it would have to be the croissant. In the U.S., croissants have been steadily increasing inpopularity, particularly as the basis for a wide variety of breakfastsandwiches.When properly baked, the croissant has a crisp,flakey exterior with a light, open and wonderfully buttery interior. Ifformed in a rectangular shape wrapped around a stick or twoof chocolate,the pastry takes on the name, pain au chocolat. A croissantwith a favorite spread, or a pain au chocolat,and a hot cup of coffeeis a great way to start the day.

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