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Brioche Nanterre

Brioche Nanterre - Perfect for a Picnic!

Cooler evenings, lengthening shadowsandthe slightest hint of crimson on the maple treescanmean only one thing… autumn in New England is rapidly approaching!While some here may view the onset of autumn with trepidation, being theharbinger oftheNew England winter whichcan oftentimes be quite brutal, to me autumn is a season of anticipation. The cooler weather now makes it anideal time to delveinto one of my favorite types of baked goods…Viennoiserie. Viennoiserieis that class of leavened baked goods that issweetened with sugar and enriched by butter and eggs. Included in this category are croissants, danish and brioche.

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Diadmes

Learning or creating new bread shapes has always been great fun for me. Yes, my goal is to always bake bread with a seductive aroma, flavor and texture, but as someone obsessed with trying to bake the best possible bread that I can at home, visual appeal is also a big part of the story.

I’ve always been intrigued by the shape known as a couronne, or crown. To produce this shape classically requires a specialized proofing basket , which can be fairly expensive to acquire.I decided to see if I could come up with a way of producingsomething similar to a couronne without the expensive hardware.What evolvedwere twomethods of producing a smaller version of the couronne. But what to name this new shape?After a briefconsultation with Janedo, our resident French bread connoisseur over at …Au Levain!, we came up withdiadme, or tiara. Yes, a modern-day tiara is typically semi-circularbutthe early tiaras coming out ofancientMesopotamia and Persiawere full circle (how’s that for a stretch?).

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Ciabatta

Here in the U.S., ciabatta has become the quintessential Italian bread. Characterized by a crisp, flour-dusted crust, a holey interior and a rustic, “slipper-like” shape, ciabatta is ideal for dipping into any one of a number of wonderfully aromatic, herb-infused olive oils. When sliced horizontally, it also makes great sandwiches, the holey crumb providing deep pockets to hold a favoritecondiment or dressing.

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Rosemary Focaccia

Rosemary Focaccia

There’s something about focaccia that I can’t quite put my finger on. People who wouldnormally just pass around the breadbasket at the dinner table without partaking, lunge hungrily at pieces of focacciawhen included as part of thebreadbasket fare. Perhaps it’s the delicious unctuousness of the surface cratersfilled with fragrant rosemary oil. Or maybe it’s the light, airy crumbperfectly suited to sopping up the lastbit of sauce or juice at the end of a perfect meal.Either way,focaccia has become a flatbreadfavorite here in the U.S., perhaps second only to pizza.

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Scoring and Steaming

When properly performed, the techniques of scoring and steamingboth serve to improvethe quality and esthetics of the finished bread. Scoring provides a place for the controlled expansion of the loaf during the oven spring phase of baking, thus contributing to the lightness of crumb andvisualattractiveness of the loaf.Steaming during the first few minutes of baking serves a dual purpose; it delays the setting of the crust so that maximum oven spring can be achieved and it helps gelatinize the starch at the surface, giving the loaf a beautiful, shiny crust.

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40% Rye Bread with Caraway Seed

As a young boy growing up in Brooklyn, NY, it was always a rare treat to enjoy a mealat one of the many arearestaurants. I remember particularly looking forward to eating atthe local pizzeria (hence my attempt at recreating New York-style pizza), the not-so-local Chinese restaurant (my foray into Chinese cuisine can be the topic of a whole separate blog!) andthekosher delicatessen. As far as deli was concerned, for me,sandwiches of corned beef or beef tongue piled high on Jewish rye bread with mustard and a kosher dill pickle on the side just couldn’t be beat.

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Alternate Batard Shaping

With an oval form whose length can be anywhere between that of a baguette (60-70 cm) and a boulot (20-25 cm) [ref: The Taste of Bread, p 74], the batard along with the boule areperhaps the two most commonly used shapes for free-form breads. The batard gets its ovalform through a classically two stage shaping process;first theupper half of aflattened round of dough is folded inward towards the horizontal center lineusing two or more folds, then the dough is rotated 180 and the identicalactionis performed on the otherhalf of the flattened dough round. This serves to build up dough bulk at the center of the loaf, and thus producean attractive expansion of the dough during the oven spring stage of baking.

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Pain au Levain

When it comes to pain au levain, I have to admit that I am a bit of a snob. Why else would I call it pain au levain rather than sourdough bread, as most people do? I’ve never much caredfor the name “sourdough”. Once something carries that moniker, all sorts of lip-puckering, eye-watering attributes are expected. Instead, I believe that a goodpain au levain should havea complex, subtleysweet andnutty flavor.Yes, there are acidic notes presentbut,in my opinion,they should only servein background to help enhance the natural flavor of the grain.

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New York-Style Pizza

NY-Style Pizza

Whether it be the crisp, light crust of an authentic Neapolitan, the thick, focaccia-like crust of a Sicilian or the crunchy,chewy crust of a New York-style, pizza is one of the few foods that isalmost universally loved.As a “breadie”, I judge the quality of a pizza by itscrust; the texture of the crust should be appropriate to the style of pizza being made and the flavor of the crust should be able to stand on its own, even without the, dare I say, “distractions”of the toppings. Ifthe remnants of a pizza repastare littered with uneaten crust, then great pizza was not served.

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Starting a Starter

An Active Starter

While breadleavened withbaker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) isan integral part of anybaker’s repertoire, that repertoire would be incomplete without the complex flavorsthat can only come from naturally leavened bread. Known as sourdoughbread here in the U.S.,this type of breadrelies on the wild yeast and bacteria naturally present on the grain toprovide both leavening and aunique, mildlyacidic flavor profile.However, beforethey can be used in the production of bread,these wild yeast and bacteria first need to be activated and cultured. This is the process ofcreatinga sourdough starter.

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