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Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

If I had to choose one bread whose aroma while baking consistently makes my mouth water, it would have to be cinnamon raisin bread. Unlike baguettes or pan de campagne, which are made from lean doughs (i.e., doughs with little or no fat), cinnamon raisin bread is made from a rich dough. The fat used here is butter (in this case, about 20% in baker’s percentage) and it gives the cinnamon raisin bread its distinctive soft crumb and luxurious texture.

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Pain de Campagne

Pain de Campagne

Pain de campagne, or “country bread”, is breadbaked in the style of the rustic loaves found throughout the French countryside. There really is no one correct way to bake a pain de campagne loaf; the formulae are as varied as the traditional ways of shaping the loaves.Pain de campagne can be made witha natural leaven or with baker’s yeast. Some prefer to add a small percentage of rye flour to their dough while othersprefer whole wheat.Traditional loaf shapes include fendu (split), couronne (crown), tabatire (snuffbox), and bouton d’or (buttercup), to name a few.

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Musings on Mixing…

I’m a firm believer that >95% of the problems encounteredby bread bakers originate at the mixing stage. The main objective of proper mixing is todevelop thegluten sufficientlyso that it can effectivelytrap theCO2produced during fermentation. Overmixing shouldbe avoided since it can lead toan overly strong doughwhich canresult in aloaf with poor volume and a tough crumb.

It has also been emphasized by many professional bakersthatovermixing can also cause the oxidation of compounds present within the dough whichcontribute to the flavor and color of the bread.While I don’t doubt that this can be a real concern at the commercial scale, wherehighly efficient dough mixers canquickly incorporate too much air into the dough if left unchecked, at the scale of the home bakerI foundthat I had to look for ways to actuallyincrease air incorporation. At appropriate levels, the airis beneficial in that it contributes oxygen which isused, albeit rather quickly,bythe yeastduring its aerobic reproduction phase. Small air bubbles in the doughalso actsasnucleifor alveoliproduction during fermentation.

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Baguettes with Poolish

It’s been said that the baguette, althoughone of the simplest breads (being comprised of onlyflour, water, yeast and salt), is perhaps the most difficult bread to make well. A good baguette has a thin, crisp crust, a light and airy crumb having a distribution of both large and small air pockets (alveoli), and a slightly sweet, almost nutty flavor. Being the perfectionist that I am, I would also add that a good baguette has to look enticing, being a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach.

La Grigne

The baguette formula used here is a modification of the Baguettes with Poolish formula described by Hamelman on page 101 ofBread: A Bakers Book of Techniques and Recipes (see book for baker’s percentages). The main changes were in the method of mixing (seeMusings on Mixing), the amount of yeast used in the final dough and the elimination of the folding step.

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And So It Begins…

Shopping can be a real bore. Except, in my case, for food shopping. Homemade pickles and relishes, arcane Asian ingredients and other imported specialty food products have alwayspiqued my interest. It was with no surprise, then, that a few years backI found myself in the specialty food section of theOld Country Storein Mansfield, MA. In addition to all the homemade food itemsoffered for sale there, a wide varietyof bread mixes was also on display.

Having never baked a loaf of bread before, I thought it might be fun to see if I couldbakeanything approachingedibility. The answer, it turned out, was ‘just barely’. The result of my effortswasn’t much different from thepastywhite bread found in a typical supermarket. The bread was nothing like thedeeply flavoredcrusty loaves I remembered savoringduring previous trips to Europe.I’m not sure why I expected that it would be.

Being the obsessive person that I am, I becamedetermined to learn how to bake European hearth-style breadsin my home kitchen.

And so itbegins…

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