Wednesday, January 22, 2014

French Bread Product

So, it is cold outside. Like, really cold outside. Freeze-the-balls-off-a-brass-monkey cold.

When I am cold, and trust me it isn't often, I want stew or soup with fresh bread. I want the house to smell all cozy and stuff my face with bready goodness.

I am awful picky about bread. (To be honest I am picky about anything I put in my pie hole...and yes I am thinking about what you think I am thinking about) I don't really care how is looks per se, but I care about several things:        
                                       1-Chewy and kinda crusty on the outside, but not overdone like some of these artisan breads, or what some bakeries pass off as artisan breads. Making it like concrete and only about half mixed does not an artisan loaf make.
                                       2- Soft, light and fluffy on the inside. I like farm breads and all but I can't get past the feeling you swallowed a brick after eating it.
                                      3- It has to smell like bread dammit!

So I messed about with several recipes, as I always do, and found many issues with the stuff out there. I had a hell of a time trying to find one that would satisfy all three. I found one recipe where the texture was PERFECT, and the taste was assertive but not bad. It just smelled like rotting feet when you cooked it.

I think I have something that resembles French Baguette. And here is a picture of George Takei with a baguette in his lap because I needed something totally random.
Courtesy of
On to the bread.

The proof:
2 cups water at approx 110
        degrees F
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp yeast

By now you all should know the drill. Mix these three things up, and wait for the yeast to make yeasty fart foam on top of the water. If it doesn't do this you have probably either used dead yeast, water was too cold, or water was too hot so you killed the yeast

Yeast fart foam. Nuff said. 

To this fart foam add:
5 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten
2 tsp sea salt or non-iodized salt

This may seem a little strange, but for whatever reason the iodized salt leaves a weird taste. I like the sea salt better, and it doesn't have to be fancy. I use cheap stuff. No need for weird volcanic pink or black salts. You're making bread. To eat. No one cares what color your salt is. (I never understood those anyway. People will make anything into a big deal. Weirdos.)

As far as the gluten is concerned you could just use bread flour but I think that it comes out better with the gluten added separately. This is more gluten than the bread flour would have added anyway, and you really need the extra to get that texture just right. 

Mix this up with the dough hook.


 See the weird coarse texture you get? That is important because you don't want it to look like this when you are done with the rising steps. You will see what I mean in a minute.

You then put this in a greased bowl, someplace warm until it doubles in size.

 See how it smoothed out some? You want to punch this down like Charlie Brown, knead and do the rising thing all over again.

Please ignore my diet coke in the background.
I don't think these pics thru when I take them.

After you have done the second rise, plop this on a lightly floured surface. Then cut this in half. If you look closely you see the dough is smooth textured now, more like pizza dough would be.

Now roll out half the dough into something that loosely resembles a rectangle. If there are some holes in this, that is fine. This isn't like a pie crust where anything is going to spill out of the dough.

Now roll it up as tightly as you can. This is where I have to remind myself that it isn't about how it looks, it is about how it tastes.

The second half I actually did extra long (hehehe) and skinny and cut into two thinner loaves, more traditional to the French Baguette.

Now let them rise...again...while you preheat your oven to 400 degrees. You probably should cover these with a towel or something so they don't dry out.

This shitty picture brought to you by
a person with floury hands, and a filthy oven.

I cut little slits in the top of the loaves for prettiness. Not mandatory.

What is mandatory is the pan of water in the bottom rack. You gotta do this with this recipe. You need the steam to help continue to develop the gluten and maintain moisture in the bread. 

Bake this for about 20 minutes, but that will vary with how big you make your bread loaves. You are looking for golden brown and a hollow sound when you thump on the loaves. 
Another shot of my inability to clean my damn oven.
Cleaning sucks. 
The longer you bake, the crustier the outside will get.

I threw the loaves on the pizza stone for a few minutes to harden up the bottom. It really only needs a minute or two or it will burn the bottom. If you don't do this, you will not be taunted by John Cleese or anything. I have the stone so I use it.

Cutting board courtesy of my German cabinet maker. 

What is SOOPER awesome about this bread is that the moment you can touch it, you can eat it. It is way better fresh and warm.

So there ya go. You can now stuff your face with bready goodness too on a cold day with a bowl of Potato Soup  or chili or something.

Courtesy of IMDb

Now go away or I will taunt you a second time!


Friday, January 10, 2014

Whiskey and Bread Pudding

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.

Or I at least hope that no one will find the bodies. The secret is safe with me. Just don't look in the crawl space of my house. Just Sayin.

So over the holidays, after turning into a cookie factory, I was a little done with Christmas cookies, so I decided to make something else for Santa to eat...and drink. Come to find out, the REASON I couldn't seem to keep cookies in the house was due to a four-legged creature that was getting up on the table, putting them into her mouth, and walking away calmly to her crate where she gorged herself. Well, after a night of thinking she was dying, I found out why. She'd eaten a couple dozen cookies. Dumbass.

ON TO THE WHISKEY! Okay, and the bread pudding.

This recipe I got from my two sisters from other misters (and mothers too) Jennifer and Tracey. Their family has a long history with Irish Whiskey, and there is a lot of love attached to it, and not just in the alcoholic, drink-til-you-fall-down-because-we're-Irish way. We toast their father (Who now resides in an Urn) every year with Jameson, on what they call his D-Day.

I have tweaked it slightly only because the first time I made it, it was fall and I wanted an excuse to add pumpkin and spices. If you want the purest version, omit the pumpkin, one egg and all spices.

Here is the recipe:

Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Irish Whiskey Sauce

1 loaf of stale bread (Suggested Irish Soda bread, but any will do as long as it isn't flavored)
4 cups milk (2% or more milk fat), scalded
4 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp real vanilla extract
3 tbsp melted unsalted butter
2 cups canned pumpkin
Ground cloves

1 cup granulated Sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup Irish Whiskey (I usually use Feckin Spiced Whiskey but all I could get this time was the regular)

Cut up the loaf of bread into bite sized-ish pieces. I made bread the day before (Honey Oatmeal Bread, click here for the recipe) and it got hard (hehe) because I left it out all night so I decided to use that.

Now lets talk scalded milk. I really have no idea what this means. I see it all the time but my brain is telling me it is milk that is put in a pan over high heat for a few minutes. If you have a steamer, like for Lattes and such, steam the milk. I think the whole point is to change the proteins in the milk and develop the sugars. This is what I have done, but if you all have a different way or know something else about it, please tell me. It is something that I have always wondered about...

Get your milk, sugar, and butter in a pan, and combine over low heat. Add pumpkin and spices.

Now you want to beat the eggs, and temper them. Tempering is a way of adding raw eggs to hot liquids without making scrambled eggs when you do it. If you have ever made anything custard like, not from a mix, you have done this. You take a little of the hot mix, and add it slowly to the beaten eggs until combined. Add a little more and then add the whole egg mix to the pan with the rest of the hot liquid. Eggs become a thickener, not breakfast. Heat this whole lot until ALMOST boiling.

Then pour this whole hot mess on the pan with the bread in it. Mix it up so it is thoroughly combined.

This picture is really shitty but it is hard to take a pic and pour at the same time.
My usual helpers were not around as it was Christmas Eve. 

Now bake in the oven at 375, for approx 30 minutes. You are looking to solidify, and brown the pudding.

Ain't she gorgeous!?! Please ignore my filthy stove.

Now to make the sauce:
Butter, melted...
 Add Sugar....

Then the heavy cream and bring to a slow boil.

Add your whiskey...and drink a little too. You know what the famous foodies say about cooking wines and all that....if you won't drink it, don't cook with it.

Look away from my filthy stove. 

This is the whiskey I use. They make a spiced variety but I couldn't get any that day. Major Sad Face!! But I will suffer through!

Now according to the recipe I am supposed to let the alcohol cook off. This is wrong and I will not do it. YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!!

You can serve one of two ways. You can pour all the sauce on the pudding and then cut and serve or put it on individual pieces before you serve. I pour it all on, because this stuff is even better the next day. Hair of the dog, y'all.

Tracey made one with toasted caramel and Black Velvet, for New Years and it was amazeballs. This recipe is versatile, and really hard to screw up. I want to do an Irish Cream version and then a Toasted Almond Vanilla Bean one with the spiced Feckin. As I always say, make this your own, play with it and experiment. You understand the basics now, so there is no reason you can't own this shit.

Shalom y'all, and here's to the Holidays without Homicide! (*winkwink*)