bread rotation, week 2

I was looking forward to the second week of the bread rotation. Looking forward to it! I had a list of breads I was excited to make:

Mt Hood (a hazelnut bread)
Snowcap Rye (a three-day rye bread)
Caraway Rye (a 40% rye bread with caraway seeds)
Seeded Sourdough (with flax, sunflower, sesame, and...another seed)
Beer Bread with Roasted Barley (I substituted oats)

My partner and I finished an Indian bread that we'd started the week before, called Aloo Partha. It involved a spiced potato filling wrapped in a whole wheat dough. I wish I'd taken photos as the assembly process was complex and interesting: a ball of dough is rolled out flat and filling is spread thinly over the whole. The round is then rolled into a cylinder, and the cylinder is wrapped into a spiral shape. The spiral is then rolled flat to create a round flat bread with layers of filling embedded throughout. I wish we'd made some chutney too- this bread was hearty enough to be lunch, and a dipping sauce of some sort would have completed it nicely.

The first solo bread I made was the Mt Hood. This bread required four separate preferments, which together made up roughly half of the final dough. From right to left- white sponge, whole wheat sponge, white levain, rye levain. The white sponge exploded because the container turned out to be too small to contain its growth- it more than doubled overnight!

These are combined with additional yeast, flour, salt, and in most cases water-- but I substituted an oaked hazelnut ale that a classmate of mine had made in the previous quarter. As I added this beer to the candied hazelnuts that give this bread its name (Oregon is known for its hazelnuts) I was aiming for a very nutty, slightly sweet bread with a complex flavor.

The bread seemed to like the additional yeast provided by the beer and it grew quite nicely during the bulk ferment:

I shaped it into rounds and tried to do a pretty leaf scoring, which didn't work out so well... but the bread turned a lovely shade of brown in the oven, and came out dotted with toasted nuts:

"img src="http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4009/4311014690_a017e13f92_o.jpg">

As it turned out, this bread might be the best thing I've ever created. The hazelnuts and the beer gave it an almost nutella-like nutty sweetness, with a richness and depth from the preferments. It had a medium crumb, moist but offset by the crunch of the nuts. My coworkers devoured this bread and day-old loaves were used for what I'm told is the most amazing french toast ever. I will probably be making this bread for my fourth quarter final project.

And then, somehow in that week, I managed to make all of the other breads listed-- a minor miracle, of which I am justifiably proud-- but I forgot to take photos of all of them. Except the snowcap rye, and I'm glad I remembered that, because it's just so pretty. So I leave you with this- a hearty rye bread topped with flour before baking so that the final proof in the oven poofs the top into something resembling (the recipe claims) one of the rocky mountains. You be the judge:


third quarter bread rotation

This was my first rotation of the third quarter. I was (am) exhausted, and after the horrorfest of last quarter's bread rotation, I was terrified of breads. I just didn't want to do it. In fact, I chose it as my first rotation because I wanted to get it over with.

And then I learned to love the breads.

In this rotation, we chose which breads to do, when to do them, and how to manage our time. There was no schedule and there were very few rules. We could adapt recipes or bring in our own. I worked with a partner but this could involve as little or as much interaction as we wanted. Aside from the lack of sleep, I found this to be just lovely.

My first bread was a mushroom and farro bread, made with dried shiitake mushrooms, button mushrooms, and farro. The shiitake mushrooms were reconstituted in hot water, and that water was used as the liquid in the dough. The bread took two days- one to prep the mushrooms and the farro and the preferment, and one day to assemble, proof, and bake the bread.

mushroom farro bread

The bread had a lovely earthy flavor, and the farro added texture and a nuttiness. The shiitake mushrooms were better than expected (I worried about dried mushrooms) but the button mushrooms fell flat. Next time I'd use something else- the recipe called for porcini, but I didn't have those available.

My partner and I did one bread together in this first week, and that was the german pumpernickel. This bread is composed entirely of rye and bakes over 16 hours at low heat, and then must cool for an additional four hours or so before it can be sliced. The dough involves a preferment and a soaker (rye and shredded rye) and so the final process takes roughly four days. The result is an exceptionally dense and flavorful bread, made exceptionally dark due not only to the rye but also to the maillard reaction triggered by this baking method.

The claylike dough does not want to be kneaded in the mixer; it simply coats the inside of the bowl in an interesting homage to negative space:

My three-day bread (the one requirement we had was that we choose a three-day bread) was an olive levain, made with three kinds of olives and a sourdough levain. Three-day breads have a preferment and then are given a long overnight proof after their final shaping so that they can develop more and more complex flavor. I used kalamata olives from school as well as two kinds of spanish olives (one oil-cured) from work. This bread was fantastic and I would definitely make it again. I may try to adapt the recipe for home use.

Here the bread has been given its final shape and is ready to rest and proof overnight:

Once baked, the scoring down the center makes it look as though it's just bursting with olives:

My disaster for the week was the semolina sesame bread. The preferment was very, very wet and the amount of flour in the final dough in no way yielded what the recipe claimed would be a 'stiff' product. It was downright soupy. I had to had more and more flour (durum) and in the end this probably caused quite a bit of overmixing. By the time the bread was done proofing it was clear that there wasn't enough time to bake it, and we had to retard it overnight- not usually done for this kind of bread.

By the next day, the bread had formed a crust (not enough humidity in the retarder) and while this isn't always a problem, in this case the bread had to be re-shaped. After the overmixing, the extra-long proofing, and then this over-shaping, the final product was dense and not pleasant to the taste. Alas.

I had so badly wanted to do a number of sesame breads, but after that experience, I was done with that idea.

And that was week one: german pumpernickel, mushroom farro bread, olive levain, and semolina sesame.


individual desserts

This is one of the new rotations for second quarter: small desserts, or petit-fours. These are elaborately constructed tiny things that take maybe 4 or 5 bites to eat.

We started off easy, with pate a choux, which is the dough used to make profiteroles or cream puffs and eclairs. We piped this into circles like doughnuts, filled them with praline mousseline, and coated them in almonds and powdered sugar. They are called Paris-Brest and are often named to commemorate a bicycle race between the two cities (hence their wheel-like shape).

After that, we moved on to custards. We made flan, which involved filling teacups with caramel and then a rich eggy mixture and baking it in a water bath for about an hour. The process had two difficult points, neither of which had anything to do with the recipe itself. First, moving a hotel pan full of boiling water to and from an oven is frightening and scary. If the water sloshes over the tops of the cups, the custard is ruined. If the water sloshes over you, well, ow.

The second frustrating part is turning the custards out of their teacups. You run a knife around the edge of the cup, breaking the seal, and pull the custard away from the side a bit, breaking the vacuum. then you flip the cup upside down and the custard plops out like the one above, right? Ha. Witness:

Those are all the failed flans, which came out in pieces or fell apart as soon as they hit the plate. It is extremely frustrating to finish something well and then ruin it when you're trying to get it onto the plate. We couldn't sell any of those, and they all went to student lunch.

We also couldn't sell this, the large flan (we ran out of teacups), because we didn't have a take-away plate large enough and slices would have been hideous. It's too bad, because it turned out beautifully:

After flan we moved on to creme caramel, which is much the same process, except that you get to torch the tops to form a glass-like sugary caramel-y crust. Ours was flavored with bailey's irish cream and chocolate, but I didn't think that the flavors came through very well. Needed more booze, or more chocolate, or both. Or something. No pictures of that, simply because I forgot.

The next week we moved on to the petit-fours:

from left to right:
napoleons: blitz puff pastry and rich pastry cream, covered in fondant.
chocolate bombes: chocolate mousse and caramel mousse layered over rive gauche (chocolate) cake.
bavarian cakes: almond sponge cake decorated with orange tulipe batter and filled with orange bavarian cream.

The bombes were like a mini version of what I'd done in my cake rotation, so I was comfortable with those, and the napoleons are amazingly simple to make (despite being an utter mess to eat). The most complicated part of all of this was making the stripes on the bavarian-filled cake.

You make a batter of egg whites and powdered sugar and a bit of bread flour (called a tulipe batter), spread it into a sheet pan atop a silpat, and then use this giant long device to make a stripey design on it. Your hands need to move straight and your pressure needs to be perfect and even for the best result. The tray is then frozen and afterwards the cake batter poured on top of the pattern and baked. when the cake is flipped out and the silpat removed, the stripes will remain on the cake. Voila!

Then you spend an hour cutting the cake into wee strips and circles to make these cakes.

And that, folks, was the end of my second quarter in pastry school.