Posts tagged “baking

Baking the Poilane Way

Posted on November 25, 2019

I had mentioned I wasn’t much of a baker in the last post. Any of my prior attempts at bread making have resulted in dense, chewy stuff that lingers in your gut like a boulder. When I heard that Apollonia Poilane was releasing a new cookbook that demystifies some of the secrets of her family’s world-famous bread bakery in Paris, I resolved to buy the book to see if I could replicate some of Poilane’s beautiful rustic sourdough boules, each one of them the circumference of the average hug.

To do this, you build a starter with 2/3 cup of lukewarm water, 1 cup plus one tablespoon of all-purpose flour, 1/3 plus two tablespoons of whole wheat flour, and 1/4 cup of Greek-style yogurt with live active cultures. Poilane acknowledges that her grandfather never would have used yogurt in his starters, but she makes a case for it in this recipe because it jump-starts fermentation and begins to give the dough its slightly sour taste. She also recommends using King Arthur brand flours in the recipe because they have a similar texture to the specially ground ones she uses in her family’s bakery. Combine these ingredients by hand until they’ve become the texture of chewed gum, then cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm, draft free place for 24 hours.

The next day, take all but one cup of the starter mixture, put it into a new bowl, and then add 4 cups of all-purpose flour, 3 1/4 cups of wheat flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons of active dry yeast, and 2 3/4 cup of lukewarm water with 1 tablespoon of fine sea salt. Combine those ingredients until they are smooth, then knead the dough on a lightly floured surface. Put the dough back into the bowl, cover it with the kitchen towel and wait 45 minutes. By then, your dough should increase in volume, and maintain its shape when you touch it with the back of your hand. Take a colander, line it with a well-floured kitchen towel, and then flatten the dough on a lightly floured surface to 2/3rds its size, working the dough until it becomes a smooth ball. Put the ball of dough smooth side down into the lined colander, and then cover it with a kitchen towel for two more hours. After that time, the dough should increase in size, and continue to maintain its shape after you touch it with the back side of your hand.

Twenty-five minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 475 degrees and place a 12-inch Dutch oven inside. When the oven is ready, remove the Dutch oven carefully, open it, and then flip the dough into the pot with the smooth side facing up. Score the dough with a knife (you can do any sort of design you want, from letters to leaves, to a simple X). Cover the pot and bake for ten minutes, then remove the lid and continue baking until the crust is dark brown and caramelized, about another 45 minutes to an hour.

When the bread is done, turn the loaf out of the pot, stand it on its side, and knock on the bottom. It should sound like someone is knocking on your door because they could smell this amazingness from your oven. Instead of cutting right into the loaf, let it sit and cool for an hour underneath a kitchen towel. Stored in a paper bag or wrapped in a towel, the bread should keep for one week.

The first fermentation, followed by the hit of yeast has so far proven to be exactly how to make the perfect loaf of bread. See:

You can adjust this recipe with different flours, or add-ins like walnuts and dried fruit. Once you get the loaf baked, or at least the dough going, you need to decide whether you want to maintain the starter, or cast it aside. Maintaining it is a near-daily ritual of throwing away a cup of the starter, and mixing it with 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup of wheat flour, and 1/2 cup plus two tablespoons of lukewarm water. Over time, the starter deepens in flavor, depending on the time you’ve spent feeding it and the ingredients you’ve been using. But if you can keep it up, it’s a good thing to have on hand as the weather gets cooler and you need something substantial to go with your soup, salad, or charcuterie.

For more on Apollonia Poilane and her family’s bakery, check out Lindsay Tramuta’s interview with her on episode 42 of The New Paris Podcast.

Chocolate Yogurt Snack Cakes

Posted on April 3, 2014

snackcakes

 

I have a good friend who bakes Duff Goldman-style cakes. She does this for fun when she’s not teaching flamenco.

One year this friend made a hula monkey birthday cake for my daughter. I mean, this monkey had it all: a flower fondant lei, bold red lips and a sassy grass skirt. The detail was one thing. The flavor was out of this world. I have never been able to replicate the almond-flavored buttercream she made that day. Nor have I ever been able to bake a cake that moist and gently sweet. Kids fought over this cake in a way that was far beyond “I want the piece with balloons on it.”

So I bow down to anyone who can bake cakes with that level of artistry and flavor.

The one cake I can bake successfully (knock wood) is a yogurt cake. These cakes are a popular snack item in France for two reasons, a. because they’re really easy for kids to make (which means that even I can’t mess it up) and b. because the cakes turn out moist with a hint of sweetness. Everyone from Clotilde to Molly to Dorie has got a memory of or twist on this treat and it’s little wonder. There’s something about them that makes your household smell like comfort and warmth.

Although I like the classic recipe, there’s really nothing like goosing the simple batter with ribbons of melted dark chocolate, I’ve found. That’s what food blogger and cookbook author David Lebovitz did in his memoir The Sweet Life in ParisI used his recipe yesterday to bake an afterschool snack for my little one. It was such a hit that snack became dessert and breakfast too. When I asked my daughter which version of this cake she preferred, she got this dreamy look in her eye and said “I don’t know…they’re both pretty awesome.”

Indeed they are.

Lebovitz’s latest cookbook comes out next week and I’m looking forward to checking it out. I’m also looking forward to Alexander Lobrano‘s latest, Hungry for France, which came out Tuesday.

What cookbooks are you enjoying right now and why? Are there any recipes that bring back good memories for you? If so, what are they and what is the memory?

Tomorrow: I’ll be featuring an interview with Karen Pery, who has been featured in this space before. I’ll be catching up with her and sharing how she uses things like racecars and surfboards to help people tap into their hidden potential. It’s a pretty cool story and she’s a pretty cool lady, so I hope you’ll stop by tomorrow and see what she has to say!

Stout

Posted on March 18, 2013

For at least a year, I’ve wanted to abandon the WordPress Thesis template that powered this web site. I didn’t like that it made a blog the focal point of my domain because, the thing is, I either don’t blog or I force myself to blog a bunch of stuff that winds up being hit or miss. I don’t do “miss” so well. Or, I wind up blogging about how hard it is to maintain a blog, but how I’m going to resolve to update it more and do better this time (only to do just the opposite). Blogs are super-duper problematic for me, which is why I found a new template that stuck mine at the bottom of the page…as an afterthought…because let’s face it, that’s what it is.

So welcome to the new paigebowers.com, a landing page where you can click around to find my clips, my bio and a way to contact me for writing assignments large and small. Yes, there’s still a blog, but it’s tucked away in a spot that works for me. I hope the new site works for you too. So click around, make yourself at home and let me know what you think about the new look.

Onward…

I titled this post “Stout,” in part as a commentary on the solid new design of this site, but also because it was St Patrick’s Day this past weekend. For me, St. Patrick’s Day and Guinness go hand in hand. But it’s also worth noting that I’m a chocoholic of the first order. What do St. Patrick’s Day, Guinness and my chocoholism have to do with each other, you might ask? Well, St. Patrick’s Day serves as a good excuse for making chocolate stout cake.

The other excuse? This old ad:

guinness

Photo: SmithsonianMag.com

Now that I’ve built my case, here are the recipes I used, both from Gourmet.com:

Chocolate Stout Cake

Stout Creme Anglaise (I hereby rename this “Awesome Sauce”)

And here is the end result:

IMAG1149

Pumpkin Patch

Posted on October 29, 2012

bluepumpkin

Wednesday is Halloween. So I’m going to delve into my archives and aggregate a little something-something about pumpkins. See the above gourd? It’s blue on the outside, but standard issue orange on the inside. Furthermore, it is good for making all manner of foodstuffs, as I did three years ago when my mother-in-law gifted me this beast.

It was a gift that kept on giving.

What follows are links to the pumpkin odyssey of 2009. It’s a five-day trip through sweet and savory recipes, all of them worth trying.

We begin on day one, where I break down the pumpkin, roast its seeds and make a puree.

Then we head to day two, where I use some of the aforementioned puree in a holiday classic: pumpkin pie.

After that, day three, where I make Patricia Wells’ delicious pumpkin soup.

Day four, I continue the pumpkin porn with out-of-this-world pumpkin chocolate chip cookies.

And finally, day five: I prove that I’m not quite sick of pumpkin by making a creamy pumpkin risotto.

Some lagniappe: Last week, mi amiga Danny Bonvissuto interviewed James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Dorie Greenspan about her stuffed pumpkin recipe. It’s stuffed with bread, cream, cheese, garlic and bacon. If loving it is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

Macaron Madness: Baby Steps

Posted on June 8, 2012

macarons

See these? These are macaron cookies from Laduree in Paris. Laduree was founded 150 years ago during a massive economic boom that transformed the city. It became known as a tea room where ladies could visit with each other (sans male companions) without being considered, as Edith Piaf once put it in the song “Milord,” ombres de la rue (translated: shadows of the street, or prostitutes). The folks at Laduree didn’t make macarons in those days, but by the twentieth century they had this bright idea that maybe they could take light-as-air cookies that had been around for centuries and sandwich them together with a thin layer of ganache.

It was a good idea and it became the way to make macarons. Just ask any fashionista who has been in Paris for Fashion Week, or any Franco-geek like me who has attempted to recreate them Stateside after having religious experiences with boxes like the one  pictured above. The cookies are delicate, not overly sweet, and a bit of a scientific marvel, if you ask me. On the face of it, macarons should be easy to make. They have few ingredients and their recipes are fairly straightforward. How hard can it be?  Well, even he admits it’s not so simple, that making picture-perfect macarons is more about technique than it is following a recipe. After reading his The Sweet Life in Paris and staring at the very technical Les Petits Macarons, I decided to venture into this pastel land of no return, hoping that something edible might result from my efforts. The method to my madness: Use Lebovitz’s chocolate macaron recipe (because who hates chocolate?) and refer to Les Petits Macarons in case of trouble (which was sure to come).

Here’s what happened:

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A Wrinkle in Time

Posted on June 2, 2012

I had coffee with my academic advisor yesterday. He told me I looked composed and (believe it or not) relaxed. He also told me this post was “weird” because no one was trying to “get” me, or drag me back for a PhD against my will. I told him it was an ill-conceived joke, just me making fun of my inability to read anything off-topic. And then I told him that I surprised myself when I rewrote the bio for this web site. In an effort to keep myself honest, focused and real in my writing pursuits, I discovered that nothing looks the same, or feels the same, at least bio-wise. He said I needed more time. I told him I don’t wait well.

By the time we had finished our wide-ranging conversation, three hours had elapsed.

And three days after I went through the exercise of “rebranding” myself (or so to speak), I still haven’t posted my effort here. What gives?

****

A few weeks ago, I finished reading A Wrinkle in Time with my daughter. I didn’t really understand Wrinkle when I read it as a child and certainly wouldn’t have recommended it to any of my friends because fantasy was so not my cup of tea. As an adult, I found myself on the verge of

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Blueberry Hill

Posted on July 11, 2011


I went to my local farmers market recently and bought two cartons of fresh premium blueberries from Blueberry Ridge Orchard in Jackson, La. When you buy from a supermarket (which, let’s face it, I do), fruits and vegetables just lose a little something in their flavor and smell. But if you’re lucky enough to buy something that was freshly plucked from a vine, tree or plant, you’re in for a special treat.

How is this for a treat?
blueberriesOn a recent Saturday afternoon, these blueberries filled my car and my kitchen with their subtly sweet smell. Though I could have rinsed them and served them on cereal, over ice cream or mixed with other fruit, I decided to

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