Sunday, 5 October 2014

Breads and Bready Things

There is nothing on earth like the smell of fresh bread ... or is there? WHICH bread? WHEN? WHOSE kitchen?

From focaccia to fougasse, bannock or chappati to some awful white spongy loaf in a plastic bag, breads are, simply, the staff of life for most of us on earth. They are our most immediate connection to our culture and history and feelings about home and hearth, no matter how different the specifics may be.

There are south asian breads, native american breads and european breads, and these have spread out all over the world. Every bread we know derives from one of these cultural stocks. With bread, we are not ever truly alone.

My students have learnt, or will learn, about making 5 kinds of bread, and some of the recipes are enclosed in this blog posting or the next one. Focaccia and fougasse are essentially the same bread, relatively quick to make (a matter of hours, not days), ciabatta
takes more time 2 - 4 days, depending on the sourness desired), chappati are quick to make and take little space to produce, and the final one is the decadent, and justly famous, UBC Cinnamon Buns that Chef basically lived on for several years in Vancouver.

Sometimes a dough will work perfectly, other times things seem to go wrong. Temperature management is crucial, including the temperature of the basic ingredients AND the bowls worked with. If I am using a bowl to make a dough, I will always warm it up slightly under running water, then quickly polish it dry and use it immediately. Make sure the flour and all other ingredients are at room temperature unless otherwise directed. Arrange for a warm space to rise and proof your doughs ... this time and temperature will make all the difference.

Kneading takes time to learn ... learn by watching a then doing is best, but there are a few basics I always share ... do not use your fingertips, learn what over-kneading is and does, and learn to make and keep a good 'biga',
or starter (sometimes called a Poolish or Levain). Well-fed and maintained, a great biga will roll along for years. I worked with a chef near Venice whose biga had been inherited from his grandmother, and she had told him that it had been given to her! That biga carried almost a century of skill, knowledge, tradition and nourishing, and the bread made with it was remarkable.

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