Baking and Pastry week 7

bread27 weeks down, 3 more to go. This week was all about bread. We learned about the 10 – 12 (12 if you count cooling & storing) steps of bread making, which included things like benching and punching, and I’m not talking about things you do at the gym. Bread making takes an incredible amount of patience. Something that for me, can be on short supply after a long day at work, so I went into class last week reminding myself to be ready for a long night.

We started out with some basic breads, egg bread, milk bread and focaccia. On Wednesday night we did the first few steps – scaling ingredients, mixing the dough and setting it up for fermentation which we slowed down by letting it retard in the cooler overnight. On Thursday, we took to the final steps – folding, punching, shaping, benching, panning, proofing and finally baking.

All of the dough was quite easy to work with. And we used instant yeast, so that helped too. With the egg and milk dough, I spent quite a bit of time rolling and shaping the loaves and rolls. It felt like I would never get done. The focaccia was much less high-maintenance. You don’t have to work it as much; it’s a little more forgiving because you really want those air bubbles on the inside so you can skip the punching phase.

I was actually surprised at how many things we could do with the dough we made. I thought that we were just going to have a bunch of plain old bread rolls, but that definitely was not the case. I made cinnamon roll bread, and a few different styles of knots and topped them with sesame and poppy seeds.

My favorite by far was the focaccia. I made half jalapeño cheese and half tomato basil. Second runner up was the cinnamon bread. The egg and mild bread made great toast for breakfast this weekend. I don’t see myself replicating these recipes any time soon, but they were approachable enough for the home baker that’s looking to try some bread making.

Up next week: laminated breads, also known as Danish pastry and cinnamon rolls!

So much bread!

So much bread!

Asian crepes with peanut sauce

asian-crepes1Crepes are one of my favorite things to make. They’re something so simple but can deliver pretty complex flavors when done well. They’re versatile enough to eat for every single meal of the day. From sweet crepes for breakfast or brunch to savory crepes for dinner, you can do pretty much anything you want with them.

I learned how to make crepes in a class at The Chopping Block about a year and a half ago. The trickiest thing to get right is getting the batter to cover the entire bottom of the pan and not using too much batter because crepes are supposed to be extremely thin. I stumbled quite a bit trying to get the technique of swirling the pan with my left hand while ladling in the batter with my right hand. If you’ve ever tried rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time, that’s how awkward it was for me.

Eventually I got it down well enough that I moved on to trying to flip the crepe by just using the pan. Another step in which more than a few crepes suffered from poor technique. I also turned to none other than the master Jacques Pepin for some tips on making crepes. Of course he makes it look as simple as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but that’s why he is the master.

I built this recipe knowing that I was going to try a new peanut sauce that I’ve had bookmarked for a while. With peanut sauce as the main driver, I figured Asian would be the best way to go, so what better than to make a simple stir fry to fill the crepes with. Once I had that in mind, I immediately went to thinking about how I would plate the dish. Sometimes I make decisions on what to cook by starting with the type of presentation I want to do. Is that weird? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, presentation can really amplify a dish, so I’ve always got that in mind.

Continue reading