2A: Basic Breads

Basic breads are breads with stuff in them or on them. They’re not enriched breads because they don’t have lots of added butter and sugar; they’re basically lean breads with adornments. Often they have interesting shapes. Chef Sharon had us make all of the dough by hand. Who needs a gym membership when you can knead bread dough?

Red pepper and olive bread as a fougasse

Red pepper and olive bread as a kind of fougasse

We had seven kinds of bread to make, and we plunged right in. The four-grain bread has wheat flour, rye flour, barley flour, and oat flour plus yeast, salt, and water, so that’s basically a lean bread. Chef Sharon suggested making it into a flower shape, decorating the center with seeds. You roll the dough into a circle, cut through the outside edge to make petals, then turn those 90 degrees.

Forming petals in the four-grain bread

Forming petals in the four-grain bread

It’s a lot harder to do than it sounds because it’s tough to get the petals even. I clearly need practice with this. However, the final bread looked pretty good.

Four-grain bread fresh from the oven

Four-grain bread fresh from the oven

Red pepper and olive bread is basic lean white dough with chopped red peppers and chopped black olives mixed in. You add the mix-ins after the bulk fermentation so they don’t interfere with the gluten development. If you add them when you’re mixing the dough, you don’t get nice long, stretchy strands of gluten, so the bread won’t rise very well. The students who made this one did several shapes, including some slashed flatbreads and some rolls.

Red pepper and black olive rolls

Red pepper and black olive rolls and bread

Petits pains meture (little wrapped breads) are rolls wrapped in cabbage leaves. This is another lean dough made with wheat flour, cornmeal, water, salt, and yeast. You make the dough, let it ferment, and form it into balls.

Petits pains formed and ready to proof

Petits pains formed and ready to proof

You blanch cabbage leaves so they’re pliable enough to work with and you use those to line small cake rings.

Baking rings lined with blanched cabbage leaves

Baking rings lined with blanched cabbage leaves

Then you pop the rolls into the cabbage-lined rings and let them rise.

Petits pains meture proofing

Petits pains meture proofing

They’re cute when they’re done. You can see the cornmeal in the texture of the crust.

Petits pains meture

Petits pains meture

Cheese bread is not made from a strictly lean dough. In addition to flour, water, salt, and yeast there’s butter, cream, eggs, and milk. After the bulk fermentation, you form the dough into balls, then you stuff each one with a cube of Gruyére. After they’ve proofed, you brush them with butter and sprinkle the tops with grated Gruyére, then you bake them. Boy, are they delicious!

Delicious, decadent cheese buns

Delicious, decadent cheese buns

Chestnut bread is another basic lean dough made with wheat flour and chestnut flour. I’d never heard of chestnut flour before. While the dough is having its bulk fermentation, you boil the chestnuts. Then you form rolls or loaves and decorate them with the chestnuts.

Chestnut bread in rings and rolls

Chestnut bread in rings and rolls

Five-seed bread also has milk, egg yolks, honey, and olive oil plus the five kinds of seeds. You start out by making a kind of mayonnaise with the yolks, honey, salt, and olive oil. Just as with handmade mayonnaise, you whisk the yolks and then, whisking like mad, slowly add the oil. With this one, after the oil is added you add the honey and salt and whisk some more. You know you’ve whisked enough, says Chef Sharon, when your arm falls off.

Whisking mayonnaise for the five-seed bread

Whisking mayonnaise for the five-seed bread

This is another one that was formed into fancy ring shapes. I think these are really pretty.

Five-seed bread in decorative rings

Five-seed bread in decorative rings

Parsley and garlic bread is a basic lean white dough with as much chopped garlic and parsley as you want to add; we added plenty. You can roast the garlic or use it raw, and we just used it raw. The trick to adding garlic to bread is to not mix it into the dough at all because it will kill the yeast. After the dough has been through the bulk fermentation, you wrap it around the garlic and parsley.

Folding the dough around the garlic and parsley

Folding the dough around the garlic and parsley

We formed these into small torpedo-shaped loaves. Chef Sharon says when you slash, you always use an odd number of slashes.

Garlic and parsley loaves with five slashes

Garlic and parsley loaves with five slashes

Benoiton is made from yet another lean white dough. The students who made this filled it with pastry cream and poached pears. The finished breads look like they’re filled with bacon and eggs.

Benoiton filled with pastry cream and wine-poached pears

Benoiton filled with pastry cream and wine-poached pears

They don’t taste like it, though.

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About linguina

For most of my life I've loved to read and to make stuff. My mother says I taught myself to read when I was 4, and I never looked back. I also liked fooling around in the kitchen, but my mother wasn't really into cooking, so I learned a lot of that on my own, too. My sister and I had the Betty Crocker New Boys and Girls Cookbook (1965), and naturally I had to make the Enchanted Castle Cake. I learned how to bake bread when I was 14, and I bought a copy of the Joy of Cooking when I was 17. My aunt and uncle gave me Mastering the Art of French Cooking for my 19th birthday, and the first thing I made was soufflé. I've always been more of a baker than a cook, though. When our niece used to visit us during her breaks from college, she'd get me to show her some cooking things (including soufflé, of course!), but I kept having to tell her, "This is just how I do it. I have no idea if it's the right way." Finally, I took a basic cooking class, and that changed my life. After that class, I signed up for a 4-day baking class at King Arthur Flour. That's when I knew I was really a baker. Now I'm taking the professional pastry program at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. With this training, I'll become a pastry chef.
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