Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

Fire, Brick, Water, and Wheat


I couldn’t not take photos of these breads yesterday. It being a busy fall with harvesting, butchering, etc, I haven’t fired up the wood oven nearly often enough. There’s something meditative about watching a fire that’s akin to getting lost in music. Add to that the satisfaction of baking up lovely loaves of tasty bread while tending the oven, and it’s the kind of activity that can make your day.

This bread is the same pain a l’ancienne approach as I wrote about here. Having taken a quick look at that post I noticed that I’ve modified the loaf shape due to the design of my wood oven and how I’m baking them off. With hot coals still in the oven during baking there’s uneven heat making a baguette style loaf shape impractical – one end being done far before the other. So instead I’m free-styling them into whatever shape comes from cutting the dough into a few manageable pieces that can be turned easily in the oven if need be without removing them. It produces a puffed up mini-loaf that cut in half is fantastic for sandwiches. Kinda like pita meets pizza crust meets ciabatta bun. First course for dinner last night was herbed fried ruffed grouse breast, mayo, and carrot & pickled onion slaw stuffed into a half of one of these loaves. Tasty.

BBQ Oven Action


I’ve posted about this setup before. But then in all my wisdom, I nearly deleted all of my new wordpress blog-post-blogger-transition. I don’t recommend it. So some of the content from that post, well, died. Permanently.

No matter. I had a good friend coming over for lunch today as I live close to his new City TV gig downtown, and figured the garden salad  on the menu might not tide him through his day. I had a bowl of dough in the fridge – Anita’s Organics stoneground ww, and unbleached white. So some tasty flat bread hopped on the menu. Then one thing led to another, and I’m glad I picked up the HD camera throughout, as it made for a good overview of my eccentric, atypical use of my formerly-propane bbq. And yes, this is the same setup I use to smoke and grill – minus the masonry.

Although I still intend on breaking ground on my wood fired oven project one of these days, this setup certainly made me pause to consider the low-cost, easy access, minimum time investment, sufficient, and sensible approach that can be had with free stuff. I heart kijiji.

Don’t burn your house or somebody else’s down trying this at home and blame it on me. I don’t have propane or natural gas attached, near, or even friends with my bbq. I’m just sayin’.

Dinner Party Menu

A breakdown of the menu for some new friends that came by for dinner last night. Excluding the first course – a salad from the garden…forgot the photo. The first three courses were paired with an alsatian riesling, the following 3 with a right-bank bordeaux. Overall, a lovely night:

berkshire tenderloin on white bean purée, crispy sage
pickled whitefish, dill & chervil
seared antelope, fleur de sel, baby italian parsley
korean kalbi-style antelope on rice
camembert on lovely bread our guests made
chocolate espresso swirl cheesecake with vanilla latté

Hardcore Chocolate Cupcakes with Raspberry Jam & Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Icing

My wife love cupcakes. It was her birthday. I do have the ambition to bake quality cakes one day. And there’s no way in hell this cheap-ass is going to splurge at a local cupcake shop on $3 cupcakes – no way, no how. I made two dozen – so…roughly…$72 worth of cupcakes? As if. I respect the entrepreneurial spirit tremendously, but can’t see the business model supporting this many cupcake shops – ESP in this economy.

ANYWAY. Where do you go when you need ideas for a solid cupcake? Here, of course. The request was for this one. With the vanilla bean cream cheese icing from this one. I undercooked them quite a bit and they were more like moelleux, so I filled the crater with home-made raspberry jam prior to icing them. Super rich, super tasty – but needed some work. So the next day I baked another batch, longer this time, and they were far better. The recipe recommends holding rich chocolate cakes overnight for improved quality – and man are they right. The next day, that second batch rocked.

So if you’re ever in the need for a heavy chocolate cake-y and cream cheese fix – this is a pretty wonderful place to start.

Foccacia di Vernazza

Yep. Bread. Again. This time 1/4 whole wheat, and a quadruple batch. I will find out how many kilos of bread my oven can bake at once one of these days.

Fortunately, not all of it ended up in bread loaves. Not sure what to make for supper, I stole some of the dough, and made a quick foccacia. Man was it good. It brought me right back to a moment on the coast of Italy, sitting down to a seafood salad, when the wait staff brought the entire patio of diners some fresh-out-of-the-oven herbed up foccacia, on the house. A nice gesture that did not go unnoticed by the guests, and so economical and tasty. Smart.

Bread dough [how much? let's say this much]
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
scant 1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese
pinch of herbes de provence
2 cloves garlic
good pinch of grey salt


Preheat oven to ‘hot’ a good half hour ahead. 400+. Roughly slice the garlic, then toss it into the mortar with the salt and herbes de provence and beat it up until you have a paste. Add half the cheese and the oil. Stir until you have a homogenous paste. Line a tray with parchment. On an oiled clean counter, roughly spread the dough out by pushing your fingers of both hands into it – it should leave finger depressions and look like a crude pizza dough. Put it on the parchment lined tray, and add the paste of good stuff. Spread it. Top it with half of the remaining cheese. Toss it in the oven. When it starts to brown, smell and look good, take it out and spread with the last of the cheese. Cut into thin strips, and serve.

Amended Bread Gig

Long ago, I posted about my ‘usual’ bread recipe. It’s the kind of recipe I’ve made so often I have the numbers in my head. But today I realized that for some time, I’ve making the same modifications to it. So why follow the same recipe all the time if I end up tweaking it anyway? Yeah…no good answer there, is there.

Two main changes to my now current bread gig: triple the quantity [I have a big freezer and more mouths to feed], and about 8-9% more flour. Every time I made the dough it would stick all over the place and I ended up adding more to preserve sanity. The ratios below didn’t need any extra flour while kneading.

1300g flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp yeast
840g warm water

Laziness. See the details in post linked above.

Why bake your own bread?

Born-Again French-Pastry-Lover

I never thought I’d write this, but I have to admit that ever since a wonderful pastry shop finally opened up in our town [ICS], I’ve been jaded about eating pastries in France. It’s a loss I’m having to deal with. ‘Not bad, but I can get it better at home‘ is a thought I wish upon nobody who loves to travel and eat. Very similar to making pistachio gelato better than I’ve had it in Italy. Blissful disappointment.

That said – France not to be outdone – showed me two new favorites that I had no idea exsited. Starting with #2 favorite: the Suisse. I had many after the one in the photo [Paris], but this one was the best. Kinda creamy [custard?], chocolate chipy, and croissanty. I’m a fan. If anyone knows how to score one in my province, please advise.

#1 spot, however, went to the Religieuse. The one in the photo had been abused by the box. But it doesn’t matter. It’s a marriage of pate a choux classics: an eclair ball topped with a cream puff. Genius. This genius happened to me in Eguisheim, Alsace.

I owe a debt to both of these items and the people who made them. Perhaps I need to go on a gelato quest to restore my faith in that department.

Another Classic for My Repetoire: Scones

Where have scones been all my life?! Not that I haven’t eaten them before – I have – and I’ve loved them then…but why have I not made them at home before? Why!??! So many lost years of scone eating. Shameful.

But the leaf has turned, and today my family indulged in fresh scones with strawberry and raspberry jams. And butter. They’re so good they don’t even need the jam. Just butter. And all this from a recipe I googled - not often I stumble on a recipe, try it once, and not want a do-over of some kind.

Bread. Again.

I’m all for culinary adventures – on a semi-regular basis. But I’ve realized over time that I enjoy simple things more vigorously than the overly-complex. I take great joy in making a bread at home. One can shop the best boulangeries in the Paris, and be hard pressed to match or defeat a simple loaf of bread baked at home. [To avoid a debate, let's just say that I've hit many reputed establishments there, and that, as a rule, bread at home is just as good, if not better, than any I've had in France. And what's with some shops not allowing you to take pictures?!?! WTF?] What they do have down that I do not, are really cool shapes.

You don’t hear the loaf in Paris crackle shortly after leaving the oven. You’re not charged with its care, and don’t benefit from the resulting pride of having made it with your own hands. You don’t get to enjoy it just a bit too hot from the oven, with butter and jam. You are dependent on someone else to make something that provides you with pleasure and nourishment, as opposed to enjoying the independence. And if you value freshness of product, then you can’t beat what you make at home – if made properly, I suppose.

Lots of this could be said about gardening, foraging, hunting, etc. But today, it’s bread.

‘The Tornado’ Pizza

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of kneading dough in my new kitchen for the first time. I had a bit of a ‘moment’, as the sun shone in the two windows flanking a lowered piece of counter top [roughly 30"] that happens to perfect for kneading dough [36" is just too high for this short guy]. A view of veggies growing, flowers flowering, my apple tree. Ahh.

As usual, my standard bread recipe for the dough. The toppings? Home-made pizza sauce with lots of savory and garlic. Then soppressata d’abruzzo – my current favorite deli meat. It has some heat, some fennel, and is just plain wicked on pizza. Then mozza, cheddar, onion, yellow pepper, green olive, and artichoke hearts. As a whole, it just seemed to slam you in the face with flavor, every bite. It is the most flavorful pizza I can recall making. Ever.

Could have been the saltiness of the olives? The touch of sour from the soppressata or artichoke hearts? The abnormally browned crust from the convection oven? Don’t know – just know it’s on the menu for supper again tonight.