Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pan de Reina

Fit for a queen

BreadLab is honouring all mothers; Pan de Reina, a coffee bread fit for a queen Crownshaped and sprinkled with maple diamonds for extra oohs! and aahs! at the coffee table. Loaded with freshly crushed cardamom, coriander seeds and cinnamon, this bread is dressed to impress on Mother's Day, or any other given day of the year mothers need impressing.


For all of you who can't find the pause button to write things down:

550 gr./19.4 oz. bread flour
250 gr./8.8 oz. whole milk
57 gr./2 oz. unsalted butter
3 eggs (1 for egg wash!)
7 gr./0.2 oz. instant yeast
65 gr./2.2 oz. white caster sugar
1 heaped Tbs coriander seeds
crushed seeds of 5 cardamom pods
2 heaped Tsp of cinnamon
pinch of salt & pepper
maple sugar for sprinkling

Beat the eggs and set aside. Heat the milk until it forms bubbles around the edges of the pan (scalding the milk). Cool back to 40°C/100°F. Combine the eggs with the milk (make sure the milk is not too warm!) Melt the butter into the mixture.

Stir in the yeast and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.

In a separate bowl combine 3 cups of the flour with the other dry ingredients; cinnamon, coriander seeds, sugar, salt, pepper, cardamom.

Pour in the egg-milk-yeast mixture little by little and make the dough come together. Mix for about 5 minutes on low speed until well combined. The dough is very sticky and won't clear the bowl!.

Put the remainder of your flour on the table, take out your dough and knead in enough of the remaining flour for the dough not to be sticky any more. Don't overwork your dough at this point.

When the dough is smooth and silky, let it proof until almost doubled in size (about one hour at room temp).

Divide the dough in half. Divide one half in two, and the other half in three equal pieces. Preshape the pieces of dough to be rolled into strands after a short rest.

Roll out the two biggest pieces of dough into strands. Make a twist-braid and place it carefully in your well oiled pan.

Roll out the three smaller strands into a three-braid. Make it nice and even for extra oohs! and aahs! at the coffee table. Place the braid on top of the twist. If you have baking rings or anything that could serve as baking rings (an empty tin will do just fine), use them for support.

Cover the dough to prevent drying out, and proof it at room temp until again doubled in size
(about one hour on room temp).

Half an hour before baking, preheat the oven to 175°C/350°F.

When fully proofed, give the dough an egg wash and royally sprinkle it with maple sugar.

Bake for about 35 minutes until golden brown. Don't forget to rotate halfway the bake for even browning.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Laminator Returns; tips and tricks

Butter lock

Locking in the butter correctly is a key step in getting croissants to puff up just the way you like it. A previous post in the BreadLab showed you one way of going about business, but there are more ways that lead to Rome, (or rather Paris, in this case).

There is the "diamond butter block" for instance, demonstrated here by Andrew Meltzer on the Kneading Conference West 2011 in Mount Vernon. This method is also known as "the French method".

An alternative way of working in the butter is the English lock-in:

The French method is traditionally used for doughs with high amounts of butter. A typical croissant, at 50% butter, is more than happy with three half turns (27 layers) and the English way of locking in the butter will suffice. Achieving more layers using the English method is also possible. In general the rule is: the higher the butter-dough ratio, the more turns the dough will need to fully 'puff". The maximum amount of 6 half turns, for a pâte feuilletée fine, yields 729 layers.

One word of warning; try and keep your butter in one piece, regardless of what method you are using. This video shows both lock-in methods using slices of butter. Unless you are an experienced "laminator", try to avoid cutting up your butter; you will be able to distribute the butter more evenly.

Consistency is key

Any one who has made croissants knows the mantra "the dough and butter should be of the same consistency". But how on earth do you know if they really are!?

In general, in my experience at least, people tend to make the butter block way too hard in comparison to the dough. Afraid their butter will otherwise ooze out of the dough, they lock it in as solid as a rock. The result is an uneven balance in consistency. The butter will break rather than smooth out during rolling.

To get it right is a fickle business. One very important step that I advise any aspiring croissant baker to follow is to soften up your butter in this manner:

Think twice before you lock in the butter. Check, check and double check again! When your butter is locked in at the right consistency compared to the dough things will go so much smoother down the road; If properly done, every time you need to put the laminated dough in the fridge in between folds, it will by definition have the same consistency. If you have done something wrong at "lock in", that mistake will follow you all the way to the end of the bake, which can be quite frustrating.

Remember that and you will be doing great!

Shaping the Eiffel Tower

Another step in the process that can be tricky is the actual size and shape of your triangles of dough. Numerous recipes give different "ideal sizes". Ideal size is a personal preference though, paired with with some firm determination when it comes to stretching the triangles after the initial cutting.

If you like your croissant with a lot of "stands", you really need to stretch the triangle to its limit. 6 Stands are very acceptable for a typical French croissant. If you cut your triangles with "long sides" you can squeeze in 2 or 3 more stands and your croissant gets nice and bulky/flaky.

Think of the Eiffel tower. That is the shape you are looking for. Gently stretch the dough to it's limits, widening the base, and most of all lengthening the dough for optimum stands;

A tip for all you bakers who are wondering what to do with the left over bits of laminated dough after cutting your triangles; You can use them to make your croissants look even puffier than they are! Cut off a little piece of left over dough, put it right above the little cut you make in the middle of the base of the triangle and roll it in with the rest. Your croissant's "tummy will bulge even more after baking, and you will not have to throw away a single piece of dough!

Come back for more tips and tricks in the near future. I have been baking my way through a whole lot of recipes and formulas, but I'm not even halfway. My favorite recipe by far (up to this point of time in my research) are the sourdough croissants that are in Daniel Leader's "Local Breads" His formula is based on Erick Kayser's croissants. The liquid levain used in this formula gives the croissants the "real Parisian taste" (as far as I am concerned). They are by no means "in your face sour" but rather subtly

Friday, September 23, 2011

Baker's Babylon


In Breadland there are many different words for the same thing, which, in a growing international home baking community, can be quite frustrating at times.

A single fold, a simple fold, the two-fold, trifold, bookfold, N-fold, G-fold are all, in essence, very acceptable names for the same thing.

A highly respected baker from The Fresh Loaf names the procedure, rather than "classifying" the fold. He speaks about "giving the dough a half turn". You roll, you fold in three and end off with turning the dough to be ready for the next half turn.


Rather see it than read about it? Here you go; a video showing not only a half turn, but also explaining how to successfully lock your butter in the dough. There's a lot of different ways of doing this, this one works just fine in the BreadLab so far.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Julia doing it one more time

The Croissant Weeks

Putting the word out here and on The Fresh Loaf that the BreadLab is scrutinizing croissants for the coming weeks has resulted in a nice batch of suggestions, pointers and "what-definitely-not-to-do's in the BreadLab's inbox. Thank you so much for that input.

Combine all those with what's here on the kitchen bookshelf and you have mixed together a virtual bake-off between established formulas by well respected bakers. Go get it!

Hitz, Kayser/Leader and Child are in the first heat.


Last Friday, Dutch NTR radio-cooking show Mangiare was visiting the BreadLab kitchen. Just in time to see a batch of truly humongous croissants going into the oven. To give you an idea; there were only 6 croissants on a sheet, and still they were in each other's way. They were luscious, with a smooth and silky crumb and a flaky buttery crust. Hitz's formula works! (duh) Next time a less dramatic flour than manitoba, and they might turn out just perfect.

One successful bake is by no means an early end to the Croissant Project though.

Paris - Amsterdam

To make a croissant is to feel and taste Paris. So let's go to Paris! To taste M. Eric Kayser's famous sourdough croissants, and see what else is baking in the ovens of bakers like Poilâne, Cohier and Boulangepicier.

But; in true European spirit (yes, it does exist!) France, and the wonders of their bread baking has come to Amsterdam some years ago. Le Fournil de Sebastién has quickly become the best bakery in Amsterdam, and when you see this video it is easy to understand why.

Check out the latest uploaded video's here, if you haven't already, and come back for more on croissant techniques soon!

And just because it's always a joy seeing her doing her thing; the godmother of American Baking doing it one more time.

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sidestepping - Forming a Couronne Bordelaise

Although up to my knees in sour dough starters and liquid levains and with a whole bunch of formulas to scrutinize for my croissant project that is going to be unfolding (as it were) the coming weeks, I couldn't pass on the opportunity to share this video on how to form a "couronne bordelaise".

I like this shape a lot, because it doesn't involve slashing and usually yields a nice ear.

It's a bit of extra work to form the crown, but the effect at the dinner table more than makes up for that.

The dough traditionally used for this form is a pain de campagne but I used a 10% rye sourdough, which works just as well.

To add extra effect to the loaf; dust it with rye flour right before putting it into the oven; the rye flour stays nice and white and contrasts with the dark crust. After cooling the individual rolls can be easily broken of the couronne.

Back to the formulas and my belching and farting sourdoughs for the croissants!

Happy Baking!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Croissants; single fold

The BreadLab is trying to put together a comprehensive list of terms and techniques used in laminated doughs.

Baking terminology can be quite confusing at times. One formula calls for "a simple fold", another one for a "single fold" or "business letter fold" or a "two-fold". It can take you quite some time to figure out that it's all the same thing...

The number of layers in laminated dough and puff pastry is calculated with the equation:

= (f + 1)n

l represents the number of finished layers, f the number of folds, and n the number of times the dough has been folded.

So, for example, when you do 4 single folds, you end up with

l = (2 + 1)⁴

A "single fold" (in three) means 2 folds

l = (3)⁴

so that means that

l = 3 x 3 x 3 x 3

After 4 "single folds" you end up with 81 layers.

As for the number of folds for a specific pastry; it can range from anywhere between
27 layers (a croissant can be made with 3 single folds) up to 730 for pâte feuilletée fine.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Croissants: forming

Croissants have the reputation of being time consuming and complicated to make. Many a home baker shies away from laminated doughs at first, dismissing it as "too difficult".

My initial reaction wasn't very different.

After a visit to Paris, where I can find the best croissants with my eyes closed, I decided to be brave and give it a try, and I have been hooked ever since. It really isn't all that difficult, nor time consuming!

Time to find the perfect formula for perfect flaky buttery croissants.

What technique is the best to use? Do you work in the butter and then proof the dough, or does it yield better results working the butter in after the first proof?

What flour works best for croissants, and why?

The coming episodes of BreadLab will try and answer those questions and inspire home bakers to overcome their croissantophobia.

Are you one of those secret sufferers, longing to bake those golden brown, melt-in-your-mouth French Crown bread jewels, but are afraid to take the plunge... Come out of the closet, face your fears, be brave!

I'd be happy to answer any of your questions.

Happy Baking!

Have a look at my baking gallery!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Sugar bread

Today in the BreadLab, a regional specialty from the province of Friesland in the Netherlands; sugar bread. Spiced with heartwarming cinnamon and safron, loaded with butter and most of all sugar pearls. Not for the fainthearted as you can see from the list of ingredients, but very satisfying to make and very festive, especially when served in individual cupcakes.

Sugar pearls are not easy to come by in some places around the world (if not most). They are really easy to make from scratch though.

Have a look at my photo gallery to see what sort of bread and pastry I make!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ensaimadas (with time lapse)

With no possible way of leaving the house because of continuous rain and thunder... what better to do than to see your bread rise in the oven!
In this episode I revisit the ensaimada, that I got to know this spring when visiting Ibiza for a week (where it was, without a doubt completely by coincidence, also pouring with rain for the biggest part of my stay). It's a nice challenge for all of you out there who like to have a go at laminated dough, Mallorca-style! Interesting technique, and ingredients as well!
Have a look and let me know what you think!
I'm trying to teach myself and find a format to make these short 7 minute instructional videos work, for me as well as for the viewer. My aim is to, within reasonable time, be able to make at least 2 or 3 of these a week (weather and working schedule permitting of course). I love to get feedback on what you guys notice, miss, feel, what your associations are, whether it is clear enough, all those things :-)
I hope you enjoy watching BREADLAB - ENSAIMADAS as much as I loved making it,

Saturday, September 3, 2011

German Rolls

Hey guys!

Today I am sharing the video I made on German rolls. Crispy on the outside, nice and fluffy on the inside and with wonderful seeds to top them off! Check out the video to see how easy it is to bake these delicious breakfast rolls.

Have a look at my photo gallery!