p2: French Sea Salt Caramels

The Sweet

4293852900_16753e7c6f_oSo my recent job, if I haven’t already mentioned, has kept my schedule notably busier and with less time to devote towards planning and developing the many recipes on my list. Doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying to do them all, of course, it just may take much longer than I thought… though luckily it should clear up a bit more in a few months. Every now and then I get a chance to go after something small, or something cool that fits a little request… more often than not, it’s been the desserts lately. What can I say, guess I like baking and such. For this past weekend, I took about an hour to make a little bite that Buzzfeed paired with Cheese Souffle: Salted Caramel pieces.

Did you know there’s an actual REASON that Salted Caramel hasn’t been used and popular until our recent 20th century? And no it’s not just because ‘modern chefs are more creative.’ In 1343, a large salt tax was put in place by King Philip VI, making it a luxury that only rich could afford. Thus even simple salted butter couldn’t be used by the masses until Brittany unified with the Kingdom of France. Even then, the ‘staple’ salt, Guerende Sea Salt, was a rather difficult ingredient to obtain [and I’ll admit, I myself just used a simple sea salt that’s in our pantry. We’ve got so many salts as it is, no reason to buy another one]. Thus the overall USE and distinction of it historically as far as pastries are concerned, a craft which focuses a lot on transforming very INexpensive ingredients, would logically take a much longer time to be realized.

In fact, that time came in the later 20th century, with Henri Le Roux, son of one of France’s most legendary pastry chefs. With his continued Swiss educated, he became France’s best chocolatier and caramel maker, ‘inventing’ the little confection midway through the 1900’s. Though it snuck in rather low on our radar, in 1980 salted butter caramel was voted the best candy in France. And now… well, now it’s the over-used dessert addition/focus that some people still use and rave over as if it was 5-8 years ago when the fad seemed to kick in.

That’s not to say it isn’t still delicious; there IS a reason it’s been so popular.

Chef’s Overdramatic Self-Centered Lecture Corner

It is often read with this particular recipe, or really ANY French recipe with such simple components as such, should really be made with the BEST of each ingredient in order for it to come out in that perfect form of buttery-salty-caramel chew. Of course, my idea on making this was rather last minute and I didn’t exactly grab everything that fit that bill. Which I actually don’t mind, since it was my first time attempting the caramel recipe and I don’t want to ruin any awesome ingredients with a minor screwup that masks everything.

20160116_225956That said, I DID have a little bit of leftover Organic Can Sugar that I mixed with my regular sugar, we’ve had plenty fantastic Scottish Butter sitting in our freezer for months now, so I used some of each to help level it up decently.

There’s a rather decent technique I’ve found about for this, one which makes a lot of sense. Let me start off by saying that caramel really IS quite simple; you cook the sugar until it turns color, not too much, and then add in your cream and butter. That said, one usually has to be careful adding in the cream, since he shock in temperature can make the hot liquid sugar seize up and turn solid too fast. It’s fixable, just got to slowly bring it back to temperature, but not condusive and a pain. So, as other recipes have done, one just heats up the cream on the side to a simmer, leave it warm, and add it in like so. This is also a great way to dissolve most of the salt to the mix into the caramel.

Of a quick final note, it’s very important to prepare your pan to pour the caramel in afterwards. Parchment paper works perfectly, though I’ve seen a recipe with aluminum foil too; the main key to it, however, is getting a thin layer of Vegetable Oil brushed along the bottom and sides to ENSURE that no sticking happens. Which is a pain, since with the paper already there it tends to pool. And don’t try to play with different oils unless they’re even MORE neutral in flavor; otherwise you’re getting an olive oil-flavored caramel [which actually doesn’t sound too bad if done right, but not the goal here]. I bring it up mainly since coating the knife or other cutting/handling tools for the finished candy is a great way to keep it clean and easy handling. May just want to pat with some paper towels afterwards to soak up any excess.

Salted Butter Caramels
1¾ cup Sugar
Vegetable Oil
1/3 cup Cream
¾ + tsp Sea Salt
5½ tsp Butter, cubed
1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Directions

  1. Place Sugar in sauce pan, moving over medium heat, stirring very often and NOT leaving the kitchen20160116_230959
  2. While this is initially heating up, quick mix the Cream and ½ tsp of Sea Salt in another pan over low heat, bringing to a simmer before removing. Keep warm20160116_230106
  3. Also, line a square baking pan with parchment paper, lightly brushing the bottom and sides with Vegetable Oil20160116_230528
  4. Stir more often as the sugar melts, making sure not to let it sit too long and burn while others are still crystallized20160116_231132
  5. When most of it’s melted, stick in a candy thermometer, continuing to stir and cook until the sugar reaches 180C [supposedly 356F]20160116_231334
  6. Briefly remove from heat and slowly, carefully add the warm cream mixture, stirring in until fully incorporated20160116_231626
  7. Return to heat until sugar has come back up to 140C [284-ish F]20160116_231944
  8. Remove from heat again, adding in Butter and Vanilla, mixing quickly until it’s thoroughly incorporated and smooth20160116_232220
  9. Pour the caramel into the parchment-lined baking pan, sprinkle the remaining sea salt over the top20160116_232530
  10. Leave to cool for about an hour or more
  11. Upturn onto the cutting board, taking a knife to cut into the desired piece sizes. If still rather sticky, coat the knife blade with some of the vegetable oil every now and then20160116_235716
  12. Transfer to bags, wrap in wax paper if needed/desired, and enjoy20160117_000330

My Thoughts

Of course it didn’t come out as I wanted. I could see even before it was fully cooled that this caramel would be much firmer than what should have been achieved; instead of that soft, stretchy, tender little chew, I got a hard and crunchy-chewy toffee-like creation. Not that I mind in general, it’s still quite delicious to suck on; creamy-buttery richness with that almost-burnt sugar mixed in. Perhaps not in a perfect blend, again not ALL the ingredients were of anything more than average/cheap quality, but it succeeded where needed. Well, it needed more salt, could only taste it IF sucking vs chewing, and then only in the fir half minute. I’m debating if it’s just the result of not using a classic big-grained French sea salt, which may have more compact flavor too, or if the recipe needed more… I blame the recipe.

As for why the sweets didn’t turn out as desired in consistency, I have two main theories. Either I may have cooked the sugar a bit hotter than called for at one or two periods, very possible though I’m pretty sure it didn’t get THAT much higher than the recipe called for, or the recipe really needs to have notably more butter and cream added into it. My money is on a combination of the two.

Possible Pairings

cremant-de-bourgogne-4278-1-2Not the kind of recipe that usually comes with a whole glass of alcohol to ‘pair’ with, but assuming one DOES want to imbibe while chewing on a [properly] soft and salty-creamy piece of cooked sugar heaven, I could think of a few tasty options.

The first thing that comes to mind is Bubbly; just a simple glass of that delightful drink that never really needs to be fully figured out as to why it tastes good with anything. Since there’s no real confining aspect to the candy that requires distinct characteristics in its partnered drink to balance out, besides the sweetness itself [the saltiness is already being handled by its own sugar content], we can revel in the option of that most celebratory of wines. A Champagne or nice Cremant de Loire/Bourgogne/Alsace wouldn’t be out of the question. The beautiful complexities of a good bottle can be easily featured under the simple candy, any toasty/buttery notes compliment the buttery/creamy aspect of the caramel, they’re even paired often with local seafood dishes so it works with the salt aspect on a secondary level. The one thing I WOULD make sure to try and do, if possible, is to get a Demi-Sec [the sweeter styles of French bubbly], just to make sure the balance is right.

B9315771956Z.1_20150107133802_000_GIS9K0B6R.1-0Many a sweet, fortified, and aged wine will shine here, much like the delectable muscat-based creations from the south of France. Though in this category I can’t think of anything better than a properly thick, brown, caramelly ‘Sticky’ from Australia. Or, as they’re technically known as, Tawnies, influenced by aged ports and one of the best things to ever come out of the country in my opinion.

Of final note, any Aged Spirit would also be on my list, a-la Whiskey. The vanilla and caramel flavors picked up from the toasted oak will compliment these flavors greatly, and high-alcohol actually helps pair with various difficult food concerns. Very ‘heavy’ meals, fatty, acidic, but especially SWEET things can be cut or balanced next to a good spirit. If I had to pick one thing, though, I’d definitely have to go for a GOOD quality, special Rum. Aged well and from a proper estate, they’re flavors are amazing and encapsulate the epitome of ‘sugar’ complexities. They even make some in the French Martinique. Just saying.

p3: English Muffins

#17, English Muffins

865284The house has just about run out of English muffins, and the parents are finally back from their recent trip, thus calling for the perfect time to try making these griddle delights, and the true source material for ‘The Muffin Man’ song. These little guys evolved from, well quite frankly ARE, Crumpets, getting their ‘english’ moniker as they were introduced to other countries. We may not think much of them all that often, but it’s got quite the interesting cooking method behind it, as we notice from their unique form and structure. This comes through the fact that, after being shaped into balls and proofed, the dough is actually cooked in a griddle or skillet on each side, sort of like a really thick, bready pancake; sometimes this happens inside of an empty can or other ringed mold, to make a perfectly circular straight-sided form. Though there is something to be aware of with this; first, you’re not just cooking it ‘until golden,’ basically one is letting it sit and sear and brown as long as possible without actually burning, cooking as much of the dough as possible and, as such, letting the rest of the weight spread and flatten it out. Secondly, one still IS putting it in the oven after this, just not for that long.

20150830_111738Now, since I had absolutely no milk or buttermilk, as the recipe calls for, I had to find a substitute. Luckily for me, I recently came across a particular substitute-technique for buttermilk that I have been wanting to try out! It basically just involves taking yogurt and thinning it out with either milk or water, until it gets to that milky or buttermilky consistency. Can apparently do the same thing with sour cream, but I seriously needed to empty that damn yogurt container… and it doesn’t cost nearly as much as the same amount of sour cream would.

Recipe
2¼ cups/10oz Bread Flour
½ Tb/0.25oz Sugar
¾ tsp/0.19oz Salt
1¼ tsp/0.14oz Yeast
1 Tb/0.5oz Butter, room temp
¾-1 cup Milk, Buttermilk, or ‘Yogurt Water’ substitute (using at least 30% yogurt)
Cornmeal

Directions

  1. Stir Flour, Sugar, Salt, and Yeast together in bowl of stand mixer, pop in lump of Butter20150830_112550
  2. With paddle attachment, start mixing on low, slowly pouring in ¾ cup of your Milk or other liquid, adding in as much extra and mixing until everything forms a ball and there’s no more loose flour20150830_112930~2
  3. Sprinkle flour on counter, transfer dough and knead for about ten minutes, sprinkling in more flour if sticky, until dough passes the windowpane test; should be ‘smooth’ and tacky20150830_114637
  4. Move to oiled bowl, rolling around, and cover with plastic wrap to bulk ferment 60-90 minutes, until doubled in size20150830_131230
  5. Cut dough into 6 equal (or in my case, equal-ish, hehe) pieces, should be 3oz each, and shape into small boules, following the same directions Here and finishing by squeezing the bottom between thumb and forefinger to make a tight, taught surface20150830_131649
  6. Mist a sheet of parchment paper with spray oil and dust cornmeal; place the shaped bread on to the paper, mist tops with oil and dust with further cornmeal if desired20150830_131958
  7. Loosely cover with towel, let proof 60-90 minutes, until nearly doubled in size
  8. Heat Griddle, or skillet if needed, to 350F/Medium heat, and oven to the same temp20150830_145231
  9. Lightly brush/mist griddle surface with oil and transfer the proofed dough onto it, spacing about an inch apart minimum. If you can’t fit it all, re-cover remaining pieces with towel20150830_150752
  10. Cook around 10-13 minutes, until the bottom seems to be close to burning, flip over and griddle the other side to the same state20150830_153547
  11. Immediately transfer to sheet pan and move into oven, cooking once again for about the same amount of time, until the center is baked. If doing in batches, do NOT wait until the rest of your bread is griddled, do that on the side while the freshly-griddled muffins are baking to completion
  12. Transfer to cooling rack for at least 30 minutes, or slice immediately and butter for a delicious untoasted hot version.20150830_153707
  13. Toast and top as desired else-wise

What Have I Learned This Time?

Griddle the muffins bottom-side down first; I figured top-side down would be better considering the rounded aspect, and that was stupid… it would have flattened anyway, and it only suited to undo the folds on the bottom, a result I did not want…

Cornmeal on BOTH sides of the muffin, darnit…

If you have a recipe that says 5-8 minutes each side, and the same in the oven, at 350F like my book did… don’t trust it. It took me at least double that time for each one; though perhaps if I had more cornmeal it would have been ‘at risk of burning’ even sooner, at least for the griddle part.

Need a much bigger recipe if I want a good stock of English muffins next time.

Any Thoughts?

20150831_090836It’s hard to say which way I liked it better, hot out of the oven or toasted before buttering… it’s a very big toss-up here. In particular, must say that it still keeps that uniquely subtle ‘tangy’ English muffin quality’ now whether that’s from the yeast+how it’s cooked or it’s a side effect of buttermilk, or in my case the yogurt, who knows. But overall the final texture and flavor results were fantastic; thick and soft and chewy, so much better than most of the ones we get in store. Will definitely be finding an occasion to make these again in the future.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

The dough, yes; the cooking itself, not so much.

p3: Banana Caramel Rolls

#15, Caramel Rolls – Anise-spiced Banana version

54e4174ffe09414b2050c1f2b6cf90d7One of the first recipes I remember actually making on my own, and having a very undeserved sense of pride in doing so, was after I learned how to make Cinnamon Rolls in… I wanna say middle school, could have been sooner. I had yet to ever revisit making them, except in college when we made Caramel Rolls or Sticky Buns (however you wanna call it). The recipe stuck out in the book this week, probably since I’m home alone and feeling very much the urge to make sweet and naughty things, so I’ll indulge myself with this yeast-raised sweet bread; Caramel version of course, I don’t understand anyone who thinks it isn’t superior to just plain with frosting.

20150816_154314I’m putting a couple twists on things, however. First, instead of just the Cinnamon-Sugar dusting on the inside, think I’ll use up yet another super-ripe banana in my freezer and make a banana-cinnamon paste, flavored with a bit of star anise for a fun kick; also added some to the caramel. Speaking of which, I’m not using the caramel recipe in the book either; I want to, but I don’t have any corn syrup. Which is fine because, as I’ve found out, our options in the caramel roll world are quite numerous. There are a variety of techniques one can choose; my baking teacher made this sort of brown sugar-butter paste thing that was spread on the bottom. Aside from that, there’s the simplest mixing of brown sugar and melted butter, mixes utilizing corn syrup, or, and I’m thankful for finding this recipe since it was exactly the kind I was looking for, honey and spices mixed with the sugar and butter. It leads for a fun drive to experiment and find your favorite style in the future.

This particular dough recipe is actually a lighter ‘enriched’ style, using only a small amount of eggs and fat for tenderness, as opposed to the ‘rich’ category that brioche usually occupies; basically, super enriched. One can make this with the higher fat contents, in fact that’s what I plan to do next time since I looooooves the idea of a cinnamon or sticky bun with that buttery crisp edge. But for now, to the proper basics and all-around. Oh, and I’m doing the kind with nuts on it too.

Notes before continuing: I’m doing the milk substitute version, since mine decided to curdle and I had plenty of milk powder; if you’d like to use milk, or buttermilk, swap water and powdered for 9-10oz of the liquid.

Banana Caramel Rolls
6½ Tb/3.25oz Sugar
1 tsp/0.25oz Salt
5 ½ Tb/2.75oz Butter or Margarine, room temp
3 Tb/1oz Milk Powder
1 large/1.65oz Egg
1 tsp/0.1oz Vanilla Extract
2tsp/0.22oz Yeast
1 cup/8oz Water, slightly warmed
3½ cups/16oz Bread Flour

F20150816_152202or Filling
1 large Super-ripe Banana
5-6 Tb Sugar
¾ Tb Ground Star Anise
¾ Tb Ground Cinnamon
Pinch of Nutmeg if desired

For Caramel
6 Tb Butter, melted
5/8 cups Brown Sugar, firmly packed
1/6 cup Honey
¼ tsp Salt
1/8 tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Ground Star Anise
¼ tsp Black Pepper
½ – 1 cup Roasted Nut of your choice, whole or roughly chopped

Directions

  1. Cream together Salt, Sugar, Butter, and Milk Powder with mixer paddle attachment until ‘fluffy’20150816_124826
  2. Add in Egg and Vanilla, scraping down sides, and beat until mixed and smooth20150816_125106
  3. Mix Yeast and Water, leaving for 5 minutes to bloom20150816_122711~2
  4. Transfer to mixing bowl, with Flour, and mix on low-medium speed until everything comes together in a mass20150816_125624
  5. Switch out paddle with dough hook and start mixing on medium speed for 10 minutes, until dough is smooth, tacky, and barely sticky, adding flour as needed. It will still likely stick to the bottom of the bowl, look for it to pass the Windowpane Test20150816_131355
  6. Transfer to lightly oiled bowl, let bulk ferment 2 hours, until doubled in size20150816_152219
  7. While this is happening, make your Filling and Caramel. Combine the ripe Banana and all other ingredients in a bowl, mashing and mixing thoroughly into a consistent paste20150816_152653
  8. Separately, whisk the warm Butter, Brown Sugar, Honey, and Spices until smooth and saucy20150816_154140
  9. Spray counter with light mist of oil, transfer proofed dough to surface20150816_153326
  10. Lightly dust top and rolling pin with flour and roll out to 14”x12” (for larger buns) or 18”x9” (for smaller), the dough should end up 2/3” thick20150816_153720
  11. Spread your banana-spice paste evenly over the surface, stretching to the edges20150816_153938
  12. Roll up into a log, from the short end but really it’s up to you depending on thickness desired20150816_154734
  13. Cut log into 8-12 pieces at 1¾” lengths (for larger size) or 12-16 and 1¼”20150816_154615
  14. Spread Caramel along bottom of your baking pan/s, sprinkle with Toasted Nuts of your choice20150816_154856
  15. Lay rolls spiral-down in pan, leaving space between each, spray top with oil, and cover loosely with plastic to proof, 75-90 minutes, until dough has grown into each other20150816_173035
  16. Preheat oven 350F
  17. Move proofed dough to oven, sans plastic wrap of course, and leave to bake 30-40 minutes until developed an even, deeper golden color on top20150816_180708
  18. Remove and let rest on counter 5-10 minutes
  19. Place a larger pan upside-down on top of rolls, carefully grip edges, and quickly and smoothly flip both pans upside-down so that the still-hot rolls drop out caramel-size up. Spoon any dripping sauce back on top20150816_181512
  20. Pull some of the big suckers apart and enjoy while still warm! So good

What Have I Learned This Time?

Less Cinnamon, more ‘other spices’ required when trying to adjust flavors in something like this noticeably. Note, I’ve already made some adjustments in the recipe that SHOULD work if you wanna try it; otherwise just use all Cinnamon and the sugar.

At times, when not consuming caramel at the same time, I actually WAS able to get the banana, but I think I’d need even MORE just to make it really be a distinctive element.

Caramel Rolls are addicting… I seriously tried eating just HALF of one of these really big-ass buns on two occasions… during the same day… -cough- and both times ended up just consuming the whole thing. I’m pretty sure it’s due to that pull-apart aspect that just leads you going round and round and already eating ¾ before you know it so why not finish with the best part, the center?

Using a wider chef’s knife or something similar actually made for easy, clean cutting of the soft and stretchy dough, as opposed to trying more delicate, long slices.

Apparently caramel rolls are cooked longer than Cinnamon Rolls; I believe it’s because, in reality, the dough itself doesn’t need as much time, but one gives extra to ensure the caramel gets cooked to a certain point. Which I think is a bit bull, because I would rather have a caramel that’s still soft and gooey and running sauce-like over the thing, as opposed to it setting up into that firm almost ‘candied’ structure, though I do understand that’s a personal thing, and it still was quite addictive and good like that! But then again, I did also use a different caramel recipe; perhaps the one with corn syrup really needed some extra time to actually caramelize.

You ever see those absolutely gigantic cinnamon/caramel rolls that some diners serve, perhaps featured on TV? I now realize they’re probably not even that hard to make; just probably need to roll it out a little thicker, with less width and more length so as to roll it out into bigger, gigantic rounds. Now I really want to make one… a good reason to return for a Cinnamon Roll article huh?

Any Thoughts?

20150816_181904Well I was going to use the last part about the ‘giant’ rolls in here, but it fit better for a quick personal learning factor. I will say that having smaller rolls would be also quite beneficial… this batch gave me 8 individual pieces, and after the first day I had… 3 left. One of which I had for breakfast the next morning. So it was probably a good thing I gave the other two away to friends. And now I’m off to making a coconut milk custard to fill my sweet tooth’s incessant demands.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

We’re certainly sweeties (yuck yuck yuck), for once it’s the other things that I feel the need to adjust and play with. I almost struggled at one point, pretty sure the dough was too hydrated while it was kneading, but I think I adjusted it with enough flour rather well.

p3: Brioche Mini-Loaves, 2 Types

#13, Rich & Poor Brioche Loaves

No bread recipe, or any kind of recipe for that matter, is ever completely consistent; even the most stringently-traditional and stuck-to formulae can and have been made with slight differences throughout the years. Well, except for maybe poundcake… I mean come on it’s all the same weight and measure, so simple!

But anyways, by now no one can really expect there to be ONE recipe for any style of bread; plenty of cooks have made their own adjustments in preferred amounts of flour, water, yeast, butter, etc. That’s not taking into account the different KINDS and strains of these ingredients used, using water vs milk vs buttermilk, butter vs margarine vs oil, and all different changes that can be made and yet yield a final product that holds the same proper name and category. So by now, when you see two different recipes for one thing, you don’t bat much of an eyelash.

briocheThus led to my intrigue months back when I first looked at the Brioche section, only to find that it has been categorized into 3 different ‘types,’ based purely on the amount of certain ingredients used (obviously this isn’t counting the many breads in the same style or derived from brioche, often mixed with dried fruit, nuts, meat+cheese, or other tasty goodies). These different ‘styles,’ so named historically for the type of people who could actually afford to make, or have it made, for them, are logically called thus: Poor Man’s Brioche, Middle-Class Brioche, and Rich Man’s Brioche. The moment I flipped through these sections of the book, I knew that one of the weeks I just HAD to make two of these and document the actual results and differences. And here I am, coming up to a weekend without any set culinary plans, still not in the mood for a hearth bread or something fancy, I’d say it’s about time to put these recipes to use.

To do this, I simply plan to make a couple mini-loaves of each recipe to preserve similar baking conditions. And because they look so adorable!!! Plus, despite the tradition to make ‘brioche a tete’ which I so want to follow, basically a specially high-angled and large-fluted cupcake molded bread with a cute extra ball of bread on top like a cherry, it’s a shape often reserved just for the Rich and sometimes Middle Class varieties. You know, since it’s so fancy and all that.

But I love sliced cuts of brioche, especially for French Toast or just awesome sandwiches, so loaves it is!

Poor and Rich Man’s Brioche

Rich Ingredients
2 cups/ 9.15oz Bread Flour
½ Tb/0.17oz Dry Yeast
¼ cup/2oz Whole Milk, Lukewarm
2 ½ Large/4.15oz Eggs, beaten
1¼ Tb/0.65oz Sugar
¾ tsp/0.19oz Salt
1 cup/8oz Unsalted Butter, Room Temp
1 Egg, whisked frothy, for Wash

Poor Ingredients
2 cups/ 9.15oz Bread Flour
1 tsp/0.11oz Dry Yeast
¼ cup/2oz Whole Milk, Lukewarm
2 Large/3.3oz Eggs, beaten
1 Tb/0.5oz Sugar
5/8 tsp/0.16oz Salt
¼ cup/2oz Unsalted Butter, Room Temp
1 Egg, whisked frothy, for Wash

Directions

  1. Combine ¼ cup of Flour, the Dry Yeast, and the Milk in mixer bowl; cover w/ plastic and let the sponge sit about 20 minutes (30-45 for Poor Man’s) until it’s bubbly and risen20150801_223724
  2. Move to stand mixer with paddle attachment and add in the Eggs, beating on low until smooth20150801_224201
  3. Mix together and add in the remaining flour, Sugar, and Salt, mixing on medium until everthing is fully incorporated and moistened20150801_224550
  4. Let sit 5 minutes to let gluten rest20150801_225431
  5. Add in ¼ of the Butter, beating on medium speed until evenly distributed. Continue adding remaining butter, ¼ at a time, until all has been fully incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed20150801_230106
  6. For Rich Man’s: continue mixing on medium speed 2-6 minutes, until ‘smooth and soft,’ scraping down as needed20150801_231127
  7. Cover baking sheet w/ parchment paper, misting w/ spray oil, and dump dough in middle. Spread out in a small rectangle, spray w/ more oil, cover plastic wrap, and transfer to refrigerator to sit overnight or a minimum of 4 hours20150802_135715
  8. For Poor Man’s: transfer dough to counter or switch to dough hook, kneading about 10 minutes until ‘smooth and soft’ while not too sticky to work with, or clears from the side and bottom of the pan20150802_140213
  9. Transfer to lightly oiled bowl, cover w/ plastic and bulk ferment up to 90 minutes or until double in size20150802_153022
  10. When either dough is ready, remove onto counter, cutting in half or whatever sizes desired for loaf pans20150802_143511
  11. Working on a lightly floured surface while it’s still cold (for Rich Man’s, Poor can just be turned as-is onto clean work surface), roll into a Loaf shape as discussed Here.20150802_144105
  12. Lightly spray oil your mini-loaf pans and move dough inside, misting the top w/ more oil before cover w/ plastic wrap20150802_153405
  13. Proof 1 ½ – 2 hours for Rich dough and 1 hour for Poor, until the dough fills the pans (well, as much as you can get them to)20150802_161553
  14. 15-30 minutes before baking, thoroughly brush the exposed tops and sides of each dough w/ egg wash. Turn oven to 375F while you’re at it
  15. Place in oven and bake 20-45 minutes, depending, until golden brown and hollow sounding when thumped20150802_171839
  16. Remove onto cooling rack for up to a couple hours, or slice when hot to enjoy with extra butter or whatever form one desires

What Have I Learned This Time?

Not from the book or the process of making brioche, but just out of curiosity for this one aspect of bread making I had been wondering about for quite a while. Why is it that ALL the recipes advocate solely cooling, I mean the bread tastes SO good hot right out of the oven? Is there a reason for it?

20150802_173711Well, there is. Apart from the POSSIBILITY of needing the time for the carry-over heat to cook it fully, thus if one cut in immediately part of the bread would still be gummy (though I call bull, since if it’s baked properly this shouldn’t be an issue at all), the main consideration is a process called Starch Retrogradation. These deals both with the water content moving back evenly from the center of the loaf and towards the crust (sort of like why one rests meats on the counter 5+ minutes before slicing), along with the starch’s texture/properties and proteins setting up, developing its ideal crumb after that 1-2 hour cooling period. Cutting this early allows a lot of the steam to escape and can potentially interrupt this whole process.

Thus so many bakers heavily stress and push you to walk away from the bread once out of the oven, hit family members’ hands with spoon, etc, as they advocate how much better the bread will be. But I call bulls#^*! on that, because I don’t care what anyone says, there is no time that bread will ever taste that good hot compared to right out of the oven. Tell me how you can reproduce that flavor and experience, because it’s good toasted or warmed up in an oven but it’s not THAT good. That said, I’ll never eat all of the bread while it’s warm, so from now on I plan on making sure I take some proper steps so that I can enjoy the best of both worlds. Besides just making sure I can make at least two different loaves/boules/whatever for my adventures, I’ll likely just always have one smaller, mini version of the bread that I myself can enjoy hot out of the oven while the bulk of the rest cools slowly over the hours. Not only does this mean I get to experience the majority of my bread in the ‘ideal’ state for proper judgment, but also that I don’t gorge myself on half of it right after it comes out of the oven… cuz you know I do that, and if you were a real person you would too.

20150802_194557

Any Thoughts?

Holy! No wonder it’s a ‘Rich Man’s’ dough, trying to shape that bastard after it chilled overnight felt like I was working with pure butter! Though I’m not sure it should have… truthfully I think I may have under ‘kneaded’ it, but I blame the recipe for that. Seriously, the rich man recipe never directs one to change between paddle and dough hook, likely because it’s so soft after the butter, but next time I think I’m going to. I really could NOT tell if it was truly the ‘soft and smooth’ texture the recipe desired, unlike the Poor Man where it’s very easy to see after kneading, and I think having that dough-hook-element will really help me to identify. But despite the soft bready interior, I’m sure it was under-beaten, cuz the crust just felt TOO flaky, like when you try eating a pie dough right after it’s been baked. Needed some more dough-like gluten development to help it smooth out. Also, think a little lower temperature would have been better, seems to need a longer, slower bake for that highly fat-slathered gluten to get cooked and set.

That said, clear difference between the two, but not necessarily better vs worse! First off, I can’t believe this is a ‘poor man’s’ bread, it’s so rich and good… but I guess it’d be more a special occasion thing anyway. Once cooled, I could confirm that this really is THE style most often seen sold in stores.And I see what the author means as to its strength in using for wrapping things and multiple other dough applications; it’s a very soft and easy-to-shape, handle-able dough, yet not sticky at all. I can’t wait to use this or the Middle Class dough in the future for a fun tart or something.

But damn that super soft, buttery texture of the rich version. It may need a more delicate hand to cut, maybe it’ll be easier to handle when done perfectly and cooled (it was, and in fact it became a little more difficult to tell the difference between the two, besides that not-so-satisfying too-flaky crust), but I can’t even think of things I wanna do with it besides shove it in my mouth. I’m sure there’s stuff, but the brain is rather tunnel-visioned at the moment. Either way, two great enriched breads that I will thoroughly enjoy over the next day or two, if it lasts that long.

Does the Dough Like Me Yet?

Apparently I’m a man of the people, as the high-class snobs have briefly turned their nose up at me. Still led to a pretty hot, buttery three-way at the end of the day!

p1: Escargot de Bourgogne

enhanced-buzz-16649-1385769921-4The Dish

The thought of Snails in food culture, if we were to ask practically anyone, is inherently considered a solely French interest, as the eponymous “Escargot.” And yet these adorably skin-crawling critters have been found to have ancient culinary use in multiple Mediterranean societies, particularly those of Roman and Cistercian focus. For those in the know, both of these regions and cultures have great acclaim as some of the biggest influence in the development and, most important, spread of grape vines through trade and travel. We could likely theorize that it was through these same journeys that the use and taste for snails spread from the Mediterranean to France.

Here they’ve found a stronghold in a certain Burgundian recipe, simply baked with garlic-herb butter. Whether the growing environment was ideal or the regional dish was lucky enough to explode in popularity, the fact remains that Escargot de Bourgogne has become the global example for cooking snails. In fact, of the two most common type of snails eaten today, the variety known as “Escargot de Bourgogne” stands at the forefront (the other is known as Petite-Gris, or “little grays”).

They’re certainly a scary thing to think about eating for those not-so-epicurious, especially if they haven’t had it yet. But believe me, same with any offal meat, if you have one that’s prepared properly, and don’t think hard on what it is before murder and fire, this tender and buttery-delicious dish can be a sending from heaven. So put your fears in the back seat and let’s cook something odd.

A Word On…

20140415_153134Snails:Really the only important thing in this highly simplistic French classic… and we can’t even get it over here. Well, not the Fresh and still-alive ones anyways, or at least not without some serious digging. What we DO have is a choice: canned or frozen. Pre-cooked and pre-purged (they’re diet makes them naturally quite toxic if eaten without purging), it takes the major effort of the lengthy and important snail prep away, but then again we also lose the joy and better flavors of cooking something from fresh. Oh well.

Canned is probably the better way to go. Frozen one has to of course worry about damages during defrosting; not to mention that all frozen escargot I’ve found already come “pre-stuffed” with a butter I’m sure isn’t quite as good as what we can make at home, not to mention it takes away the one thing that we can make by hand. If you’re lucky, you can find a canned version that comes with a tube of empty shells like I did at a special seafood shop. Funny story, at first I thought all the shells were already filled, and the can on the bottom was just a label; then I found out otherwise.

If, somehow, you can find still-alive snails to work with, there are some very special considerations that need to be taken into consideration. To keep it simple, here’s what needs to be done. Fast/Starve them for at least one day, up to 3 is best (if you want to feed them, use thyme and other flavorful herbs). Rinse and Cover with Salt and Vinegar for 3 hours. Rinse again, boil in shells 10 minutes ish. Remove from the shells, then boil and sanitize the empty containers. Rinse snails again, removing a black part at the end of the tail. Simmer snails slowly in a flavorful liquid for about 1-2 hours, until tender. Drain, pat dry, and use.20140427_155505

See? So much more work than rinsing canned snails off in water.

Cooking:Traditionally this is a dish “a la Bourguignonne,” the most famous and commonly seen version of snails, simply stuffed with the garlic-herb butter in its shell and baked. There are other ways to cook these snails though; the Bordelais (Bordeaux region) with “stew” piles of in-shell creatures in a broth of wine, herbs, and stock, sometimes tomato-based. If one has the time, interest, and resources, they should look into playing around with it (I just might).

People don’t always have access to snails with shells, as mentioned earlier with most pre-cooked, canned versions we can get. My suggestion is simple, toss the meaty buggers in an open baking dish/casserole, cover in enough butter to submerge and bake until it’s all melted and sizzling.

Which is something to diverge off of. I’ve found, even in shell, there is no such thing as a set cooking temperature or time; from 350F to 450F, the only set rule is that it should bake in an over until all butter is melted, bubbling, and you’re sure the snails are hot.

Compound B20140424_201648utter:Basically, any butter mixed with seasoning, aromatics, etc. The traditional compound for this dish, as mentioned, consists of lotsa Garlic, some Shallots, and Parsley; a couple recipes I’ve found also include Brandy or a bit of White Wine.

The main consideration here is how these are all combined; usually this is done by hand or with electric mixer. However, we want to get all these herbs and garlic pulsed fine and thoroughly, thoroughly blended into the butter. If it’s strong enough, a Food Processor works well for this; normally this would be where I wax and wane over my handy-dandy-tiny-processor, but it’s sadly not sharp or strong enough to shred those herbs and garlic up into the paste I need. As such, if you’re in a similar situation or just don’t have a processor, make sure that these ingredients are chopped VERY fine for the ideal butter.

Also, don’t be afraid to make a big batch! Make sure you have enough to stuff into the shells, and if there’s leftover just roll it up in a little bundle and store in the freezer for later use; it’s great on top of a freshly grilled steak, or pushed under the skin of a chicken that’s about to be roasted. Or just more snails.

Baking Dish:Cooked in-shell, these garlicky baked snails are known for being baked and served in a special “casserole,” a baking dish with semi-spherical holders (sorta looks like a takoyaki grill… or those pans that make spherical pancakes). Obviously not everyone has one of these, and I think it’d be ridiculous to buy one just for this use (unless you do indeed eat snails relatively often, and if so GOOD FOR YOU!!). One could probably just crowd them tight together in a regular casserole or baking tin without issue. I refer the use of a muffin tin, thus giving each shell its own holder. If only it would look as pretty to serve in, but oh well, nothing wrong with snails on a plate (Lamest. Movie Ripoff Name. Ever. But the most delicious though).20140427_131337

Escargot20140424_200057
2 Shallots
1 small head or ½ large head Garlic
½ Bunch Fresh Parsley
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened
3 Tb Brandy (Cognac preffered)
1-2 Tb White Wine
Salt and Pepper
Cooked and Prepared Snails + Shells

Directions

  1. Finely, finely mince Shallots, Garlic, and Parsley and much as possible.       Note: a tip for the Parsley is to run it under water first, damp with paper towel and then proceed to de-stem and chop. It’ll stick together and mince easier. Will need to squeeze out some excess water though.20140424_201702
  2. If you have one that’s strong enough, combine everything besides the Snails in a food processor, blending until the aromatics are chopped fine and fully incorporated. Note: if this step applies, you don’t need to chop the aromatics so finely in the first step, just roughly.20140424_202756
  3. If no (strong) Processor is available, combine aromatics, Butter, Brandy, Wine, and a healthy seasoning of Salt and Pepper in bowl, mixing thoroughly until fully incorporated (electric mixer helps).20140427_162318
  4. Transfer to container or roll into log via plastic wrap and store for later use.
  5. Remove from fridge at least an hour before ready. Turn over to 400F once close.20140427_130758
  6. While it’s still somewhat firm, stuff the Empty Snail Shells with at least ½ tsp of thecompound butter, pushing towards the back.20140427_155833
  7. Prepare Snails as needed. Push deeply into the snail shells.20140427_161437
  8. Scoop big wads of the softened butter up and into the shells, topping the meat with a smoothed out later.20140427_175406
  9. Transfer shells to an escargot baking tray or, more available, muffin tin. Place in Hot oven and cook until ready.20140427_180418
  10. Once butter is melted, bubbly, and snails are heated through, about 12-15 minutes ish, remove and serve.20140427_180723
  11. Plate up with warm, crusty pieces of baguette and tiny forks.

20140427_181032The Verdict

I think I needed a lot more butter, these guys should be “swimming” in it. Other than that, the flavor was delicious as expected, not as garlicky as I thought (and somewhat hoped) but it was noticeably present and didn’t overpower anything so that’s a plus. Eaten with the baguette it filled its role that evening as a very satisfying appetizer. Oh, and it wasn’t chewy or anything, so the snails used were of good quality. Overall very enjoyable and delicious.

Would love to try handling my own fresh snails sometime though… now just have to figure out how to get me some.

Primary Pairing – Aligoté

A surprisingly spot-on revelation from the Buzzfeed team! And for such a seemingly unknown grape, those aware of it all know of the awesome pairing it makes with some select Burgundy dishes, such as a jellied ham thing and of course these garlic-butter-baked-snails.

20140427_180639Though Burgundy is known for peppering their slopes with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the Aligote grape is still seen in certain environments; usually on the higher, colder elevations where quality Chard won’t grow (aka it’s relegated to the crappy terroir). As such, it’s historically known to be grown along the same terroir as their black currant bushes, and Kir was born. The classic cocktail is mainly considered nowadays to be a mix of Champagne and Crème de Cassis (product of those same currants), but in reality Aligote wine is the first and proper ingredient to mix with the liqueur. Sharply acidic, herbs and stone fruit, with a lightly creamy body, it’s like a Chenin Blanc or Riesling only minus the noted petrol/cleaning chemical smell and crossed with a bit of Chardonnay. A good version would cut right through the thick-bodied sweetness of the cassis while lending a bit of mouth texture, all from a cheap, rustic grape that’s not seen as “fit” for drinking straight like the other Burgundy grapes.

But those in the know see it otherwise, and this fella, when done right, leads to a delightful and fun little mouthful of tart deliciousness. The same qualities that made it great for cocktail also lends it to eating with this garlicky, butter-rich dish; if anything one could add that both have a bit of a “uniqueness” in flavor, one being the oddly seafood-y snail and the other being the somewhat malolactic-chenin-reminiscent wine. Whatever the reason we can ponder, the fact they’ve both worked for decades is solid.

20140427_175628My Bottle: 2011 Jean-Claude Boisset Bourgogne Aligoté (Les Moutots)

Due to its not-so-esteemed status in Burgundy, there aren’t really any specific “regions” that make it, except for one: Bouzeron, located in the Côte Chalonnaise and known for being the only all-Aligote wine AOC in Burgundy. It makes fantastic versions of it, though sadly can be somewhat tricky to find (though I do know we get bottles of it in Minnesota, just not sure where yet), and can end up a bit pricey. It is an area-specific wine in Burgundy, afterall (still better priced than a Gevrey, Santenay, Pomerol, Chambolle-Musigny, or any other one, but still).

So most of the time you’ll have to find a general Bourgogne AOC, where the grapes are picked from wherever along the long region (likely from the southern areas not counting Beaujolais, where it’s more likely to be grown in mass). Luckily for us, there are still some non-Bouzeron focused winemakers that put their attention into making decent quality, drinkable Aligote, and Jean-Claude is one of them (at least he seems like it, this particular glass was quite num). The glass came out nice and crisp, cutting through the butter, followed by a certain Burgundian chardonnay-reminiscent fullness that makes me think it either had a small amount of Malolactic Fermentation applied (the process that makes those really Buttery chards) or had spent time in old oak barrels before bottling. Amazing, no probably not, but it went great alongside the garlicky-herb food, crunchy bread, and as glass to gulp down after the meal. So if you find yourself in Haskell’s like me and they only have 2-4 bottles, none of them from Bouzeron, I can safely say that THIS bottle is very satisfying and works well. If they don’t have it, then… good luck!

207025_bout_DomaineGuillotBroux_FineDeBourgogne2001_500Secondary Pairing – Fine de Bourgogne

Did you know there’s more sparkling wine in France outside of Champagne? Though since they can’t call it Champagne, the French had to settle on a different designation, and the lusciously tempting name of Cremant was born, to be attached to all other region’s name for their bubbly (Cremant d’Alsace is particularly well made).

The same concept is applied to their Brandy. Though we all, of course, are much familiar with Cognac and its sister region Armagnac, but only distilled and aged grape alcohol made in these regions can use the names. And there are so many other wineries throughout the country that make interesting Brandies, often out of “leftover” grapes that aren’t suited for their regular wine (and who wants them to be when you can make this?). These brandies are referred to as “Fine,” a suitable name consideration the levels of succulence and playful creativity one can find in these not-as-restricted brandies.

I love pairing fun and quality spirits with food, especially such simple and strong-flavored dishes like the escargot. A younger Fine, with some grainy oak flavor, that hint of maderization via the distilling action, and strong but simple flavors (usually some sort of cooked stone fruit or something) would pair nicely with this garlicky goodness, served in a small aperitif glass to sip and savor.

Give it a try, Fine de Bourgogne if you can (Burgundy particularly makes good ones), or any other non-Cog/Armagnac Brandies.