Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Verifiable Proof (ing)

Bob del Grosso

That old saw about baking being a science and cooking being an art is hogwash made up by people who wouldn't know science if they mainlined it into their necks. Just because baking tends to require that the baker weigh everything does not make it any more or less "scientific" than boiling a pot of pasta. I think the meme about "baking is science cooking is art" was probably cooked up by post-Enlightenment bakers trying to impress themselves and credulous apprentices with the uniqueness of their craft while at the same time dissing the cooks in the savory kitchen. If "science" means knowledge (from Lat. Scientia or knowledge) gleaned after a thorough examination of verifiable evidence, everything we really care to know or know how to do can be considered "a science." But I digress; point is

I love to bake!

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I've been baking bread on and off for over 30 years and, like cooking, still find it challenging. But not so much. And baking bread at home is just a bit more difficult than doing it in a professional bakery. But if you've got the will, the time and the science, it's no big deal. Take hearth bread for example. I bake 1-2 of these a week, every week.

I'm not sure if I'd do this quite so often if I lived in NYC or San Francisco where there are plenty of great artisanal bakeries, but I live in the burbs where there are none. And since even the best bread at the local thaw-proof-and-bake is so bloody boring, I make it myself.

I makes lots of different kinds of bread, but the type I make for everyday use is a simple boule (which I vary a lot) from graham and high-gluten bread flour, water, SAF yeast and salt. It takes two days from start to finish but handling and baking time is not much more than two hours. (a recipe is here) . Now I'm just going to riff on the process.

Day 1

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I weigh and mix the sponge all at once or make a poolish and sponge (see recipe). (Mixing time =10 minutes) In either case the sponge proofs in mixing bowl in the refrigerator until the next day.

Day 2

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I shape and proof them on the counter top (I recently bought a Brotform for this -these pics are a few weeks old.).

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Then bake them with steam in a 550 degree oven for ten minutes, then back the oven down to 450 for the duration. (45 minutes or an 180 degree internal temp. if I'm feeling insecure.)

This is what my oven set up looks like. Stone on the lower rack and a sheet pan at the top for steam (I dump 8oz of hot water in at the beginning -works like a charm.)

Next I dust them with flour and slash them with my homemade grignette

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C'est finis!

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Well, not quite. Because the end of the process is always gustatory. My favorite breakfast: smoked salmon and avocado on toast drizzled with simple (not emulsified) balsamic vinegar and olive oil (I put halved lemons and garlic in too and always have a bowl of this on my counter top.

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Boycott Food Porn! Turn off the Food Network. Close your web browser! Do your bit to eliminate food voyeurism and cook and eat! bob dG

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