Archive for February, 2011

Focaccia is an Italian flatbread, which is made from a dough similar to that of pizza. Focaccia is made from a very wet dough, which contributes to its holey crumb.

Focaccia was traditionally baked in a very hot hearth, which translates to “focus.” I find it fascinating that the oven was the focus of ancient societies. I recently read in an article from food activist Michael Pollan about the importance of the oven in regard to bringing community together. In ancient times, the hearth was the center of the community and people ate and bonded over the food cooked in the hearth oven.

Anyway, in ancient Rome, it was called panis focacius, which translates to “focus bread” because it was baked in the hot hearth. The French version of focaccia is called fougasse, and it is usually cut into a leaf-like shape. Focaccia can be served as sweet or savory bread. It is often times enriched with oil and herbs, but sometimes dried fruits and spices are added.

Like many of Reinhart’s recipes, I began making a poolish overnight. Poolish gives me more flexibility because it can be held for a few days in the refrigerator. This preferment contributes to more flavor in the final bread. Two days later, I mixed together the dry ingredients: flour, salt, and yeast. Then, I added water and an ample amount of olive oil. Then, I stirred in the poolish to combine to make a very wet dough.

I kneaded the dough in the mixer for about 6 minutes, or until it was a sticky, dough with a lot of gluten development. It’s really interesting to work with super-hydrated doughs-they look like a sticky mess, but the final result is a very light and airy bread.  This focaccia recipe utilizes the stretch-and-fold technique which is often implemented with wet doughs. The stretch-and-fold provides the dough with more structure and strengthens the gluten.

After resting for about 30 minutes, I folded the dough again. In total, I folded it three times, in thirds each time. It began as a blob, but after three folds, it had enough structure to shape a rectangle. Meanwhile, while it was resting, I made an infused herb oil. I warmed olive oil, and added fresh herbs-parsley, rosemary, and basil-along with crushed garlic, salt and pepper. Focaccia is usually slathered in a flavored oil, and absorbs it during the baking process.

I then transferred the proofed dough to a sheet pan, and let it rest again for about 2 hours, or until it filled the pan. Then,  with wet fingertips, I poked the dough to even it out and add its traditional look. I baked it in a 450F  oven, until it was golden brown and its internal temperature  reached 200F.

I was expecting the focaccia to be much flatter, but it baked up with its highest point reaching about two inches. It was really delicious though-it tasted like bread sticks thanks to the olive oil and herbs. It made a gigantic loaf though! I gave half away to my friends, some to Mr. Esteban, to the round table in class, and enough for dinner for two days! Geez! I think the next time I make it, I will use less olive-oil. For my tastes, it was a little greasy, but it’s focaccia!


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It’s B-A-N-A-N-A-S Bread

Here’s my first post. Banana Banana Bread



So Emily sent me a message earlier and asked if I would like to contribute to the blog from Philadelphia, PA. I finished up all my homework and said hey why not. So I live in a dorm room that has a “full size” kitchen. Meaning I have a full size oven and refrigerator, and countertop space… not so much. I have a 2×2 workspace and that is being generous.


When I was looking up recipes for Banana Bread I stumbled across some that require a lot of ingredients and equipment. While reading through the recipes I said to my self, “I don’t have a lot of the equipment or ingredients needed to make this recipe.” It might be because I live in a dorm with very few useful cooking and baking supplies or that I’m an inexperienced baker. (It’s a combination of both.) So I kept on looking until I found a recipe on Allrecipes.com that required few ingredients and very high reviews. So why not give it a try?


Since I live in a dorm, let me describe the conditions I have to work in: No power mixers, very little workspace, one whisk, one mixing bowl, one 8 in X 4 in baking pan (the recipe calls for a 9X5 pan), and that’s about it. So here is a picture of all the workspace I have when all of my ingredients are out on the counter that I need to use to bake some delicious banana bread.

Workspace in a Dorm

So I got to the first step where I’m supposed to mix the flour, baking soda, and salt into the mixing bowl when I already encountered a problem with a lack of equipment. First problem: I only have sea salt in a grinder so I have to grind all the salt I need in order to get it out of my grinder. Second problem: I only need ¼ of a teaspoon of salt. Too bad I only have a ½ teaspoon available to use. Looks like I’m going to have to guesstimate the amount of salt I’m using.


Next step: Time to cream together the brown sugar and butter. No problem, except for the fact that I’m already out of mixing bowls. So I’ve reached step two and I’m onto my third problem of the recipe. No more mixing bowls. In order to continue with this recipe I’m going to use my cereal/ soup bowls to cream the butter and brown sugar.


  • Just as a reminder- I have to cream it together by hand. In my cereal/ soup bowl. With a dinner spoon. Take a look.


Creaming the Brown Sugar and Butter by Hand

Ok now next step beat eggs. Can I go through one step of the recipe with out encountering a problem? I am out of mixing bowls still and had to mix the eggs in a measuring cup. Lucky me!


Next step: Mash bananas. Where can I mash the bananas? I know in my Tupperware! It is a bit comical to see.


Mashing Bananas in Tupperware


Ok so after this last dilemma. Things started to go smooth. Everything mixed together into my bowl and poured it into my baking pan. So now I have to play the waiting game.



I won the waiting game and everything finished baking in about 64 minutes. Not too bad. The banana bread finished a nice golden brown on one side and a little darker on the other side. But hey, can’t complain about this results while bread baking in a dorm room missing a lot of equipment. One last problem- no cooling rack. Looks like I’ll have to use a dinner plate. Now it’s time to let it cool and then time to chow down!


Hot Bread

Overall this recipe is not too bad. It tastes pretty good and is really easy to make. If I can make it in my dorm room lacking a few things here and there you should have an easy time with this one.

Great Cooling Rack


If I could I would add some walnuts, or some chocolate chips or something to this recipe. Just to dress it up a little bit. It’s a bit plain but hey that’s why the name is Banana Banana Bread. Just bananas.


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The day was so long, that I don’t even remember the morning! I’ll try to remember, though!

I arrived at 5AM to watch  and help Zach make the bagels for the bakery. We made a ton of bagels, over 100 for the morning. Although this seemed like a lot, it proved not to be. We must have ran out of bagels two times during the rushes; there were some points where we had no plain, everything, sesame, etc. Running out of bagels is inconvenient because not only do we lose customers, but also one person must tend to the bagels rather than serving the customers.

Anyway, another reason why I went in today was to learn how to use the grill to make sandwiches. Zach works 7 days a week, and Mr. Laurano ultimately wants Mary and I to run the bakery so he can have a day off. Zach showed me how to make the various egg/cheese/bacon sandwiches, as well as other specialty bagel sandwiches like the “nova” which consist of lox, lettuce, tomato and cream cheese. The kitchen was built for a man-the grill begins at chest height. This proves difficult for someone of my height-5’2”- to reach and maneuver on the grill. Also, all the ingredients, prep tools, refrigerator shelves, are feet over my head. I’ve noticed this in the Witherspoon Bread Company too. The culinary world is still a man’s world and there are fewer women in the industry.

In addition to the kitchen being extremely tall-centered, it’s also ill-equipped to make food there. The bakery never had proper sinks, mixers, work spaces, etc. Ms. Laurano wanted me to make lemon-poppy seed muffins. However, they have very few bowls, no measuring spoons, and a rotating oven (rather than a conventional one)  with an inaccurate temperature. I was so scared that I would make a mistake given the conditions and waste ingredients. However, to my surprise, the muffins turned out very well! They were huge and looked beautiful, and Ms. Laurano and I glazed them with a white frosting.

I was going to leave after this, but my friend, Mary, was sick. Ms. Laurano asked if I could help out for the day. Sure-why not? I really like working there, and I wanted to improve/redeem myself from the last time! I was much more organized and relaxed than the previous time. I made sure that a line did not upset me, because being frantic never helps.

Ms. Laurano took over the register for the majority of the time. Zach baked and made sandwiches, and I took orders (which I wrote down on paper!) and prepared different bagels. This was a lot easier- I made the bagels, put them in bags, and then moved on to the next while customers checked out with Ms. Laurano. This was so much more relaxing than before- and I didn’t get flustered with the machine! Fewf!

Anyway, the entire day was much more enjoyable, except for the two rushes. Besides that though, I had a great time. I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten much less nervous and frantic, and acted calmer. I’ve also learned how to use the grill, gotten better at the register, and even made a latte without freaking out! I think that’s a success for the day!

It’s funny-when I’m working, I forget to eat and drink! Maybe it’s being surrounded by food which makes me not hungry. However, I know I should stop, breathe, and relax for a few moments so I don’t burn out.

I’m exhausted though- it was a ten hour work day! Yesterday was also an early morning at the bakery. I think I’m about to crash, but I still want to make bread from the Bread Baker’s Apprentice (oh yeah, and do homework too)!

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I know, I know, I’ve already posted this. However, this was on of the first recipes I attempted from the BBA, and one of the first journal entries I wrote. I’ve added additional history and background information. I also want to keep the order of the recipes like they are in the book.

Well, here yah go!

Baguettes are the quintessential French bread; however, they are not as ancient as we assume they are. Like most breads, baguettes are surrounded by myths-so take this history with a grain of salt.

The classic shape for French bread was originally a boule, or a large, round loaf. French bread is characterized by its white, airy crumb, irregular holes, and five (or seven) slashes on a golden crust. Originally, it was called “Vienna bread” because in the middle of the 19th century, this bread was baked in steam ovens in Vienna. The steam ovens give French bread their classic golden crust and oven spring.

The French bread that we are most familiar with today is called the baguette, which translates to “stick” or “wand.” Contrary to popular belief, the baguette only dates back to the 1920s. The teens and 20s were defined by the reaching effects of World War I. There was a lack of bakers and workers due to them joining in the war effort. Also, the government enacted a new law which prevented boulangers from baking before 4AM. This prevented the bakers from making the traditional boule because by the time the bread baked, breakfast was over. Bakers shaped the same dough in long, stick-like shapes, which baked in steam ovens for far less time.

Like many lean breads, baguettes do not stay fresh for very long. In just a few hours, baguettes stale, which means that fresh ones need to be bought every day for mealtimes. In France, baguettes are eaten for breakfast, usually with butter or jam. Like the American doughnut, the French sometimes dunk their baguette in their morning coffee.

Reinhart begins with a pate fermente, an overnight starter which lends the final dough more flavor. It is simple- it combines flour, water, salt, and yeast into a rather stiff dough. I let the dough rise for about an hour, and then refrigerated overnight.

The next morning, I let the pate fermete warm up, and cut it into smaller pieces so I could incorporate it into the final dough. Like the pate fermente, the bread contained the same proportions of ingredients. After mixing with flour, salt, yeast, water and pate fermente into a ball, I kneaded it for about 6 minutes, or until I could easily use the windowpane test. Out of pure laziness, I kneaded the dough in the machine, rather than by hand.  I feel more connected to the dough when I knead by hand, but, I was tired and didn’t want to dirty the counters.

After the dough is kneaded, it rests for about two hours, to rise for the first time. Then I shaped the baguettes like I thought I should. I spread the dough out, and folded it into thirds like letters. I proceeded to elongate them into their proper shape. However, after making them I went on Youtube (great idea, huh?) and watched the proper way. After folding in thirds, you’re supposed to create tension on the outside of the bread by rolling it up in two separate “folding/rollings.” Afterwards, you gently seal the bread with the heel of your palm and then proceed elongating. Next time, I guess.

I let the dough rise for the last time for two hours. I do not have a lame yet, so I cut the slits with a pairing knife. On two of the loaves, I cut rather perpendicular, leaving the slashes not very attractive. However, on the third, the slashes were much more pronounced because I used a 45 degree angle. I realize now that I should slash the bread with an acute angle, as well as cut down the center, slightly overlapping each slit.

After I took them out of the oven, I could hear the crusts crackling. I was so excited-they looked promising, although they were a little misshapen because the seam was not on the bottom. After they had cooled, I sliced a piece. The crumb was rather dense, not holey and airy like I imagine a true baguette. I was rather disappointed, but the flavor made up for it-it had true bread flavor.

So, I don’t know- maybe I’ll make these again. I really like the use of the pate fermente and it was very cool to shape baguettes. However, the crumb was really disappointing, and for taking two days and substantial hands on time, I felt cheapened.

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I can’t believe I’ve been interning for nearly two months. Time has flown by and I’ve definitely have improved at bread baking.

When I go into the bakeries on Saturdays, I spend most of the time with Joe, the bread baker. Joe and I weigh out ingredients, mix doughs, and properly shape the dough. Sometimes I assist baking the loaves as well; we load the loaves on a peel, slash them with a lame, and bake them in steam ovens. After we finish baking bread off for the day, I assist Joe and the pastry chef, Terrance, with other tasks which need to be done. This can range from puff pastry to cakes to cracking tons of eggs-whatever needs to be done.

I’ve learned a lot from Joe, Terrance, and Mr. Granarolo. For example, Joe has shown me how to properly shape doughs, how to use the machines, how to read the production schedule, etc. With Terrance, I’ve learned about vinessorie doughs, like brioche and croissant. Mr. Granarolo has taught me how to properly shape, slash, and bake the perfect baguette. All three chefs are amazing teachers-they’re very hands on, which allows me to participate and learn. It’s a lot different working in an industrial kitchen rather than a home one, and they’ve very graciously shown me how to use the equipment.

Regarding my goals, I’ve accomplished a few of them. I’ve spent a lot of time baking through the Bread Baker’s Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart. This way, I’m learning how to make the bread, the tools required for them, the histories, as well as the ingredients. However, I haven’t spent much time learning about the transition from artisan- to-industrialized -and back to artisan-breads. I also have not made my sourdough starter; I should begin this soon so it has time to mature. I also need to do more research entries regarding different types of flours, mixing techniques, shapings, etc.

Although Mr. Esteban does not really give me questions to answer, I think I’ve followed his advice. Rather than giving solely technical journal entries, I’ve changed my writing style to be more personal. I think this way, it is more interesting for everybody to read. Mr. Esteban also brings up a lot of language connections which I find fascinating, and prompts me to research more.

To meet my goals, I’ve been baking a lot at home. With the finished product, I share the bread with my family, my friends, and Mr. Esteban to receive feedback. By baking at home, I’ve been practicing the techniques which I’ve learned at the Witherspoon Bread Company as well as other tips I’ve learned from books. I need to do some more technical research; for example, I need to learn how to read/make master formulas as well as gluten contents of flour.

My greatest accomplishment so far is actually doing what I want to do, rather than just dreaming about it. This project has forced me to step outside my comfort zone and to actually do something. Although I’m still very shy, WISE made me reach out and contact a sponsor and an interviewee. I’ve also learned to be more responsible-I have to wake up at 5AM on Saturdays and drive to Princeton. This has made me much more independent and I feel like I’ve matured through this process.

Regarding technique though, my greatest accomplishment was beginning the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. I’ve baked a lot of loaves of bread so far, and I’m proud that I’ve stuck with the project. I’m determined to finish before WISE ends.

Over the course of January and February, I’ve noticed that I’ve learned so much in the bakery and at home. I can’t imagine what I will be like in May!

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At the bakery with Mary

I just got back from the bakery- I didn’t stay as long as usual because both my friend Mary and I went. Mary is going to do baking and pastry while I’m going to continue baking breads. We had to organize a schedule- it’s too crowded for both of us to go in at the same time. I’m going to continue coming in the mornings, while Mary is going to do the afternoon shift with Terrance. I’m glad that it’s all sorted out-and I’m so happy that Terrance and Mr. Granarolo allowed her to work there.

Since Mary was there, the atmosphere was a little different than normal. It was like Joe had to teach everything he’s taught me all over again. Since we came a little later than usual, we missed Joe mixing the doughs. However, we shaped the breads again, except in different sizes this time. Joe was telling me that they are baking the batards in a smaller size, with more flavors to draw more interest from clientele. For example, some flavors are cranberry orange, raisin walnut, thyme, olive, etc.

While Joe and I shaped tons of batards, baguettes, and boules, Mary took over the croissants and puff pastry. This made it easier overall-there was far less that Joe and I had to do.

I usually shadow Joe and help him out-however, since Mary was there, I had to show her what to do. It is so much harder to explain things than I thought it was. I’d say “it’s just like this!” and Joe would stop me, and explain it to her. I explained to her the different machines and different techniques-for example, Mr. Granarolo told me to show her how to make pizza. Since I didn’t have Joe to rely on, I had to be much more confident and independent. I had to recall from memory exactly what Joe does and had to demonstrate it to Mary.

It was also difficult to teach Mary because everyone in the bakery has a different way of doing things. For example, I showed Mary how to roll the pain-au-chocolat like Joe showed me. However, Mr. Granarolo saw me do this, and told Mary to do it differently. When I was shaping the brioche, Terrance told me a different way than Mr. Granarolo did. Oh well; I guess everyone has their own ways. You can’t be too technical-if it turns out how it’s supposed to, what’s the difference?

Mr. Granarolo gave Mary and me the pumpkin bread recipe to make. I usually help Joe, but this time, I was on my own. I went around the kitchen, collecting the necessary equipment, retrieved the ingredients, and demonstrated what to do to Mary. It was a weird sense of freedom-but I was still nervous that I’d make a mistake and get the both of us in trouble. They also let Mary and I use the mixer by ourselves-I was really unsure of myself because I’d never set it up or used it by myself. I made a few mistakes-I pulled the lever rather than pushed it, I didn’t know how to remove the paddle, and other novice mistakes. Since I know how to use it now, I think they’ll trust me more using and doing things by myself.  Both Terrrance and Joe told me that I shouldn’t apologize for doing something wrong if I’ve never done it before. They’re both so nice and understanding of my nervousness. (Thank goodness.)

Just having one extra body in the kitchen was rather stressful- the work bench was covered. I was rolling out pizzas, Mary was rolling croissants, Terrance was shaping brioche, and Joe was shaping batards. It was so crowded-and the sandwich people were coming in and out, and Mr. Granarolo was carrying sheet trays overhead. It was rather chaotic-I totally understand why Mary and I have to come in at different times.

We didn’t stay too long since Mary had to go to work, and we carpooled. Next time though, it will be less chaotic since there will only be one intern at a time. However, it was a lot of fun having a friend there; I could talk and joke around with her, and she sure made the car-ride to-and-from a lot more fun.

Anyway, I’ve attached the recipe for the pumpkin bread which Mary and I made. It makes about 20 smaller-sized loaves. Here are the instructions which Joe didn’t write down, but told us verbally. (He normally makes everything from memory! He’s awesome.) I’ve edited this for the blog-I don’t feel like I have permission to post the full recipe, so I’ll just post the general idea of it. Don’t try to make this at home: I haven’t added the amounts for baking powder!

Pumpkin Bread

3 Lbs. margarine

3 Kg sugar

2 Qt. (or 40) eggs

One can pumpkin puree

3.5 Kg flour

baking powder

pumpkin pie spice


1) Grease pans

2) Cream together the margarine and sugar

3) Add the eggs-mix until combined

4) Add the pumpkin puree- mix until smooth

5) Add the flour, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice- mix evenly

6) Fill pans ¾ way full

7) Bake for 1 hour.

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Cooks Illustrated sticky buns

My first post!  I just got settled back into my place in Aptos, Ca, just south of Santa Cruz where I go to school.  I’m really glad to be back and baking.

I finally got my copy of the Bread Bakers Apprentice in the mail yesterday, so let the cross country baking begin!  Italian bread will be my first foray into the book and I’m really excited to begin.  We are going to a friend’s house on sunday and we said we would make a lasagna.  Italian bread sure sounds good too.

Last weekend while I was waiting for my book to arrive, I made sticky buns from Cooks Illustrated.  I made them about a year ago, and I remembered they were delicious but time consuming.  My memory served me correctly on both counts.  They are a lot of fun to make but way too dish intensive.  I think I cleaned more dishes, pots and pans with that recipe than a full dinner.  These are totally worth making once and a while, otherwise I’ll have to visit the dentist more often.

This recipe calls for an enriched dough and uses a rapid rise yeast.  I let the dough retard over night in the fridge, but with the rapid rise yeast, the rolls did puff up a lot over night.  The next day I baked them and topped them with a caramel pecan sauce.

We’ll see if I used the website correctly, there are supposed to be pictures in here too.   That’s it for now.  Hopefully the Italian loafs will go well.–Evan

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