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News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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BreadLab goes epic

The macaron is a puzzling piece of confectionery. It can either be a good day for it or not. Some days, macarons are just in the air, those egg whites all ready to be whipped to the ceiling and back. But not any dull old day will do for the dainty lady to make her appearance.
She prefers a dry and sunny day over humid dampness, and, however unfair it seems at times, that is her prerogative. She'll only get off her feet and grant you a glance at how her skirt falls perfect over her calves when she is ready and feels like it.

Even if the French method of making her is said to be superior, nothing beats the Italian embrace when it comes to the meringue; little danger of beating your beloved confectionery to death. And with the added bonus of a nice chewy macaron at the end of the roller coaster ride that is called macarooning.

Here we go. BreadLab goes 'epic recipe'.

The Recipe

Ingredients for a 'standard batch' of macarons;

200 gr. almond powder 200 gr. confectionery sugar
2 x 80 gr. egg whites
200 gr. fine table sugar
about 5 TBS water.

Put the fine table sugar in a pan with 5½ TBS of water. Use a thermometer to prevent the sugar going over 110C. Resist the urge to stir the water/sugar mixture for the best result.

At the same time, start making the meringue; whip two egg whites (80 gr.) to the point where it has soft peaks (see video for a visual). Have your sugar-syrup ready at this stage, and add it to the meringue on high speed.

Keep mixing on high speed until the meringue has cooled back to about 45 to 50 C. This can take quite some time; don't worry, you can't really over beat Italian meringue.

While the meringue is cooling, combine the almond/sugar mix with the other 2 egg whites (=80 gr.). When making colored or spiced macarons, incorporate them now without having to worry about deflating your meringue too much.

Tip: Split the eggs up to a day before you whip them up. Just split them and leave them (covered) out of the fridge. Eggs on room temp always do a better meringue than stone cold ones.

If you are going out of your way to use fresh eggs for macarons; DON'T! 'old' eggs work better. If you live somewhere with high humidity, chances are you won't produce a meringue as enthusiastic as in dry and sunny places. And of course; always make sure you work with properly washed and thus grease free utensils for the best result.

When the egg whites are incorporated in the 'flour' and the meringue has cooled sufficiently, work in the meringue in two halves. This is what is called 'macaronage'. You will loose some volume. Don't worry too much about that, it's logic. Just try and be as consistent as you can in working in the almond paste with the meringue.

This is the most difficult part to get right in making macarons; mix too little and the macarons won't be shiny, look quite coarse, and probably won't 'ooze' into the right shape. Mix it too long and you will loose too much air in your mix and the batter will become too runny and will produce flat macarons.

Practice makes perfect! Use a flexible rubber spatula to mix without loosing too much of your volume. Look at the video again and get the basic movement right; you go around the bowl, and then, with the flat end of your spatula, 'smear' what you have accumulated onto the center.

You are just about done when the mixture gets a bit of a gloss to it and the sugar and almonds are completely incorporated . When folded back onto itself, the mix should keep its shape. If it immediately disappears into the rest of the mix, you have gone too far and your mix might be too runny to produce a macaron that will look like what you are dreaming of.

Remember that, after putting the mix into the piping bag, the last macarons you squeeze out of the bag tend to be more runny than when you started; this is because you have been squeezing out some of the air in the process of piping. Nothing to worry about; just realize it when you are piping your macarons, and try to be gentle. If your batter is a little too thick, tap the baking sheet on the table to force the macarons into shape.

Pipe the macarons onto a quality silicone baking sheet. Make 3 cm dollops about 2 cm apart. Try to be as consistent as you can, but don't worry too much about getting it right; when baked you will pair up 'matching' halves to make perfect macarons. Baking paper can be used as well, but a silicone is worth investing in if you don't want to bother with a hundred ways to keep your macarons from sticking, and they WILL stick on paper. Another advantage of silicone is that it 'holds' the batter in shape much better than paper. Your macarons will be rounder and won't ooze out as much as on paper.

If you are baking on silicone there is a nice trick to see if your macarons are ready after baking; Take the macarons out of the oven; if you can pick them off the baking sheet really easy you have either produced the perfect macaron, or you have over baked them. When they still stick when you give them a careful quart twist on the baking mat, put them back in the oven for a few more minutes.

After piping you need to be patient. In order to get the elusive 'feet' on your macaron, leave them to dry, uncovered. The skin of your macaron should be dry to the touch before they can go into the oven. It can take anywhere between 30 minutes and a few hours, depending on humidity and general conditions in your kitchen. On a dry and sunny summer day, it will go the fastest, on dreary damp days, or when it is really humid, you might have to be patient for what seems like an eternity. Only when there has formed a proper 'skin' on your macaron, will it produce the characteristic 'feet' while baking.

Preheat the oven to 145 C. Bake the macarons for about 13 to 15 minutes with convection if possible.

Let them cool on a rack after baking, make the filling of your choice (there is hundreds of them!), pipe it onto one half, and carefully put the other macaron half in place.

They keep for quite some time. Some people like to eat them after at least one night of refrigeration, others prefer to eat them as fresh as possible.

Enjoy!

You can really do me a big favor by endorsing the BreadLab initiative. Every 'like' will get us closer to funding a 6 episode documentary on 'the best bread in the world'. Thank you in advance! The BreadLab

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freerk

Shaken Baking Confidence

There was some strong verbal abuse to be heard in the BreadLab kitchen this morning. The air trembled with ancient Dutch strong language when that elusive and downright arrogant confectionery that calls itself "French Macaroon" failed in the oven... yet again!

Four failed bakes in a row is a hard blow to take, but: Back to the drawing board! Retreat and start from scratch, learn from your mistakes and have another go! The battle is lost, but the macaroon war is definitely on! The BreadLab vows to tame this fickle French "petite mandigotte" one day soon!

Meanwhile, to boost baking confidence, go back to what you know best. Let your genes take over and bake what is ingrained somewhere deep inside your memory. Something you know so well, you could reproduce its smell, taste and texture with your eyes closed, simply because it has been with you your entire life.

Dutch Macaroons

Browsing the story of the French Macaroon, it seems the intricate colorful variety we love so much today, hasn't been around in its present form all that long. In 1830 they were still served as two separate halves, spiked with liqueurs, jam or spices. It was Pierre Desfontaines of the French patisserie Ladurée who, at the start of the 20th century gave us the "Paris macaroon" that is so "en vogue" today:


Around the same time, here in Holland things were hardly as gay as in Paris, where slums were taken down, the Grands Boulevards were taking shape, and the Paris we know today came into being. The industrial revolution brought a lot of money to the city.

Meanwhile, in Gouda (where the famous cheese is produced), a Dutch baker was at the other end of the wealth spectrum, and probably could only dream of colorful macaroons in his shop window just like the ones in Paris.

Instead, he was wondering, in good old fashioned Dutch Calvinist spirit, if all those left over scraps of dough at the end of the baking day could still serve some purpose. He whisked up some molasses with brown sugar and cinnamon, put all the scraps of dough together, baked it into a wafer, sliced it in half, put in a big dollop of syrup in between the two layers, slapped them back together and sold them as "stroopwafels" (syrup wafers).

Two layers with a filling in between... Let's call it a Dutch Macaroon! Not nearly as dainty and intricate as the French variety, but just as satisfying in the end ! And a perfect way to boost shaken baking confidence, since they are pretty much fail safe.

The stroopwafel took The Netherlands by storm, and the rest of the world is falling for it as well, or so it seems. In New York City they are dipped in chocolate and called Dutch Moon Cookies, for unknown reasons they are considered valuable bounty in a cartoon involving wolves (note the small dutch flag on the side of the treasure chest!)

There is an Association of Stroopwafel Addicts, and even the fashion world has succumbed to this Dutch cookie, although wearing a stroopwafel waist coat sounds like a sticky undertaking! Lady Gaga goes Dutch?

And what about this tutorial on how to properly eat a stroopwafel?


The Recipe

All in all enough reason to get your waffle iron out and make your own stroopwafels! If you love these cookies, you will love them even more home made. Nothing can beat eating it fresh, crunchy and warm.

Here is the video recipe from the BreadLab.

Stroopwafels

for the dough:
4 cups (500 gr.) low gluten flour
1/2 TS cinnamon
1 cup (250 gr.) softened butter
1/2 cup (100 gr.) white caster sugar
2 large eggs
0.25 ounce/7 grams instant yeast
1/2 cup/118 gr. warm water

for the syrup:
1 1/2 cup (300 gr.) brown sugar
1 cup (250 gr.) butter
1 TS  cinnamon
6 TBS dark corn syrup

Dissolve the yeast in the water and add to the flour together with the softened butter, the eggs, sugar and cinnamon. Combine all ingredients well, form into a ball and let it rest for about 45 minutes. It will have slightly risen by that time and the dough feels silky to the touch, but doesn't stick.

In the meantime, prepare the syrup mixture by gently heating up and dissolving the ingredients over a medium low heat, stirring in the butter and making sure the sugar doesn't burn. Once the sugar has dissolved, turn off the heat and stir every once in a while for a smooth consistency while it cools.

Heat up your iron to a medium high heat and form ping pong ball sized balls out of the dough. Put them in your iron and bake for about 30 seconds per cookie. Use a cookie cutter to cut out a perfect circle. Slice the cookie in two layers while it is still warm and use a thin sharp knife.

All that is left to do now, is put the syrup between the two halves and slap them together. The syrup might have cooled too much to work with; simply return it to the heat and gently warm it through again. Don't let the sugar burn!

Enjoy, Freerk

P.S. You would do me a big favor endorsing my BreadLab iniative. Every "like" will get me closer to realizing a 6 episode documentary/road movie; chasing the best bread Europe has to offer. Thanks in advance!

 

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freerk

Rediscovering Waldkorn bread this week. I can only take credit for mixing it all up and shaping it as tight as I managed this time around; I'm using a "soezie mix". I'm trying to break down what is in there to make it THAT dark a loaf. Any help in deconstructing is appreciated. And no, alas, the flour formula is not on the bag... Crumb pics to come when the loaf has cooled down enough (after seriously ripping a beautiful bread to pieces I have found the patience to properly cool at last)

 

My bananas were turning on me, so I decided on a banana bread. with toasted almonds, walnuts, vanilla, cinnamon and a lemon zinged icing. If anyone is interested in the entire recipe, give me a shout. I'll post some crumb pics of this one later as well. The banana bread was baked on the waldkorns residu heat; I'm not wasting my oven heat any more after getting in this year's gas bill...

 

 

 

 

happy baking every one, greetz from Amsterdam

 

Freerk

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freerk

Today I passed my windowpane test with flying colors.

 

The strawberry season around here starts early this year. We had a nice spell of dry sunny spring weather. That is all any decent strawberry asks for to taste as delicious as they do in these perfect circumstances.

 

I am making a dessert involving a toasted piece of brioche, strawberries, black pepper mint and honest vanilla ice cream. It's a Belgian recipe. It's name caught my attention. It translates into "Lost Bread" and I found that to be a captivating image. In Flemish it sounds way smoother; "verloren brood"

 

Basically it's French toast with strawberries and ice cream. And that is just the perfect dessert to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary, as well as the fact that we booked our tickets to a sunny beach on the wonderful Spanish Island of Ibiza. I am already hunting the net for info on where to find some bakeries over there. Any tips from locals or savvy travelers are appreciated.

Anyhow. I was particularly proud of my window pane test this time. I should thank Kitchen Aid for it anyway ;-) I love my new baby!

 

happy baking every one

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freerk

I think my Easter Doves came out a bit...... nazi germany eagle :-/


 


What do you think;


 


Would putting a green twig in their beak bring it back to the coming festivities?


 


Thanks txfarmer for the insightful pics!


 


recipe and shaping pics by txfarmer can be found here


 


I haven't been on TFL for some time, but HAVE been baking. Take a look at my "baking gallery"


 


warm greetings from Amsterdam


 


Freerk


 



 

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freerk

For New Year's Eve I decided to share this wonderful traditional Dutch cookie-recipe.


 


Up to this day people in the northern and eastern regions of The Netherlands eat this waferthin cookie for NewYear's Eve.


 


They come in two varieties: flat and rolled up.


 


The flat ones you eat the 31st of December, the rolled up ones you can eat starting the 1st of January.


 


The flat wafers represent the old year that has fully unfolded. The rolled up wafers stand for the new year, that still has all of its secrets rolled up in it self


 


 


This recipe yields at least twice the amount shown in the picture.


 


To make the cookies waferthin you will need a WAFER IRON.


TRADITIONAL DUTCH NEW YEAR'S EVE COOKIES


500 grams AP flour


450 grams white caster sugar


30 grams of vanillasugar


5 eggs


200 grams unsalted melted butter


lukewarm water if needed




Combine the eggs, caster sugar and vanilla sugar in a large coleander.


Mix at high speed over a pan of hot water ("au bain marie") until the eggs turns slightly whiter and the mixture is nice and frothy.


Take the coleander away from the hot water pan. Sift the flour into the mixture. Add the melted butter little by little to form a smooth batter, about the consistency of yoghurt. The batter should "ooze" from the spoon.


Add some lukewarm water if needed to get the right consistency.


Spoon a dollop of batter on to the heated wafer iron and press hard for about 8-10 seconds. The wafer should come out nice and golden brown.


When making flat wafers: leave on a rack to cool.


When making rolled up wafers: roll the wafer onto a fingerthick wooden ladle or thin rolling pin. Let them set for about 20 seconds and transfer to a cooling rack.


 


Wishing all of my TFL-friends a healthy, inspiring and positive 2011! Thank you for all the feedback on my posts. I hope you will all continue to make me a better home-baker in the coming year!


 


Warm greetings from Amsterdam,


 


Freerk


 


 

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freerk

(scroll down for update and pictures!!!)

My mother passed away long before her time, now almost 15 years ago.

 

She left behind a bread recipe that still goes around by her name; "Renny-bread" Even distant cousins seem to know the recipe; last summer I visited one of them here in Amsterdam, after she had been really helping me out for my wedding (she has THE most wonderful flowershop here in Amsterdam). To thank her I brought her a "Renny-bread", thinking she would see and eat it for the first time in her life...

 

When I showed her what I had made, she shouted out: "Ohh wonderful, a Renny-bread!"

 

That, of course, brought a big smile to my face; she remembered eating the bread when she was a kid, and loved it very much!

 

At the wedding a good friend of mine pointed out that my mother in law shares her name with my mother. She is Venezuelan and her name is Reina. Both names mean "queen", which I think is a wonderful name for a mother, OR a mother in law for that matter :-)

 

After all this (coincedence or fate, we will never know I guess) I played around with the idea to invent a bread in honour of these two wonderful women in my life; a bread fit for a queen!

 

There is one small problem with this bread though.... It's not really bread, it's more like a cake. It's a real simple recipe involving self raising flour, basterd sugar, a mixture of milk and water and some all-spice that makes it taste very X-massy.

 

I have decided that it should be a braided bread, even though the original "renny-bread" always came out of the oven in a shape, that, once cut into slices, resembled the outline of the province that we were all born in, here in the Netherlands. That was completely coincedental, but it always made us laugh.

My mother was good at making braided breads; she never ceased to amaze me with them, so I guess it would be the appropriate shape, all the more because I wouldn't have a clue how to bake the outline of a province into a bread...

 

I'm looking around for a nice sumptuous sweet bread recipe that I can use as a base, and tweak into a loaf that will, most of all, taste like the original. But it has to be special (fit for a queen!)

 

That's why I would like to ask my fellow members here at TFL to help me out. Is there any one out there who can point me in the right direction, or maybe has a better idea that I haven't thought of yet? I would love to hear from you!!!!

 

to be continued!

 

warm greetings from Amsterdam

 

Freerk

01-01-11

Happy New Year every one!

I think the Gods were with me on my second attempt to make a bread in honour of my mother and my mother-in-law:

 

The crownshape is definitely there :-)

 

It is very close to what I had in mind, both visually and tastewise. Here is what I did:

PAN DE REINA

2 eggs

4 cups of bread flour

1 cup of milk

1/4 cup of unsalted butter

7 grams instant yeast

1/4 cup + 2 tbs of white caster sugar

cracked seeds from 9 cardemom pods

1 heaped tbs of coriander seeds

2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

pinch of white pepper

 

Beat the eggs and put aside.

Heat the milk over low heat until bubbles form on the edge of the pan and the milk smells cooked.

Stir in the crushed cardemom seeds and melt the butter into the milk. Let it cool to about 40°C (104°F)

Add the milk mixture to the eggs little by little, constantly stirring. Make sure the milk has cooled enough!

Stir in the yeast into the mixture and let it rest for a few minutes.

Combine 2 1/2 cups of the bread flour, the cinnamon, the coriander seeds, the sugar, salt and white pepper in a coleander.

Pour half of the milk-egg mixture into the dry ingredients to make the dough come together. Add the other half of the mixture and mix for about 5 minutes on low speed. The dough will not "clear the bowl", it is too moist for that.

Flour your work surface with some of the remaining flour. Turn out the dough and work in as much flour to make it kneadable by hand. Don't "overflour" or overwork the dough at this point.

When the dough is smooth, put it in an oiled container, cover it well and let it rise until doubled in size (about one hour).

When the dough has doubled in size divide it in half. Divide one of the halves in two equal parts. Divide the other half in three equal parts.

Thoroughly grease a round pan with high sides. If you have a big baking ring to act as a support during proofing the dough, grease it as well, and place it in the middle of the round pan.

Take the two big pieces of dough, shape them into two strands and make a two-braid (twist) that will fit the inside of your round pan. Carefully place it in the pan, pinching the ends together. Cover to prevent crust forming.

Take the three smaller pieces of dough, three-braid it and put it on top of the two-braid.

Put the pan in a big plastic bag and let the dough proof until fully developed (about one hour). The upper braid will rise over the edge of the round pan, creating a crown effect.

45 minutes prior to baking preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F) and put a baking stone on the second highest shelf. Clear out any other baking sheets.

Give the dough a thorough egg wash and royally sprinkle with maple sugar.

Bake for about 35 minutes, turning it halfway through the bake to ensure even browning.

Let it cool on a rack before taking the bread out of the pan and remove the baking ring.

 

The taste and texture were perfect. What I suspected happened: the cinnamon gets a little lost in he battle of tastes, so next time I will put in a little extra, to come closer to the tate of the "original" recipe my mother used to make. The peppery crushed cardemom seeds give wonderful bursts of intense flavor, battling with the much sweeter coriander seeds. I left out the vanilla in the end because I thought there was more than enough going on, tastewise.

 

Thank you all so much for your wonderful and inspiring suggestions, ideas and contributions in completing this project. I can't think of a better way to start 2011 than with this wonderful tribute to the two most important women in my life. Couldn't have done it without you guys!!

 

Let me know what you think of the result (picture of the crumb will be added later!)

 

X Freerk

 



 

 

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freerk

Glezer versus Reinhart


After getting Reinhart's "Bread Baker's Apprentice" for X-mas this year (thank you sis!) I baked my first bread "from the heart" and I loved it!!! So far I've been a "follower" of the Maggie Glezer-way of going about business:


 


I've been meticulously studying formulas and weighing ingredients to the milligram, producing very nice loafs as a result. But after baking with my head so much, it is time to start baking with my heart!


 


Reading Reinhart made me take a leap of faith; or to be more exact; it awakened my faith in myself! Look at the dough, feel the dough, work it the way you feel it's right! I love this whole approach, and I guess I was ready for it, knowing about the basics of bread by now (thank you Maggie!)


 


So, when I was looking around for a good formula using the chestnut flour I brought back from Rome two weeks ago, I decided to just go ahead and DO IT! Based on the general knowledge about the chestnut flour I concocted my own little dough and produced a batch of wonderful rolls, fragrant with the smell and taste of chestnut, with a nice crust and an okay crumb (I guess this would be the moment where, if Glezer were to read this post, she would comment: If you would do it my way, your crumb would have been more than okay as well...)


 


Very tasty! If you want to see my "year in baking" slideshow, you can find that here



 


I really hope you all enjoyed a wonderful X-mas. Check my blog in the coming days if any of you TFL'ers in the good old USA are interested in some traditional Dutch New Year's eve baking. I will show you how to make  "oliebollen", the precursor to what you guys have turned into.... donuts! I will also be baking the traditional "knieperties", a New year's treat that stems from the region in the north that i grew up in, and that I love because there is a wonderful simplistic symbolism attached to them. More to follow! Have a good week!


 


Freerk

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freerk

My second batch of pandoros came out very nice as well! I used Glezer's recipe. It was amazing how difficult it was to find cocoa-butter in this town. Especially when you know that Amsterdam is the #1 harbour for shipping the stuff around the world... In certain weather conditions we can smell the coacoa from our balcony, but for buying the cocoa-butter I ended up going out of town to a very old fashioned drugstore in a nearby city. The oddities of globalization, I guess... Anyway. here it is: my second batch of pandoros!


If you want to see more; check my "year in baking"-slideshow here


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freerk

On X-mas we'll be having a cheese-thingie going on with friends, so I made my first 4 pounder today. It looks quite spectacular I think:


country french bread


This dough is quite soft, and I forgot to fold it 3x early on in the ferment, so i did one fold and at the end of the 3 hour ferment and hoped for the best. It came out flatter than I wanted, but it did get a substantial oven spring, so I'm  happy.


I made sure that the time between the dough leaving the rising basket (well, more like a bucket in this case, lol) and it going into the oven was minimal, but the dough is so heavy, there's just no keeping it from loosing its shape.


I haven't tasted it yet, it's still cooling. I'll post a pic of the crumb after we cut it at the dinner table


I made a "year in baking"- slideshow; if you would like to see: here it is


greettings from Amsterdam


 


Freerk

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