The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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hansjoakim

I admit there's not a speck of either lactobacilli or saccharomyces cerevisiae on the ingredient list this time, but that doesn't mean it's no good... I've been busy in the kitchen (breadwise and otherwise) the last few weeks, but my blog's been sadly neglected. This weekend's dinner is something that really looks after itself once you've popped it into the oven, so I thought I could use the opportunity to snap a few photos.


Ever since I bought Ruhlman and Polcyn's book on charcuterie, I've wanted to try the confit method of cooking and preserving meat. Back in the day, after harvesting foie gras, French farmers of Gascony and the Dordogne had great quantities of duck meat and duck fat, but no easy way to conserve the meat, save for the confit technique. Today, with refrigeration, the main reason for using confit is the unique tenderness, texture and flavour of confited meat that make the technique worthwhile.


In brief, the meat is first dry cured with salt (add pepper, coarsely ground cloves and a clove of garlic if you like) for 24 hours. Rinse off all excess salt under cold, running water and place the meat in an ovenproof pot or casserole. Pour over rendered fat (or oil) so that all the meat is covered and place in a low oven for 8 - 12 hours, until the meat is beautifully tender and settled on the bottom of the baking vessel. Keep the meat submerged in the fat and cool to room temperature before covering the vessel with foil and refrigerating it. Both Ruhlman/Polcyn and Robuchon have great recipes for duck confit, that, if followed accurately, produce confits that can be kept for up to 6 months in the refrigerator. As the fat turns solid, and prevents air to reach the meat, the confit technique is a way of hermetically sealing meat.


I had problems obtaining duck fat, so I used a cheap olive oil as the poaching medium instead. The olive oil doesn't turn solid in the refrigerator, so this will not make a fully conserved duck confit. According to Ruhlman, it can still be kept for up to a month in the fridge, but mine won't last that long. Promise.


So... Rub your duck legs with generous amounts of coarse sea salt, a few ground cloves, pepper corns and a crushed clove of garlic. Place in the fridge for 24 hours, then rinse and place in a tight cooking vessel. The tighter you can place the meat in the vessel, the less fat/oil you need to use to cover the meat:


Duck confit


Fill it up all the way so that all meat is covered in rendered fat/oil:


Duck confit


Now, a good idea is to first warm the pot over medium-high heat until the oil is close to the simmering temperature of water. This will give the legs a good thermal kick in the beginning (otherwise you might have to extend the baking time in the oven by several hours). Then place in a low (approx 80 - 85 dC) oven, uncovered, until the meat is absolutely tender. One way to check whether it's finished, is to gently pierce the meat with a skewer. If the fat that runs out is a thin, liquid stream, it's done. My four legs were done in roughly 8 hours. Remove from oven and let the vessel come to room temperature before you cover it with foil and refrigerate it.


A simple but tasteful dish of confited duck legs can be made by cooking the legs at 220dC for 15 mins (the last few minutes with the broiler on to make a ridiculously crisp and delicious skin) and serving them with a ragu of lentils (I used green du Berry lentils), carrots, shallots, garlic, asparagus beans and a potato purée. Shredded duck confit is amazing in salads as well. Oh, and did I mention that this is great with bread too? A tasty duck rillette on freshly baked pain au levain... sacrebleu. Bon appétit!


Duck confit


 

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hansjoakim

Hi all,


It's been a while since my last blog post, but that doesn't mean I haven't been baking. It's mostly been variations on my favourite recipes, however, so I have not bothered blogging about them. Over the weeks, I've baked my favourite pain au levain at different hydrations and with different flour combinations. I've found that I prefer a 80% bread flour: 12.5% whole rye flour: 7.5% whole-wheat flour combination (similar to my original formulation, from way back), mixed to a hydration of approx. 76%. I've previously used 70% as base hydration, but noticed over the time that the dough could use more water. At 76%, the dough is wetter and slacker, but still not very difficult to work. Below are two snaps of the a loaf that I baked yesterday:


Pain au levain @ 76


... and crumb:


Pain au levain @ 76 crumb


 


There are few things I enjoy more than working in the kitchen. Each December, I reserve time during weekends for some traditional Norwegian Christmas cooking. One such meal, is the (in)famous lutefisk, a dish based around stockfish. The stockfish is first soaked in cold water for five days. Afterwards, it's soaked in a solution of water and lye for a day or two. This soaking gives the fish a squishy, jelly-like mouthfeel. After the lye treatment, the fish is soaked in water another five days before it's turned into a real meal. Often served with potatoes, various pea stews, mustard, bacon, flatbreads and liberal servings of Aquavit, a strong liquor flavoured with herbs and spices. The homecook usually buys lutefisk that's already gone through the various soaking stages. I've not come around to making a lutefisk meal so far this year, but there's still time left.


This weekend I prepared another traditional Norwegian Christmas dinner, the also (in)famous smalahove. This is a dish made from salted, smoked and dried sheep's head, and hails originally from the area around Voss, in western Norway. It was originally something poor peasants ate, and has for a long time been something reserved for die-hard enthusiasts. The dish has gone through something of a reneissance/revival over the last couple of years, and is now quickly becoming a trendy thing to eat before Christmas eve. In the western Norwegian dialect, "Smalahove" is the word for "sheep's head". It's not something you can easily find most parts of the year, but the heads usually turn up in well-stocked grocery stores sometime in late November. The heads are usually split in half and sold vacuum-packed.


Preparation of smalahove is very simple: Place your sheep heads in a large pot, cover with water and boil for a few minutes. This step removes some of the intense salty, smoked flavour. (Alternatively you can soak heads in water overnight instead, but that can quickly draw too much salt out of the heads.) Pour out the water, refill the pot with new water, and put some vegetables and herbs in with the sheep heads. I used a leek, some carrots, shallots, garlic cloves and thyme (the garlic and thyme are decidedly un-traditional, but I have some Francophile tendencies...):


Smalahove


Bring the water to a boil, and let simmer between 2 and 3 hours, until the meat on the heads are tender and comes off easily. Serve with freshly boiled potatoes and rutabaga stew. The traditional Aquavit drink is required to enjoy smalahove:


Smalahove


The dish is really delicious and quite unlike any other parts of the sheep that I've tasted. One usually starts eating near the ear-region of the head, where there is most fat. You want to eat this part while it's still smoking hot. Then gradually work your way down the jaw bone. Some 45 minutes later:


Smalahove

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hansjoakim

Sunflower seeds is a favourite of mine, whether it's in dense Vollkornbrots or lighter sourdough breads. I've toyed around with different formulas for seeded levains for some time, but my best one so far is the one I tried this weekend. The formula is not unlike Hamelman's seeded sourdough bread, but the one I've settled on, uses a rye sourdough and some more whole-grain flour than Hamelman. The dough is not particularly wet, but rather straight forward to work with. It's another one of those that can easily fit into a "mix in the morning and bake in the afternoon" (or vice versa) schedules. Here's a copy of the formula, and below is a shot of the loaf I baked Saturday morning:


Pain au levain with toasted seeds


And here's a shot of the crumb:


Pain au levain with toasted seeds


Feel free to vary the toasted seeds - pumpkin seeds is next on my list :)


Earlier in the week, I suddenly got this weird craving for brandade... Yes, I know. Pretty weird. I have a sneaking suspicion that it's the ongoing strikes in France, that I've followed closely via the news, and some reports from Marseille (where I had my first ever brandade de morue two years ago), that set it all in motion. You'll find salt cod in most well-stocked Norwegian grocery stores, so have a bowl with plenty of cold water ready, and let the salt cod soak a day or two:


Brandade de morue


I think my first brandade de morue had some mashed potatoes in it, but to be honest, I prefer brandade made with just the fish, cream, olive oil and some seasoning. I love the smooth, creamy and light consistency of brandade, especially on toasted slices of baguette or a seeded levain. You can easily use a food processor to get a smooth, even brandade, but I prefer to make it by hand so you still have small flakes of fish meat intact.


Brandade de morue


 


Over the weekend, I prepared another French favourite of mine: A pear frangipane tart. Almonds and poached pears is one of those timeless flavour combinations that work any time of the year.


Pear frangipane tart


Bon appétit!


Pear frangipane tart


Pear frangipane tart

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hansjoakim

I recently dusted off my old John Coltrane records, and I've been listening to them pretty much non-stop this weekend. Coltrane's one of those artists that I listen to intensely for weeks on end, before I need to pause, put the records down, and breathe a sigh of relief. For me, the intensity of the music itself seems to induce this kind of listening. Even though I'm generally partial to the fire and cinder of his late Impulse! records, "Giant Steps" is probably the record that's closest to my heart. Not only was it the first Trane record I bought, but it also opened my eyes to so much timeless music. It was also the soundtrack to a great, great summer...


After a rough week, I decided to indulge in baking some of "my favourite things". The first was a pain au levain, a bread that I never tire of. It's also one of those formulas that easily fit into my weekday routine. Here's my formula.


I mixed the dough Friday afternoon, and pulled the baked bread from the oven Saturday morning:


Pain au levain


I really like the simplicity of the bread and formula. A crisp crust and a chewy crumb - it's a bread that's flavourful enough to be enjoyed on its own, with some butter, or a slice of Brie de Meaux.


Pain au levain crumb


 


I've mentioned it before, and it's probably not something I'm the only one to think, but as the autumn and winter approach us, my preference swings towards wholesome breads. July's crusty baguette is replaced by a dense, filling rye come late October. Yesterday I baked a dense rye loaf based on Hamelman's "80% rye sourdough with rye flour soaker". I made some small changes to the formula, and you can find my adaption described here.


This is a dense, 80% whole rye bread, where a third of the flour comes from a ripe rye sourdough, and a fifth of the flour is scalded with boiling water. The scalding process increases water absorption, provides the bread with just a hint of sweetness, and lends the crumb a soft and moist mouthfeel. Here's the baked bread:


80% rye with rye flour soaker


... and a "24 hour later crumb shot":


80% rye with rye flour soaker crumb


Just what I'm looking for this time of year.


As the title of the blog post warns: There are no apple tarts this week. I hope all's not lost, and that there's still room for Sunday dinner... Another favourite of mine is quiche. I'm not sure if what I made yesterday qualifies as a quiche - according to Robuchon, there's no onion nor grated Gruyère in a proper quiche lorraine. Adding grated Gruyère is supposedly something the posh Parisians did - and the onion? Well, if you put onion in there, it's an onion tart. It's a minefield, I know, so I'll call this my favourite Sunday bacon-and-onion tart. Below's the mise en place: Prebaked tart shell, a custard (in the white bowl, center-top), cooked onion and bacon, and Gruyère. I like a crisp tart crust, and due to the rather liquid filling, I try to give the tart shell a full 20 mins. prebake before filling it.


Quiche mise en place


Voila! Here's the tart after 35 mins in the oven:


Quiche


Bon appetit!


Quiche

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hansjoakim

Autumn is truly here, and every tree is decked out in breathtaking yellow and red colours. This is one of my favourite parts of the year, where afternoons are best spent strolling among the autumn leaves on silent sidewalks and catching every last bit of warmth the sun can muster.


The colder times of the year are also the best to bake in, and this week I've tried my hands at one of my absolute favourite lighter rye breads, Hamelman's flax seed rye from Modern Baking. The formula is very similar to many of his rye sourdough breads from "Bread", but I feel the Modern Baking flax seed rye is even better balanced in terms of overall hydration and amount of soaker. The addition of stale bread to the cold soaker gives this bread a unique, robust rye flavour.


This week, I've enjoyed two flax seed rye loaves based on a formula that is a slight adaption of Hamelman's original. Here's a link to my slightly modified formula. Below is a shot of the loaf at the end of final proof, seconds before I'm sliding it into the hot oven:


Flax seed rye bread


And here it is, fresh out of the oven:


Flax seed rye bread


Here's a shot of the second loaf, which was gently rolled in oat bran before it was proofed in a floured banneton:


Flax seed rye bread


Here's a shot of the crumb, from a little later in the day:


Flax seed rye bread crumb


The crumb doesn't get very open due to the flax seeds, but it's very moist and stays fresh for days. Once you've almost finished it, save some slices to put in your next batch :)


 


I've also continued my apple tart studies with some pleasantly autumn-tasting Calvados apple custard tarts:


Apple Tart Parisienne


 


...and the tart "crumb" below. Local apples are stunningly good this time of year, and a tart like this is perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon. A thin layer of lingonberry jam provides a nice tang to the otherwise vanilla and Calvados infused apples:


Apple Tart Parisienne


 

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hansjoakim

As days grow shorter and colder, I tend to opt for more wholesome breads in my baking. This week, I've enjoyed a wonderful rye loaf, studded with seeds and heavy on flavour. The dough for this bread is wet, and the baked loaf keeps well and improves as days go by. Here's a copy of my formula. Please note that proofing time will vary according to your starter activity and your final dough temperature.


Try to fill your loaf pan about 2/3 - 3/4 the way up: About 1100 gr. dough should be ideal for a 1L loaf pan. Here's what I'm looking at after a 1hr 45mins proof, seconds before the pan is placed into the oven:


Proofed Schrotbrot


 


Give it a bold bake, and wait at least 24hrs before slicing into it:


Schrotbrot


 


Apples are great for dessert this time of the year, so this weekend I prepared some apple tarts. The apple tarts are similar to the hazelnut tarts I blogged about some time ago, with the addition of poached apples. Key ingredients below: Poached apples (left) and hazelnut frangipane (right):


Swedish Apple Tart


 


Although the frangipane is a thick filling, I recommend blind-baking your tart shell to ensure that it stays crisp. Below are my blind-baked shells, filled with frangipane and apples, just before baking:


Swedish Apple Tart


... and the finished tarts:


Swedish Apple Tart


 


A simpe and delicious autumn treat: Yum!!


Swedish Apple Tart

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hansjoakim

Hi all,


Here's a brief report on this weekend's baking. Yesterday (Sunday), I mixed dough for a fruit and nut levain and did the lamination for a straight croissant dough. Both the levain and the croissants were retarded overnight after final shaping, so I could bake them off this morning. I got an early start so everything was baked before I headed for work.


For the fruit and nut levain, I used chopped dates, raisins and walnuts, and let them macerate in Grand Marnier a few hours before mixing the final dough. Absolutely not necessary, but the soaking provides the fruit with delicate flavour and makes the chopped walnuts softer and lends them a buttery quality. Rum would be awesome as well! There's 40% whole grain flour in the formula, so the sweetness provided by the fruit and liquor is just right (at least for me). Here's a link to my formula.


The baked goods:


Fruit and nut levain and croissants


...and the crumb of the levain:


Fruit and nut levain crumb


Have a nice week everyone!

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hansjoakim

Hi all,


After a great laptop-and-internet-free vacation the last couple of weeks, I've now pulled my starter out of its refrigerator retirement and given it a couple of feedings to get it back to its former self. The first couple of loaves I've baked after coming back, have been some pain au levains with toasted seeds. This bread is based on my pain au levain formula with slightly increased whole-flour amount, and roughly 7.5% - 10% toasted seeds. You'll find a copy of the formula here (written for 7.5% toasted seeds).


For the loaf pictured below, I used 10% toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and applied some oat bran to the top of the batard after final shaping:


Seeded pain au levain


Here's the crumb:


Seeded pain au levain crumb


The loaf is similar to Hamelman's seeded levain in terms of flavour and crumb. After some bakes and trials, I've found that I prefer adding toasted seeds to the dough directly without soaking them first (for seeds where soaking is not necessary, of course). The flavour is stronger, more nutty, and the crumb turns out more open, at least for me. The crust stays fresh and crunchy for longer due to the lower hydration of these un-soaked seeded levains.


Vacation's been great - I've enjoyed hiking, fishing, cooking and reading at my parents' cabin, and the weather's been pretty decent as well. Some favourite books from this summer include Herta Müller's "Atemschaukel" (haunting), McCarthy's "Blood meridian" (how the west was won and where it got us...terrifying), "Sons and lovers" by D. H. Lawrence and some brilliant novels by Finnish writer Kjell Westö. I miss vacation already so I'll have to put some pastry-things together for my next blog post (comfort food). In the meantime I've got a lot of TFL reading to catch up on...

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hansjoakim

They call it the most important meal of the day, and I tend to agree with them. Get off to a good start, for instance with your morning newspaper, a cup of black coffee and some still-hot-from-the-oven breakfast rolls, and you're at least halfway there. Yesterday, I mixed, bulk fermented and shaped some mini-batards from a batch of Hamelman's "Semolina bread with a whole-grain soaker" formula (p. 137 in "Bread"). This delicious and simple formula is extremely versatile; I've used it for regular breads, rolls and some uttely delicious, crunchy baguette-shaped loaves in the past. The durum flour makes the crust crisp and crunchy and the whole-grain soaker adds plenty of chew to the crumb. I rolled half of the mini-batards in sesame seeds and kept the other half plain, before placing them in the refrigerator for proofing overnight (approx. 14 hours). I had also prepared a batch of raisin bun dough, and these were also proofed overnight in the fridge, ready for baking first thing in the morning. Here's a snap of the plain durum mini-batards just before they hit the oven:


Durum bread rolls - proofed


 


As the goodies baked and filled my apartment with the most pleasant smell, I brewed a couple cups of coffee ("black as midnight on a moonless night", to quote Twin Peaks' Special Agent Dale Cooper) and leafed through the newspaper. Below is a photo of the raisin buns (at the back), the durum minis and some oatmeal raisin cookies (to go with that glass of milk). Enough to lighten up my monday morning!


What's for breakfast, honey?

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hansjoakim

Summer is most definitely my favourite time of the year. And finally it's here! Few things are better than wandering about outdoors in the early hours of morning, letting the sun shine down on you and inhaling the refreshing scents of wet grass, blooming flowers and the fresh, salty air blowing in from the sea.


Summer also means an abundance of ripe berries and fruit. Yesterday I spotted some lush, perfectly ripe strawberries that a farmer was selling. When you get them just right; blood red, plump, juicy and wildly fragrant, few things outmatch strawberries. Strawberries pair perfectly with pistachios, so this morning I prepared some pistachio frangipane tarts and dressed them up with some succulent berries after baking. Below is a photo of blind baked pâte sucrée shells and pistachio frangipane in the red bowl. For the pistachio frangipane, I mixed 2 parts pistachio cream (just replace almond meal with pistachio meal in your almond cream recipe) with 1 part Grand Marnier flavoured pastry cream.


Pistachio frangipane tarts


 


The tarts were filled 2/3 the way up with pistachio frangipane and baked at 190C for 15 - 20 mins, until baked through. They were then cut into smaller portions and brought along to the office together with some freshly baked tebirkes. A terrific summer treat :)


Pistachio frangipane tarts and tebirkes


 

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