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Cresci recipe - oh dear!

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JerryP's picture
JerryP

Cresci recipe - oh dear!

Has anyone ever tried the Layered Serbian Focaccia recipe in the Cresci book: The Art of Leavened Dough?

It looks so straightforward, but I just cannot make it firm enough to stay together in the oven, let alone get it to look like the picture in the book.

Either I'm missing something (probably!) or there's an error in the ingredients list...

Any suggestions would be really appreciated, especially as I can't find any reference to such a cake anywhere else!

Many thanks,

JerryP.

 

 

d_a_kelly's picture
d_a_kelly

Hi Jerry,

unfortunately my copy of Cresci is in the UK at the moment and I'm not... could you write up the recipe so I could have a look at it? Cresci is at times a troubling book, it's so full of priniting errors!!! I've been having endless problems with the panettone paradiso from Cresci - I think I've made the dough work twice in about 20 attempts (and the quantity of salt isn't listed in the Italian edition). I got so desperate that at one point I even wrote an email to Iginio Massari asking if the recipe really was correct. He actually wrote back, saying that he had personally checked every recipe in the book. 

One interesting point though: Cresci recommends a w280 flour for the paradiso, and Massari told me (after I asked) that he uses a w380 for the same recipe. A clear, and very serious, misprint in the book. I wouldn't be at all surprised simply to discover that the flour you are using isn't strong enough.

David

JerryP's picture
JerryP

Hi David,

Many thanks indeed for offering to help. I must admit to having had doubts about other recipes in the book, but putting the problems down to my lack of expertise rather than anything else.

Anyway, the ingredient list is as follows:

 

Milk (30 celsius)    300g

Brewer's yeast      80g

Sugar                    420g

Egg yolk                360g

Butter                    700g

White flour             1200g

Vanilla stick            1

 

The filling is made from:

Finely ground walnut         350g

Smooth apricot jam            200g

Egg white                           150g

Sugar                                 200g

 

There is an icing, but I've never made it that far!

The problem I have is that the mix is simply too soft. Both times I have attempted it, I have added significantly more flour to simply get something that doesn't look like a sponge cake mixture. I usually use a mix of strong bread flour and 00 Italian flour as the picture in the book shows a very soft crumb and cake-like section. I'm using SAF Gold yeast, so that should be fine with the sugar.

The text simply says 'mix all the ingredients together to get a smooth, even dough of medium hardness. Refrigerate for an hour until hard enough to roll out to 4mm'. I combine the flour and sugar, then rub in the butter. By this point the mix can easily be brought together into a single ball (fairly heavy, admittedly, but the butter is suifficient to cope with the amount fo flour and sugar). Adding the milk/yeast mix gets the whole thing fairly soft, and finally introducing the egg yolk produces a batter. It's now that I start to add extra flour, a bit at a time until I get something workable.

An hour or so in the fridge will allow me to roll out, but it's very soft. I tend to weigh out the three portions and put them all back in the fridge for a while longer, trying to keep handling down to a minimum.

After rolling, building the three layers with filling and the recommended 30 minute rise, it's into the oven at 180 celsius...where I think the butter melts and the whole thing settles into a 'puddle', eventually cracking across the top surface as it bakes. It take a lot longer than 30 minutes to cook through as well! I don't use a cake ring - the text certainly does not refer to one as it does in some of the other recipes, and this wouldn't mitigate the batter-like texture or the amount of time that it takes to cook through.

I do wonder about the the relative proportion of butter, but many of the book's recipes are butter-heavy.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.  I'd love to get this one right having (sort of) cracked one of the panettone  and one of the colomba recipes.

I look forward to hearing what you think,

All the best,

Jerry.

 

 

 

 

d_a_kelly's picture
d_a_kelly

Thanks for the recipe... though I'll need to wait a few days before trying it! My first thoughts on the matter though, just from reading your description of the method, are these: 

I wouldn't use a mixture of 00 are strong flour. The 00 flour usually available in shops is really only suitable for making pasta - it doesn't have form good quality gluten. Try the recipe just using strong white flour. It's unlikely to have a very large affect on the texture.

Why are you rubbing the butter into the flour before before adding the liquid? This seems to be the main problem right there (is that what it says in the description?). This is the same method used for making a pasta frolla, and would seem to be the exact opposite of what you'd want to achieve. Normally the butter would go in last of all, when the gluten is already well developed. If I were you, I'd make a mix of the yeast, milk and sugar, then add the flour, work it until it comes together, and then add the yolks and butter, alternating, a little at a time. The total hydration seems to be in the region of 50%, so it really ought to form a compact, firm dough.

As you say, some of the recipes in Cresci could make you wonder if they are correct (the baba recipe for example seems to contain far far far too much egg), but on the few occasions when I've managed to get the exact strength of flour specified, and have the correct technique, they always seem to work. There's just very little room for error in a number of them!!

This sounds delicious though, so I'm going to have a go. Hopefully we can both post success stories in the next few days!

David

JerryP's picture
JerryP

David,

Thank you for your thoughts on this.

The book is silent on the order of adding ingredients. If I am doing things the wrong way round, then this could well be the cause of the softness - thinking about it, by adding the butter first, then working the dough, I might well be putting too much heat into the butter, almost making it oily. 

I'll give it a try as soon as I can, avoiding the 00 flour as well. 

Interestingly, the baba recipe was a great success - apart from making vast amounts too much! 

Here's hoping, and good luck with your go. If it comes out well, the icing is first some warm apricot jam and then a coating of a mixture of 200g melted dark chocolate, 50g of cocoa paste and 20 g of water.

Let's see what we can do...

Jerry.

d_a_kelly's picture
d_a_kelly

Sorry, one other thought: you'll probably want to add most (if not all) of the yolks at the beginning, along with the milk. Otherwise there simply won't be enough water present to get any gluten development at all. 300g milk for 1200g of strong flour would barely be enough to act as a binder. Think of it as a dry brioche dough. You want good gluten development before you even begin to consider adding the butter! 

As for the baba, the first time I made it I had a batter of pipeable consistency. I still used it anyway, it rose and was delicious. The second time I used some extra extra strong flour (given to me by a local bakery in Italy) and had a lovely dough with really amazing ovenspring. I love baba! 

Good luck

David

JerryP's picture
JerryP

Thanks David,

Looks like it'll be next weekend when I can try it, so have a few days to think through what you've said and get it straight in my mind alongside the book. I'm keen to really get it right now I've got some advice.

I seem to remember that when I did the baba recipe I used some Canadian red wheat from Waitrose (my default before buying in bulk) which is also very strong. Worked a treat. 

Have a good week.

Jerry.

 

 

d_a_kelly's picture
d_a_kelly

Hi Jerry,

I had some free time so I had a go. Managed to make it on my second attempt, so I've written it up on my blog (I hope you don't mind). I had my mother email me the original recipe from the Italian edition to see if there was a problem with the English translation... but there isn't. The instructions are very incomplete. I had to make one or two changes to the recipe because I don't have ground walnut or cacao paste, but in essense it's the same thing. 

worth the effort to get it right I'd say, but it was not an easy dough to make. And I'd recommend the canadian red from Waitrose, I doubt a weaker flour would suffice for all the fat in this!

David

JerryP's picture
JerryP

Hi David,

Well done! It's good to see someone managing this one - it IS feasible after all!

I've no problem with you writing it up, the more everyone shares, the more we'll all be able to achieve. 

The problem you had with the first dough when it started weeping butter is something I have encountered, and it tends to simply get worse the more you handle the dough once the butter is in. I would agree that a frame of some sort is likely to be quite effective - I just cannot see the dough staying upright as it warms up with the amount of butter in that it has. I may try a sprung cake ring.

Am going to Waitrose tomorrow evening so will pick up some more Canadian Red, it really is a strong flour. I managed to save some of last weekend's attempt, although it was a bit overdone by the time I got it to firm up. Taste-wise I can see that done properly it will be very good, so am still determined to get it sorted. Certainly your photo looks good. I ground my own walnuts using a rolling pin and persistence, although I suspect ground almonds would be just as good, and a lot easier to find!

I'm hoping to give it another go this weekend, so I'll let you know.

Jerry.

 

 

JerryP's picture
JerryP

Hi David,

Well, I think I executed this recipe yesterday more carefully than I've ever done a recipe before!

The dough turned out very well...the problem came in the baking. I had it in a cake ring so that it didn't spread - that worked ok, and I cooked it for a little longer than the book suggests, even though it was half size, but when cut open, the middle layer had hardly cooked at all. The bottom was very firm and the top nicely cooked and the middle, well, soggy, to say the least.

I think that when I decide to have another go, I'll bake them as individual slices - an alternative that the book does mention.

I found that resting the dough after adding the milk and egg yolks, then resting it again before starting to add the butter, and resting it several times throughout the butter phase worked very well. A five hour bulk ferment and an hour in the fridge after separating into three portions gave me a nicely extensible and workable dough. I think I've cracked that bit - it's just getting it baked now!

I took some photos so may add an blog entry. People need to be aware that baking full cakes is tricky.

Jerry.

 

 

d_a_kelly's picture
d_a_kelly

Well done! A pity about the baking though. Maybe the dough wasn't fully proofed... I left mine for 4 hours at about 25 / 26 C and it certainly could have risen more. He usually specifies that a dough should triple in volume, and mine had only doubled. Do you have a proofing box, or a hot room? It could be that at 5 hours the dough simply wasn't yet ready, especially if your ambient temp is lower than here in Perugia (which I'd imagine it is - I hear so far it's another disastrous summer in England). If not that, it's interesting that the top layer cooked through but the lower ones didn't. It almost sounds as if all the heat is coming from above (rather than all around), so that the bottom level didn't get any ovenspring at all. I cooked mine as one big rectangular cake and only cut it up afterwards.

I had my own baking mishap recently also... I brought a cake to a party yesterday, with my own puff pastry and choux pastry. I'd had trouble with the puff because the fridge hasn't been working properly recently and the butter was always too soft. I was worried that it hadn't laminated very well. But it seemed to have cooked reasonably so I finished the cake and brought it to the meal. To my horror though it was pretty much solid in the middle, as I could see the moment it was cut into. I was (and am) mortified. Everybody professed to enjoy it, but I wasn't happy. I need to redeem myself - at least in my own eyes :))

David

JerryP's picture
JerryP

It feels terrible when something goes wrong in public, doesn't it!

I hoped to save something from the bake, but the mid layer had affected the upper and lower ones too much for anything  to be saved - even for use in puddings. I do use a proofing box - actually a very large plant propagator that I can control the temperature on. I kept it at 26 celsius for the five hours. 

I think I'll spend a bit of time NOT pushing the envelope and get a bit of confidence back!

Incidentaly, the Paduan focaccia in the same book is excellent and the recipe / instructions spot on. It's a bit of a nuisance to do, but comes out just as the book says. 

I think the weekend holds some Altamura bread and maybe a spelt struan...

Here's to the next one being a good one!

Jerry.