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Brainstorming Bread Shapes

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cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

Brainstorming Bread Shapes

Hello TFLers,

I've been mulling over some ideas regarding optimal bread shapes for serving to groups and thought it might be a fun topic for discussion. Here's the situation I have in mind and the accompanying parameters:

I'm going to a weekend retreat of about 60 people where we will be cooking our own food. The central cooking and eating space is basically a spacious but not tremendously equipped house kitchen. I want to make bread for people. Last year, I made rolls, but it was kind of annoying, mostly because scaling 100 rolls takes a long time.

The advantages of rolls are:

  1. Portion control/discrete serving unit
  2. Requires no knife
  3. Cools off quickly - ready to eat shortly after baking

The knife bit is important because we both lacked a good bread knife and if people are waiting to cut bread, it will cause a backup in the serving area. Now, I realize one option is plan to have multiple good bread knives so that slicing is easier and can happen in a few places, facilitating a good flow of people and food. That's less interesting to think about, though.

But I'm considering a different option while I have time to think about it (about two weeks). What loaf shapes are possible that allow for easy, knife-free serving and portioning, and basically have the same advantages of rolls, but involve just scaling and shaping some loaves?

My first thought is epis; pieces can be torn off easily by hand in roughly portioned amounts, but it starts with just scaling a loaf sized chunk of dough.

 I found this link on the forums and am also considering the star shape. After poking around a little, I was reminded that pull-apart loaves exist.

That's about what I got so far. These ideas are probably workable, but I thought that the creative minds visiting this site might have fun thinking about it as well, and might point me towards other and better ideas.

Hope to hear from you all soon.

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

I've had this food slicer for almost four years, now. I use it daily to slice bread for sandwiches and toast; from soft, enriched sandwich loaves to lean, hard crusted rustic loaves. I wouldn't even make pumpernickel if I didn't have the slicer to cut thin slices perfectly every time.

The slicer is small enough and light enough for it not to be an onerous task to transport.

cheers,

gary

David Esq.'s picture
David Esq.

I bought an electric knife that received positive reviews for its ability to slice bread.  It was the Mister Twister fish and game electric knife.

I either suck at baking or this knife sucks at cutting bread that has been out for a few days, because it could not penetrate the crust.  I wish I had room for one of these handy dandy deli slicers, but I wonder whether it would really cut through a tougher country loaf....

gary.turner's picture
gary.turner

At least mine does. There are a lot of home food slicers that seem to be unfit for purpose, but the one I linked to above works well and has almost universal 5 star reviews by users.

cheers,

gary

baybakin's picture
baybakin

I think that you'll find epis taking just as long as shaping that many rolls, if you count the time to shape a baguette first, then cutting, then pulling each piece to the side. Production line is the way to go for rolls, two people, one person portioning the dough, the other shaping two rolls at a time.

Coming from working in the bagel shop, when the portioner would break down (it happens), we would hand-portion 150 pound blobs of bagel dough, you get a feel for how much each should weigh, and start going pretty quickly.

leucadian's picture
leucadian

I see where you're going, with a large-ish piece of dough that can be easily divided and pulled apart after baking. I agree that the epi sounds like more work, and you might consider perfecting the roll shaping if the following suggestions don't appeal to you. In any case, check out Mark Sinclair's video tutorial on rolls. 

If you want to do pull-apart bread, Fougasse is a hit because it's different, crisp, fast baking, and fun to pull apart. And fast to make. Make one or two per table, with different coatings, like anise and poppy seeds on one, rosemary on the other, and flaky sea salt on yet another. Make it with a lean sourdough, so there's some chew and some crust to it. Or maybe instead of the traditional tree/leaf shape, make it into a ladder, with each rung the right size for an individual portion. People can take as much or as little as they like.

Or you could just cut unshaped breadsticks with the same dough, like a deconstructed ladder fougasse.

Or make a charleston with equal sized portions.

Good luck

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

I'd totally forgotten about fougasse! It wouldn't portion as tidily as epi, but it has a lot of similar characteristics. Breadsticks is also a good idea, if not one I really have experience with. Might need to play around with that.

I'd also been considering a vivarais shape, which is similar to charleston, but cut rather than rolling pinned, and harder to find on google image search.

leucadian's picture
leucadian

I couldn't (still can't) find the image, and I couldn't remember the name. Thanks for the lead. Do you have a link?

When I tried to make the Charleston, the gap needed some flour or bran to keep it distinct. Let us know what you come up with. BTW the breadsticks I had in mind are just a fougasse cut all the way through, not shaped.

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

Re: vivarais - no, I don't have a link. I have a book, which is fine for me, but harder to share.

leucadian's picture
leucadian

Suas has detailed pictures of making it, but here's a photo from boulangerie.net of a slightly different style. Apparently it's made with rye. It also looks like it was cut after proofing, just before baking. 

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

You must have excellent Google-fu.

It does look a little different and more cohesive than Suas'. I should play around with making one of these and see how it goes.

andychrist's picture
andychrist

But have you considered Miami Onion Rolls? Aside from being fairly quick, delicious and easy to portion, they come out rectangular, baking side by side/end to end in the pan, utilizing all available space. Helps cut down on oven time when baking in quantity.

Agree, you do not want to have today's bread knives lying around where guests might do themselves a mischief. 

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

I haven't heard of that one before. Is this similar to what you're thinking of?

andychrist's picture
andychrist

 

 

 

Those are hard round rolls you've got there. Here are the ones I mean:

http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/browse-all-recipes/onion-rolls-00100000068372/

there are other recipes you can find for Miami onion rolls that are more pocketed.

 

andychrist's picture
andychrist

Was mislead by the King Arthur pic. Yes, perhaps those are similar as they are baked in rectangles. But most recipes for the Miami style call for about a third of the onion to be baked on top.

cerevisiae's picture
cerevisiae

Sounds like it might be a tasty thing to try sometime. Thanks for the link.