The French Baker: Authentic Recipes for Traditional Breads, Desserts, and Dinners by Sebastien Boudet
What I Didn’t Like About the Book
There was a lot of detail that was left out of the recipes. It wasn’t challenging for me to put the pieces together because I have years of experience with baking a variety of breads, but someone new to baking would surely be confused. Even I had questions regarding re-feeding sourdough, shaping loaves, and kneading.
Bottom Line: when it comes to baking, this may not be the best book for beginners.
What I Liked About the Book
The book itself is gorgeous. The pillowy hardcover, the matte pages, the beautiful photos of rustic French food, markets, garden, and towns. The writing is romantic, describing the baking process passionately and painting an idealistic picture of French food culture. The author tells a story rather than just providing recipes; I like that.
I was expecting a tome on how to perfect sourdough, but the book contains more than that, more than just baked goods even. It is broken up into sections including sourdough bread, sweet bread, cookies, desserts, and hearty baker’s meals.
The recipes that I made came out awesome. I was skeptical about the baguette recipe while I was putting the starter together, but it came through and ended up being one of the best baguettes I’ve made.
The baguette is France’s most popular and most purchased bread- and it’s the worst f their selection of fine breads! The baguette you normally find in stores and bakeries is a fluffy white bread without crust or colour. But with the help of the poolish method you can create beautiful and tasty baguettes. The Polish people brought this leavening method to France at the end of the 1800s and it is based around letting three-fifths of the bread go through prolonged autolysis of 12 hours. The small amount of yeast creates a snowball effect which begins the whole leavening process and produces airy bread with simple but clear sourdough flavour. The method is perfect for making baguettes.
Makes 5 Baguettes
8 cups (1kg) wheat flour + 5 cups (600g) wheat flour
1g fresh yeast
4 cups (1kg) water
45g coarse sea salt
Prepare the poolish by whisking the 8 cups of wheat flour, yeast, and water in a large bowl until you have the consistency of pancake batter.
Cover the bowl with a baking towel and let leaven at room temperature for 12-16 hours.
After 12-16 hours of leavening the dough should be doubled in size and will smell really nice.
Pour the 5 cups of wheat flour onto a baking table. Create a dent in the middle and pour the poolish from the previous day into the dent along with the sea salt. Mix and knead the dough (there is no need for autolysis since 3/5 of the dough has already rested for 12 hours with the water) until it releases from the table. Shape the dough into a ball and let it rest under a baking towel for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into five equal parts and shape each one into a small ball. Let rest for a couple of minutes under a baking towel.
Carefully shape the balls into baguettes. If you notice that the dough begins to tear, you can let it rest a little bit longer so it can recover.
Sprinkle flour liberally on the baking towel and place the first baguette on it. Create a fold in the towel as a barrier and place the next baguette alongside the fold.Alternate between fold and baguette until the towel is covered, that way the baguettes won’t touch each other but will support each other.
Sprinkle flour on top of the baguettes and cover them with another baking towel. Let the baguettes leaven at room temperature for 3-4 hours or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 500F with a baking stone if you have one.
If you have a baking stone, roll the baguettes from the baking towel onto a floured pizza peel (or to the back of a baking sheet that has been floured). Otherwise, you can place the baguettes carefully onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.
Score the flour dusted baguettes lengthwise (carefully and not too quickly as they can lose their structure). Note: never score baguettes straight across.
Bake the baguettes in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes.
Let the baguettes cool down on a rack for at least 45 minutes.2 Comments
I really like America’s Test Kitchen because they let you in on all sorts of culinary tips and tricks that, when implemented, work really well. It’s comforting knowing that they did a number of tests to find the best results for a recipe.
I found this little granola-making trick on America’s Test Kitchen and recently implemented it. It results in a nice, chunky granola with big clusters (which are, let’s be honest, the best part of any granola).
Most granola recipes call for regular stirring while the granola bakes, but this one is quite different.
The Process for Chunky Granola with Big Clusters
Step 1: Press down the granola mixture into a baking sheet creating a compact layer.
Step 2: Bake the granola without stirring, rotating the pan halfway through baking.
Step 3: Once the sheet of granola has cooled, break it up into pieces.
Basically you’re making granola bars and then breaking them up into granola. And it works like a charm.
I used the technique on this granola recipe and it turned out to be the chunkiest granola ever. Take notes my friends, because this process is a winner.
I’m looking forward to the upcoming premiere of Series 4 of my favourite show, Downton Abbey.
Last week my friend Andrea gave me The Unofficial Downton Abbey Cookbook for my birthday and I am SO excited about it. Maybe even more for this than for the show.
The book is broken down into an ‘Upstairs’ section– dining with the Crawleys, with recipes for a full 7 course service– and ‘Downstairs’ section– dining with the service staff, with hearty no-frills recipes. I love how each recipe ties into the characters of the show and how tidbits of historical information and turn of the century etiquette are peppered throughout the book. I’m both a history nerd and a cooking enthusiast, so I find it all fascinating.
AND I’m very seriously considering hosting a Downton Abbey themed dinner party or, if that’s too ambitious, at the very least an afternoon tea.
In other British TV news, I started watching Broadchurch.
It’s a mystery about a the murder of a boy in a small coastal town and how various townspeople are related to the events of the death. It’s quite captivating so far and I’m only 3 episodes in.
I recommend it.
And following what seems to be a British theme in this blog post, I just finished reading Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simpson.
It’s a book about a dignified, retired army Major living in the English countryside, his relationship with a woman of Pakistani descent, and their interactions with their families and neighbours. The characters are really charming, particularly Major Pettigrew, who it written with such an extreme sense of duty and manners that it is almost comical.
Overall I really enjoyed the story, finding it elegantly humourous and really well written.5 Comments
I find when the weather is too hot (and I keep my house air conditioned as little as possible) my ice cream maker starts to warm up before the churning is finished making the ice cream come out icy. Not fun. But this temperate summer has been really good for ice cream making.
Back in July I made 3 ice creams for a cake and ice cream social at my sister’s new house. They’re all variations of recipes from Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, who, judging by my experience with her recipes, really knows her stuff. I’m almost tempted to buy her cookbook of ice cream concoctions but I’m not sure I can make room on my bookshelf for a book devoted to one very specific food.
This Lemon-Blueberry Frozen Yogurt was a HUGE hit.
It was nearly everyone’s favourite, including my cousin who claims to not like dessert (I fail to understand how this is even possible). He called it ‘gorgeous‘ upon tasting. This frozen yoghurt is made with gelatin (sorry vegetarians) which gives it this light, almost whipped, mouthfeel. Plus it’s tart and not too sweet. It’s basically a win all around.
Jeni claims to “never make frozen yogurt as a low-fat replacement for ice cream” but uses it instead to bring out the tanginess of fruit. I like her style.
For that same cake and ice cream social I made this variation of her Chocolate Ice Cream.
I have made this recipe in the past and it is so smooth and creamy with a milk chocolate-y taste that’s it’s pretty irresistible. And I don’t even like chocolate ice cream. It was my sister’s favourite.
And finally, I also made this Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry Ice Cream, substituting Saskatoon berries for the blackberries. I enjoyed the eccentric taste of the corn in ice cream, but this was the least popular of the three. I think only one person deemed it their favourite.
It’s a cool novelty but I don’t think I would make it again.
What I like:
I like that these ice cream recipes don’t include eggs. Most homemade ice creams have an obscene amount of eggs in them which deters me from making them. These are thickened with cornstarch or gelatin instead. It’s a cool concept.
What I don’t like:
One thing that is recommended in the recipes is to place the ice cream base in a ziploc bag and cover it with ice water to cool it down prior to churning. I always take this step out, favouring instead to make the base the day before and refrigerate it overnight. I find that when I do the whole ‘ziploc bag thing’ it gets messy and there’s a whole lot of wasted ice cream stuck to the bag afterward.6 Comments
It’s time for the next Baking Partners Challenge!
This month’s theme is World Cookies.
We all know how much I love cookies, so I was excited for this challenge. We had the option to make Dutch Speculaas (which was obviously enticing for me because they are my favourite cookie), Italian biscotti, Chinese almond cookies, or Greek kourabiethes. I decided on the kourabiethes for the simple reason that I had all the ingredients on hand.
What are a Kourabiethes?
Kourabiethes, Koo-rahb-YEH-thes, are traditional Greek shortbread cookies made with toasted almonds. They may have been imports from the Middle East because of their similarity to Iranian Qurabiya or because their crescent shape, which is said to date back to the Turkish occupation to represent the Turkish flag.
They are an integral part of important celebrations like Christmas, Easter, and weddings because they traditionally required serious effort; the butter and sugar would have been beaten together manually for over an hour!
I made these for my birthday this year and shared them with the yoga class that I taught in the park in the middle of a downpour (but luckily under a pavilion).
The miracles of modern technology (ie. mixers) mean these cookies are really easy to make. They’re tasty in a subtle way that’s not too indulgent but satisfies the sweet tooth. They went quickly in our house (though not as quickly as the ANZAC biscuits which I made at the same time). I certainly ate a lot of them.
I need to invest in multiple shiny metal baking sheets. I always run into the problem that when I use a shiny metal sheet my cookies come out perfect and when I use a dark metal sheet for the same time and temperature the cookies come out slightly burnt. The baking sheet makes a difference you guys!
The recipe I worked with was flavoured with orange zest which doesn’t seem to be a very common flavour for kourabiethes. With a little googling I found most recipes used brandy for flavour and a few recipes listed rose or orange blossom water as an ingredient. I’d be interested to try them with brandy next time.
250g butter, softened
2 1/2 cups pure icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 orange, rind finely grated
1 egg, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup almond meal (ground almonds)
Preheat oven to 325°F. Line 2 shiny metal baking trays with parchment paper.
Using an electric mixer beat the butter, 1 cup icing sugar, vanilla, and orange rind until pale and creamy. Add egg and beat until well combined. Sift flour and baking powder over mixture. Add almond meal. Stir until dough comes together.
Roll out one tablespoon of dough into an 8cm-long log, and bend to form a crescent shapes. Repeat with the remaining dough, placing each cookie on baking tray, allowing room for spreading.
Bake for 20 minutes or until light golden. Stand for 5 minutes on trays until firm but still warm.
Place the remaining sugar in a bowl. Coat warm biscuits, 1 at a time, in sugar. Place on a wire rack to cool. Sift any remaining icing sugar over biscuits when cool.
Good Food: Notable bean dishes that I’ve made recently.
It hasn’t felt much like spring lately, but the cold and rainy weather has let me stretch out soup season a little longer. Here are a couple of delicious recipes for soup and sandwiches that I’ve discovered recently.
Spiced Coconut Lentil Soup
I’ll double or triple the recipe next time I make this soup for 2 reasons: 1) it’s good. 2) it doesn’t make much.
I modified it by first toasting the spices in a hot pan until they were fragrant enough to make my house smell like an Indian restaurant. The result is a really flavourful, creamy soup.
Don’t leave out the lime, and don’t skimp on it either. It’s true of any bean soup recipe: the sourness from citrus juice is really what makes the flavour pop.
Udon Noodle Soup with Pork
I can’t get enough of thick and chewy udon noodles, but I think the thing that really made this soup fantastic was the broth that I used.
Back in January for Matt’s birthday we went to the restaurant Roast in Detroit. I didn’t feel ashamed to ask the waiter to wrap up the leftover bone from Matt’s phenomenal roasted pork shank dish, which I brought home and made into a really flavourful stock.
The foundation of Japanese cuisine centres around good broth, and the’re definitely onto something.
I very loosely followed this recipe for this Nicoise-style tuna salad when making sandwiches for my family this week. My dad’s cupboards and fridge always seemed to be filled with all kinds of olives and marinated vegetables so I put my access to good ingredients to good use.
Since I didn’t have a big loaf of French bread to squeeze all the ingredients between, flatten out under something heavy, and get ‘bathed’ in the juices from the salad, I served it on toast. So technically it wasn’t “pan bagnat” in the definition of the term (bathed bread) but it was still pretty good! A nice (or should I say Nice?) change from the typical tuna & mayo sandwich.
If you make your own variation of this, don’t skip the fresh basil. It makes the whole sandwich taste awesome.2 Comments
I love me some soda bread.
Finnish Rieska is a flat quickbread (ie. leavened chemically with baking soda and powder instead of yeast) made in Finland that can be similar to soda bread, depending on how you make it.
Though Rieska is a traditional Finnish flatbread, its preparation varies across the country. Often it’s made with barley flour, sometimes it’s oat or rye, and even potato is popular. The thickness of rieska can vary too from cracker-thin to thick-and-bready.
I’ve never been all that interested in making it until I saw a version containing oats on the King Arthur Flour website. I love oats! Their flavour imparts a nutty quality that I absolutely adore in pretty much anything.
Finnish Oat and Rye Rieska
From King Arthur Flour
This was my first rieska attempt and it turned out awesome! Instead of spreading my rieska batter thinly out over an entire baking sheet, I piled it up in a 9″ round cake pan to garner the “thick-and-bready” texture that reminded me of a muffin. This bread tastes fantastic with a robust cheese and if I sandwiched a fried egg in there too it made the perfect breakfast.
35g (1/2 c) rolled oats
113g (1 c) rye flour
128g (1 c.) all-purpose Flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
25g (2 T) sugar
57g (1/4 c) butter
1 1/2 c buttermilk (or 1 1/2 c milk with 1 1/2 T vinegar)
Preheat the oven to 500°F (high temperature is good for a wet dough like this).
Grease a baking pan or baking sheet. The original recipe calls for a 9×13″ baking pan which would make a thinner bread than the 9″ round pan that I used. I’ve seen some recipes where the dough is spread very thinly on a whole baking sheet too, so the choice is yours. Just remember that the thinner the dough the quicker it will bake.
In a large bowl, whisk dry ingredients together.
Crumble the butter into the dry ingredients with your hands until it is thoroughly distributed. Stir in the milk or buttermilk to get a very sticky batter.
Transfer the dough to the prepared baking dish and, using wet hands, pat it out so it fills the pan.
Bake the bread for 15 to 17 minutes (for a 9×13″ bread), until the top is light golden brown and springs back when gently touched.
Remove the bread from the oven and cool it on a rack before slicing.9 Comments
Remember the pheasants that Matt brought home from one of his co-workers?
Well, we cooked them.
The first pheasant Matt roasted in the oven with a dry rub of miscellaneous spices that he enjoys. The bird was rather tough and I felt that I was gnawing at it with my teeth. It had a typical poultry taste but reminded me more of turkey than of chicken.
I took a different approach with the second bird since I knew what I was in for (ie. tough meat), I figured a good way to prepare it would be in a hearty pie. Because, obviously, I love pie.
It tasted much better this way. The meat was still tough but was tenderized by the longer cooking and the sauciness of the pie filling. . . plus everything tastes better topped with a flaky crust.
Pheasant Pot Pie
1 recipe for Perfect Pie Crust, wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
2 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, sliced
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
4 c chicken broth
1 pheasant cut into 8 pieces (2 wings, 2 legs, 2 breasts, 2 thighs)
4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
In an large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper, then cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 15 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add all the pheasant pieces, return to a boil, then lower to heat to simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the pheasant pieces and transfer to a plate to cool for about 10 minutes.
Strain the stock and reserving both the vegetables and stock separately. Remove and discard the herbs.
While the pheasant is cooling, preheat the oven to 400F. Prepare the pie dough by rolling it out to the size and shape of the baking dish you will be using for your pie (I used a 9×13”).
When the pheasant is cool enough to handle, pull the meat into bite-size pieces, discarding the skin and bones.
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour then whisk in the stock one ladle at a time. Bring to a boil, whisking occasionally. Continue cooking until the sauce has the consistency of heavy cream then stir in the chicken pieces and vegetables until well coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Transfer the filling to a baking dish. Cover with the rolled out pie dough and bake for 40min or until the crust is golden brown.3 Comments
While I’m talking about cakes, here’s one that was leaps and bounds more successful than the last.
This recipe comes from Pellegrino Artusi, the author of the veritable bible of recipes from all regions of Italy: La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiare Bene (The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well) which he published in 1891.
As an uber-geek interested in both food and history, I get overly excited by historic recipes like that time I found out that the National Archives has a full copy of The New Galt Cookbook on their website(!)
I like to think about how much more work it would have been 100 years ago to prepare food compared to today. I think’s it’s amazing both how little and how much recipes have changed over the years. And I think eating food from historic recipes gives you a real connection to the past.
In my grade 12 Modern European History class, we had a project where we had to prepare a dish typical of revolutionary France. I still recall showing up to school smelling like fried bacon and onions from the roasted squash dish that I made that morning. Best. Project. Ever.
Italians love simplicity– seriously, just ask my Nonna. If she calls you “simple” it really is the utmost compliment.– even in their desserts. In this sense, Torta Margherita is classically Italian.
It’s an unintentionally gluten free and dairy free cake that has only 4 ingredients. It is made with potato starch (not potato flour) and leavened with egg whites. It’s cheap to make, it’s easy to make (although it would have arguably been a hell of a lot more labour intensive before the age of electric mixers and beaters), and it is a really great, light cake.
The taste and texture sort of reminds me of ladyfinger cookies which makes me think it would be awesome in a tiramisu. I ate mine with a very hefty drizzling of coconut curd (which is also coincidentally gluten free and dairy free).
Pellegrino Artusi’s Torta Margherita Recipe
This is a very simple cake that can be served in many ways. Simply with a dusting of icing sugar and dunked in a caffe, or served with a berry compote, or as part of a trifle or tiramisu, or you can drizzle it with an Asian coconut curd called Kaya if you want a really cool cross-cultural fusion like I did.
You can also play around with the flavours, swapping orange zest or vanilla or perhaps even a little rum for the lemon zest.
120 grams potato starch, sifted (not potato flour)
120 grams granulated sugar
4 eggs, separated
Zest of 1 lemon
Butter a round cake pan and line with parchment. I used a 6″ pan for a taller cake but you can also use an 8″ pan for a wider cake and bake it for less time.
Preheat the oven to 350*F
In a large bowl, beat the yolks together with the sugar until very pale and creamy. Add the lemon zest and the potato starch and beat until combined. Note: the potato starch will make the batter very tough and tacky, but don’t worry the egg white will lighten it up so it’s smooth and pourable.
In a separate clean bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form then fold the whites gently through the batter a little at a time. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake at moderate heat for an hour or until the cake is firm and passes the toothpick test.
Remove from the pan to a wire rack and let cool. Serve as desired with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or with whatever accompaniment that you like (like coconut curd, for example).5 Comments
So I haven’t been doing too well with my Sugar Free Lent these last couple of weeks. My sugar cravings have come back and I’ve been sampling more and more desserts. Also I’ve been caving completely on Sundays (because, technically, Sunday’s don’t count). Today for instance I had a piece of pie and ice cream, and I sweetened my coffee with cinnamon sugar.
Last Sunday I ate these:
Nutella Banana Rolls
This is one of Matt’s favourite types of bread that I make.
Use a soft white bread dough (like this one)
Roll it out with a rolling pin into a big rectangle
Spread nutella and mashed banana on top
And then roll it up like a cinnamon bun.
You can either bake it as a loaf or cut it into buns (cinnamon bun style) and bake it that way. 350F for 30min or so should do the trick.
Spread nutella on top after it’s baked for extra luxuriousness. It totally hits the spot.3 Comments
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- Lose 6cm from my waistline
Start (Aug 15): 83cm/ 91cm/ 166.8lb
Aug 31: 82cm /89cm/ 166.8lb
Sep 10: 83cm/ 89cm/ 166.2lb
Sep 20: 83cm/ 89cm/ 166.2lb
Oct 1: 83cm/ 88cm/ 165.6lb
Oct 10: 82cm/ 89cm/ 166.6lb
Oct 31: 81cm/ 88cm/ 166.6lb
Nov 15: 81cm/ 87cm/ 169.4lb
Dec 1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.2lb
Jan1: 82cm/ 88cm/ 169.4lb
Feb 1: 84cm/89cm/171.8lb
Mar 15: 83cm/ 88cm/ 170.0lb
Apr 15: 82cm/ 88cm/ 170.0lb
Jul 1: 79cm/85cm/ 164.0lb
Aug 1:: 80cm/ 85cm/ 163.4lb