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James MacGuire

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  1. I'm supposed to be some sort of expert, yet I haven't looked into most of these things as carefully as you lot. I had the honor of cooking dinner once for Paula Wolfert, and in light of all of this, thank my lucky stars I didn't make caneles..... Toodles James
  2. Huge Thanks to you both, and the other diehards who have kept this thing going. Pain Rustique: What an honor to see photos of peoples' efforts! I am a huge fan of rustique. It was hard at times to refrain from inappropriate comments as I looked into the technical side of things, for Calvel is the author, will always know more about French bread than I, and has been the great defender of the good stuff. I do feel that the fermentation times listed in the book are minimums, because the professor knows that French bakers are in a hurry because theirsn is a tough market where one can only charge so much for a loaf of bread, and despite supermarkets and a general decline in pop and mom bakeshops, there are a bunch of artisans around. My own experience has been that because the loaves aren't shaped, the bulk fermentation must be prolonged to compensate, otherwise the loaves spread and do not "spring" well. Give it a try, and if this Q+A is still around, let me know how things went. Wood oven stuff: Retarded loaves is certainly a clever solution! Did you know that in early Quebec history, they tried to set up the same seigneurial bread ovens as in France ( i.e. everyone brought the loaves to be baked in the lord's oven, with some form of recompense to the lord) but this failed because in wintertime, the raw loaves froze en route ! Anyway, I feel truly amiss for nor having looked into woodburning ovens more than a time or two, not only for the socio/historical kind of thing, but also because of what that great Jeffrey Hamelman had to say about his experiences in Germany ( this appears as an add-on elsewhere in this Q+A) As the French would say, je vous tire mon chapeau ( I tip my hat to you), but not for too long because I'm pretty bald! My best to you all, readers and especially correspondants James
  3. Maria, I am the last person who should be giving business advice to anyone, and in any case, my own situation was so unique that it would be going off on tangents. Every business is a new business. Over the past weeks we havie been discussing things within the context of artisan baking ( whatever that is. There was a question about it...). I feel that anything that is both genuine and delicious should sell, and that is the basis of everything. My experience was the opposite of what too often happens. I really knew how to make things, and feel that in terms of customers' perception of the product, we were on the right track. Yes, we could have "tweaked" things around somewhat, but you have to know what you want to make, and above all, all about it. Yes, if there is a demand for whole grain loaves, look into it, but no, don't make muffins if its not your thing. Also be sure that the salespeople are in tune with things, baking vicariously alongside those who are actually doing the job. A lot of people who open up bakeries are long on business, but short on hands-on experience. Any artisan boss should be able to do every job in the place,. and customers should know it. People who are merely cashing in on the artisan phenomenon, and who do not dream about ( and, yes, also have nightmares about ) perfect bread or croissants will never have that unique relationship with their customers, and all too quickly, muffins will make their appearance, along with dreams of selling stuff to Costco. Bonne chance James
  4. Dear Ben, As I was saying, good questions will lead to careful answers! TPT is an abbreviation of the French pastry term " Tant pour tant", which can be loosely translated as " so much for so much". What you said about it's being a mixture of almond powder and icing sugar is true these days, but this is not how it began. French pastry people and confectioners used to " broyeuses" ( grinders?), which consisted of a pair of mechanised stone cylinders, side by side, with a handle to adjust the distance between them ( have you ever seen a home pasta machine with a manual crank ?). They were used to reduce things to a powder or a paste ( almonds or almonds + hazelnuts could be cooked with sugar to the caramel stage, cooled, and the result , put through the machine at a finer setting each time. Depending upon the exact amounts of nuts and sugar, a fine powder ( nougatine )or an unctuous paste ( praline )is the result. Anyway, back to tant pour tant: It was probably difficult to grind almonds by themselves without their turning into an oily mess, so grinding them with sugar made sense because there was sugar in the recipe anyway, and tant pour tant was kept on hand for various uses ( i.e. add enough egg white to form a firm paste and put it back through broyeuse and it became raw almond paste, add enough egg white so that it is stiff but can still be forced through a piping bag and it becomes the simplest form of almond maccarons, tant pour tant folded into whipped egg whites formed the basis for gateau Succes, etc.....) Most places don't have the old fashioned grinder- the broyeuse- anymore, and buy praline, almond paste, and other things ready-made. I don't know why the recipe which you have found for almond cream calls for tant pour tant, and I think that if you have access to powdered almonds, you could replace the TPT with it's equivalent in sugar ( to be added to the rest of the sugar in the recipe) and almond powder. However, if you can't find powdered almonds, you can put whole or sliced blanched almonds into a food processer with granulated sugar. If you need tant pour tant for another more typical use , it would be best to use icing sugar for a more finely textured result ( remember that North American icing- confectioners' sugar contains an alarming amount of starch so that it doesn't cake together. For this reason perhaps, it never seems to completely melt into things. I replace it with granulated sugar when I feel I can. When patissiers made tant pour tant, they were also turning the granulated sugar in the recipe into icing sugar !). I hope my reply is helpful. I didn't mean to confuse things further! Every good wish James
  5. Dear Ben, Thanks for the question. If you haven't yet done so, have a look at a question and answer in this series under the heading "Sweet beginnings" . What I said there is probably what I would say to you...... I'm a big believer in first hand experience and learning things on the job, and that kind of go-getter kind of enthousiasm means more to me than a lot of what I see on a lot of peoples' transcripts, for too many people are much better at writing transcripts then they are at peeling apples and sweeping floors. If you can, find yourself a job and work like a slave, but make sure that your chef keeps up her/his share of the bargain. By this I don't mean lots of money, but some attention and clear, careful answers to questions. I used to find lots of quality time when I came in early or stayed a bit late. There are less people around, and the chef will appreciate the favor and enjoy the company. Another thing is that if you read up on things, you will ask better questions which will solicit better answers. A lot of tough-sounding older hard core type have a more tender side, but don't always show it. I remember going to the chef's office once to complain, asking:, " why do you always get on MY case? You never do it to anyone else" and the answer came back: " You're the only one who is worth the trouble". Best of luck James
  6. Dear Poutine, There are various ways of making chocolate mousse, and probably the biggest problem is making it bitter enough. For "structural" reasons, there has to be sugar in the egg whites (yolks, whatever) to hold things, and if the chocolat used isn't extremely bitter, then things will be too sweet. Valrhona makes what they call " Cacao Pate Extra", what pastry people used to call "pure Pate", and this is what I use when there's a fair amount of sugar elsewhere in the recipe so that I don't end uo adding even more. I have never been a believer in adding such things as instant coffee to make things more bitter. The very old fashioned chocolate mousse made by people at home was done by melting the chocolate, and whisking in the chocolate and some butter. The whites were then whipped, with a bit of sugar folded-in, and folded into the chocolate mixture. I don't have the exact amounts ( my stuff is all in piles since the place closed) but stay in touch and I'll see what I can do. The mousse we made at Le P-P is based on Italian meringue: 400g Valrhona " Cacao Pate Extra" melted, cooled to lukewarm _______________________________________- 250 ml egg whites 75 g granulated sugar ----------------- 275 g granulated sugar cooked to small ball ___________________________________________- 1,000 heavy cream ( whipped but not stiff, no sugar) -------- Melt the chocolate -------- Whip the cream and refrigerate --------- Put the 275 g of sugar on to cook with some water, taking the usual precautions -------- In the meantime, whip the whites, and add the 75 g of sugar to "hold" them --------- Be sure the small ball syrup is ready at this stage ( the whites will dry out if left) gradually pour the boiling syrup into the whites with the machine on. DON'T BURN YOURSELF. Keep the machine on while the Italian meringue whips and cools to room temperature. --------- fold the meringue into the chocolate ( first about half, well-incorporated then the rest) ------- The fold in the whipped cream ( same 1/2 + 1/2 system as the meringue) ------- refrigerate, but don't serve cold Be careful of the temperatures of the various components: As you can imagine, on a hot day, with the chocolate and the meringue insufficiently cooled, the whipped cream will melt and fall. On one of those really cold days, with everything too cool, the chocolate will "sieze" and the mousse will be lumpy. Good luck James
  7. Michele- These days, I guess that school is pretty important, but there would be nothing to stop your daughter from working somewhere first, even if it's only part time, and if need be, as an an unpaid, unofficial intern. Too many people make it all the way through school before they realise that what they studied, which was great fun to learn, is less fun when you're starting from the bottom doing all of the boring things. Schools also need students, and most schools' raison d'etre is not to train students for the best restaurants of New York or L.A. , but people of the mid range of the food service industry. The difficult thing is to find the right place to do it. If she has a good idea of which are of pastry interests her, and does find an appropriate place, then at least she won't be paying money to find out that she doesn't like the trade, and just the right place ( it is true that there aren't many around ) i is almost the equivalent of school, often of better quality, and practised in real world conditions . By the right place, I don't necessarily mean the Ritziest or the one with the most awards. It should, however, be a place where they really want to do a good job, and where the boss shares his/her knowledge and isn't afraid to pitch-in in a big way. After a bit of experience in a place or two ( or three), she'l have a good pair of hands and some practical " savvy", and this will make it much easier to choose the appropriate school, ans also to get in. Working somewhere isn't a dead end as long as its's the right place, and reading up on things-- I tried to read everything when I was young-- keep things interesting, and there is nothing better than some smart ( i.e. well-informed) questions to assure a high level of answers from supervisers. Also, school doesn't have to be shelved completely in the meantime, for there are weekend or week long courses available which can be very useful and a nice change. That's the meandering answer. The short answer is yes, school is a good idea, but some work or at the very least, a thorough "look see" beforehand would be of great benefit. Thanks for the question James
  8. Paul- Thank you for keeping me from aimlessly roaming the streets...... Our selection of breads and viennoiseries was basically an attempt to cover all the bases, but making what you're good ar is never a bad idea. Two things were unusual, though: - We never made baguettes, prefering the basically unshaped pain rustique which professor Calvel invented. I think it's a terrific loaf, and it set us apart in a way that even great baguettes might not have because there are lots of baguettes made in Montreal, some of them pretty damn good. On a practical level it meant that one baker could handle things whereas baguettes would have required two, and it meant that just about everything we baked was baked at the same temperature. The other side to the coin is that with baguettes, we might have sold more bread overall, but the great majority of it baguettes ( in France, baguettes are about 85-90% of bread sales). - The other thing is that we were never big on flavored loaves. I have always felt that it is much more agreeable to munch on a few olives while eating bread than to put the olives in the loaf ( a lot of the loaves I see are pretty dense, and the olives on the inside are cooked and pretty mushy). Calvel, who is a tough-talking purist, has written that because their bread has no flavor, bakers "season" it. Some of these things are pretty good, but to me the great majority amuse or distract the palate, and reaching into certain restaurants' bread baskets is like Russian roulette ( in a lot of those same places, tea drinkers are presented with a wooden case full of different "teas", all flavored things and often containing no tea. Any place that looks beyond the usual food service quality tea bag is on the right track, but make sure that some of it is tea...). We did make walnut bread, which goes wonderfully with goat's cheese, and one with walnuts and raisins which goes well with blues... Anyway, the rustique covered the white category, the campagne had 15% whole wheat, and for people who wanted whole wheat it was stone ground and made with a levain. Our white levain contained 5% rye and was made in a more French style: we aimed for full but rounded flavors and for something just light enough to retain its crispy crust. I was proud of the rye you mentioned, but it never sold, and I was working on a multigrain loaf but hadn't begun selling it yet. This seemed like an okay range of choices, but still practical in terms of production. The viennoiseries were pretty much what one would find in France: croissants, pains au chocolat, croissants aux amandes, roules aux raisins and various brioches. I have always wondered why most artisan bakers in the U.S. do not make these things, for they're a challange, but can be much,much better than what is found in the supermarket. On the personal end, there has been much soul searching but no solutions. There are no regrets, and I miss all of the things I was involved with each day, and would find it difficult to permanently choose any one of the various trades that went on at Le P-P. The only thing I would tell a young person lucky enough to love these things would be to take better care of the business end of things than I did. Thanks for the question Salut James
  9. Thanks for the question. First, a quick comment/query on the recipe which you mentioned : 1 1/2 hours seems like a very long rest for the dough pieces between weighing/preshaping and the actual shaping. If the dough pieces rise so much that they begin to fall, then they have probably lost strength and will lose gas and the large bubbles as they are shaped ( of course, if there is not enough of a rest. shaping will be difficult, and those additional bubbles formed during the rest don't get formed.). The formulas in the Calvel book are meant to be followed as written, with or without the ascorbic acid and the intended role of the a.a. is remedial. . It is the primary fermentation ( aided in many recipes by preferments ) that give strength and structure to the dough. My own use of ascorbic acid is only occasional unless there are flour problems ( limited to the occasional retarded batch, and, perhaps, frozen raw croissants ) but if I've understood things correctly, the only danger in Calvel's intended use of ascorbic acid is that the shaped loaves can rise longer before going into the oven ( with bad effects upon texture) and that therefore this should be avoided. Recipes which make bad use of ascorbic acid are structured very differently from those in the Calvel book and probably call for greater amounts of ascorbic acid, lots of kneading at high speed, a reduced primary fermentation, but longer fermentation of the shaped loaves, similar to the intensive mixing recipe which he could only bring himself to describe rather than giving it in detail. Just for fun, you could always compare it to what you see at work. I confess that my experience with the alveograph is extremely limited. I have only once seen one in use, and although I have a reasonable idea of the ideal shape of the curve, and the importance of the various numbers, that's it. When I stopped in to see Jeffrey Hamelman at King Arthur Flour about ten days ago, he was teaching a class about the alveograph and other testing equipment, and the students thought I was kidding when I said that I could stick around and learn something, I wasn't He would be the guy to ask. That said, when Raymond Calvel came to the Culinary Institute Of America to teach a conference with the American Bread Bakers' Guild, much attention was paid to the alveograph results and other data when it came time to choose a flour, and this permitted rejecting a number of the samples out of hand. The final step, however, in making the final choice was to make test batches. Professor has used other American and Canadian flours with very good results, but on that occasion, it was King Arthur Sir Galahad ( all purpose). Best Wishes James
  10. Jay- I, too, came accross bee's (bees'? how much wax can one bee produce?!!!) in Lenotre's book on traditional French desserts ( which I'm fond of because it seems to be a work of love, much more so than his earlier stuff). In my answer, I used some such phrase as " fifteen minutes of celebrity " because having eaten a few in France ( and from reputable outfits), I have come to the conclusion that they are a curiosity, more than anything else. I've been meaning to make a few just to find out how they work, and would make them once in a while but not all the time. What you mentioned about the taste and texture seems pretty much on track. The old fashioned metal molds are probably still the best idea, but at the same time, it is perhaps the beauty of them which helped start the craze..... Thanks for your comments James
  11. Roger, I have reread Hubert Chiron, who says that because ascorbic acid can be forgiving to bakers in the sense that the shaped loaves can rise a bit too much without danger of deflating before going into the oven, this is not a desireable thing for the end reslult especially if it is done systematically, on purpose.... Remember to have a look at the yeast question Sante! James
  12. Project, I only saw your question as I was approaching thr keyboard ( with my usual trepidation) with something else in mind. I will ponder your questions, and secretly pray that Jeffrey answers them first. Anyway, it struck me that since this Q+A has been going on ----to our great delight----- a good chunk longer than anticipated, I may as well keep throwing things in. I think I mentioned in an answer to an earlier query that baker's yeast is a form of beer yeast. Someone , at some point ( and who thinks of these things, who invented puff pastry?) added the foam from a fermenting vat of beer to a bread dough( all beers in the old days were top fermenting, in other words, the yeast floated on top ) Saccharomyces Cervesiae exists on and around various grains: barley ( of course) but also wheat. This means that even though I have spent years building and maintaining sourdoughs, and feeling a somewhat fatherly ( motherly? why not) pride when I see the results of the extra work and care, I have to admit that baker's yeast is only one step removed from bakers, and just as fresh pasta made with egg is different from but not in every case better than dried pasta and that the two should be considered in separate categories, so should sourdough and yeast. Someone wrote in the other day, and the gist of his opinion seemed to be that sourdough is the real stuff in terms of flavor, and the true challange to a real baker. Part of me wanted to stand up and cheer, but the other half hesitated, and I must say that if I were sentenced for some reason to working for the rest of my life with only one or the other, it would be a hard choice and in either case, I would forever be an unhappy guy. Sourdough loaves, especially when they are made with darker flours, pack a flavorful punch, and they can be lighter or denser yet remain satisfying, especially because most of us want to love them. On the other hand. if baker's yeast were that easy to work with, then there would be great baguettes and perfect croissants everywhere, when if fact, these are very difficult to find, even in Paris. Yeasted stuff is always evaluated with a cooler head.... The thing to remember is that the two are quite distinct, and that we should celebrate both. Recipes for "sourdough" which start things off with a packet of yeast will only yield polluted yeast. Sourdough is sourdough, and Sugihara, Kline and their colleagues found that sourdough loaves containing amounts of baker's yeast exceeding 0.2% by flour weight began to lose their defining characteristics ( the French government applies this in its definition of sourdough, as do manufacturers of active cultures). I love both types of fermentation to dabble in mixtures ( even the 0.2% yeast seems unnecessary) but those who wish to ( and I admit that there are interesting things to be done) should remember to keep the mother sourdough culture pure. That's it for now, but I'll be around until the very end! James
  13. First of all, let me say that yeast is, in the overall scheme of things, relatively inexpensive. I am wary of yeast bought in bulk ( where and in what condtions has it been kept?, etc) and I would certainly advise ( if they are indeed more reliable, don't be paranoid but do be somewhat wary of even these ) smaller, well-sealed packets, unless you bake often, and have "been around the block". Reliable yeast limits the variables, a good thing for neophytes, but for all of us the wiser investment. Why take the chance of making a bad batch of bread, especially if it is for pleasure? There was a superstition among traditional French bakers that too much bakers yeast "burns" the dough, in other words that the texture was destroyed. The explanation for this is much the same as that in the answer to the ascorbic acid query. Too much yeast hastens the physical evidence of fermentation- things begin to move pretty quickly, and seem ready for the oven- but the formation of the fatty organic acids which create flavor, texture, and keeping qualities require a longer fermentation. Bleached flours, " dough conditioners", and a good dose of yeast speed things up, but the baby is thrown-out with the bathwater. Yeast manufacturers who sell yeast in the supermarket are in a delicate position : of course they want to sell yeast, but at the same time there is something noble about encouraging people to maintain ( more truly, these days, recreate) the tradition of home baking. And they cannot be blamed for assuming that people are increasingly in permanent "quick 'n easy" mode. Add to this the fact that large doses of yeast help sales, and there is no wonder why recipes provided in supermarket yeast packets call for lots of yeast, and minimum fermentation times. Yeast in this way becomes a sort of organic baking powder- that is, it is only there to blow things up. Too many bread "cookbooks" espouse this same quick and easy approach ( others, including a home bread guru or two, allow for longer fermentations, but so complicate things that they make little sense). I prefer fresh bakers' yeast, but it is also what I am used to. My second choice would be instant dried yeast. Both must be well-stored, and properly used. Remember, above all, that in good recipes, yeast should appear in relatively small amounts ( these are higher in sweet, rich doughs) , and it is not the flavor of yeast that you're after, but the flavor of fermentation The yeast only gets things started. The flour and other ingredients must be chosen with care-- this will also limit the variables-- and above all, buy a book which makes sense, and begin with simple recipes. As any true baker will tell you, there is nothing wrong with simple stuff. I hope that Jeffrey Hamelman will find the time to add his comments. He really understands these things. My best to you, James
  14. Roger: I apologise for making yiu wait so long for an answer, and my answer will be brief because I hope that Hubert Chiron, who is hugely more qualified than I to deal with this will be adding a few things. The problem might not be the ascorbic acid, but the misuse of ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid can be beneficial when difficult flours cause doughs to lose strength during the second rise ( i.e. the shaped loaves) and flatten-out as they bake. It can also be useful when one is retarding shaped loaves ( i.e. keeping raw shaped loaves in the refrigerator overnight before baking them), freezing raw croissants, etc. Using ascorbic acid more as a " dough improver" ( a term which becomes truly disingenuous when applied to potassium bromate, etc), that is, to artificially create the 'maturation' of the dough is another matter. It is possible to cut down on the bulk fermentation of the dough and count on ascorbic acid to giveit the necessary " architecture" to hold its shape, be baked, etc. The problem is that relatively long bulk fermentation of the dough has always been the cornerstone of great bread, which gives the finished loaf flavor, texture, and keeping qualities has been eliminated. All of this could mean that lack of flavor ( Kaplan) and lack of keeping qualities (Viron) are not some directly poisonous cause/effect effect of the ascorbic acid, but the shortening of the fermentation process, a use for ascorbic acid of interest only to bad bakers. I hope this helps, James ps have a look at the yeast query, which is related to this
  15. Specifically to Renaud, but hope, of general interest: Thank you for finding the exact wordings of the "maison" and "tradition" laws. Remember that although fava and soy products are allowed because they are traditional, in the presence of high speed mixing they greatly oxydise the dough to produce bread which is as bleached-out as all of the commercial stuff. Thank you, as well, for the picture. The "tradition" loaf has beautiful large holes but seems a bit on the underdeveloped side, and perhaps enevenly baked. Although many many people agree on the dangers of overkneading, exactly how much kneading is necessary or beneficial is another thing. Any true baguette should be light enough in structure to maintain a crispy, crackly crust. There is at times a tendency to underknead, the idea being that any "real" bread should have some consistency ( i.e. heavy is better. This is not how the baguette began, and baguettes can be made with hardly any kneading at all which are lighter and more open than the loaf pictured. Of course, photos are photos, and in any case, chacun son gout! Merci et a bientot James
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