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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
  16. Dear Fat Guy, Anyone who works with Ed Behr turns into a better writer. I do my best, but it was daunting to be taken to task by John Thorne......... Time and budget considerations have always kept me from looking into every book I find interesting, and I must miss a bunch of good prospects each year. When I began cooking, nothing was weighed or measured in the main kitchen except the rice and stock ( water?) for a pilaff ( 1:1.5 with Uncle Ben's), or perhaps the rule of thumb kind of thing where it was known that one particular pot, filled to the handles' rivets, would be enough soup for lunch. Things were different when I got into the pastry department, of course, and apart from the exact, scaled recipes, Yvon Dauchot the Belgian pastry chef for whom I worked, also took the time to explain as best he could the hows and whys of things. A few months later, when I arrived at the Culinary Institute of America ( then in New Haven,Ct), I still had so much to learn that I sniggered condescendingly at a student who walked around with a thermometer. He should see me now..... It was a huge revelation, when I spent a bit of time in some good French kitchens, to see the guys on the fish station at Haeberlin, who spent half their lives making fish mousselines ( for the Salmon Haeberlin and the mousseline stuffed with a frog leg ragout) using a scale, and Jean Delaveyne and Barrier, who both knew lots about pastry and charcuterie, also had exact formulas, scales, and thermometers. I have worked this way ever since because it is faster than hemming and hawing, makes inexperienced employees useful much more quickly, and the whole idea of a system is somehow reassuring. I don't think that it infringes upon self expression ( there's still plenty of room, and in any case, Jean Delaveyne used to say:. " La cuisine n'est pas un art; c'est un metier qui flirt avec les arts"), for there are still too many things which have to be done by feel and with the tastebuds ( seasoning a salad with salt, pepper, oil, and vinegar can be right up there in the challange hit parade ). Too absolute a dependence upon thermometers can backfire: I still shudder when I remember the raw veal we almost served one night because the thermometer was on the fritz... A more systematic approach to formulas allows the possibility of analysing them, thereby really finding-out how they work. There used to be a pastry book called La Patisserie Moderne by Darenne and Duval, which these days is pretty useless but 30 years ago was the Escoffier of the bake shop. Various recipes for brioche or sweet pie pastry were given, from "ordinaire" through " Surfine", for the same 500g of flour, and I laughed when I saw the butter jump in increments from 200g to 400g. All of a sudden I realised that if Bernachon's croissants were better than those of the Lyon Sofitel ( which in the late 1970's was a good outfit), a comparative glance at the recipes might reveal why. Professional bread and charcuterie texts most often list recipes based upon a kilogram of flour or of sausage meat, inviting such analysis. I have since become a big recipe writer and note taker ( French professionals call recipes " fiches techniques" ) and my older notebooks have had many changes, first written on the page with a question mark and later confirmed with an "o.k." ( at times long sreies of each ), and in at least one case, that of the terrine de canard recipe which Barrier learned when he was 13 ( he has just celebrated his 88th birthday), after many changes which took me further and further on a tangent, I have come back to the original. I don't have many pastry books on my shelves, having amassed most of the recipes I use "on the job", but one could do worse than look into works by people like Pierre Herme, in particular a book put out by Larousse some years ago called Les Desserts, because it is more general, a mix of the classics and more modern things. I confess to being something of a fuddy duddy on the pastry side, unashamed of sticking with the classics. Those with more modern leanings should bear im mind that outfits such as Valrhona chocolate produce new recipes each season and hold seminars with demenstrators such as the excellent Meilleut Ouvrier De France, patrick Chevallot (with whom I share the odd fuddy duddy dessert when he's in town...). I have read all of Calvel many times, not only Le Gout du Pain ( The Taste Of Bread in English), but his articles, La Boulangerie Moderne, and Le Pain, #1140 in the useful Que-Sais-Je? series ( these last two are out of print). Hubert Chiron and Philippe Roussel ( who replaced Professor Calvel as bread teacher at ENSMIC) have published an extremely important ( not too scary ) technical book which Ron Wirtz and I would be eager to translate ( The title and publisher are under my bio). Jeffrey's book will be an important addition to these. Jean-Claude Frentz has written many charcuterie books, the most immediately useful being Le Compagnon Charcutier. Other charcuterie books tend to be more industrial, or at any rate, no longer very artisanal in terms of additives and approach. . Frentz's explanations are accessible to people who lack a background in chemistry or microbiology, and he has a feeling for traditional preparations. A greatly expanded version of an earlier collective work, L'Encyclopedie De La Charcuterie will be out soon ( same publisher as the Roussel-Chiron. Jean-Claude is the editor of the series) Soon, I began to have a good time with all of these things and began looking into less useful ( in a true sense ) gems such as The Making Of Farmstead Goat Cheeses by Jean-Claude Le Jaouen ( I read it in French, but it was published here by Cheesemakers' Journal ISBN 0-9607404-3-0) , which one can read for pure pleasure, and also works on regional French cuisine which have their rewards but tend to be bare bones in fine cooking terms, and annoyingly vague in the weights and measures department. Invariably, my favorites have been those titles which are completely on top of things technically, but transcend their professional textbook status because they are works of love. Many great English speaking writers on French food who come to mind when one thinks of good writing and diligent research, they are geared toward people at home ( that said, whatever its category, I do think that Patrick Rance's French Cheese deserves extra special mention). Perhaps more technically-oriented books exist in English than I suspect ( and I confess that I haven't looked into the English language charcutery book which mr Thorne mentioned in his letter to The Art Of Eating ) but my fear, alas, is that even those professionals who would be capable of writing more specialised books for the benefit of people in the trade are forced by commercial considerations and worries of maintaining celebrity status to look to the mass market . How can our professionals be professionals if by default they are all learning the trade in cookbooks? What the world doesn't need is another celebrity chef cookbook, books whose authors (and their agents ) probably wish would self-destruct as soon as it's time for the inevitable later reincarnation of virtually the same book. Thank god there are a few people around with deeper thoughts and feelings, and the desire to share them. I liked Gagnaire, but had to struggle mightily to write it up in The Art Of Eating, and perhaps gushed excessively about the Zuni book, but that is the way I felt. Christian Delouvrier's book, Mastering Simplicity, My Life In The Kitchen, was a near miss. The recipes are extremely well thought-out, so that cooks get recipes that work but also a clear picture of his take on things, but was less moved by the autobiographical sections, which seemed an account of a gloriously uneventful ,very happy childhood followed by a career consisting of success upon success ( p 68: " fortunately I did well, and passed with flying colors") though the problem might be that he truly IS humble and was unwilling to jump unselfconsciously onto the celebrity bandwagon ( simplicite in French means humility. Is he trying to master both?). Anyway, I have gone on for too long. Not being a celebrity, I won't be writing any celebrity cookbooks, but if Ed Behr suggests another review, I'll do my best. My book suggestions to you are merely what have suited me within my narrow speciality. Scales, exact recipes and methods, and the desire to truly understand how things work might, hopefully, be of more general benefit, even for people at home ( in how many home kitchens have I seen professional stoves, copper pots, and every concieveable kitchen gadget except an inexpensive scale ?) I have had a great time with this Q+A so far, and hope it goes on for a time because Jeffrey Hamelman and Hubert Chiron might soon have a few comments of their own. My best to you, James
  17. There was a piece in the paper last week about setting standards for pizze for the rest of Italy or the rest of Europe. The Neopolitan pizza association has had standards for at least a few years, and although Ron and I looked into them for the translation of the Calvel book, I have forgotten the details, except that the dough is a well-hydrated straight dough with no preferments, and no olive oil. It should be shaped by hand, and very thin. As it happens, a well-hydrated baguette dough, made with unbleached and untreated flour ( in terms of flavor and performance, finding the right flour is worth the time and trouble, and well-hydrated---so sorry, trade speak for a loose dough with plenty of water in it-- can mean 70% of the flour weight in water) does the trick for me. Stepping out on a limb------- how many novenas, pleniary indulgences, and the rest of those things can get me,a nice, scared Irish catholic out of this one?---- prefermenting 25% of the flour ( poolish, pate fermentee, etc, your choice) can permit making the dough, weighing into the desired amounts for each piece, shaping it into a ball ( twice, with a 4-5 minute interval), and refrigerating it to let it mature in the fridge ( minimum for use=2 hours, maximum keeping time= about 12 hours). Let the dough sit at room temperature for 10 minutes or so before use. Any good pizza is baked on the hearth. There, I've said it. Pray for my soul. James
  18. Sinclair: Rye bread is pretty complicated stuff, because rye flour is so full of pentosanes that it can form no gluten, and rye starches gel at a low enough temperature that they are victim to attack by enzymes during the first few minutes of the baking process ( result= mush). In other words, rye is for people who have had the time to practice other types of baking and really look into things because best results are achieved with a rye sourdough, and alarmingly wet ( almost like cement) dough, and an oven extremely saturated with steam. I agree, however, that rye is a flavorful way of setting your own loaves apart from those which you buy. If I were you, I would look into a yeasted dough with a fair proportion of preferments, and 15% to 20% rye flour. This should be doable, bur before this, as a first step, get your feet wet by starting off with more straightforward stuff. I don't have much to add about convection ovens, and until I get to it myself, can only encourage you to give it a try, and please let me know how things turn out. Thank you. Follow-up questions are a true compliment. a bientot James
  19. A tag-on, specifically to McDuff, but hopefully of general interest: I puzzled my way through the Calvel philosophy and methods for the longest time,too. Planetary mixers are not ideal, but that's what I used for all of the bread photos in the book ( other than 1 or 2 credited to other sources). Calvel himself says that any machine will work as long as you know when to turn it off. That said, some people take Calvel's admontions about overkneading so seriously that they don't knead at all, and at the same time exaggerate fermentation times or percentages of preferments in the dough ( the old North American numbers game: if 25% is good than 50% must be better....). Calculating water temperatures for proper finished dough temperature works pretty well, by the way. It's worth a try. I dig your take on the challange of having the timing right when using woodburning ovens. Did you read the other question about them? We worked hard on the translation of the book, but nothing, NOTHING, can replace witnessing the process being done by someone who really knows about it. Best of luck. James
  20. Bryan, this is a thorny issue for me. How can I judge my competitors yet remain politically correct? I haven't really looked into the whole bread scene... I saw some interesting baguettes at an outfit in Boucherville called, it seems to me, Pour Une Bouchee de Pain. They're made with French flour from Viron in Chartres. Closer to you you, there's a guy named Denis Mareuges who runs an outfit called Owl's Bread in Mansonville. I know him, but have never had the opportunity to taste his stuff. At least both these outfits are true artisans Thanks and sincere best wishes James
  21. Rob- Because your last message was in French, I didn't realise it was you. Between your honeymoon and all the rest of this bread stuff, I hope you're still married! Stay in touch, James
  22. Helas, C'est moi qui ai donne la reponse, mais avec un peu de chance, peut-etre q' Hubert trouvera un moment pour formuler la sienne. Robert, estce-que je vous connait? a bientot, j'espere James
  23. I'm sorry for the delay in answering this question. I've been trying to think it over. Professor Calvel always says that to shape loaves, a baker must have an " iron hand in a velvet glove ": the shaped loaves must be crease and wrinkle free, with only one seam ( more of a belly button on round loaves) which should end up on the bottom surface when the loaves are baked. They must be taut and well-rounded, and all of this has to be accomplished without pounding out the so extremely desireable large bubbles. Before shaping comes the decision on when to shape. During the fermentation, the organic acids produced as a by product of the fermentation have an increasingly firming effect on the dough, and as with everything involving French bread, there is the Goldilocks phenomenon: everything has to be not too much, not too little, but just right: Not enough fermentation, and the loaves will lack the structure to hold their shape, and instead will flatten-out and spread. Too much fermentation and the dough will be too taut, nervous and difficult to shape and prone to tearing. Well-fermented doughs will become tense every time they're handled, and therefore after being handled they need a rest. The shaping is done in two steps, therefore: As the dough is divided into pieces ( which are weighed in bakeries, but this is a good idea at home, too. Classic baguettes are weighed at 350g so that they weigh just over 250g when baked. Inspectors used to show up at a bakery and put ten baguettes onto the scale. They had to total at least 2,500g ), they are given a " pre-shaping": pieces to be turned into round loaves are given a cursory shaping into a round shape, and baguettes and other long loaves can be shaped slightly oblong, a bit like a football to give the long shape a headstart. >>>>>>>>>> Did you know that French bakers are called boulangers because they shaped loaves into balls?!<<<<<<<<<<<<<. In both cases, the pieces should be seamless and nicely rounded, the one seam or "belly button" placed under the loaf. These preshaped loaves should be placed on a floured surface and protected from draughts so the don't form a tough skin. The resting time varies dependind upon the dough's texture, but ten to fifteen minutes usually seems right. Round loaves are then given a firmer version of their first cursory shaping. Long loaves are shaped with their length parallel to the worktable. Flour the back portion of the work surface, and place the preshaped loaf on it, rounded side down, seam up. Flour the piece, and pati t down with a flat palm using a firm tapping motion ( almost as though you were spanking it. Don't let it get thinner than about 1 inch. The piece should be between a rectangle and an oval. I find the rest very difficult to describe and suggest you have a look at a book with pictures, bue here goes: Lift the back edge of the piece toward you, folding it over itself until it covers half the surface of the piece ( i.e, 1/2 two ply, 1/2 as before). With a slightly rounded palm this time, tap down the two ply section to form the beginnings of a cylinder with that portion. Roll the cylinder toward you so it covers even more of the single layer, tap with an even more rounded palm, and repeat. Toward the end of the process, it should be a fairly simple matter to pinch the seam shut by banging with the heel of your hand. By now, the cylinder will probably be approximately 2/3 of the desired length, and can be lengthened by using the hands with arched fingers rolling the loaf back and forth using very gentle pressure and at the same time contrary motion of the hands ( i.e. the hands begin side by side at the center of the loaf each heading toward opposite ends of the loaf). The seam is usually placed underneath the loaf for the second rise ( a clair) but can be, for more rustic looking loaves, be placed seam-up on a lightly floured "couche", and turned back upright just before slashing and baking. Hurried best wishes James
  24. Answer to follow-up about carotenoid pigments: They're oxydised by the large amounts of air being whipped into the dough. This is only a worry with mixing by machine, and the oxydation is accentuated by the addition, in France, of fava bean flour, which some millers add to flour as a dough " improver", so bakers must be on the lookout. High speed mixing oxydises mechanically, but in bleached flours it is done chemically. Whatever, when they're gone, they're gone.....
  25. Thank you, Lesley for the follow- up query. Somehow, into the question of baguettes over the years, the possibility of levain ( sourdough) has crept in. As I tried to point-out earlier, baguettes began as a yeast-raised loaf, straight-dough ( rather than poolish,etc). Over the years, both as a reaction to bad baguettes, and also because basic white bread was subject to government price controls which severely limited better bakers' chances of getting ahead, alternative "boutique" baguettes were created, some much more successful ( and at times delicious...) than others. Calvel, who was around during the transition from levain to yeast, and who at his age would , it could be assumed, prefer the levain of his youth, is of two minds about this, and so am I. I remain fascinated by this process which begins with spontaneous fermentation, and therefore allows the baker to feel that she ( or he ) has really added something. There is much to be said for baker's yeast, on the other hand. Croissants and other viennoiseries depend upon yeast, which although it's production is one step removed from the baker, remains a living (and therefore natural ) leavening agent. I would be hard pressed to decide, if I were sent to a desert island, which to choose ( litterally speaking, I guess dried instant yeast would be a judicious choice....) because it would be like choosing between white wine and red wine: can't we have both?. To continue the wine analogy, those who know and like both admit that full-flavoured, ripe new world wines are more assertive and more attractive. Old world wines are more demanding of their fans because they are more austere, more discreet , and in that sense, more demanding ( Before everyone gets pissed-off, let me assure you that I, too, love both...). In terms of classic baguettes, then, let me say ( at great risk of making enemies of certain esteemed readers ) that sourdough, huge percentages of poolish, and other current tendencies might simply be a reaction to the all-to frequently-encountered tasteless baguette. It is easy to think of ways to make things more flavorful- to give them punch- but I feel that it is probable that the baguette's (alas justifiable) reputation for insipidness is so because too few people have encountered the genuine article, which should be an expression of the nutty, wheatiness of that " damned elusive" ideal flour, whose discreet but nonetheless assertive flavors are a reminder that at times bakers should step aside and allow them to shine through. The problem is to find such a flour, and then a baker who is willing to do so. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- There was a tag on Lesley's question concering bubbles on the crust of bakes loaves. In the United States, these last are deemed as a good sign. In France, it is merely considered a sure sign that the raw loaves spent time in a refrigerer before being baked ( I strongly suspect that this is the case with a local bakery's " 36 Hour Baguette" Please keep the questions coming until the end Cheers, James
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