Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Modernist Bread Preview: What we've seen so far


Chris Hennes
 Share

Recommended Posts

1 hour ago, drago said:

Does the book discuss the microbiology of sourdough in detail?

Oh yes: very much yes. They bought a scanning electron microscope so they could actually "see" what was happening! They do indeed discuss the impact of geographical differences (which as @Kerry Beal suggests are present, but not typically a key flavor factor compared to the many other details involved). Sourdough is the reason I pre-ordered this a year ago, and I have not been disappointed. I started my first MB-based levain this past weekend, and will start baking with it this upcoming weekend, if all goes well. As you might expect, they were quite thorough in their debunking of various methods of "accelerating" a starter, etc. There are literally two ingredients in their levain, flour and water. What ratio (and what flour) you choose impacts how it develops, and they discuss those details in depth.

  • Like 5

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, scott123 said:

So, the inventors of the biggest food related technology breakthrough in the last 20 years, steel plate for pizza, are now pushing lower temps?

They still advocate the use of the steel for its heat transfer properties, but they argue that if you optimize the hydration of the dough for 550F instead of 900F you can achieve a superior (in their opinion) pizza. But of course, they are nothing if not thorough and do include information on working at higher temperatures should that be your preference. 

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

8 hours ago, Chris Hennes said:

Sourdough is the reason I pre-ordered this a year ago, and I have not been disappointed.

I am glad to hear this. Sourdough is just getting in vogue in my country, with a new group of aspiring guru-bakers, so it will be nice to have some fact backed science to input into the discourse before it becomes too esoteric. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was idly chatting with a pretzel-making friend of mine last night (I've never made real pretzels, where you dip them in lye). I was sort of abstractly aware that you conventionally dip the pretzels in the lye solution prior to baking them, and had noticed that in Modernist Bread they actually reverse the order. They have you bake the pretzels first, then dip them, then do a sort of re-heat step. My friend was blown away by this idea, which I hadn't realized was quite so unusual. I guess I need to actually read the pretzel section of the book now. Has anyone else ever heard of this idea?

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I made pretzels a few times a few years ago, but never used a lye solution. IIRC, the pretzels were first boiled for a few minutes in water that contained baking soda (the lye substitute, albeit a poor one), then baked. I don't think there was a second dipping and re-baking, but I'll try to find the recipe I used. When you say "dip" the pretzels into the lye solution after baking, do you mean boil them? Or just a quick dip to coat the pretzel with the lye solution? That would be good for browning. But essentially this method doesn't have the boiling part at all. I don't know enough about pretzels to comment on it, but if they're not boiled then it seems to be a totally different method, not just a change in the order. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just read the intro to pretzels, and it sounds like what they are doing is baking the pretzels enough to firm them up so the don't degas during handling, then a quick dip in the lye solution, and then back into the oven for the final browning. They tested boiling in the lye, but in addition to the corrosive fumes this creates, apparently it didn't improve the pretzels.

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Chris Hennes 

 

thank you for the detailed previews

 

is there any mention ( anywhere ) what New Discovery they found that delayed the initial printing so that this might be included ?

 

very curious about that and can't wait for my copy to arrive !

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When I was a kid, I visited the Anderson pretzel factory during a school trip to Pennsylvania... I seem to remember the pretzels baking on a long conveyor type oven, then emerging and getting a spray of lye water, and then going into another conveyorized oven... but it was a long time ago, and I could be imagining things...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, coz said:

One question is there a section on Viennoiserie?

No, in fact they dedicated a page to explaining why not! They drew the line at brioche, deciding that everything beyond that was not bread-like enough to fit into this book. Personally I think there's room for a companion volume or two on things like Viennoiserie and chemically-leavened breads. Maybe next year :) .

  • Like 1

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I’m finding that one of the more frustrating things about this book is that it is requiring quite a lot of self-control on my part. There are just so many things I want to try from it. This afternoon I’m making a plain white sandwich bread, but in reading that section of the book they introduce a new “two step” technique for adding entire other doughs as inclusions into it, which of course now I want to try right away! But I feel like I should at least try the basic recipe once before going adventuring. This book does an excellent job of making you feel like you can create any bread you want.

  • Like 4

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nathan commented on the Chinese bread that get's a starch retrograde step (I know we've discussed it here on eG before - roux bread I think it's called) - they found that while the they could measure a difference on very precise equipment on how quickly it went stale between the version that retrograded the starch and the version that didn't - in real life they couldn't! 

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I got to go full Mad Scientist this afternoon:

DSC_4220.jpg

 

As I mentioned above, their pretzel technique involves par-baking and then dipping in lye, followed by a quick finish in the oven. This almost worked well today, but the instructions clearly say to not immerse the pretzels, but only float them in the lye. However, with the Modernist variation, the pretzels are too light and don't sink far enough into the lye, leading to a pretzel that literally looks half-baked. The additional methylcellulose does its job very well, and you get a great internal texture on the pretzels, but I think you need to push them down into the lye a bit to really get them well-coated.

DSC_4237.jpg

  • Like 8

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Chris, do you think the pretzels work better than the normal version where they get a bath before going in the oven? (Is the modernist version actually an improvement, or just different?)

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The problem they are trying to solve is the partial deflation of the dough due to over-handling when you dip them raw. I've never worked with a lye solution until today, but I have to tell you I am grateful the pretzels were already baked. The lye adds enough stress to the occasion without the need for worrying about deforming and deflating pretzels. And the technique works just fine, giving the pretzels their characteristic color and smell. In my book it's a clear improvement that, as with everything, requires a bit of practice to really hone into a functional technique.

  • Like 1

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Re: Pretzels - I wonder if you could put the lye solution in a spray bottle and spritz them, rather than trying to dip/submerge?

 

Re: banh mi - the ones I've seen in Vietnam did go stale very quickly... so much so, that in fact, the bakeries are hyper hyper local - only delivering within a very small radius.  And most popular sellers get several deliveries per day to make sure of absolute freshness.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 minutes ago, MelissaH said:

(Is the modernist version actually an improvement, or just different?)

 

I should clarify the nomenclature here: they actually present two recipes, one "normal" and one "Modernist". Both recipes use the new par-baking technique. The Modernist one includes Methylcellulose F50 (to set the rise to its maximum) and L Cysteine, to make the dough easier to shape.

  • Like 2

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just now, KennethT said:

Re: Pretzels - I wonder if you could put the lye solution in a spray bottle and spritz them, rather than trying to dip/submerge?

I think it would work on an industrial scale, but at home I'd really (really, really) hate to have aerosolized lye floating around.

 

I don't mean to make a mountain out of a molehill here, the fix is pretty easy (either flip the pretzels in the lye, or push them down). But by following the directions to the letter I think the Modernist variation throws things out of whack by being significantly less dense than the traditional one. Maybe a more experienced pretzel-maker than myself, which is pretty much everyone who has ever made a pretzel, would have simply compensated on the fly. Alas, I did not. Fortunately, the results are perfectly edible, just not as gorgeous as they ought to be.

  • Like 1

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A few more comments...

 

Last weekend I made the first master recipe in the book, the French Lean Bread. The book's presentation of this topic is really interesting. They spend several pages in volume 4 comparing recipes from various bakers, showing gorgeous (and informative) cross-sections of the resulting loaves, tables comparing hydrations, salt content, yeast content, fermentation time, and which pre-ferment is used. There is a huge spread between what various world-renowned bakers consider their basic loaf. The baseline recipe they choose to include in the book under the heading French Lean Bread is a 68% hydration loaf made with a 12-hour poolish pre-ferment (100% hydration, no salt), 2% salt, and 0.5% commercial yeast. Their main innovation is the lack of a kneading process, replacing it instead with a longer, slower folding process. In bread, of course, slower is often desirable, and in this case it results in a terrific loaf. For reference,  I made it entirely by hand, though they do include several machine-mixed variations. I formed it into small 500g boules. Cross-section:

DSC_4177.jpg

 

This weekend I the returned to French Lean Bread, but made the Modernist variation on it. This is actually a direct loaf, with no pre-ferment at all (unusual for this book). It includes a polydextrose to make the crust crispier and a very small amount of vegetable shortening (1%) to increase loaf volume. Its main "Modernist" innovation is the almost complete elimination of the autolyse and the kneading by vacuum sealing the dough for 30s. I found that to achieve full hydration in my Food Saver I had to run the cycle five times, which resulted in about a minute of whatever level of vacuum I can achieve in those bags. But it did actually work, and resulted in a dough that was ready to bake very quickly. Start to finish this recipe probably took four hours or so, and resulted in the finest loaf of French lean bread I've ever made. I can't wait to try the A+ variation on the next page. I formed it into small 500g bâtards. Cross section:

DSC_4199-2.jpg

 

  • Like 9

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for doing this. I don't see myself going this route, but I appreciate your posts. The breads are beautiful, and no doubt delicious. I really love your enthusiasm for the topic! (Did you try that chocolate-cherry loaf?)

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...