Back-to-school Baguette

Back-to-school Baguette

 

I’m spending part of this Labour Day baking baguettes. It’s a cool and rainy day and tolerable to have the oven on. I’m glad to have a bit of baking therapy to help me get over the back-to-school anxiety pervading the house. And this way the sandwiches on the first day of school will be amazing.

On our summer holiday this year we spent a few days in Quebec City. One day we walked all over the Plains of Abraham, the fort and the old city. (Thank you, National Battlefields Commission, for such an informative website about the whole struggle for Quebec, and not just the battle on September 13, 1759. And I learned a new word: justaucorps, the long fitted eighteenth-century coat.)

We paused for lunch in the glorious Jardin des Gouverneurs, overlooking the St. Lawrence, with a big monument to Wolfe and Montcalm, the victor and the vanquished.

20170817_124101We bought our lunch at a little grocery store nearby. The non-celiacs had baguette with ham and cheese, reportedly absolutely delicious. I promised the family then that I would make baguette in time for the first day of school. This week I stocked up on ham and Jarlsberg, and here I am baking the bread.

One piece of specialized equipment can be used here: the baguette pan. You can also make your own out of several layers of aluminum foil (more relaxing handwork) or just bake the loaves on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat. They will spread a bit that way, but still be delicious. 20160422_143831

The recipe is from my old favourite, Kneadlessly Simple. As with all the recipes in that book, you start the day before by mixing up the sponge so that it can rise overnight. The dough could not be simpler to mix up. Then, the next day there is a certain amount of forming and shaping. This is where the anxiety-calming occurs: sprinkling a handful of flour over the pieces of dough, forming rectangles, folding and rolling, and finally slitting the narrow loaves with a sharp knife. I’ve made this bread enough times that I can feel when the dough is the right texture and it’s somehow comforting to know this with my body rather than my brain.

Here is the basic recipe. I always double it since the children can eat a batch in the wink of an eye.

Ingredients

3 1/4 cups white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp instant or bread machine yeast
1 1/2 cups cold water, or a bit more

Method

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add water and mix (with a wooden spoon or dough whisk) until spongy but still quite firm. Add a bit more water if the dough is too floury. Cover with a silicone mat and leave overnight to rise.

The next day, the dough will look quite wet with little bubbles on top. Scatter a handful of flour over the top and massage it into the bread. As the dough becomes less wet, start kneading it with one hand (leaving the other hand clean for touching your tap or knives or whatever). When it feels dry and squishy and springy, dump it out onto a silicone mat with a little flour dusted on it. Cut the lump of dough in two and leave it alone for ten minutes. This will allow the gluten to relax and make shaping easier. 20160422_143827

In the meantime, oil your nifty french bread pan or whatever pan you are using.

After ten minutes, start shaping your dough. Push it into a rectangle about the shape of a piece of paper and fold it in thirds as if you were folding a letter. Then make it into the same size of rectangle, but this time roll it along the long side so that you have a sort of snake. Pinch the edges well together and continue rolling your snake until it’s the same length as your loaf pan. Put the snake in the loaf pan and slash the tops diagonally three or four times with a serrated knife. Admire the professional effect.

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Allow to rise for 45 minutes to two hours, whatever works best for your schedule. About 20 minutes before you want to bake, put a broiler pan or cookie sheet in the bottom of your oven and turn it on to 500°F.

When the oven is hot, spray the loaves with water and put the pan towards the back of the oven. I use the middle rack, but a lower rack may work better in your oven. Carefully pour 1 cup of cold water into the hot pan on the floor of the oven. Shut the door quickly to capture the steam. Turn the oven down to 475°F.

Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, and then remove the pan from the oven. The loaves will look somewhat solid and slightly coloured. Using a palette knife or thin spatula, loosen the loaves and slide them onto a cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat. Put back in the oven for 6-8 minutes, then turn them over and bake for a further 4-6 minutes. These times are a bit approximate and will depend on your oven.

Then remove your glorious loaves and allow them to cool. I will guard mine until it’s time for the lunches to be made.

And…breathe.

 

 

 

Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns

Gluten-Free Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns are a non-negotiable part of Easter for me. I have them for breakfast on Good Friday before we do the egg-dyeing, and then again on Easter Sunday with the coloured eggs. Sometimes I hunt for them in GF bakeries in Ottawa, but this year I had some challah dough in the fridge left over from making onion pletzel from Gluten Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. You make the dough, leave it to rest in the fridge over night, slap some of it down on a baking sheet, sprinkle it with fried, but still crunchy half-onion slices and poppy seeds and bake at 400° for about 20 minutes. Yummy.

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To make the challah dough itself:

Ingredients:

6 cups GF all-purpose flour (I tried o20170411_112931ut a local flour, Pete’s,  for the first time, and I like it very much; they deliver to Ontario and Quebec)
1 tbsp granulated yeast
1 -1.5 tbsp salt
2.5 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup honey
4 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted

To add when making hot cross buns:
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
3/4 cup total of your choice of mixed candied peel, raisins, currants or candied ginger

For decorating:

1 egg
small amounts of flour and white sugar
water

Whisk dry ingredients together, then mix in wet, either by hand or with a mixer. Cover, but not airtight, and allow to rest at room temperature for 2 hours. It can be used now, or refrigerated, covered, for up to five days until needed. 20170411_110724

For the hot cross buns, I used one quarter of the dough for 6 good-sized buns.

When you are ready to make the buns, add spices and dried fruit. I used everything except currants. 20170411_111349

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Form into bun shapes and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, silicone mat or my new favourite, Cookina (available in Ottawa at JD Adam in the Glebe). It washes better than silicone and doesn’t get that horrible slimy feeling. With a table knife, mark a cross in the top. Leave to rest for an hour.

 

 

Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare an egg wash by mixing one egg and a tbsp of water. Paint the little dears pale yellow with it. Then mix up 2 tbsp flour and 1 tsp white sugar with 1 tbsp water, or maybe a little more, until you get a smooth paste. Drizzle the paste over the marks of the cross.  As you can see, mine turned out a little runny and spread while baking.

 

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, brush immediately with a syrup made from 1 tbsp hot water and 1tbsp sugar, and let cool.

I plan to enjoy mine with lots of butter. Yum.

 

Gluten-free Carrot Cake

Gluten-free Carrot Cake

April is birthday month for the grownups in our house. I love baking and my celiac diagnosis of three years ago doesn’t slow me down. The spouse’s favourite birthday cake is carrot cake. Last year I made the version in Gluten-Free Baking with The Culinary Institute of America. That was good but this year I did not feel like faffing around beating egg whites.

Thank goodness my celiac diagnosis came in the Internet age. A little searching later, and Gluten-free Girl came up. She made a GF carrot cake adapted from the Barefoot Contessa’s gluten-y version. I have had a soft spot for the Barefoot Contessa ever since I realized that her Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe contained at least twice as many chocolate chips as anyone else’s.

This wouldn’t be a gluten-free baking recipe without a long exegesis about flour.  Gluten-free Girl has a proprietary flour blend which of course does not ship to Canada. I used my new favourite flour mix, which I make myself according to the recipe in Gluten-free Bread in Five Minutes a Day, a recent Christmas present. Since this is a flour made for breadmaking, it’s a “harder” flour than most of the mixes I have tried and contains sorghum. I was finding a lot of my baking with mainly rice-based flours was ending up very biscuity. The harder flour makes a more familiar texture for me. I remember reading years ago in Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen that Canadian wheat flour was naturally harder than American and that one had to allow for that when using American recipes. I just kept on using all that hard Canadian flour for everything and my palate has obviously been trained to prefer that texture. That’s my major GF revelation of the day.

So, the recipe! It serves 8-10.

This is my adaptation of GF Girl’s adaptation. She uses coconut sugar and coconut oil, which I don’t have in my pantry, so I used brown and granulated white sugar. I don’t have a stand mixer either so this was mixed up using an electric hand mixer and a Danish dough whisk for adding nuts and raisins.

Cake
2 cups gluten-free flour blend of your choice (add 1/4 tsp of  xanthan gum per cup if yours does not contain it already)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs (I use free-range because of the poor hens)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large carrots, grated
1 cup raisins of any kind
1 cup chopped walnuts

Icing

1/2 cup softish cream cheese
1/2 cup softish butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups icing sugar

Heat the oven to 400° F (200° C). Grease 2 9-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, then grease again. I have not yet had the nerve to cut silicone mats to fit my baking pans, but go for it.

Mix together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Mix together sugars and oil in a big bowl. When well-mixed, add the eggs, one at a time and mix well. Add the vanilla.20160422_141012

Add the flour mixture and mix, in about three equal parts. Then add the grated carrots, raisins, and walnuts. This is the point at which a dough whisk or the good old wooden spoon comes in handy. Mix thoroughly.20160422_141447

Dump the very gloppy cake batter into the two pans, dividing as evenly as you can.  Bake for 10 minutes, lower the heat to 350° F (180° C), and bake the cakes until a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, another 30 to 35 minutes.20160422_142019

Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then remove them from the pans onto a cooling rack. Let them cool completely before attempting to ice them. (I baked mine the day before icing them). Do not let your teenager touch them.

Make icing: beat cream cheese and butter together until well-blended. Add vanilla and mix. Add icing sugar in about three equal parts. If the icing is too runny, add a bit more icing sugar. If it’s too thick, add milk by the quarter-teaspoonful.

Spread one third of the cream cheese icing on the bottom layer, then bung the second cake on top and glop the rest of the icing on the top. Spread it over the top and sides. My sister the totally amazing cake-icer would probably do a crumb coat (apply thin layer, allow to dry, add thicker second coat) but I was a bit pressed for time. 20160423_111538

It was incredibly yummy and when our backs were turned the teenager made serious inroads into the leftovers. 20160423_133538