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Here are some high-tech and low-tech baking and bread products I came across.
First Defense Nasal Screens
I first heard about these unusual screens on a TV show called Shark Tank. The creator designed these simple adhesive screens to attach directly to your nostrils like an everyday band-aid. The difference is that instead of a cotton square, the adhesive holds on a filtering material. This filter or “screen” claim to alleviate inhaling pollutants like animal dander, mold, pollen, and dust among others. This creates a less noticeable solution when compared to common masks like those used by construction and painters. These little adhesive filters are not meant to replace traditional masks, but may help those consumers that need a wearable filtering solution from time to time. Recommended users are painters, construction workers, gardeners, travelers, and landscapers. Bakers may be added to this list, but only time will tell. Check out their website and ordering information HERE.
I suffer from severe environmental allergies that have impacted my quality of life. I am not allergic to flour, but the flour particles in the air can make me sneeze and compound my other symptoms. After going through immunotherapy for the last 6 years, my health has noticeably improved. This said, I am always looking for ways to reduce my body’s reaction to my work, namely airborne flour and dust. I have ordered a week supply of these screens to test them out first hand. Follow me on my Facebook page to hear about what I thought of them.
Brød & Taylor Folding Proofer
I am excited to share this product my wife showed me a few weeks back. It is essentially a collapsible proof box for the home baker. The controls allow you to adjust the level of heat while a small container filled with water adds the humidity. The entire set up is ready in mere seconds and collapses to a fraction of the constructed size. This is a great concept for small kitchen spaces like mine. It retails for about $150 and is available on the company’s website HERE as well as Amazon.com and a few retail stores. Does $150 seem like a lot for a proofer? The company also markets this tool for making homemade yogurt and also as a way to temper or stabilize tempered chocolate, just exclude the water in the device’s setup.
Though I do not own one of these yet, I intend to own one in the near future. I also found sites detailing how to make your own proof box from purchased materials. If the Brød & Taylor proofer does not live up to my expectations, I may attempt to make my own proof box. Either way, follow my Facebook page to find out what I think about this proofer and if I decide to make my own.
Also, check out my last Bread Bytes post for news about a Baguette Vending Machine, Cupcake ATM, and a Bakery App for your smart phone.
Do you have interesting news about the world of bread or baking technology? Maybe you heard a rumor or want more information about a news story. Send me an email or message me on Facebook to share your knowledge. If it is noteworthy, I may use if in my next Bread Bytes post for all to read with a shout out to you, of course.
Easter Sunday 2012 is nearly upon us. Treat your family and friends to a classic Easter bread this April 8th. Hot Cross Buns are traditionally served on Good Friday (the Friday before Easter for all you heathens), but is usually sold until Easter at many bakeries. The buns started in England and used the “Cross” to symbolize the crucifixion of Jesus. The buns we eat in the United States are usually an American version of this recipe using fondant or icing to create the familiar cross. The original crosses were created using a flour and water mixture that was placed over the dough before baking. This made a attractive cross shape , but was not a sweet embellishment.
I used the Easy Hot Cross Bun recipe from the King Arthur Flour Cookbook as a guide. The procedure and amounts are changed to fit my interpretation. The main reason for this variation is the belief that these buns should be a yeasted roll rather than a partial quick bread; as the original recipe implies. Try my method and you will not be disappointed. Don’t get overwhelmed by the ingredients; this recipe has many components but is not difficult.
Hot Cross Buns
–FRUIT SOAKER (1 day earlier)
as needed Rum, Apple Juice, or Water
170 g Dried Fruits, your choice (Raisins, Golden Raisins, Currants, Cranberries, Cherries, Dates)
540 g Bread Flour, King Arthur or other
54 g Sugar, granulated
10 g Yeast, instant
7 g Salt, kosher
3 g Cinnamon, ground
.5 g Allspice or Clove, ground
.5 g Nutmeg, ground
285 g Milk, room temperature
110 g Eggs, whole (2 Large)
85 g Butter, softened
15 g Milk
100 g Powdered Sugar 10X
pinch Salt, kosher (less than .5 g)
18 g Milk
- The night before making your buns you will need to make the fruit soaker. Place your dried fruits into a sealable container or bowl. Heat the liquid in a sauce pan till just boiling. Pour the hot liquid over the fruits till the they are just submerged, no need to over fill. Seal your container or cover tightly with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
- The next day, place all the ingredients for your dough into a stand mixer excluding the softened butter and fruits. Mix on low speed (KitchenAid speed 2) for 3 minutes with dough hook attachment. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- Continue mixing on medium speed (KA 4) for 45 seconds.
- Bring the mixing speed back to low and add the butter. This may take 1 1/2 – 2 minutes to fully incorporate into the dough. Make sure to scrape down your bowl and then scrape down your hook every 20-30 seconds.
- Drain the soaking fruit and squeeze slightly with your hands. Add fruit to the dough and mix on low speed until incorporated and evenly dispersed; scraping the bowl and hook as needed.
- Remove the hook and rest the dough in the mixing bowl for 1 1/2 hours. Cover the bowl with a wet paper towel to avoid forming a skin on your dough.
- Release the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 50 g pieces (approx 24). Line a sheet pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper and spray lightly with non-stick spray.
- Round each of the rolls into a ball. Use a bit of flour to keep dough from sticking to your hands or work surface. Correctly rounded rolls should spring back when pressed lightly with your finger. Place the rolls 1/2 – 1 inch apart taking care to keep them lined up.
- Loosely cover the rolls with parchment or plastic wrap and rest for 30 – 45 minutes. Adequate rest has occurred when rolls are lightly pressed and retain a slight indentation. Preheat your oven to 375 (F).
- Place the Egg Wash ingredients into a bowl and mix well with a fork or whisk. Using a brush, lightly coat the rolls on all sides taking care not to deflate them.
- Bake the rolls for 22 – 26 minutes until dark golden brown (see photo). Make sure to rotate your pan half way through the bake to ensure even coloring. Remove and cool completely on the pan before attempting to apply icing.
- Meanwhile, place the Icing ingredients into a small bowl and mix until smooth. Place the icing into a piping bag or fashion one using a zip sealable bag with a small corner cut off.
- Pipe a smooth and even line across the rows of rolls in one direction. Turn your pan 90 degrees and pipe lines across the rolls again creating a cross over each. Serve and enjoy.
TIPS & TRICKS
- You can microwave the fruit and liquid for about 45 seconds to 1 minute. I find there is more control in stove top heating, but if you need it quickly, a microwave does an adequate job.
- If you are in a hurry, you can remove the fruits early to warm them up to room temperature.
- I used raisins, golden raisins, and cranberry for my fruits. Just make sure whatever you choose is not bigger than a raisin; so you may need to do some cutting.
- The baker I worked for used the candied fruit mixes that are made for fruit cakes. It contains little cubes of orange, green, and yellow pieces. These are excellent and do not require you to soak them with any liquid.
- Scraping down the bowl and hook are key to incorporating the butter and fruit into the dough without overworking it. Invest in a bowl scraper if you haven’t yet. They are cheap and very useful.
- Want bigger rolls? Try making your rolls 80 g for a larger size. Space them apart to keep a round shape or keep them close together for pull apart style.
- The times are approximate. Your dough may be ready to divide in 1 hour. My ingredients were still a little cold when I mixed.
- Egg wash carefully. Make sure to get the roll’s edges, but be sure not to drip too much egg onto your paper. This will leave an eggy ring baked around the bottom edges of your rolls.
- Watch your baking time. My oven is acting funny and will not get past 360 (F). A watchful eye is the best timer so stay vigilant.
- Some people put a touch of vanilla extract into their icing. While it may taste nice, it can turn your icing an off-white color. If you wish, use CLEAR vanilla extract. I know Wilton makes one that works well. Lemon juice adds a nice variation as well.
- The Icing ingredient weights are guidelines. Depending on the humidity of where you are, you may need more or less milk. Optimum consistency is smooth and pipe-able without being too stiff or too watery and runny. Test your mix on a roll or plate before attempting to pipe the smooth lines.
- The rolls stay good for a couple of days. Just keep them sealed in a container so they don’t stale too quickly.
Have you made these buns before? American version or English version? Let me know how your buns turn out and email me a picture. You should also post your picture on my Facebook page for others to see. “But Daniel, where is your Facebook page?” Try not to start a sentence with a conjunction even though many do… and you can find my page HERE. “Daniel, what is a Facebook?” I can’t help you. Good luck and Happy Easter.
I have returned from my vacation two shades darker after many cocktails by the pool. The time spent in Cabo San Lucas was mostly for vacation, but I was able to squeeze in some bakery visits as well. The Baja penninsula is more Americanized than the whole of Mexico, but good food as well as good bread can still be found if you take the time to search. When I travel to new cities or countries, I enjoy eating at places that are off the beaten path. It is here where you will find the food that the residents most connect with. After asking around, two bakery locations were suggested by numerous locals; La Princesa and La Mexicana. The hotel concierge also notified me about a local tortilla factory not too far from these locations. The La Princesa and La Mexicana bakeries are located around the intersection of Melchor Ocampo and Alvaro Obregón in Cabo San Lucas.
La Princesa is a production and retail bakery who specializes in Pan Dulce (Mexican sweet breads), sandwich style breads, cakes, and traditional desserts. The breads are purchased by the piece and included a huge array to choose from like empanadas, cookies, molletes (pronounced moy-et-thes), and other classic varieties. The taste and texture was perfect and reminded me of the breads I ate at our family’s restaurant when I was younger. All of La Princesa’s bread trays were covered with plastic bags to keep them fresh and the insects out. Since covered trays don’t capture the look of the product, I took a picture of the breads that I purchased for breakfast. I was also fortunate enough to get a picture of the bakers who were arranging and consolidating all of the day’s breads. The workers here were very nice and were surprised to find out that I too was a baker. Upon learning this, they were more than happy to pose for a few pictures.
The breads at La Mexicana were equally delicious, but were not made in house. The store sells grocery and the pan dulce, but does not have a production kitchen on site. The Pan Dulce is delivered fresh everyday and sold till its gone. The variety here was a bit more than La Princesa and included some items like croutons, hamburger and hotdog buns, and other breads I which I was not familiar with. The breads here were not covered, but seemed clean and bug free none the less. The prices here were equally as inexpensive as the bakery across the street.
Up a few blocks is the Perla Tortilleria located on Abasolo and around the intersection of 16 de Septiembre. Both corn and flour tortillas are made here everyday for retail and special order. Most of the process is now mechanical and is a far cry from the old fashioned method of grinding corn and rolling out tortillas by hand. The quality control is still carried out by hand by two people. As the tortillas finish baking, a conveyor belt cools them and these two workers quickly inspect them before they are sold. The tortillas are sold by weight (kilograms) and hand wrapped in brown butcher paper. I was able to take some shots of the ladies in action wrapping and quickly sorting; I can’t emphasize how quick they were moving through the sorting process. The taste is exactly what you would expect; good fresh tortillas at a very affordable price. These breads are used at almost all meals and are affordable enough for people to purchase them fresh everyday. Being inspired by the tortillas, I looked to purchase my own tortilla hand press to use at home.
I traveled to Todos Santos and ate at a small restaurant on Degollado called Barajas Tacos, which specializes in carnitas. Carnitas is cooked pork that is shredded and used in tacos, sandwiches (tortas), quesadillas, etc. The concept was simple and also included meat choices like fish, shrimp, and beef that could be enjoyed in your choice of taco, quesadilla, or tostada. The food was served with Mexican sauces and toppings like cabbage, radish, red onion, and lime. After lunch, our waitress/cook was nice enough to pose for a quick photo while grilling serrano peppers.
While walking in the heat of the day just off of Juárez past the Hotel California (yes, THAT Hotel California), my wife and I were enticed by a sign reading ICEE. We purchased our refreshing American beverage and wandered through the local shops. It was HERE that I met Chavo. He tried to sell me the normal tourist items like t-shirts, shot glasses, and vanilla extract, but I asked him if he sold a tortilla press. He told me yes, rushed out, and came back carrying his last two presses. One was aluminum which was a bit ornate and a simple classic iron one that was very heavy. I chose the simple one and purchased it for $15. I told Chavo about my blog and talked for a moment about tortillas. Apparently he too works as a baker, but only during El Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). During this celebration he makes the traditional Pan de Los Muertos. He also told me about a type of corn tortilla that is only made in the area around his hometown. It is made from red corn and is not artificially colored like the taco shells at Taco Bell. He described the taste as a bit sweeter than normal corn tortillas, and that it might be difficult to find this ground corn here in the United States. Naturally, I am already looking for this elusive red cornmeal and am thankful to Chavo for informing me about it’s existence. You never know where you will meet a fellow baker sometimes.
If you are inspired to make tortillas at home, click HERE to try out my easy flour tortilla recipe and comment to let me know how it worked for you.
I hope you enjoyed this look at some of the places I visited in the Cabo area. Please comment with any questions you might have and share information about places you may have visited in Cabo or the surrounding cities. You can also share your comments and questions on my Facebook page. Click the “Like” button to follow me on Facebook and also sign up for my email updates at the top of this page. My tortilla press needs to be broken in so I will be trying my hand at making classic corn, blue corn, and hopefully red corn tortillas in the near future, so stay connected.
My wife and I are headed to Cabo San Lucas tomorrow. Whenever I go out of town/country, I try my hardest to sample food that is indicative to that location or culture. Growing up as a very picky eater, it took being forced out of the comfort zone of common chain restaurants to realize what great experiences are out there if you just open up to them. I try almost any food that is put before me, and as much as I love to travel to new places, the food is really the thing that excites me the most. The hope upon arrival is to try foods and drinks that are special to this part of Mexico. Even touristy areas have great food if you know where to look, the locals have to eat somewhere. I already have a lead on a popular local bakery that I hope is within easy traveling distance. Vacation is for relaxing and enjoying yourself, but at the same time, I hope to find a bakery or baker that I can share with you. Come back April 3rd for my next post and if you are interested in seeing any pictures, follow my page on Facebook. I hope to have something to share with you when I return.
St. Patrick’s Day is over and chances are you still have beer taking up space in the refrigerator. Put that lager and ale to work and make your own easy beer bread. This recipe was adapted from the Herbed Beer Bread from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion. This recipe is not a yeasted dough, but is a quick bread due to the use of baking powder. I will show you how to create plain Beer Bread and then give flavor suggestions. The original recipe includes herbs and sunflower seeds, but my method will let you choose your own flavors to suit your needs. If you are looking to make a yeasted beer bread dough; I will be covering this recipe in the future. Subscribe to my email updates and Facebook page to stay up with the latest recipes, trends, and bakery visits.
Beer Bread (Quick Bread Style)
2C 304 g All-Purpose Flour, unbleached (King Arthur Flour or other brand)
1/2 C 68 g Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 C 84 g Semolina
1 Tbsp 4 g Baking Powder
1 tsp 4 g Salt, kosher
2 Tbsp 28 g Sugar, granulated
12 oz. 340 g Beer, Lager or Dark styles work best
3 Tbsp 38 g Vegetable Oil
- Preheat oven to 350 (F). Grease a 9×5 loaf pan and reserve it for later.
- Combine all ingredients into a mixing bowl, excluding the beer and vegetable oil. Mix with paddle attachment on medium speed till well combined.
- Add the beer and oil and mix till ingredients are uniform and free of dry areas.
- Pour mixture into prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes.
- Test for done-ness by inserting a toothpick into the center of your loaf. If the toothpick is not clean, bake for 5 – 10 minutes more and re-test. If the tooth pick is clean, remove pan from the oven to cool.
- After 15 minutes, carefully remove bread from the pan and continue to cool on cooling rack.
- When bread has been cooled, slice with a sharp serrated knife and serve.
This is the base recipe, but the flavors are bland as it is written. The original recipe mixed herbs and sunflower seeds into the dough, however, I was not able to find unsalted sunflower kernels in my neighborhood. I decided to share this recipe as a plain mix and allow you to combine flavors of your choosing. This way, you are able to use whatever is at your disposal and hopefully avoid an extra trip to the local grocery store. Here are some flavor ideas to start with, but be aware that you must choose the quantity for each additional ingredient based on your own taste.
**6 Flavor Ideas**
Sunflower Seed & Mixed Herb
Calls for: Unsalted/hulled sunflower seeds. An equal parts mix of dried parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary; added to taste.
-Add this after step 3. Mix on low speed till just combined.
Cheddar & Chive
Calls for: Shredded or small cubed sharp cheddar cheese. Chives that have been diced small.
-Add this after step 3. Mix on low speed till just combined.
Caramelized Onion & Fennel Seed
Calls for: Small diced onions, caramelized and cooled to room temperature. Fennel seed found in spice aisle or spice specialty shop.
-Add this after step 3. Mix on low speed till just combined.
Calls for: Cooked bacon (not dark) cooled to room temperature and diced small.
-Add this after step 3. Mix on low speed till just combined.
Calls for: A mixture of your choosing from the following list (Barley, Sesame Seed, Fennel Seed, Caraway, Spelt, Red Wheat Berries, Oats, Pumpkin Seed, Sunflower Seed, Quinoa) Soak in warm water for 1 hour.
-Drain the mixture before adding to your batter. Modify the bread recipe above by changing the baking powder to 6 g and the beer to 300 g. Add the drained seed mixture after step 3. Mix on low speed till just combined.
Honey Orange & Coriander
Calls for: Honey, Orange zest, and dried ground Coriander.
- Replace the sugar in the recipe with 35 g of honey. Add this after step 3. Mix on low speed till just combined.
Do any of these recipes sound like a new favorite? Try one out and tell us how it worked for YOU. Good, bad, ugly, whatever the case; let me know. Send me a picture of what you baked and I will show it off. You can also share your picture on my Facebook page. Make sure to give it a “Like” while you are there. Good luck!
Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2012. I thought I would celebrate by sharing a recipe for traditional Irish Soda Bread. This is not so much a bread as it is a quick bread or large biscuit. This is in part due to the use of baking soda instead of yeast and low gluten flour which creates a crumbly texture, usually associated with biscuits and scones.
I came upon this recipe while shopping at a small boutique in the Chicago area. The shop contained trinkets and home decor along with some antiques and an large array of Irish products. One of these products in particular, was a round platter with a recipe for Irish Soda Bread glazed right on to the surface. Upon glancing over the recipe, I noticed that the instructions could use some re-working and explanation. Having never made Irish Soda Bread at home, I decided to try this recipe and share the results with you. Some steps will be different from the platter as well as a small tweak in the ingredient amounts.
Irish Soda Bread
3 1/2 C 580 g All-Purpose Flour, Unbleached (King Arthur Flour or other)
1 tsp 4 g Salt, kosher
2 tsp 8 g Baking Powder
1 tsp 6 g Baking Soda
4 Tbsp 57 g Butter, unsalted & softened
2/3 C 145 g Sugar, granulated
2 ea. 100 g Eggs
1/2 tsp 3 g Vanilla Extract
1 1/2 C 320 g Buttermilk
1 1/2 C 220 g Raisins
1 tsp 3 g Caraway seed (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350 (F). Grease and lightly flour a 9″ cake pan and set aside.
- Cream the butter and sugar together in your mixer with a paddle on medium speed (KitchenAid #4) till light and fluffy. Then add the eggs one at a time and combine thoroughly after each egg. Add the vanilla. Scrape down your bowl and paddle if necessary.
- Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and soda in a separate bowl.
- Add 1/3 of these dry ingredients to your mixing bowl and combine thoroughly on low speed (K.A. #2). Scrape down your bowl after each of the following additions.
- Add 1/3 of the buttermilk to the mixing bowl and mix completely. Alternate step 3 and 4 until all dry and wet ingredients are combined.
- Add the raisins and caraway seeds and mix at low speed until evenly and fully distributed.
- Pour this stiff mixture into your prepared cake pan and bake in the center of the oven for 1 hour. Insert a toothpick into the center and check done-ness. If the toothpick comes out clean, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and continue cooling completely. If the toothpick did not come out clean, bake for another 10-15 minutes and check again. The continue with the previous steps.
- After the bread is cooled, slice into wedges and serve with softened butter and your favorite preserves. Goes well with hot coffee or tea.
Tips and Tricks
- You can substitute margarine for the butter in the recipe.
- Sift your dry ingredients if they seem to have absorbed moisture and appear lumpy. Don’t sift the salt, it will not fit through the mesh, just add it after sifting.
- Some recipes use milk instead of buttermilk. I advise against this seeing as buttermilk is already being substituted for fresh yogurt. The soda reacts with the lactic acids in the yogurt creating bubbles. This effect can be replicated using buttermilk, but may not be as strong if using typical milk.
- Caraway seeds are optional, but try to add them if possible. The flavor is very European and pleasant. It is not as overwhelming as you might think.
- Don’t have a cake pan? Try using a different pan to bake in. Just make sure that the mixture does not rise more than 3/4 the way in your preferred pan.
- You can slightly wet your hands and press down on your loaf to make it flat and even before baking. Your hands should not be dripping, but wet enough to keep from sticking. You may need to re-wet them a few times. This is not a necessary step, just me being a perfectionist.
- If you would like a decorative touch to your loaf, add some flour over the loaf in an X shape before baking. Use a bench scrapper or knife dipped in some more flour and press down of the X about 1/2 – 3/4 of the way through the mixture. Once baked, you should get a loaf with a nice X shaped break in the center.
- Serve this bread at breakfast with some Honey Butter from my previous post or other spread.
Let me know if you have ever made Irish Soda Bread. Was the recipe similar or different? Did you make it with a different flour or without caraway? Did you like the taste?
Everyone loves a good doughnut. Whether you are a kid, adult, or Homer Simpson; anytime is a good time for doughnuts. You will find some of New York’s (and arguably the country’s) best donuts at Doughnut Plant.
This small upstart doughnut business came from modest roots. Started in 1994 by owner Mark Isreal, the original shop was actually in the basement of a Lower East Side building. According to the company’s website, Mark would make the donuts all night using his grandfather’s recipes and deliver the orders himself by bike. Doughnut Plant has come a long way since then and has also opened shops in Korea and Japan. These celebrity worthy doughnuts have also had write-ups ranging from the New York Times to Maxim Magazine. This simple idea has become one of the Big Apple’s most recognizable doughnuts and is a must-try for avid doughnut lovers.
What makes these doughnuts so good? Funny you should ask. The winning recipe for the success of these doughnuts has to be the ingredients, the selection, and the shapes. All aspects of the doughnuts are lovingly created. The nuts that are mixed into the glaze are freshly toasted. The sweet jelly fillings are made by hand in house. The product selection can only be described as generous and includes staple flavors such as cream filled, creme brulee, tres leches, and peanut butter & jelly. Doughnut Plant
specializes in cake and classic yeasted doughnuts and offers exclusive flavors in both types. The flavor choices are constantly changing and include daily and seasonal flavor specials. Have you seen a square doughnut that is jelly filled? Well, now you can witness one of these for sided wonders for yourself.. The square doughnut is the specialty of the shop and still sports the signature doughnut hole, but cleverly hides a jelly filling around the interior. Enjoy one or three with your favorite hot or iced coffee drink.
No matter what your preference, you are sure to find your next favorite doughnut at Doughnut Plant. Two locations in New York City, Lower East Side and Chelsea. Check out the company website for more on the interesting history that created this jelly filled juggernaut.
Tell me about your favorite doughnut shop. Is it a local business? Is it a chain? Share some details and give me a reason to travel and taste one for myself.
Technology and baking are not usually talked about in the same sentence outside of a production factory, so I am happy to pass on this news to you.
Baguette Vending Machine
This first story has been around since last year, but I was recently reminded of it through a picture I saw. A bakery in Paris, France (of course) installed a 24 hour baguette machine outside their two shops. The machines are refilled daily and contain baguettes that are partially baked (parbaked). The baguettes cost about $1.50, which is relatively cheap compared to some of the $3+ baguettes you find on our side of the Atlantic. When a customer makes their purchase, the machine (oven) finishes the baking of the baguette and dispenses it into a large chute. How do you like that? Hot and freshly baked bread at your fingertips. Though this technological advance is not quite at the point of “replacing bakers with machines,” it is a novel idea and one that caters to the working crowd who are not able to get to a local bakery before it closes. Even workaholics need fresh bread. If you would like to see this marvel in action, follow the link HERE.
Sprinkles’ Cupcake ATM
Sprinkles, the popular cupcake franchise, is kicking up their availability by offering their famous cupcakes 24 hours a day. The plan is to open vending machines (ATM as they call them) in metropolitan areas and stock them with fresh cupcakes for those late night patrons who “could really use something sweet.” The Cupcake ATMs are already being used in Los Angeles and are slated for their Manhattan debut by the summer of 2012. Keep an eye out for these hot pink machines in a city near you, they are hard to miss. You can check out the Huffington Post’s video of the machine in action HERE.
I was turned on to this last story by Chef Ciril Hitz, mentioned a new app made specifically for bakeries. Breadseeker is a user based app created by Revent International that is now available for Apple and Android users. The idea is simple, create an application that can be used whenever you have a craving for great bread or pastries. A user can search for around their location using GPS and find local bakeries that offer what they are looking for. You can search for either Bread, Pastry, or both. Each bakery is given a star rating of 1 to 5 by the average votes of the users. If you don’t see your favorite bakery on the map, simply tap the add button, update the map location a business name, category, and picture (taken right from your phone). Now you and others can vote and add to the ever growing database of bakeries in whatever area you desire. Get out your smart phones and download this free app today and help your local bakeries get the attention they deserve. Click on the images below for actual screenshots taken from my phone. Learn more about the app HERE and also take a look at some of the interesting videos on the right side of the company’s webpage. Revent also talks about the creation and use of their newest bread production technologies.
Are you going to start using and adding to the Breadseeker app? Does a fresh(ish) food vending machine sound like something you would use? Let me know in a comment or send me an email with any interesting bread technology news that you know about. I would love to share your story next month. Your support helps, so don’t forget to subscribe to my email updates and to “Like” Beyondthebread on Facebook.
Making jelly has always been a challenge I wanted to experience first hand. There are many foods that compliment and pair well with bread such as jelly and jam. As a baker, I felt it only right to understand how these foods are created. My hope was to learn more than how to make great bread, but to understand how that bread will be used and enjoyed.
I posted previously about a new book that I purchased titled, Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber. In this book, she details how to make jellies and jams naturally with seasonal fruits. Some of these recipes call for the addition of Green Apple Jelly that you must make beforehand. In case you didn’t know, apples have natural occurring pectin which can helps give jelly it’s classic texture. Think of this green apple jelly as a base that will help you build other jelly recipes that have low amounts of natural pectin. The flavor of this apple jelly is somewhat neutral with just a slight flavor of apple.
I decided to see how well this book could instruct me, having no previous knowledge of the jelly making process. Either this would work out well or it would be a sticky disaster. For better or worse, I dove right in.
Green Apple Jelly
1500 g 3 1/3 lbs Green Apples
1000 g 4 2/3 C Sugar, granulated
1500 g 6 1/3 C Water
Juice of 1 lemon
- Rinse the apples and remove the stems. Do not peel them. Cut each apple into quarters and remove the visible seeds.
- Place these apples in a medium to large sauce pan and cover them with the water. The apples do not need to be totally submerged, just enough water to cover 90% of them.
- Bring mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for half an hour. Make sure this does not boil over the sides of your pot.
- Strain the mixture the first time (*described in detail below), then through the second straining stage, and then strain the remaining solids through cheesecloth or muslin fabric.
- Pour 1000 g of the juice (4 1/4 C) into a high wall saute pan along with the lemon juice and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar while you bring this mixture to a boil. Skim any impurities or foam off the top of the mixture and continue to cook on high heat for 5-10 minutes. Skim more if necessary. If using a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach about 225 (F). Check the set (texture and feel) of the jelly for proper consistency.
- Pour and seal into prepared jars immediately. Cool and store in refrigerator till ready to use.
*Straining the solids*
Do not throw away any of the apple or juice until you have finished the straining process. When you are straining the apple solids (skin, flesh, possible seeds), start by first straining into a colander. This is a large hole type used for draining pasta. Next strain the solids a second time through a fine mesh stainer to get more juice out of the solids. Finally, gather all the solids into muslin or cheese cloth and create a sack. Tie off or twist the top of the sack to prevent apple solids from getting out. Squeeze the solids to extract more juice. I strained the apples into a super fine mesh (chinois) between the fine mesh and muslin steps. I found this not to be necessary. Discard the remaining solids reserving the juice.
Jarring Your Jelly
Yes, it does sound funny. Take a second to laugh because life is too serious at times. Go ahead, I’ll wait. …Ready? For my jarring, I used the classic glass 8 oz. Ball jars. I sanitized them by first boiling a large pot of water and submerging the glass portion and lids for 5 minutes. I did not place the screw caps in the water. I made the jelly, removed and filled the jars immediately, wiped off any jelly from the rim, and added the cap. I purchased an inexpensive jarring kit for $15 that you can find online or at a local store. The included funnel makes filling the jars super easy while the jar tongs help you grab the slippery jars out of the boiling water.
Tips and Tricks
- Check your space. This is an all encompassing piece of advise. Check to make sure your pots fit what will be put into them. I was fortunate enough that my pot JUST fit my apples and water, but I had to babysit them to make sure it didn’t overflow. Have multiple bowls available for straining the large amount of liquid as well.
- Use a candy thermometer. Though you can check the consistency of the jelly without it (as the book instructs), this cheap tool will save you some guess work and possible headaches. It is also a great tool to have if you plan to make things like pralines or candy apples. Otherwise, you can check the set of the jelly by spooning a small portion of the boiling mixture onto a plate that you have pre-chilled in your freezer. This will cause the jelly to set giving you an idea of whether to cook it longer to thicken it more.
- Muslin or Cheesecloth? I chose to use muslin for this recipe. It is cheaper and more readily available than cheesecloth. I purchased mine at a local fabric store at $2 for a square yard. That is way more fabric than you will need.
- Skimmers work well for removing the scum that forms while boiling the jelly. The scum comes from the impurities in the water, apples, air, etc. I used a fine mesh skimmer that I purchased at my local restaurant supply store for about $6. This also works well when used to remove items from a deep fat fryer. I love tools that are multipurpose!
- Be patient and be aware. Jelly takes time and care. Each batch is different and may be thin while another is thick. Most of all be careful. Hot liquid sugar is not something to take lightly.
Have fun with your own jelly adventure. Are you planning on making this recipe or perhaps another? Let me know what you are cooking. If you have made jelly before, can you offer up any advice or maybe something that I did not cover?
Bread and butter. It is a basic and satisfying combination to eat. Butter is not only a great condiment, it’s a necessary and helpful ingredient. What does it do and where does it come from?
The process of making butter has been around for hundreds of years and involves the churning of fresh cream or milk until an emulsion is created. You may remember what an emulsion is from science class, but in case you are not familiar with it; an emulsion refers to the fine and even dispersion of one liquid into another liquid. A very common form of emulsion can be found in a vinaigrette you purchase at the store. Vinegar and oil are mixed (shaken) and suspended in each other just before serving. The vinegar and oil can separate over time and its the reason why you need to shake the bottle before you serve it. Butter is made in roughly the same way, but involves water, milk proteins, and butterfat rather than oil and vinegar and is more stable. Butter is more solid than oil due to the proteins involved, so merely shaking the ingredients will not give you the desired results. Tools were created for just this reason. The butter churn allowed for this process to occur, but required lots of elbow grease to get the proper emulsion.
Enough about the science, what kinds of butters do bakers use and why? Bakers use unsalted butter. Salted butter tastes great, but yields an inconsistent and overly salty product. Salt can effect many aspects of a baked good from the development of the gluten web to the fermentation. These factors are the driving force behind the decision to use unsalted butter when dealing with bread recipes. Control over salt content is one of the many aspects a baker must keep in mind for the creation of quality breads and the health of those who enjoy them. This being said, everything has its place in moderation, including salt.
Butter is used in some breads such as challah, brioche, and quick breads to create tender finished products and a smoother and more pleasing texture. Professional bakers will typically use a European style butter over a typical brand like Land O Lakes. The main reason for this choice comes from the difference in the two butters. Regular butters (sweet cream style) have a butterfat content of about 80% while European butter has a butterfat content of around 85%. The difference is the presence of water in the butter. The less water content a butter has, the more creamy and pleasing it is to your palette. You can also see the difference in the two butters by simply cutting a cold piece of each. Regular butter tends to crumble as it is cut while European style butter will cut smoother with less cracking and crumbling.
You might ask, “Daniel, what if plain butter is too boring for me? I need action, adventure, and adrenaline!” Slow down Michael Bay, besides your love with alliteration; I can show you how to spice up your ordinary butter to use on bread or in your favorite dishes. It is not as hard as you might think, in fact; it’s so easy that a child could do it. The core of the recipe (compound butter) revolves around the addition of your choice of ingredients to softened butter. Here is how it works and some flavor ideas for thought.
- Warm the desired amount of butter at room temperature till soft throughout.
- Prepare your choice of ingredients; fresh herbs, spices, sweeteners, etc.
- Whisk together or mix with a paddle attachment till combined completely and evenly.
- Refrigerate wrapped for at least 2 hours to re-harden the butter before serving. Butter has about a 2 week shelf life.
That’s it. You have mastered compound butter. See, I told you it was easy. The amount of ingredients is up to your own discretion. Chefs love experimenting with this simple recipe to add flare and color to dishes ranging from fish to steak. For example, a tab of thyme-lemon butter goes well over baked fish, while a garlic butter compliments the flavors of a grilled steak. The butter adds a pop of color while giving more flavor to the dish. The same can be said about the use of compound butter with baked bread. Understand that you can use salted and unsalted butter to make your own compound creation, but be mindful of the paired dish’s existing flavors. A salty or sweet dish may be fine when paired with an unsalted compound butter.
Honey Butter – Unsalted butter, honey, ground cinnamon, vanilla extract (optional)
I find a darker style honey adds a nice extra layer of depth. A little cinnamon can go a long way, use sparingly. Vanilla is nice, but not necessary. Goes well with your morning toast.
Cucumber Butter – Salted butter, cucumber (peeled, diced small)
Goes well as a spread on sandwiches or as a dip. Refreshing and gives a nice texture. I got this idea from Tillamook’s website under the community blog.
Mustard Butter – Salted butter, whole grain mustard
Can be as light or strong a mustard flavor as you desire. Pairs well on a sandwich, crackers, or with a biscuit and ham.
Sesame Wasabi Butter – Unsalted butter, grated ginger, tamari (similar to soy sauce), wasabi paste, sesame seeds (optional for coating)
For a full description, check out the original recipe at Plugra’s website.
Experiment with flavors and find your favorites. If you get stumped by what flavors work well together, check out the Flavor Bible for divine inspiration. What flavors are you planning to try out at home? Have you made compound butter before and if so, what is your favorite flavor combination? Leave me a response in the comment section above.