Saturday, May 8, 2010

bread: it's as good as cake

I've been meaning to do a post on bread for a while now, so here it is.

This post is about professional bread baking and references what I've learned here at Maison Carratie as well as at a previous internship at Amy's Bread in NYC. I could talk about bread baking for a long time because I find it so fascinating, but I've tried to keep it brief so you get a good overview of the process.

the dough
Baguettes are simply water, bread flour, salt and yeast. And a piece of dough saved from the previous day's batch (in French it's written in the recipe as "vieille pate"). The older dough helps give the new dough better flavor.
In the bakery, the dough is mixed and shaped the day before it is baked. The longer dough sits in the refrigerator, the more chance it has to develop better flavor and texture (the technical name for storing dough in the cold to develop flavor and texture is retardation.)

the machines

This machine divides the dough into equal pieces. You place the dough in the square cavity, close the top and the machine cuts the dough into 16 squares. You can then shape the squares into anything you want. At Amy's Bread they had a machine like this, except it was devoted solely to rolls. It would cut the dough and shape the rolls all by itself.

This machine rolls the baguettes. Typically, plain baguettes are rolled by the machine and baguettes with special fillings that would clog the machine (like olives) are rolled by hand. The black knob on the left adjusts the the length of the baguette and the knob on the right adjusts the thickness. You toss a piece of dough into the metal chute and a perfectly rolled baguette comes out the below. You can toss in up to 12 pieces of dough in a row, but not at the same time. I threw four into the slot at once one time (by mistake of course) and it spat out one incredibly gigantic baguette.

This machine mixes the dough. Their are two speeds on this machine, one denoted by a picture of a rabbit and the other by a picture of a tortoise. Heh.

the gross-looking cloths
Once rolls or baguettes are shaped, they are placed in between folds of cloth atop long wooden boards---no sheet pans, loaf pans or special metal baguette pans that you buy at Williams Sonoma. You place the baguette on the cloth, make a small fold in the cloth and place the next baguette, continuing until you run out of room. You can typically fit a dozen baguettes on a board. You can see the baguettes proofing on the board in the picture above. When the baguettes are ready to bake, you simply grab the fold and flip the baguette off the cloth onto a long, thin wooden paddle, then onto the conveyor belt for the oven.

the oven

This is the oven and the conveyor belt (and some baguettes in the oven baking!). The belt can be raised or lowered to fit into one of the eight slots of the oven (it's similar to a stretcher in a hospital). You use a giant wooden peel, like the one in the picture above, to move the bread around in the oven. Some ovens are quite fancy. At Amy's they had a steam lever. Once the bread was inside, they would pull the lever which would release a burst of steam in the oven. The moisture helps give the bread a crusty exterior. Once the baguettes come out of the oven, they are transferred immediately into large plastic bins like you see to the right of the conveyor belt.

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