Archive for March, 2008

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Perfect Party Cake – March Daring Bakers Challenge

March 30, 2008

Perfect Party Cake from Baking from my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Cut cake

Well, those of us at KBK BAkery just didn’t think one cake was enough, soo… we made 3!  Since Easter was this month we opted to make cakes to take to Easter, and since we are just friends, and not related (pity that it is) that meant multiple cakes.  Luckily, as will all Dorie recipes (goddess that she is), the cake came together flawlessly so making 3 was not a chore.  We all went for the classic white with lemon zest for the cake, but the fillings and icings are all a little different.

The first cake was for Beth’s family.  She chose strawberry preserves for her cake.  To add a little extra Easter feel, she also added a touch of pink food coloring to her buttercream.

Pink Dorie Cake

Very cute!  The pink is a little hard to see in the photo, but it was a very Easter appropriate baby pink!

The second cake was for my husband’s side of the family.  For their cake, I went with raspberry seedless (i love that it exists!) jam  and I went with a marshmallow frosting.   Marshmallow just seems to go with Easter… maybe it’s all those Russell Stover marshmallow eggs I ate growing up?

Marshmallow Cake

The last cake I made for my parents’ house.  Both my mother and father are diabetic, so I wanted to try my hand at a sugar free version.

Sugar Free Cake

And with the exception of the fact that the cake didn’t rise at all the cake came out very well.  My parents enjoyed it very much and my dad had fun taunting his coworkers with the leftovers at work on Monday, heh.  The filling was sugar free raspberry, and the icing was buttercream made with Splenda, so the only sugar in the cake was the lemon juice and the coconut on the outside.  It was, by no means, fat free, heh, but pretty darn close to sugar free!

I used the bunnies to tell the cakes apart.  The sugar version had a red ribbon and the sugar free had a brown ribbon!  Thank goodness for color coded rabbits!

For the Cake
2 ½ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, and then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake

Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
Place the last layer, cut side down, on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

Serving

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.Storing
The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, and then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

*MARSHMALLOW FROSTING

1 pound unsalted butter (at room temperature)

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)

1 (16 ounce) tub marshmallow cream (such as Marshmallow Fluff brand)

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy.

Beat in one-fourth of the sugar until fluffy, and then repeat with the remaining sugar.

Beat in the vanilla, and then stir in the marshmallow cream until well blended.

Yield: 24 servings

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Caramel Topped Flan

March 26, 2008

Finally! A Tuesdays With Dorie post!

caramel topped flan

Phew! Didn’t know if I’d ever get the hang of it! This week was Caramel Topped Flan! It was so easy! I didn’t even need a mixer, so cleanup was lovely. The caramel came together very well.

caramel beginning Caramel middleCaramel endCaramel pan

I ended up needing a bigger pan to float my flan. The cake pan I used was a 9″ rather than an 8″ so it wouldn’t fit in my 9×13. That’s ok, though, I just put it in my 1/2 sheet cake pan.

Flan in pan

It all worked out in the end! The texture is wonderful. It’s so smooth and creamy. I think it could have stood a little longer in the oven for the custard, but the caramel came out very well. It tastes almost like there is alcohol in the caramel, but there isn’t. Maybe it’s from the vanilla in the custard? Who knows. It tastes like the flan I’ve had out at restaurants, but with a finer texture, so I guess I did it right. It turned out a little shorter than I would have like, but that is probably due to the larger pan.

piece of flan

Oh well! As long as it tastes good, right?!?

Caramel Topped Flan

For the Caramel
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp water
squirt of fresh lemon juice

For the Flan
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a roasting pan or a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with a double thickness of paper towels. Fill a tea kettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat.

Put a metal 8-x-2-inch round cake pan-not a nonstick one-in the oven to heat while you prepare the caramel.

To Make the Caramel: Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice together in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar becomes an amber-colored caramel, about 5 minutes-remove the pan from the heat at the first whiff of smoke.

Remove the cake pan from the oven and, working with oven mitts, pour the caramel into the pan and immediately tilt the pan to spread the caramel evenly over the bottom; set the pan aside.

To Make the Flan: Bring the cream and milk just to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a 2-quart glass measuring cup or in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar. Whisk vigorously for a minute or two, and then stir in the vanilla. Still whisking, drizzle in about one quarter of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the hot cream and milk. Using a large spoon, skim off the bubbles and foam that you worked up.

Put the caramel-lined cake pan in the roasting pan. Pour the custard into the cake pan and slide the setup into the oven. Very carefully pour enough hot water from the kettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. (Don’t worry if this sets the cake pan afloat.) Bake the flan for about 35 minutes or until the top puffs a bit and is golden here and there. A knife inserted into the center of the flan should come out clean.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven, transfer the cake pan to a cooking rack and run a knife between the flan and the sides of the pan to loosen it. Let the flan cool to room temperature on the rack, then loosely cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, once more, run a knife between the flan and the pan. Choose a rimmed serving platter, place the platter over the cake pan, quickly flip the platter and pan over and remove the cake pan-the flan will shimmy out and the caramel sauce will coat the custard.

Yield: 6 to 8 Servings

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S’mores Cupcakes

March 22, 2008

S’mores Cupcakes

S’mores Cupcakes

Ok. You say “marshmallow” and the first thing I think of is “S’mores”, so it’s only fitting that I make a S’mores cupcake. I’m sure it’s not a terribly new idea, but boy is it tasty! Nothing brings of memories of Girl Scout camping trips like the smell of a perfectly toasted marshmallow. And I like mine a golden brown color, here, folks. None of this “set it on fire, blow it out and call its charred remains toasted” nonsense. If I wanted to eat charcoal, I’d lick one of the logs.

Roasting the perfect marshmallow takes time. Patience. The willingness to be a human rotisserie… but thankfully, little culinary torches are readily available and your local hardware or cooking store. So, my cupcakes are nicely toasted and I didn’t even have to build a bonfire in my backyard. A fact that I’m sure would please my neighbors and the fire department very much if they knew of their good fortune. Especially since my hubby is a bit of a pyro. Burnt off all his arm hair once because he put gasoline on a fire before he lit it *to get it going faster*. The ensuing fireball was quite spectacular. Luckily only his arm hair was affected. Untold amounts of mocking pleasure for all those present, however. To which he replies, “yeah, but it got it started, didn’t it?” He’s so special.

I wanted my cupcakes to have all the components of a true S’more, so I have 3 distinct layers. I have a layer of graham cracker crust pressed into the bottom of each cupcake (I made this by combining graham cracker crumbs and butter in a food processor), topped with a milk chocolate cake, then the marshmallow fluff (lightly toasted with a torch) and finally some graham cracker crumbs for garnish. For the marshmallow topping, I just put a tub of marshmallow fluff in a pot of boiling water until it got gooey and then spread it on the cupcakes.  And I have to say, using the torch was so fun!  I guess my hubby isn’t the only pyro in the house!  I strongly recommend consuming these while the marshmallow is still warm… makes them that much better! Yum! If you can’t eat them right away, pop them in the microwave for about 10 seconds and it’s back to being heaven…

S’mores Cupcakes

Graham Cracker Crust

6 tbs. butter

1 ½ c. graham cracker crumbs (or about 24 crushed graham crackers)

¼ c. sugar

In a small saucepan or the microwave, melt 6 tablespoons of butter.

Measure 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs into a medium bowl.

Add 1/4 cup of sugar to the graham crackers.

Add the melted butter.

Stir or blend together with your hands.

Press into the bottom of the baking cups.

Old Fashioned Milk Chocolate Cake

3 ½ c. cake flour, sifted

½ tbs. baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

½ tbs. salt

6 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 c. water

1 c. butter, softened

2 c. granulated sugar

½ c. brown sugar, lightly packed

1 ½ tbs. vanilla extract

6 XL eggs, warm in shells

1 c. buttermilk

Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.

In medum heat-proof bowl over simmering water, melt chocolate in water, stirring occasionally until smooth and remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium until creamy. Continue beating while sprinkling in granulated and brown sugars, 1 tbs. at a time.

Add vanilla and beat until very light.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating until thoroughly blended after each, then beat until very light and creamy.

Blend in chocolate.

Add flour in 3 parts alternating with 2 parts of buttermilk. Beat on lowest speed until each addition disappears.

Fill each cupcake cup ½ way and bake at 350°F until a toothpick comes out clean or the cake springs back when pressed lightly. Approximately 20 minutes.

Additional equipment needed: culinary torch

Top each cupcake with the marshmallow frosting and roast to the desired toasty-ness. Sprinkle toasted cupcake with a pinch of graham cracker crumbs.

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Marshmallow Mermaid Cupcakes

March 22, 2008

Marshmallow Mermaid Cupcakes

Marshmallow Mermaid Cupcakes

This cupcake creation was inspired by the movie Waitress. I love pies and was so terribly disappointed that they did not include recipes on the DVD for that movie! They have such wonderful sounding pies! Just a little section under “Special features”. Would that be so hard?!? But I digress. I don’t know much about making pies, but cakes? That’s another story!

I’m a sucker for lime. You offer me lime-flavored anything and I’m there. And for me, when I think of limes, I think of Key limes. And when I think of Key limes I think of Florida and the ocean, so it was a natural progression for me to use key lime for my Marshmallow Mermaid cupcakes! For this cupcake, I’m combining Key Lime Blondies, marshmallow frosting, mini multi-colored marshmallows and edible glitter.

This is a new creation for me! I’ve never made any of the components before! Boldly into the fire I went! The first hurdle I ran into is the unavailability of key lime extract in my neck of the woods. But I persevered! I found a lovely recipe on Recipezaar for Key Lime Extract. The straining process was rather long, but the end result was worth it.

Key Lime Extract Shot

It came out such a gorgeous green!

My next challenge was the Blondie base. Blondies/Brownies don’t rise as much as cake batter, so I had to decide how much batter to put in each cut to achieve “cupcake” height… I experimented with different levels (some were very sad little cupcakes. I had to put them out of their misery *yum*). I found ¾ of the way full was the way to go. The Blondie batter makes for a very flat cupcake. If I were topping these with just regular icing, it would have been disappointing, but since I’m covering it with mini mallows, it makes for a lovely, flat decorating surface. I decorated some with whole mallows and others I cut the mallows into 4 pieces. Which one do you like better?

big and little mallows

All in all I think this cupcake was a great success and a great learning experience. I always prefer to make things I’ve never made before. Keeps my kitchen interesting! Plus, if I actually ever get to open my bakery *sighs dreamily* I’ll have lots of inventions stored up!

Marshmallow Mermaid Cupcakes

Key Lime Coconut Blondies

1 c. all purpose flour
1 c. cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 c. (packed) golden brown sugar
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
3 tbs. key lime juice
3/4 c. shredded sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a few muffin pans with aluminum foil liners. Butter and flour foil. Whisk 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer beat the brown sugar and the butter, in large bowl, until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then key lime juice. Add flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in shredded coconut. Fill each baking cup ¾ full.
Bake dessert until top is golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack.

Makes 24 cupcakes. For the traditional Blondie, bake in a 9×9 pan, lined with foil that has been buttered and floured, and it will yield 16 Blondies.

Marshmallow Frosting

1 lb. unsalted butter (at room temperature)

2 c. confectioners’ sugar

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional) *I used key lime extract

1 (16 ounce) tub marshmallow cream (such as Marshmallow Fluff brand)

In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy.

Beat in one-fourth of the sugar until fluffy, and then repeat with the remaining sugar.

Beat in the vanilla, and then stir in the marshmallow cream until well blended.

Yield: 24 servings

Additional Supplies: mini multi-colored marshmallows and edible glitter in a green/aqua/turquoise color (whatever floats your boat.)

Top cooled cupcakes with marshmallow frosting, mini marshmallows (cut into 4ths or whole) and edible glitter. Enjoy! …makes me want to go on vacation somewhere sunny and warm.

 

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Tuesdays with Plumbing?

March 12, 2008

Well, fair readers, I’m sorry to say that my joining of Tuesdays with Dorie will have to be postponed a week.  I was all set to make the lovely Russian Grandmothers’ Apple Pie-Cake on pages 310-311 but, alas, my plumbing wanted no part of it.  In fact, it threw a full blown hissy fit!  Backed up the shower, the sink, the dishwasher and even overflowed into the basement covering the washer with it’s fitful filth!

I could not bring myself to bake in such a condition, seeing as once I baked I would be unable to wash… anything.  So I persevere and live to bake another day!

You’ve won this one, plumbing but I’ll not be foiled again!

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Julia Child’s Fabulous French Bread – February Daring Bakers Challenge

March 2, 2008

French Bread Close Up

Julia Child’s French Bread

Well, this month’s DBC looked intimidating when we first saw it; we have to be honest. But once we read through it a few times and really had a chance to process the information, it’s really quite simple! It’s a lot of time, but not terribly difficult. We started around 2 pm and finished around 11 pm! And that’s with cutting our last rise short! Phew! When we make it again (and we will because it was SCRUMPTIOUS!) we’ll have to start in the morning to give it a proper 3rd rise. With the exception of the last rise, the only hiccup we had was that we forgot to brush the batards with water (we were bleary eyed by that time) so our bread was not particularly browned.

Pale Batards

It did have a lovely “thump” and the taste was just perfect. We chose to make 3 batards so we each took one home. That one loaf per house didn’t make it more that 24 hours anywhere!

Though making the bread did take quite a while it was very worth it. It gave us all time to sit back and talk and catch up on each other’s lives (that’s a polite way of saying we spent the day gossiping about our husbands/boyfriends and anything else that came to mind while drinking coffee and eating chocolate 😉 )

To our hosts for this month: we salute you for a spectactular choice!

To our readers: it’s worth the time and happy baking!

This is a long recipe, but persevere to the end!

Recipe Time: 7 – 9 hours

Step 1: The Dough Mixture

1 cake (0.6 ounce) (20grams) fresh yeast or 1 package dry active yeast
1/3 cup (75ml) warm water, not over 100
°F in a glass measure
3 1/2 cup (about 1 lb) (490 gr) all purpose flour, measured by scooping
dry measure cups into flour and sweeping off excess
2 1/4 tsp (12 gr) salt
1 1/4 cups (280 – 300ml) tepid water @ 70 – 74
°

(Mary and Sara Note: if you are using instant yeast, you may reduce the amount to 1 3/4 tsp or 7 g but you will still want to “proof” it because that is important for taste development in this bread)

Stir the yeast in the 1/3 cup warm water and let liquefy completely while measuring flour into mixing bowl. When yeast has liquefied, pour it into the flour along with the salt and the rest of the water.

Using the dough hook attachment on the speed the mixer manufacturer recommends for dough hook use or the lowest setting if there is no recommendation, slowly work all the ingredients together until a dough ball is formed, stopping the mixer and scrapping the bits of flour and chunks of dough off the bottom of the bowl and pressing them into the dough ball. Continue to mix the dough on a low speed until all the bits of flour and loose chunks of dough have formed a solid dough ball.

Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky. Let the dough rest for 2 – 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl (and the dough hook if using a stand mixer).

Step 2: Kneading

Place dough back into the bowl and using the dough hook attachment at the recommended speed (low), knead the dough for about 5 – 7 minutes. At about the 5 minute mark, stop the mixer and push at the dough with your fingertips. If it springs back quickly, you have kneaded the dough enough. If it doesn’t spring back continue to knead, stopping the mixer and retesting every 2 minutes. If the dough sticks to your fingers, toss a sprinkling of flour onto the dough and continue to knead. The dough should be light and springy when it is ready. Mary also recommends always finishing with about 1 – 2 minutes of hand kneading just to get a good feel for how the gluten is formed.

Let dough rest for 3 – 4 minutes. Knead by hand for a minute. The surface should now look smooth; the dough will be less sticky but will still remain soft. It is now ready for its first rise.

Step 3: First Rising – (3-5 hours at around 70°)
You now have approximately 3 cups of dough that is to rise to 3 1/2 times its original volume, or to about 10 1/2 cups. Wash and fill the mixing bowl with 10 1/2 cups of tepid water (70 – 80 degrees) and make a mark to indicate that level on the outside of the bowl. Note, that the bowl should have fairly upright sides; if they are too outward slanting, the dough will have difficulty in rising. Pour out the water, dry the bowl, and place the dough in it (Mary and Sara Note: Very lightly grease the bowl with butter or kitchen spray as well to prevent the risen dough from sticking to the bowl).

Slip the bowl into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic, and top with a folded bath towel. Set on a wooden surface; marble or stone are too cold. Or on a folded towel or pillow, and let rise free from drafts anyplace where the temperature is around 70°. If the room is too hot, set bowl in water and keep renewing water to maintain around 70°. Dough should take at least 3 – 4 hours to rise to 10 1/2 cups. If temperature is lower than 70°, it will simply take longer.

(Mary and Sara Note: If your oven has an oven light, turn on the oven light when you start making the dough. By the time you are ready for the first rise, the temperature in your oven will be around 70°. You can check with your oven thermometer. If you don’t have an oven light, like Mary, you can turn the oven on to its lowest setting about 5 minutes before you begin your rise. Leave on for 1 – 5 minutes until the temperature is around 75- 80°. Turn off oven, when you open the door to put the dough in to rise, your oven will be around 70°. Another trick is to put your dough on top of your hot water heater. Place a folded towel on top of the hot water heater and let rise. Also a heating pad works well. Mary also has used those give away shower caps from hotels to cover her bowls and the bowl covers for the metal mixing bowls work well too. Always lightly grease the plastic wrap or bowl cover so if the risen dough touches it, the dough won’t stick.)

When fully risen, the dough will be humped into a slight dome, showing that the yeast is still active; it will be light and spongy when pressed. There will usually be some big bubbly blisters on the surface, and if you are using a glass bowl you will see bubbles through the glass.

Step 4: Deflating and Second Rising –temps (1 1/2 to 2 hours at around 70°)
The dough is now ready to be deflated, which will release the yeast engendered gases and redistribute the yeast cells so that the dough will rise again and continue the fermentation process.

With a rubber spatula, dislodge dough from inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface, scraping bowl clean. If dough seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour.

Lightly flour the palms of your hands and flatten the dough firmly but not too roughly into a circle, deflating any gas bubbles by pinching them.

Lift a corner of the near side and flip it down on the far side. Do the same with the left side, then the right side. Finally, lift the near side and tuck it just under the edge of the far side. The mass of dough will look like a rounded cushion.

Slip the sides of your hands under the dough and return it to the bowl. Cover and let rise again, this time to not quite triple, but again until it is dome shaped and light and spongy when touched.

(Mary and Sara Note: You may need to lightly re-grease your bowl and plastic wrap for the second rise to prevent sticking)

Step 5: Cutting and resting dough before forming loaves
Loosen dough all around inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Because of its two long rises, the dough will have much more body. If it seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle lightly with flour.

Making clean, sure cuts with a large knife or a bench scraper, divide the dough into:

  • 3 equal pieces for long loaves or small round loaves
  • 5 – 6 equal pieces for long thin loaves
  • 10 – 12 equal pieces for small oval rolls or small round rolls
  • 2 equal pieces for medium round loaves
  • If you making one large round loaf, you will not cut the dough at all and just need to follow the directions below.


After you have cut each piece, lift one end and flip it over onto the opposite end to fold the dough into two; place dough at far side of kneading surface. Cover loosely with a sheet of plastic and let rest for 5 minutes before forming. This relaxes the gluten enough for shaping but not long enough for dough to begin rising again.

While the dough is resting, prepare the rising surface; smooth the canvas or linen towelling on a large tray or baking sheet, and rub flour thoroughly into the entire surface of the cloth to prevent the dough from sticking

Step 6: Forming the loaves

Because French bread stands free in the oven and is not baked in a pan, it has to be formed in such a way that the tension of the coagulated gluten cloak on the surface will hold the dough in shape.

For Long Loaves – Batard

After the 3 pieces of dough have rested 5 minutes, form one piece at a time, keeping the remaining ones covered.

Working rapidly, turn the dough upside down on a lightly floured kneading surface and pat it firmly but not too roughly into an 8 to 10 inch oval with the lightly floured palms of your hands. Deflate any gas bubbles in the dough by pinching them.

Fold the dough in half lengthwise by bringing the far edge down over the near edge.

Being sure that the working surface is always lightly floured so the dough will not stick and tear, which would break the lightly coagulated gluten cloak that is being formed, seal the edges of the dough together, your hands extended, thumbs out at right angles and touching.

Roll the dough a quarter turn forward so the seal is on top.

Flatten the dough again into an oval with the palms of your hands.

Press a trench along the central length of the oval with the side of one hand.

Fold in half again lengthwise.

This time seal the edges together with the heel of one hand, and roll the dough a quarter of a turn toward you so the seal is on the bottom.

Now, by rolling the dough back and forth with the palms of your hands, you will lengthen it into a sausage shape. Start in the middle, placing your right palm on the dough, and your left palm on top of your right hand.

Roll the dough forward and backward rapidly, gradually sliding your hands towards the two ends as the dough lengthens.

Deflate any gas blisters on the surface by pinching them. Repeat the rolling movement rapidly several times until the dough is 16 inches long, or whatever length will fit on your baking sheet. During the extension rolls, keep circumference of dough as even as possible and try to start each roll with the sealed side of the dough down, twisting the rope of dough to straighten the line of seal as necessary. If seal disappears, as it sometimes does with all purpose flour, do not worry.

Place the shaped piece of dough, sealed side up, at one end of the flour rubbed canvas, leaving a free end of canvas 3 to 4 inches wide. The top will crust slightly as the dough rises; it is turned over for baking so the soft, smooth underside will be uppermost.

Pinch a ridge 2 1/2 to 3 inches high in the canvas to make a trough, and a place for the next piece. Cover dough with plastic while you are forming the rest of the loaves.

After all the pieces of dough are in place, brace the two sides of the canvas with long rolling pins, baking sheets or books, if the dough seems very soft and wants to spread out. Cover the dough loosely with flour rubbed dish towel or canvas, and a sheet of plastic. Proceed immediately to the final rising, next step.

(Mary and Sara Note: Empty paper towel tubes and/or bottles of spices work well as braces as well)

Step 7: Final Rise – 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours at around 70°

The covered dough is now to rise until almost triple in volume; look carefully at its pre-risen size so that you will be able to judge correctly. It will be light and swollen when risen, but will still feel a little springy when pressed.

It is important that the final rise take place where it is dry; if your kitchen is damp, hot, and steamy, let the bread rise in another room or dough will stick to the canvas and you will have difficulty getting it off and onto another baking sheet. It will turn into bread in the oven whatever happens, but you will have an easier time and a better loaf if you aim for ideal conditions.

Preheat oven to 450° about 30 minutes before estimated baking time.

Step 8: Unmolding risen dough onto baking sheet
(Mary and Sara note: we are only going to describe the unmolding of The Batard but the unmolding process is the same no matter the shape of your loaf or loaves. The key to unmolding without deflating your bread is slow and gentle!)

The 3 pieces of risen dough are now to be unmolded from the canvas and arranged upside down on the baking sheet. The reason for this reversal is that the present top of the dough has crusted over during its rise; the smooth, soft underside should be uppermost in the oven so that the dough can expand and allow the loaf its final puff of volume. For the unmolding you will need a non-sticking intermediate surface such as a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood sprinkled with cornmeal or pulverized pasta.

Remove rolling pins or braces. Place the long side of the board at one side of the dough; pull the edge of the canvas to flatten it; then raise and flip the dough softly upside down onto the board.

Dough is now lying along one edge of the unmolding board: rest this edge on the right side of a lightly buttered baking sheet. Gently dislodge dough onto baking sheet, keeping same side of the dough uppermost: this is the soft smooth side, which was underneath while dough rose on canvas. If necessary, run sides of hands lightly down the length of the dough to straighten it. Unmold the next piece of dough the same way, placing it to the left of the first, leaving a 3 inch space. Unmold the final piece near the left side of the sheet.

Step 9: Slashing top of the dough
(Mary and Sara Note: We will only describe the slashing for the Batard here. All other slashes for the other shapes are described in Step 6: Forming the Loaves)

The top of each piece of dough is now to be slashed in several places. This opens the covering cloak of gluten and allows a bulge of dough underneath to swell up through the cuts during the first 10 minutes of baking, making decorative patterns in the crust. These are done with a blade that cuts almost horizontally into the dough to a depth of less than half an inch. Start the cut at the middle of the blade, drawing toward you in a swift clean sweep. This is not quite as easy as it sounds, and you will probably make ragged cuts at first; never mind, you will improve with practice. Use an ordinary razor blade and slide one side of it into a cork for safety; or buy a barbers straight razor at a cutlery store.

For a 16 to 18 inch loaf make 3 slashes. Note that those at the two ends go straight down the loaf but are slightly off centre, while the middle slash is at a slight angle between the two. Make the first cut at the far end, then the middle cut, and finally the third. Remember that the blade should lie almost parallel to the surface of the dough.

Step 10: Baking – about 25 minutes; oven preheated to 450°

As soon as the dough has been slashed, moisten the surface either by painting with a soft brush dipped in cold water, or with a fine spray atomizer, and slide the baking sheet onto rack in upper third of preheated oven. Rapidly paint or spray dough with cold water after 3 minutes, again in 3 minutes, and a final time 3 minutes later. Moistening the dough at this point helps the crust to brown and allows the yeast action to continue in the dough a little longer. The bread should be done in about 25 minutes; the crust will be crisp, and the bread will make a hollow sound when thumped.

If you want the crust to shine, paint lightly with a brush dipped in cold water as soon as you slide the baking sheet out of oven.