Category Archives: Techniques and Tips

Pâte Fermentée

PFheaderPâte Fermentée is a French term that refers to a dough that is made before the bulk of the main bread dough is put together and allowed to mature or ‘ferment‘.

By preparing a portion ahead of time, it can be allowed to ferment overnight (or however long) in a cool space (slowing yeast activity)  where it develops a lot of great flavour that would not be available in a shorter rest time. The dough is then added to the rest of the bread’s ingredients and presto, your “new” dough gets a tremendous flavour boost.

In a bakery setting, a large amount of this dough would be made regularly and a small portion of it would go into, say, baguettes, another portion into kaisers, etc. This is why the pâte is very basic – it would be used throughout the day to make whatever bread was on the menu.

At home, you still want the fermentation/development that occurs but would normally just make enough for your next bake.

In The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, this shortcut is used a fair bit. It’s a very simple, lean dough.

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Home-made Pan Release recipe

Tired of having your baked goods stick to your pans? Are you frustrated with cakes, panned breads and cinnamon rolls ruined because they rip out, leaving half of it glued to the bottom of your loaf pan? Then this is the solution just for you!

And no, there’s NOTHING being sold here! Billy Mays is not being channeled. This is just a handy tip for all you bakers out there.

As noted in a recent post on Banana Bread that came out – or rather didn’t – of a loaf pan, here’s the excessively simple Pan Release recipe that a lot of pro bakers use.

Don’t blink or you’ll miss it, it really IS that simple!

Ingredients:

  • one part flour (by volume)
  • one part vegetable oil
  • one part vegetable shortening.

CakeRelease1 CakeRelease2

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Place all three ingredients in a bowl and mix (by hand or with mixer) until smooth.

Yup, that’s it!
Now, put this in a lidded container and use a pastry brush to apply to your pans (cake, bread, whatever). Your fingers or a bit of paper towel will also do if a pastry brush isn’t handy, they’re also easier to clean.

This can be stored at room temp in the cupboard, lasts for 6 months.

How much to make? For the pint jar above, I used a 1/3 cup measures. I measured the flour, then the oil then the Crisco shortening (which dropped out of the now oiled cup easily). If you don’t do a lot of pan baking, try 1/4 cup of each. Total cost for that jar full: maybe 20-25¢? So even if you only use half, toss out leftovers and make a new (smaller) batch in 6 months, it’s still insanely cheap.

This is not only easy to make but a lot less costly than commercial stuff and without questionable additives (did you know some spay oils use propane as their propellants?).

The pro bakers swear by this stuff. Obviously this won’t replace spray oil when you need to mist a loaf but for keeping baked things non-stick, it’s great and a lot simpler (and less messy) than greasing and flouring. I use it to grease baking pans but also for the proofing bowls.

I have never, ever had anything stick when I use it. And it’s what I use when I want to be sure even the stickiest stuff doesn’t glue itself to my coated pans; commercial spray oil can build up on those and become gummy.

So give it a shot, if you bake you probably have all the ingredients already. Then come back and let everyone know if it worked well for you.

Stretch and Fold (again)

Stretch & Fold 07

I figured that, since I have these steps already photographed for another entry, mainly the Vermont Sourdough post here, I may as well include them separately as their very own little “Stretch and Fold show and tell” .

More show than tell, mind you.

I hope this helps to show the technique well and let people know that there is an alternative to kneading, if you find that aspect of bread making difficult or tedious. Some people actually like kneading and feel it’s a good mental zone out therapy, they just get in the groove. I like kneading, myself, and some doughs you pretty much have to knead by hand, like bagels, which is usually way too stiff for a mixer to handle.

But this is a really great way to simplify your bread making if you don’t want to get into the heavy push and turn stuff. Even if you like kneading, this is a good technique to have in your bag o’ tricks for those time you’re just not feeling like it.

For a little more info on the ideas around the process and a couple of video clips, see the other page on this blog, Stretch and Fold: you don’t need to knead.

Here it is, step by step:

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Step aside, Zorro!! A new slashing tool just got added!

I’d been trying to “make do” for a while with whatever seemed like an acceptable tool for slashing the dough loaves and using a small, very sharp but flat-bladed paring knife acceptable, though not exactly great. 

I knew that a “tomato knife” was a great tool to use because it has the large scallops in the blade which , as seen on Mark’ Back Home Bakery videos, did a very neat, clean cut in one go. But when I went out looking for such a knife, I was rather put off by the cost, about $20 – $25 at the local department stores’ kitchen/cutlery sections. Several stores in fact. Thanks, I think I’ll just save the $25 and buy flour.

However, I came across a display in our local grocery emporium (in my case, that’s Fortino’s, a part of the Loblaws/Superstore/President’s Choice conglomeration here in Canada) and there in the kitchen stuff section next to candles and pillows displays, was a box full of paring knives with flat blades… But my eye caught a knife in the corner that looked like… yes!! A serrated tomato knife! And they were an astounding $1.90!! Stuck in the back of the box (I dug) were a handful of these little beauties, with black or pale blue handles. Continue reading

Stretch and Fold: you don’t need to knead

Preamble: None of the following is original to me in the least. Here I’m merely collecting the wisdom of much more experienced bread makers into one easy to find spot. And I’m not even saying this is “all there is”, much more can be found on the web, from other people with different methods.

Stretch and Fold

This is a method of handling dough which pretty much replaces, in whole or in part, the more traditional “push and turn” method of kneading of the dough.

grab the top third, stretch a bit, and fold down like a letter

From “Stretch and Fold Again”: Grab the top third, stretch a bit, and fold down like a letter

I’ve created a Step-By-Step photo illustration of the process in it’s own post here: Stretch and Fold Again. Although, as with most anything, there are variations on how it’s done, the basic principle is as follows:

Take your dough that has been resting and turn it out on the counter. The counter should be either very, very lightly floured for the first fold of regular dough, slightly dampened for first fold of wet dough or unfloured for 2nd and later folds of either.

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