Monday, July 20, 2015

Pretty Good Bread For (Normal) Restaurant Service

Some shit:

Classic example of the , 'Dentist has too many dinner guests suggest they open a restaurant' : Bread & Honey.


Maria did a wonderful job warning me about people like herself in her response to this AOA article

Not being able to sleep just one night really derails my entire week.

I average about 5 hours of sleep a night and (unfortunately) live on an enormous amount of coffee. This is not sustainable

There is a lot of internal conflict about accepting new projects when I already feel spread thin.

Our house bread today vs. when we opened - there is no comparison. Complacency will kill you in this industry.

I am honing in on a great biscuit recipe. Almost there. 

My garden is a sorry excuse of its former self.

I love my CSA. Thank you Daniel. We haven't tossed a single item yet. Triage, as you put it, is critical. 



I've always wished there was a 'New Pastry Chef Handbook' with all the little things that you need to know or wind up learning along the way. There are books that contain a lot of this information - but they always seem to be written for people who work in these mythical kitchens (hotels, very high end restaurants) that have every piece of equipment you can imagine. The reality is that most places you will work will be built for the hot side (where the majority of food sales come from) and the 'pastry department' will have to make due with whatever is available. Some places are better than others - but the sooner you realize things are not going to be ideal - the better off you will be.

A good example: You do not need a proof box for your dough - you just need to find someplace in your building this is warm and hopefully a little moist. For a while I would fire up the oven in the apartment over the wine bar, crack it open, and line up a few chairs in front of it, which I would put my trays of bread on. When the heat was turned off for the season this no longer worked - so I figured out how to rig our dishwasher to have its heating element on with the door open. I would then carefully stack (covered) trays of dough in it and they would proof beautifully. Then we got a new dish machine that turns off whenever the door is open. There was a short period of time where I proofed bread in the oven with just the pilot going - this took forever because I had to pull the proofed bread and then wait for the oven to get up to temperature, and often times the pilot gave off too much heat. Now I proof the bread in a dank little room in the basement that has our walk in condenser in it - so it is always warm and fairly moist. My point here is that there is always a way. Think outside the (proof) box. The better you are at adapting to each situation, the easier your life will be. 

Bread cooling in our garden

Baking bread for a restaurant can be a very daunting task. It requires a lot of intuition that really only comes from experience. Things like adjusting the recipe based on dough conditions. Too wet? Add flour. Too dry? Add water. Too cold? Ferment somewhere else. Its not proofing? Wait longer and maybe move it somewhere warmer. Things of this nature. Its also just a lot of work for something that is nearly always given away for free. When I started at Peck's, we talked a lot about our bread service and what we wanted it to be like. Up until that point, I had only done pop-overs (and at shittier places where I was not in charge, served thaw and serve bread) for bread service - so I had to figure out the systems that would need to be in place and how to get past the fact that we only have two conventional ovens (the same as what you have in your house). 

I was lucky that before 15 Church opened, I was in negotiations with Chef Jason to be their pastry chef - and took it upon myself to go stage at a friends restaurant in Chicago for a week - to learn her bread program. Her restaurant was also brand new and she had to figure everything out on her own. Even though I ultimately declined to work at 15 Church, the knowledge and skill I picked up during my stage proved to be very valuable.

Im still not 100% sure that I have everything down pat with our bread. There are days when I am dumbfounded by how the dough is behaving and what caused it to change. There are also days when I cannot believe how good it is. Ultimately I think I have come up with a bread program that is completely manageable - it adapts to your schedule (to some degree) - it requires very little work - and the product is without a doubt better than a lot of restaurants. Is it the best bread ever? Absolutely not. In fact there are very simple ways that I could improve it - but they all require purchasing new equipment...and the whole idea behind this bread is that it is practical to do at virtually any restaurant - without making any investments. We serve it room temperature - which Im not 100% convinced its good enough to do that - but its close. Its great warmed in the oven or toasted. 

So with that; here is my recipe and all relevant information for my 'House Bread', which we serve just about every day at Pecks. 

Yield: I make 12 loaves and then either play around with whats left, use it as a pate fermentee for the next dough, or portion it and freeze it for pizza dough. Ultimately you can get about 14 x 1# portions.

2903 g Water, Room Temperature (Troy's finest)
3870 g AP (I strictly use King Arthur AP (retail) or King Arthur Sir Galahad (food service) 
10 g Yeast (SAF Instant)
70 g Salt (Diamond Kosher)

Scale all of your ingredients. In a very large container (I use a...big Carlisle container...like what you mount your immersion circulator on) add your water. Follow with your flour, and then yeast. Lightly mix the yeast into the flour. Finally add your salt and begin mixing everything together. I like to use a bench scraper for this, but really anything works. The dough should come together as sort of a raggedy, kind-of-moist mass. All I really care about is that there are no excessively wet spots. Once it is together, wrap the container up and place in a warm spot to ferment for 18 hours.  Once 18 hours have passed, generously flour your workspace and turn the dough out. This is a relatively wet dough...so like I said, be generous with your bench flour.


Begin cutting the dough into roughly 453 g portions. Its ok if it stays within 10 grams in either direction.


Once dough is portioned, pre-shape each piece it into a rough boule by stretching the edges to the center in while rotating the dough:










1 dozen pre-shaped loaves
 Once your loaves are pre-shaped, give them all a final shape. I couldn't photograph this process because it required two hands but its easy to find online. This video is a little different than how I do it, but it gives you a good idea of the process. I typically hold the dough in my hands when I shape, rather than doing it directly on the bench, and I pinch the seam with the (pinky) sides of my palm.


Once the loaves are shaped, I place them on a sheet tray that is lined with two pieces of parchment paper, where the top layer of parchment is sprayed with pan spray. It is important to use two sheets of parchment and to spray the top layer (you'll see why in a second). You can fit 6 x 453 g loaves on a full size sheet tray.


I then cater wrap the tray, spraying the inside of the plastic wrap with pan spary - this prevents the plastic wrap from sticking to the loaves.

Look closely and you can see the pan spray
Once the loaves are wrapped, I put them in the cooler for 24 hours. This will slow down the fermentation and develop an enormous amount of flavor and - as far as I can tell it improves the texture of both the crust and crumb.

After 24 hours the bread is ready to bake. I pull them from the cooler and place them somewhere warm to proof. While they are proofing, I set up the oven. First thing is to put a cast iron skillet on the floor of the oven, which you will throw ice cubes in to create steam when you are baking the bread. I am not 100% convinced it is necessary when baking in this type of oven.. because the heat transfer is so crappy (so you don't get much spring...so no need to delay crust formation) - but...I do it anyway.

Next I take two sheet trays, flip them upside down, and put them onto the rack in the oven. This will be the 'hearth' that I bake on.


Once the oven has the skillet and sheet trays in it, I turn the heat to 500 F and let everything get nice and hot while the bread finishes proofing. It typically takes about 1 hour for the loaves to proof - but its important to know that there are a lot of factors that can change that and you just need to be able to recognize properly proofed bread. Sometimes it takes 1.5 hours to proof - I remember a day where I couldn't find a warm spot and I waited 3 hours for them to proof  and they still could have gone longer. This seems to be the number one problem people have - they adhere to the suggested time frame for proofing and wind up baking grossly under-proofed bread - and then they wonder why their bread is so dense. 


Once the bread is done proofing, I get some ice and get ready to slide the loaves onto the 'hearth'. To do this successfully you have to pull the 'hearth' out of the oven, set it down next to the proofed bread - grab both pieces of parchment in the corners and slide it right over the edge onto the 'hearth'. If you only use one sheet of parchment, sometimes it absorbs too much moisture and winds up ripping apart when you pull on it. Good luck getting the bread onto the 'hearth' if that happens. The pan spray is used to prevent the paper from sticking to the loaves, which seems to happen about 30% of the time if you do not use the pan spray.  

Set up and ready to slide over
Bread is now on the 'hearth'. 
 Now quickly put the hearth back into the oven, throw some ice into the cast iron skillet (it will hiss and steam) and shut the door. I bake the loaves for 30 minutes, undisturbed, at which point I pull the 'hearth' and paper out, leaving the loaves directly on the rack. This helps the bottoms of the loaf to crisp up a little. 

After 30 minutes
'Hearth' and parchment removed, loaves rotated.
 I then continue to bake them until they are properly colored - which usually takes between 5 and 15 additional minutes. Once they are done I cool them on a resting rack and they are ready to go! 



Notice the micro blistering. There was no dutch oven. No stone. No real hearth. Just shit that is on hand in every restaurant

I don't bother scoring the bread because there is not enough oven spring with these sheet trays that it will open up attractively. I also don't spend a lot of time shaping them perfectly because
 1 - There is no time and 
2 - We serve slices, which will look good no matter how 'ugly' the loaf looks. 

What is important to me is that I have achieved a good crumb and a decent amount of flavor by using such a long fermentation and rise. The bread only requires a small amount of active work (maybe an hour total) that is spread out across 42 hours. Its also very forgiving. I can walk in the door and start proofing the bread immediately or I can do some other work and get to the bread whenever I feel like it - The same goes for the shaping at the 18 hour mark. 12 hours is fine. 20 hours is fine. Do it when it works for your schedule. Your still doing a very long fermentation. You can proof and bake them immediately after shaping if you want. They will not be nearly as good, but they will still be totally fine. 


Some especially nice looking loaves, using this recipe and method. 
Earlier I mentioned that there are some pretty easy ways to improve this recipe - but they require spending some money. This is a good example - I followed the recipe and method exactly, but baked this bread in a covered & preheated dutch oven. The big difference is you get more oven spring, so ultimately a lighter, more bulbous loaf, and a significantly improved crust. 

Just look at that crust
 Some other bread I have been playing around with at the restaurant:
Pain Au Lait
Rye Pain Au Lait
Wheat Tortillas
As I said before, sometimes we like to make pizza with any extra dough

Some desserts I've run in the past few weeks. All gluten free, of course: 

Strawberry Shortcake - Caramelized biscuit, Strawberry Coulis, Whipped Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, Strawberries. 
Morita Ice Cream. Masa & Chocolate Cake. Honeycomb. Strawberry. Lime
Neapolitan - Vanilla Panna Cotta, Chocolate Cake, Gianduja Mousse, Marcona, Red Jacket Cherry Sorbet 
Vegan Massaman Curry 'Ice Cream', Herb Salad.
Mocha Sundae - Blue Bottle Cold Brew Ice Cream, Vanilla Ice Cream, Brownies, Espresso Caramel, Hot Fudge, Caramelized Chocolate Marcona Almond, Whipped Cream....Who knows what else. 

 Some other fun;

About two weeks ago I started fermenting some pineapples and spices to make some Tepache
Which we all drank, mixed with some Modelo, after service this past Saturday.

 Oh and J & I adopted our first puppy: