Results tagged flour from David Lebovitz

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

oatmeal raisin cookies

We seem to be going though an age of competitions and it’s interesting for me to see so much fascination with being a chef, and people acting out on television what goes on (or they perceive goes on) in restaurant kitchens. I spent most of my life behind the stoves and let me tell you, it’s often not pretty and I would not want anyone following me around with a camera while I cooked. (Which is why this blog doesn’t include a webcam.)

I’m not sure how this fascination with being a chef came to be as it’s really ‘grunt’ work and there’s nothing at all glamorous about it; no matter how many tattoos you have or how much you swear at underlings, there’s still a ton of work involved and no way you’re going to get through it by the end of your shift. Sure, I had a great time cooking with friends and co-workers (well, most of them…), but the grueling hours and the physical labor involved is one of the main reasons that I’m permanently damaged, both physically and psychologically.

flocons d'avoine oats

Thankfully I was part of that elite group of people in the professional cooking world: The bakers and pastry chefs. Unlike the line cooks, who were whooping it up and play with fire, we disciplined souls were in the back of the kitchen, dusting doughs with flour, rolling out cookies, melting chocolate, and creaming buttery cake batters. But a regular chef once said to me—”Why are all you pastry chefs so weird?”

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Brown Bread

brown bread, beer, cheese

People often ask me if I make my own bread. Since where I live, within a one block radius of my apartment there are literally four very good places to buy bread that is baked fresh daily (and it’s very inexpensive, around €1-€2 a loaf), although I admire those who do, I can’t rouse myself to bake my own.

French buttermilk wheat germ

Yet when I got back from Ireland I found myself craving soda bread something fierce. There’s no shortage of baguettes or other lovely breads here, but Irish soda bread has a certain je ne sais quoi—and I wanted some of that hearty, crumbly bread from the Irish isle. Partially to blame were a few rounds of Irish cheese that I carried back, including a tangy, creamy Cashel Blue, that was begging to be sliced and smeared over some wheaty bread.

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Baking Ingredients and Substitutions

salt & vanilla

Because the question comes up from time to time, I thought I’d answer some questions about making substitutions in my recipes, and swapping out or deleting ingredients.

The short answer is: Ingredients are added to recipes for a specific purpose and there is a reason that they are there. When you substitute or swap out ingredients, results will vary and won’t be the same as mine.

Some may work, and others won’t. And I can’t comment on results unless I’ve tried it myself. The most common request is folks who want to reduce the sugar or fat in a recipe, but in most instances, people are not happy with the final results. So unless you have health issues such as allergies and intolerances, it’s best to stick with the recipe.

One recent change that’s occurred in home baking is the proliferation of “premium” products, such as “European-style” butter, stronger flour (with more protein and gluten), high percentage chocolate, and instant yeast. Using products such as these can alter results and it’s simply not possible to write a recipe that includes variations for each kind of product that might be available in the diverse geographical regions of the world. So it’s up to you to use your best judgement and alter a recipe as necessary, to compensate for the variation in products. (You may wish to consult the manufacturer directly to get further directions on using their product.)

Realizing that people have various dislikes and dietary needs, here are some guidelines you might find useful when using my recipes on the site or in my Books. If you’re looking for more comprehensive information about baking ingredient substitutions, I’ve provided links at the end where you can find answers. Do remember that these are general guidelines and are not applicable to each and every recipe that exists. Home bakers are encouraged to experiment—especially those on restricted or special diets, because they’re often best educated on how to modify recipes to meet their particular dietary needs.

Spices

Spices are interchangeable in recipes. When I come up with spice amounts, they are to my personal taste and that which I think others will like. Reducing 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to 1 teaspoon won’t alter the way a cake or cookie turns out, but it won’t have the same oomph as the ones I did. However not everyone likes, say, cloves or other spices. So if you see a spice in a recipe you don’t like, you can omit it and perhaps dial up one of the other spices or flavors to compensate.

Gluten and Flours

In recipes that call for flour, I mean all-purpose flour. If I mean cake or bread flour, that will be noted. I’m not an expert on gluten-free baking and there are others who are so can’t advise about substitutions with specialty flours. King Arthur carries a gluten-free baking flour that they advise is a good swap for wheat flour. I haven’t used it so can’t confirm, but people who bake gluten-free likely have their own techniques for substituting wheat flour if you don’t wish to use a gluten-free flour mix, such as:

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Amnesty Cookies

baking cookies

When I was speaking at the Blogher Food Conference last year, one of the organizers was telling us that on the last day of each month, she carries out what she calls E-mail Amnesty Day. On that day, she deletes all her e-mail in her Inbox, then issues an all-points-bulletin to everyone she knows that if there was anything important in there, to e-mail her again. She swore that it drastically reduced her e-mail and any meltdowns one might have trying to answer it all.

I thought that was an interesting idea, and when I looked around my apartment the other day, (which wasn’t half as scary as my Inbox), I realized that I had a huge miscellany of half-bags and jars of stuff left over from various baking projects, odds and ends that I was saving, which I said to myself (at the time) that I’d certainly use in the future. And this weekend, I thought it was high time to do something about it and get rid of them all, to do an exhaustive, clean sweep and get rid of everything.

kit-kat bars ingredients for compost cookies

What also prompted the purge was when I read where Adam made something called “Compost Cookies”, a recipe which includes anything you wish to dump in it, from chocolate chips to Fritos.

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French Tart Dough Recipe

tart dough

I was in the middle of a lovely spring lunch at Chez Prune up by the Canal St. Martin the other day with Paule Caillat, a woman who teaches cooking classes here in Paris.

We talked about many things, but of course, the conversation quickly turned to the most important subject of them all: baking. And soon she began to tell me about this tart dough recipe that she’s been making for years.

I was expecting her to say, “You begin by taking some cold butter and work it into the flour.

But she started by saying, “You take butter. And you take water. You put them in a bowl. Then you put it in the oven for 20 minutes and let everything boil until…” which, of course, stopped me mid-swallow of my Côte du Rhone. I almost started choking.

“Surely, you jest!” I wanted to cry out in disbelief.

Except I couldn’t, because I don’t know how to say that in French.

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Pain d’épices Recipe

pain d'epice

It’s tough call, but I’d have to say that Flo Braker is my favorite baker in the world. Having known her for a few decades, I can’t think of another baker that I like more. And I won’t apologize to any other bakers out there, because I think they’d pretty much agree with me. When I was writing my first book, I remember leafing through her book, The Simple Art of Perfect Baking, amazed how this gorgeous, elegant woman had made cake-making such a seemingly simple affair. I was in awe.

Eventually I was lucky to meet Flo in person when we were wrapping boxes of chocolates and candies for a big benefit that Chez Panisse was organizing and we hit it off immediately.

So much so, that when my mother passed away, Flo called and said just two words to me: “You’re adopted.”

(Although she way rather coy when pressed for a move-in date….)

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Sweet Potato Gnocchi: The Good, the Not-Too-Bad, and the Sorta Ugly

tray  of gnocchi

I thought I’d better get this one out of the way right off the bat, at the start of the year. This recipe was languishing on my kitchen counter, resisting publication until I could resist no more. (And if you saw my kitchen counter, you’d know a piece of paper takes up about 25% of it, so I’m especially eager to get it out of the way.) I wasn’t sure if it was up to snuff since I can’t claim exactly 100% success, although the end result was pretty darned good.

But Carol warned me I’d better write it up, and I’m a bit scared of her after what she did to that pig’s head. Although truth be told, she can blame any failures on Tom or Grant. Here, it’s just me, myself, and moi.

Plus I needed the counter space.

'taters

1. The Good

I’ve been meaning to mix up a batch of gnocchi for a while, since I don’t think there’s any better way to fight off the chill of winter than a big bowl of carbohydrates swimming in melted butter.

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Allegedly The Birthplace of Kouign Amann

Anyone who uses iPhoto probably remembers your first thrill of plugging in your digital camera and magically, with no effort at all, having your photos automatically downloaded for you. Then they’re neatly filed on your computer so you can view, cut, or paste your memories until your heart’s content.

It’s great for the first few times, but once you’ve hit a certain number of photos, in my case the 1k mark, things start to slow w-a-a-a-y down, making it necessary to either burn them onto disks like the old days (iPhoto’s dirty little secret, forcing us to resort to ‘outdated’ technology…bad Apple!)
Or sadly, just to delete them.

So I spent my weekend going through my older photos and realized that I never wrote about one of the most special places in France: Locronan, allegedly the birthplace of my beloved Kouign Amann.

locronan.jpg

Note I used the word ‘allegedly’.
I’d been told by several French folks that the town is famous as the lieu de naissance of this buttery cake. But when I asked at the Office de Tourisme, the woman there had no idea what I was talking about. And wasn’t all that interested in pursuing it with me either. So I’ll let someone out there do the research since I’m too involved in burning photos onto disks all weekend. But even though Locronon may not the be the birthplace of this famous Breton Butter Cake, it’s certainly become the epicenter for lovers of butter & sugar bound-together.

Although the town is teeming with tourists who come to gawk at the granite buildings and churches, the town is also teeming with other fans of the sweet-stuff: les guepes, or yellowjackets.

rhubarbtarts.jpg

Every bakery had swarms of the lil’ stingers flying all around, hundreds of them are everywhere, feasting their wings off on the sugary treats and tartlets for sale, like the rhubarb ones above. The women who work in the bakeries must’ve made some top-secret pact with the bees since they showed no fear of them and would swat ‘em away while packing up tarts and cakes. We decided to use the bees as a guide and follow their advice, since they’d probably know which was the best Kouign Amann in town. Like truffle hunters use pigs and dogs, this pastry-hunter decided to follow the bees, and I reasoned the places with the most yellowjackets would have the best pastries.

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