HomeBaking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Traditions from Around the Worldby Jeffrey Alford, Naomi Duguid
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Home baking may be a humble art, but its roots are deeply planted. On an island in Sweden a grandmother teaches her granddaughter how to make slagbrot, a velvety rye bread, just as she was taught to make it by her grandmother many years before. In Portugal, village women meet once each week to bake at a community oven; while the large stone oven heats up, children come running for sweet, sugary flatbreads made specially for them. In Toronto, Naomi makes her grandmother's recipe for treacle tart and Jeffrey makes the truck-stop cinnamon buns he and his father loved.
From savory pies to sweet buns, from crusty loaves to birthday cake, from old-world apple pie to peanut cookies to custard tarts, these recipes capture the age-old rhythm of turning simple ingredients into something wonderful to eat. HomeBaking rekindles the simple pleasure of working with your hands to feed your family. And it ratchets down the competitive demands we place on ourselves as home cooks. Because in striving for professional results we lose touch with the pleasures of the process, with the homey and imperfect, with the satisfaction of knowing that you can, as a matter of course, prepare something lovely and delicious, and always have a full cookie jar or some homemade cake on hand to offer.
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid collected the recipes in HomeBaking at their source, from farmhouse kitchens in northern France to bazaars in Fez. They traveled tens of thousands of miles, to six continents, in search of everyday gems such as Taipei Coconut Buns, Welsh Cakes, Moroccan Biscotti, and Tibetan Overnight Skillet Breads. They tasted, interpreted, photographed and captured not just the recipes, but the people who made them as well. Then they took these spot-on flavors of far away and put them side by side with cherished recipes from friends and family closer to home. The result is a collection of treasures: cherry strudel from Hungary, stollen from Germany, bread pudding from Vietnam, anise crackers from Barcelona. More than two hundred recipes that resonate with the joys and flavors of everyday baking at home and around the world.
Inexperienced home bakers can confidently pass through the kitchen doors armed with Naomi and Jeffrey's calming and easy-to-follow recipes. A relaxed, easy-handed approach to baking is, they insist, as much a part of home baking traditions as are the recipes themselves. In fact it's often the last-minute recipes—semonlina crackers, a free-form fruit galette, or a banana-coconut loaf—that offer the most unexpected delights. Although many of the sweets and savories included here are the products of age-old oral traditions, the recipes themselves have been carefully developed and tested, designed for the home baker in a home kitchen.
Like the authors' previous books, HomeBaking offers a glorious combination of travel and great tastes, with recipes rich in anecdote, insightful photographs, and an inviting text that explores the diverse baking traditions of the people who share our world. This is a book to have in the kitchen and then again by your bed at night, to revisit over and over.
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Read an Excerpt
The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World
By Jeffrey Alford Artisan Publishers
Copyright © 2003 Jeffrey Alford
All right reserved.
Makes 12 attractive low round rolls, 5 to 6 inches across, studded with olives
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 cup all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups course semolina (not semolina flour)
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
Generous 1 cup pitted Mediterranean olives - green or black or a mixture, coarsely chopped if large
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, preferably unbleached
Make the biga at least 1 day before you wish to bake: Stir the yeast into the water until well dissolved. Stir in 1/2 cup of the flour until smooth, then add the remaining 1/2 cup flour and knead briefly in the bowl or on a work surface until smooth. Cover with plastic and let rise overnight, or for up to 36 hours; refrigerate after 12 hours.
When ready to proceed, place the 2 1/2 cups water in a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and stir in the yeast to dissolve it. Cut the biga into 5 or 6 pieces, add to the bowl, and use your fingers to break it up into the water.
By hand: Stir the semolina into the biga mixture to make a batter. Sprinkle on the salt and stir in. Addthe olive oil and olives and stir. Add 2 1/2 to 3 cups of all-purpose flour, a cup at a time, turning and stirring. Flour your work surface with about 1/2 cup flour and turn the dough out. Knead, incorporating the flour, until you have a soft dough about 5 minutes.
Using a stand mixer: Fit the mixer with the dough hook. Add the semolina to the biga mixture and mix for 2 minutes or so on low speed, until the biga has dissolved into the dough. Add the salt, olive oil, olives, and 1 cup of the all-purpose flour and mix, still on low speed, for 1 minute. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups flour and knead for 3 to 4 minutes on low speed.
Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with plastic, and let ferment for 3 hours. The dough will not double in volume, because it’s so loaded down with olives and oil, but it will rise a little in the bowl to a dome shape.
About 30 minutes before the dough is ready, place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, on a rack in the center of your oven and preheat the oven to 450°F.
On a floured surface, divide dough in half. Return half to the bowl; keep covered. Divide the other piece of dough into 6 pieces; loosely cover 5 of them with plastic. Shape the remaining piece of dough into a loose mound and place it on the preheated stone or tiles, toward the back and to one side. (We find it easiest to place the breads directly on the stone or tiles, but you can use a semolina-dusted peel to transfer the breads onto the hot surface.) Repeat with the other 5 pieces of dough. If you can’t fit all the breads from this first batch onto your stone or tiles at once, you’ll just be baking the dough in three batches rather than two.
Leave the remaining piece(s) of dough covered until ready to bake the next batch. Bake the breads for 15 to 20 minutes, until slightly spotted with brown but still rather pale. Repeat shaping and baking with the remaining dough. They will each bake into a low dome about 5 to 6 inches across. Let cool on a rack.
Eat plain or split in half for sandwiches.
Note: If you have a 1- or 2-day-old biga already, use about 1 cup of it in the recipe.
Excerpted from Homebaking by Jeffrey Alford Copyright © 2003 by Jeffrey Alford. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Jeffrey Alford is a writer and photographer based primarily in northeast Thailand and Cambodia. He plants and harvests rice each year; helps raise frogs and several varieties of fish; and happily struggles along in three languages: Central Thai, Lao Isaan, and Northern Khmer. His forthcoming book, to be published in 2014, is tentatively titled How Pea Cooks: Food and Life in a Thai-Khmer Village. His earlier books, all co-written with Naomi Duguid, are Flatbreads and Flavors;HomeBaking; Seductions of Rice; Hot Sour Salty Sweet; Mangoes and Curry Leaves; and Beyond the Great Wall. Jeffrey is currently developing a series of intensive culinary tours through northeastern Thailand and western Cambodia (the Angkor Wat area) under the name of Heritage Food Thailand.
Naomi Duguid is a writer, photographer, teacher, cook, and world traveler. Her most recent cookbook, Burma, brought news of a long-forgotten part of the world and was winner of the 2013 IACP Cookbook Award for Culinary Travel and the Taste Canada Food Writing Award. Her previous award-winning titles, co-authored with Jeffrey Alford, include Flatbreads & Flavors: A Baker’s Atlas, their first book, which won a James Beard Award for Cookbook of the Year; Seductions of Rice; Hot Sour Salty Sweet, also a James Beard Cookbook of the Year; Mangoes & Curry Leaves; and Beyond the Great Wall.
Duguid’s articles and photographs appear regularly in Lucky Peach, Food & Wine, and other publications. She is a frequent guest speaker and presenter at food conferences. She is the host of Toronto’s Food on Film series and has a strong online presence (Twitter and Facebook). Her stock photo agency, Asia Access, is based in Toronto, where she lives when she is not on the road.
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