Lately, I have been busy with a new marketing campaign for our company. Being in the technology field and having to deal with electronic gadgets all day, the last thing that I want to do at the end of my day is watch TV or play video games. I’m on the computer or fiddling with the camera on average about 12 hours a day. So what is one to do after a day of electronic madness? Bake. Let me explain.
When I was in second grade, I was interested in cooking and baking. When other kids were watching Bugs Bunny, I was watching Julia Child and The Frugal Gourmet. I have to admit, this was a little strange, but it kept me out of trouble. I took my first cooling class in second grade. It was an after school program (this was in upstate New York, so there wasn’t a shortage of money at the time) and I wanted to give it a go. I’ll never forget, one of our “dishes” that we made was a rice cake pizza. If you’re not already cringing in your seat, get ready. It was a rice cake with spaghetti sauce topped with cheese and pepperoni. No baking, that was the finished product. I enjoyed the process, but after I tasted our creation, I thought about changing careers.
I would go to the bakeries in our hometown and look through the window and see the éclairs, doughnuts, petit fours, and all the like stacked in the window. Walking into the bakery and smelling that wonderful sweet smell in the air, I was hooked.
Years flew by and at the old age of fourteen; I decided to give pastry making a go. I went to our local bookstore and bought a book titled “How to Bake” by Nick Malgeri. This book had a little of everything and illustrated some great techniques. The first recipe I made was éclairs with a chocolate espresso sauce complete with pastry cream filling. Having never done this before, I was a curious on the outcome. Believe it our not, they came out just like what I had seen in the bakery eight years ago. It was all down hill from there. I was baking bread, doughnuts, cakes, muffins, cookies…well you get the idea. I think this had something to do with the size that I am today.
I almost went to school for baking and pastry instead of graphic design. Both have their pros and cons, but they are completely different which is nice. Who knows, I may still go to school some day. Lately, I have been on the quest for REAL bread. Not this stuff in stores that’s full of preservatives and AIR! Also, most of the bigger stores carry what they call “artisan bread”, this would be like French bread. Their artisan bread is tasteless and expensive for what it is. In the past couple of years I decided to dive more into bread baking to see exactly what there was to this.
Lately, I have been making old style European crusty rolls, French bread and stuffed French bread. I also have some sourdough starter bubbling away that is maturing like a great bottle of wine. Sourdough will be a new experience for me so I’m excited to see how it turns out.
What does all of this have to do with photography? Today I noticed that the PocketWizard Flex’s that I bought a while ago FINALLY had an update. Like a good photographer, I set everything up and tested the system to make sure that there wouldn’t be any surprises during a client shoot. As I looked around for a test subject, what do I see on the cooling rack? Some fresh Cheddar stuffed rolls that came out of the oven. This was perfect.
I set up my lighting and took about 50 shots to make sure that the new firmware in the Flex’s was working ok. Here is the resulting photograph.
These are REALLY good. If you like French bread and cheese, this is for you. I have contacted King Arthur Flour and I have special permission to redistribute the recipe here. If you are into ANY kind of baking and you haven’t ventured over to King Arthur Flour, you need to check them out. They have great recipes and all of the equipment that you could ever want. Here is the recipe:
Gruyere-Stuffed Crusty Loaves
A lava-flow of aromatic cheese melts down the sides of these chewy/crusty loaves.
- 1 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/2 cup cool water
- all of the starter
- 1 cup + 2 tablespoons to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water*
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Pizza Dough Flavor (optional)
- 3 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- *Use the greater amount of water in winter, when conditions are dry; and the lesser amount in summer, when the weather is humid.
- 2 1/2 cups grated Gruyère cheese, or the grated/shredded cheese of your choice (sharp cheddar, or a mixture of provolone and mozzarella are tasty)
- 1 tablespoon garlic oil (optional)
- 1 tablespoon pizza seasoning (optional)
1. To make the starter: Mix the 1 1/4 cups flour, salt, yeast, and 1/2 cup water in a medium-sized bowl. Mix till well combined; the starter will be very dry. Cover and let rest overnight at room temperature; it’ll become bubbly.
2. To make the dough: Combine the risen starter with the water, salt, flour, and yeast. Knead—by hand, mixer, or bread machine set on the dough cycle—to make a smooth dough.
3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, till it’s nearly doubled in bulk.
4. Gently deflate the dough, and pat and stretch it into a 3/4″-thick rectangle, about 9″ x 12″. Spritz with water, and sprinkle with the grated cheese.
5. Starting with a long side, roll it into a log, pinching the seam to seal. Place the log, seam-side down, on a lightly floured or lightly oiled surface.
6. Cover it and let it rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, till it’s puffy though not doubled in bulk. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.
7. Gently cut the log into four crosswise slices, for mini-breads; or simply cut the dough in half, for two normal-sized loaves. Place them on one (for two loaves) or two (for four mini-loaves) lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheets, cut side up. Spread them open a bit, if necessary, to more fully expose the cheese. Spritz with warm water, and immediately place them in the preheated oven.
8. Bake for 20 minutes (for the mini-loaves), or 35 minutes (for the full-sized loaves), or until the cheese is melted and the loaves are a very deep golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and cool on a rack.
Hands-on time: 25 mins. to 35 mins.
Baking time: 20 mins. to 35 mins.
Total time: 15 hrs 15 mins. to 20 hrs 15 mins.
Yield: 4 mini-loaves or 2 standard-size loaves.
I know that the recipe say Gruyere and I used Cheddar. I’m a poor photographer so I couldn’t afford the $20/lb for the Gruyere. Believe me, it was really, really good with the Cheddar. Ok, I hope that you all enjoyed this post. All work and no play make for a grumpy baker. I appreciate you all talking a walk with me down memory lane and I hope that you try this recipe. My suggestion is to double the recipe, they don’t last that long. If you are having a stressful day and you are involved with anything that plugs into the wall at your job, try making some bread; it’s truly a satisfying experience.
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean