Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Jacques Pépin Slow and Easy Bread in a Pot

Jacques Pépin is (still) my favorite chef. He cooks realistically, he never wastes, and he usually doesn't call for unreasonable ingredients. 

As I breathlessly watching an episode, my father walked in as Monsieur Pépin was taking a bite of his ragout. 

"He's going to say, 'Delicious!" Ta snarked

Monsieur Pépin tasted the dish, and with a shrug of the shoulder said instead, "Eh, it's fine." 

Now, that is a chef I can trust. 

In a riveting segment I saw a few years ago, he presents his quite effortless Bread in a Pot. (At the 2:05 mark below.) 
My jaw was on the floor. Can you imagine? Let us say one is too run down to make challah one week—a fraction of the effort, but still fresh bread!

I patiently sat on this recipe for a number of years. There just didn't seem to be much use for it. Any leftovers from Ma's challah was usually sufficient for repurposing—like butter-fried bread I make for the kinfauna. Whole-wheat flour is a notorious diva, and since some batches were less pretty than others, some loaves were heartlessly cut into on a weekday.

After Pesach this year, Ma made the most gorgeous batch yet (chances are, the flour brand had a little "help" chucked in). So far, there are no leftovers for the kiddies. Analyzing the ingredients on the store-bought loaves was enough to ruin my appetite. (You know what "cellulose" is? It's wood pulp. That's right, tree bark. Yummy.)

Finally, the perfect opportunity! 

I'll be frank: My first attempt was, how shall I put it, half-assed. I used leftover Shibolim whole-wheat blend, Bob's kamut flour, and to make up the difference, ¼ cup of oat bran. To give the dough some lift, I used seltzer instead of water, a trick I saw on a challah forum. For even more lift, I added a tablespoon of gluten.  To make the yeast happy, per Ma's instructions, I put in a sprinkle of sugar.

I mistakenly added more water than the recipe required, but Ma said it is very hard to ruin dough. She just added more flour until it was at the desired consistency. It was left to proof at room temp, and did not rise much at all. Then into the fridge for the night. 

In the morning, Hello! It had risen. Another trick of Ma's, I put it into a cold oven and then turned it on. I set it to 350° convection (which equates to 375° standard), and after 40 minutes, a magnificent, crusty, loaf emerged. 
From what I've read online, it cannot be done like this unless in a non-stick pot. (Thanks to Homegoods, I'm up to my eyeballs in Calphalon.) One can do the dough in another bowl then chuck it into a greased oven-safe container, from what I've researched, so it's still possible.

This method is so forgiving all sorts of fun is possible. After tripping over this recipe for Tabbouleh Bread from Parsley Sweet Sage, my next loaf was made with kamut and dark rye flours along with oat bran, whole bulgur, and sautéed garlic and shallots. It didn't rise much (I think it needed a little white flour) but it was so freakin' gooooood.  

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