Friday Bread Basket 3/2/23
Welcome to the Wordloaf Friday Bread Basket, a weekly roundup of links and items relating to bread, baking, and grain.
I’m so happy so many of you were as enthusiastic as I was about my interview with Kate Reid of Lune the other day. And I was pleased to see how many of you were interested in attending a Lune cookbook walk-through workshop with me. It’s going to happen in April, so stay tuned for an announcement soon. (I think I’ll do a Bavarian pretzel workshop later this month too.)
Speaking of workshops, if you are in the Boston area, I’m teaching an in-person one at Curio Spice on 5/11, all about one of my fave flavs, mahleb:
TIL about the learner’s dumpling
I loved this Whetstone piece by Apoorva Sripathi about kozhukattai, a South Indian filled, steamed dumpling I’d not heard of before, which has an interesting and rich cultural history:
If one is to go by myths, then the kozhukattai has been present in the south for a longer time. Lord Ganesha is supposed to have gorged on kozhukattais (or modaks, as the folklore goes and as they are known in western India), which is why they are offered to him on Vinayagar Chaturthi (a ten-day festival observed to honour Ganesha’s birthday).
As kozhukatta, it is a regular fixture during the Kozhukatta Perunnal or Palm Sunday, observed by the Syrian Christians of Kerala. Commemorating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, the kozhukatta is supposed to represent the stones that were thrown on Jesus during his crucifixion, while the sweet stuffing of coconut and jaggery is said to represent love. In parts of Sri Lanka, a pallu (Tamil for tooth) kozhukattai ceremony is held when the child’s first tooth appears. A kozhukattai stuffed with a coin is dropped over the child’s head, which is used as the first teether.
There’s also the dateless bedtime story (different families have different versions, like the kozhukattai itself) about a silly man who comes across kozhukattai for the first time at a wedding feast, becomes obsessed, and in an effort to remember its name, constantly repeats “kozhukattai” to himself. While going back home, he sees a man jumping across a stream yelling “Athiribacha!” The silly man does the same and repeats “Athiribacha” while jumping across, but sustains an injury to his head, which swells up. Kozhukattai is now out of his memory and he repeats “athiribacha” till he reaches home, and asks his wife to make him some athiribacha. Confused as to what the dish is, he tries to recall it but in vain. They fight till she notices his head and asks angrily: “What is the swelling on your head like a kozhukattai?” A Eureka moment later, the silly man jumps up and exclaims, “That’s it, the kozhukattai.”
Kozhukattai are also very easy to make, which is why Sripathi calls them “the learner’s dumpling.”
Regular readers of Wordloaf by now know of my fondness for oats in all forms, particularly in the goodness they bring to breads. It’s why I was excited to read Lukas Volger’s recent interview with food researcher Swetha Sivakumar all about the grain and its magical properties:
What is it about oats that make them stand out from other grains?
The oats grain, luckily for us, does not break cleanly into endosperm, germ, and bran like rice or wheat. For example, in rice—you have white rice and brown rice. In wheat—you have refined flour and whole wheat flour. But, have you ever heard of white oats and brown oats? Most likely not. It is because in oats, the grain is softer and does not break cleanly into distinct parts. In other grains, most of the valuable nutrients are in the outer layers of the grain which gets polished off. In oats, whether it is rolled or steel cut or instant, they carry all parts of the grain.
So rolled, quick-cooking, steel-cut, whole groats — they’re all the whole grain.
Again, oats have some really unique characteristics. They have a higher fat content of 6–8% compared to most cereal grains, which have 2–3% fat. But, they also carry an enzyme called lipase in a separate compartment in the grain. When the manufacturers remove the husk, the compartment is destroyed, causing the enzyme to react with the fats. This could cause rancidity in the grain unless it is heat treated. So, all types of oats, from groats to instant, have to undergo steam treatment in a kiln to deactivate the enzyme. The kilning however has added benefits of providing a nutty flavor and killing any bacteria or molds thereby increasing safety and quality.
Amazing Laminated Forms
The list of NYC bakeries I need to visit is long, and longer still since I read Charlotte Druckman’s recent Grub Street story about ALF, the soon-to-open spot from Arcade Bakery alum Amadou Ly:
Dozens — or is that hundreds? — of wonderful bakeries have opened across New York in the past couple of years, with lines for triple-stuffed croissants, salty-sweet cookies, or tall slices of swoopily frosted layer cake stretching around our city’s sidewalks Still, something has been missing since 2019, when Roger Gural closed his beloved office-lobby bakery, Arcade: the so-called laminated baguette, a singular creation that managed to turn a loaf of French bread into something like an extra-long croissant hybrid. The Arcade space has been reborn as Frenchette Bakery, but the butter-laced baguette has, until now, remained MIA. Finally, it will return, thanks to Amadou Ly, a Senegal-raised pastry chef turned baker who worked at Arcade as Gural’s protégé.
In March, he will open ALF Bakery in Chelsea Market, where he’ll offer his own version of the baguette, tweaked — increasing the lamination — so that each loaf is now airier, with more buttery layers. But ALF is far more than Arcade 2.0. In addition to the laminated baguette, for example, there is a baguette de tradition (unlaminated), pain de campagne (country style), and a swirly crowned brioche laminé. Ly is plotting some viennoiserie items for breakfast, many of them savory in nature, as is his preference. Also on the lineup: perfectly proportioned pain au chocolat (Ly complains that bakeries in New York tend to skimp on the filling), an irreproachable plain croissant (more elusive in this town than you might think), and a chocolate babka — as well as something that is rarely, if ever, seen here: flan boulanger, an institution at the old-fashioned bakeries of Paris that is, at its core, a very French take on the classic custard tart.
I never made it to Arcade (though it was once on my list) and never had the laminated baguette, so I’m excited to get down there once ALF opens. I’m hoping Charlotte will want to meet me there for one…
That’s it for this week’s bread basket. I hope you all have a peaceful weekend, see you on Monday.
A bit off topic, but I'd your take on using brewed coffee as part of the hydration in bread dough.
I ask if it would provide some caramelization, flavor and color?
Thanks for considering.
And Lukas' TikToks of oatmeal recipes have been wonderful!