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Friday Bread Basket 3/31/23
Welcome to the Wordloaf Friday Bread Basket, a weekly roundup of links and items relating to bread, baking, and grain. Above is a recent bake for my book, a 100% high-extraction flour mini-miche using Cairnspring Mills Trailblazer bread flour (which—along with anything else—you can get 15% off of when you use my personal discount code, WORDLOAF231). This recipe (along with a pile of others) will be going out relatively soon to the testing panel (I promise!)
I was very excited to see that my friend Teresa Finney’s epic Epicurious concha story finally dropped:
A concha’s crust is typically composed of some kind of fat, sugar, and a little flour, traditionally made in one of three colors: white (vanilla), brown (chocolate), or pink. (Pink conchas are sometimes flavored with strawberry, but more often than not, they are simply dyed with food coloring.) After the topping gets scored in a seashell pattern, it expands as the buns bake in the oven, revealing its deep grooves and adding an unmistakable crunch to the soft bun beneath.
Inextricably linked to Mexican cuisine, conchas have a long and complicated history. The exact origins, though, are murky. Wheat is not native to the Americas, and it did not arrive there until the invasion of Mexico by the Spanish in the 16th century. While Europeans had a taste for wheat bread, the indigenous population did not—and in fact it may have been forced upon them during the early years of colonization. Some historians believe that French pastry chefs brought brioche to Mexico during the 17th century, and that this served as the foundation for what would become pan dulce. Eventually, bakers in Mexico began to incorporate both indigenous ingredients like corn and imported ones like lard into these French breads, birthing a new style of baked goods in the process.
This is the definitive guide to the current concha landscape and to making your own at home (it even includes one of Teresa’s own recipes), so get on over there and read it.
There’s no question we are living in a golden age of laminated pastries & viennoiserie. I’ve already mentioned here how excited I am for the opening of ALF Bakery in NYC (one week from now), and now Julia Moskin has profiled its creator Amadou Ly, along with layers of other laminated pastry pros (including Lune’s Kate Reid) for the New York Times:
When the baker Amadou Ly spotted the right moment to pull his croissant dough from the roller, it flowed like silk over his wooden counter. It had taken three days of precisely executed fermentation and lamination, the exacting process of folding fat into flour to create a supple dough.
When the geometry and the hygrometry align like this, the buttery sheets can be pleated and pinched, folded and braided, rolled and dyed.
That’s just what the world’s leading pastry chefs are doing with croissant dough: coiling it into pinwheels and squiggles, tying it in knots and stacking it into cubes. They are turning it into breakfast cereal, tie-dyeing it and, in Mr. Ly’s case, wrapping it around baguettes.
To make his “laminated” baguette, he wraps an unbaked baguette in a thin sheet of croissant dough, then bakes them together. The slim, crackly loaf tastes as if the salted butter you’d spread on a baguette is already there. (He’ll sell it at Alf Bakery, which opens in Chelsea Market on April 7.)
Meanwhile, over at the Times Magazine, there was also a recent story about the new generation of bakeries exploring the edges of Jewish baked goods:
Now, many chefs are taking on what was once the most haimish, or “homey,” category: baked goods. But unlike the babka boom — which began stateside in 2013 when New York’s Breads Bakery started selling a laminated, crispy-edged Israeli version of the chocolate- or cinnamon-laden loaf cake — this Jewish pastry revival isn’t necessarily rooted in Ashkenazic nostalgia. Instead, these bakeries, which are opening in cities like New York, Mexico City, Paris and Tel Aviv, draw on wider, more diverse traditions: Eastern European mainstays like rugelach and hamantaschen sit beside bourekas (Iberian Jewish turnovers that came to Israel by way of Turkey) and malawach, a laminated Yemenite Jewish flatbread. It’s an acknowledgment, says Rubel, that Jews “aren’t all descendants of Eastern Europeans.”
At Solomonov’s K’Far, a Philadelphia bakery that debuted a Brooklyn cafe last fall, one section of the menu is devoted to Yemenite kubaneh, a savory pull-apart bread typically served for breakfast on Saturday mornings. Because of the prohibition against cooking on the Sabbath, the dough — rolled into a nestlike spiral — was customarily slowly baked overnight in a sealed pot using the residual heat remaining from making Friday’s challah. At K’Far, the kubaneh is instead shaped into an American-style Pullman loaf, then cooked in a low industrial oven, sliced, toasted and covered with toppings like smoked trout or fresh ricotta with figs.
It’s a great piece, but the photographs, by Mari Maeda and Yuji Oboshi, aka, Yu + Ma, are otherworldly.
That’s it for this week’s bread basket. I hope you all have a peaceful weekend, see you on Monday.
This is a one-time code, but since it is new, even those of you who have used one of my discount codes before can use it.