Eric Kayser’s book and the best crust ever
‘Pretentious crap’, wrote the one and only reviewer at amazon.de of Eric Kayser’s book ‘Rund ums Brot’ (hardcover, 2008). This is the German edition of the French original ‘Autour des pains’ (paperback, 2007). The book is about creating sandwiches, desserts and small dishes from breads and doughs. The sort of playful stuff chefs do when they get bored with the plain loaf of bread a baker gives to them. I take it, you have seen these kinds of books that are just a little bit too colorful and radiate maybe just a little bit too much of glamour and not so much technical or culinary wisdom. Books that leave you with the uneasy feeling they were dreamed up in an armchair and written with a golden pen instead of scribbled down in the kitchen on a piece of paper (after the cook or baker has found a recipe to be very good).
Thumbing through the book, I find it hard to believe that Eric Kayser really listed ingredients such as ‘a baguette Monge’, ‘buckwheat dough’, ‘curcuma dough’, ‘4 small honey-olive-oil breads’, sometimes annotated by the friendly piece of advice ‘Ask your baker’. In other words breads or doughs from La Mayson Kayser that have made his boulangeries famous all over the world. Now, most of these breads can be baked using the formulars from the excellent² ‘100% pain’, but many recipes here are bound to inflict frustration upon the well-meaning reader, who might be standing in the kitchen, armed with cheeses, meats and vegetables coming to the ultimately anti-climatic realization that something is missing, namely:
Nut bread dough (ask your baker)
Ask my baker? At 8 pm? The guests should be here any minute. Zut alors, j’ai besoin de canapés. (Cheap dramatization so the following punch line is one)
Now that criticism is fine and well, and Eric Kayser should have included more bread recipes or referred to his other book, but there was a ‘wtf-moment’ gained from ‘Rund ums Brot’ anyhow.
It’s the little sentence in the opening chapter about making bread.
Step 4. Prior to heating the oven, place a small heat-resistent bowl filled with water on the bottom of the oven.
Been there done that? Doesn’t work? I wasn’t sure. Hadn’t I abandoned this method earlier because it would not work? Most books tell you to place the bowl of water in the oven the same time you’d load it with the bread dough. And that cannot work, because there is not enough time to create the sought-after steam, that might turn very good bread into very very good bread. (Naturally, when I read ‘Do this’, my brain says bye-bye and I repeat to myself ‘MUST FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS’ in a robot voice. So I proceeded.)
When the oven had reached 230°C the water was bubbling and I felt the steamy heat when I opened the door. Also, the kitchen smelled differently. A piece of baking paper I had forgotten to take from the baking stone was beginning to smell badly, which is what German baking paper does when it is moistened and exposed to heat. So there really was humidity trapped inside the oven. Some of the water steam slowly left through all sorts of openings, but more was coming from my bowl of water. Didn’t expect that at all. I loaded the oven with dough that had sat in the fridge for 2 days, and it was almost impossible to score. Everything looked rather sluggish and unhappy. The dough kept rising….and kept rising…and steam was coming from the small openings under the door handle. Hot steam, good steam.
TBH the bread had the best crust ever. Crispy on the outside, a flexible middle part and underneath large aeration. I am not so deluded as to think this is anything new. But it worked for me the first time and since I found the results so remarkable I had to annoy you with details.
This was the recipe I’ve used, for completeness’s sake:
Rustic baguettes (2)
- 270g flour, Type 550 (90%)
- 30g whole-wheat flour (10%)
- 225g cold water (75%)
- 6g sea salt (2%)
- 3g fresh yeast (1%)
Mix the flour with 210g of the water to a shaggy mass and let stand for 30 minutes. Add the salt, yeast and the remaining water and mix on slow speed for about 6 minutes. Put the dough into an oiled container and put in the fridge for 2 days. Fold twice: after one and after six hours.
Take the dough out of the fridge. It should show clear signs of fermentation and have risen by about one half of its original size. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Pour onto a liberally floured workspace. Either shape into baguettes (the dough will still be cold and not as sticky as a warm dough) or just cut off random pieces. Place on baking paper and let rise for 60-90 minutes.
30 minutes before baking, place a container with about 50ml water on the bottom of the oven floor. A wide one is better than a tall one because the bigger surface allows for more steam to be created. Heat oven to 250°C. The water should be simmering. Slash loaves, put into oven and quickly close door. Wait 10 minutes, remove bowl of water and bake for further 20-25 minutes at 230°C.