Wednesday, January 19, 2011

George Brown - The Art of Breads & Cookies..

Yes, I am starting the new year with 2 more George Brown courses that I'll be taking at the same time. As if life wasn't as busy and crazy as it is, now I'll have 2 more commitments per week. My weekends will be quite busy for the next 3 months. With late class on Fridays and afternoon class on Sundays, I'll try to become a better baker and improve in 2 areas: Breads and Cookies!..

I really really really LOVE baking bread! It is one of my favourite things to bake, it is just soooooo pretty and puffed that you cannot even believe you could have done such a gorgeous thing by yourself!.. And cookies .. ohhh cookies.... they can be tricky; a couple of mins more on the oven and they'll be hard, or an over greased pan and they will expand so much they'll loose their shape. You need to put so much care into baking those little guys that I am glad I am actually taking this course!

A couple of Notes from my class that I'll hope it will be of good use to you!...

When a recipe asks for fresh yeast and you cannot find that thing anywhere... remember that you can actually use traditional yeast or instant yeast, just know that the ratio is to use only 1/3 of the amount stated for fresh yeast.

Most of the recipes for bread ask for water and try not to replace with milk because your dough will not rise properly.

When you want to accelerate your recipe remember to dissolve your yeast in lukewarm water (40 to 45 C) and never go above 50 C.

If you want to get a crustier CRUST! remember this... the wetter the dough the better, it will stop sticking to the surface if you knead the dough right and for a long time, there is no need to add more flour.

Ohh and the most important thing of all... BE PATIENT let your dough rise properly and give it the time it needs to relax so you can bake amazing bread.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rosca de Reyes

I know this post comes in a little late, but I wanted to share with you the Mexican tradition of Rosca de Reyes which takes place on January 6th. The Rosca de Reyes is a very elaborated bread that takes a lot of time and effort to prepare, it usually takes a couple of hours to knead the dough and a couple of days to put it all together. This bread is usually decorated with candied winter fruits such as figs and a delicious sugar paste. The traditional shape of this bread was round but over the years people have been making it oval as well, both shapes are accepted. This ring shape bread symbolizes the sky. People used to put inside the bread little porcelaine figurines which represented baby Jesus, in some cases people inserted beans as a way to keep costs down, but as everyone ended up eating the little beans, now we use little plastic figurines which are more practical and cheap.

This tradition is about celebrating the arrival of the 3 wise men and is meant to end up all the Christmas Celebrations (from the born of Jesus on Dec 25th until the arrival of the 3 wise men on Jan 6). Long story short to me this is just another excuse to continue celebrating, eating delicious traditional food and spending more time with your family. The fun part of these tradition other than eating the delicious bread, is actually cutting your slice. Everyone sits around the table and tries to slice that piece that will be free of baby Jesus figurines as those lucky enough to get them, will need to come together and organize a feast for everyone else on February 2nd which is Candlemas Day or "Dia de la Candelaria". Of course, this feast will consist of Tamales and Chocolate Caliente or Atole. Getting the little baby Jesus figurines is meant to bring you luck for the rest of the year, although I know some people who aren't really looking to be that lucky. Believe me, making this feast and pay for the tamales is not an easy job to get done. In the past and still nowadays the tradition states that before having the big dinner, those who got these figurines are supposed to take baby Jesus and present him to both, the Church and their community.

Mexico is one of the few countries where this Rosca de Reyes bread is prepared. This tradition was passed to us from the Spaniards during the time of the mixing races.
Some say that the tradition of eating this type of bread comes from the Romans who prepared it to their God "Saturn" who was meant to eat this bread to prepare himself for the harsh winter. They welcomed their God with this ring like shape bread that was filled with all sorts of winter fruits to give him energy. Later on, this tradition was passed to the Spaniards who then made it relevant to fit their catholic beliefs and on the same token passed it on to the Mexican people.
Other countries celebrate this tradition also on January 6th; the french for example, prepare the Gallette de Rois which was traditionally filled with goodies such as silver, gold, diamonds or porcelain.