Monday, April 24, 2006

Abe, the Pizzaiolo

So the weather never cleared on Saturday and I forewent firing the adobe oven up despite having four loaves-worth of dough ready for baking and four neo-neopolitan pizza doughs ready as well. I let the dough rise on sheet trays free form instead of using my plastic proofing baskets, and baked it off in my conventional gas oven with plenty of water added at various intervals for steam. Aside from foregoing the proofing baskets, I prepared the dough in exactly my normal fashion. I created a sponge the night before with my starter and finished the dough off the next day, leaving it to rise for the bulk of the day. Thus, the only difference was in the oven. The end result, however, was incredibly different. The gas oven does not give me anywhere near the same "oven spring." As a result, the crumb is much denser, more cakey and less chewy and translucent. Very interesting.

The gas oven is a lot more forgiving with the pizza, however. As Abraham Lincoln, who learned to cook pizza on the back of an old shovel used to say, "Really great pizza is really hard to make, but really good pizza is really easy to make."

Thursday, April 13, 2006


I am forever indebted to Anon for pointing out the glaring typo in my subtitle. The correction has been made -- though I hadn't really looked at the subtitle in a while (obviously) and am now considering changing it all together. Something like, the "Wistful Musings of a Flamboyant Ballet Dancer." Thoughts? Reactions? Proposed edits?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Thank You Mr. Science

The BackBou would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Science (or is it "Bigfoot"?) for his very illuminating comment on Jewish bread traditions. Challah french toast sounds like a fine idea as does anything with icing and sprinkles. Matzo with chicken schmaltz, I'm guessing, is better than it sounds. I picture a dry cracker with frypan grease spread on the top. Rendered duck fat I can handle, but chicken fat makes me raise a questioning eyebrow. One day -- I am sure -- someone will disabuse me of this bias, but for now, I'm sticking to it.

The combination of your post, which referenced "bubbe's challah," and my recent viewing of Waiting for Guffman has got me singing "Myyyyyy Bubbe made a kishka, she made it big and fat, my father took one look at it and said 'I can't eat that!'" It streams from my mouth at the most inopportune times -- in whispered but audible tones at the urinal, before meetings as we stare at our laptops waiting to come to order. I am getting looks.

Myyyyyy bubbe made a kishka ........

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Mon Nom

A lot you have been asking questions about my nickname, "BB." I hope I won't offend you by trying address all your concerns in this one post. What most of you seem to want to know is this: how do I pronounce it? When I am lounging about Chateau BB pondering my next baking pursuit, does the staff here call out for me in an anglicanized "Bee-Bee" or the more chic francophone "Bae-Bae." It's as good question as has ever been posed by my readership and one whose answer -- truth be told -- is a tad upsetting. You see I suffer the insult of inconsistency not only among the media but even here in my own backyard.

Thus it is that, on the (expensive) advice of my PR team, we are rolling out a new nickname. Hence forth, I shall be called The BackBou -- not be confused with the BackBoil or the BackHair --they have their own blogs.

Monday, April 10, 2006


I made a batch of whole wheat chapati, which confirmed my suspicion that brick/adobe ovens really are very well-suited to this type of unleavened flatbread. Coincidence? I think not.

I have battled in conventional ovens to make these little buggers work out. You end up opening and closing the oven door every ten seconds to see how they are doing and its hard to get the bread to get that nice mottled browning that comes from the intense retained heat and adds to the flavor. In an adobe oven its a piece of cake (though that seems a strange idiom).

These recipes are as simple as can be. (Here is another) Mine was something like 3 cups whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur) to a cup of water and some salt per 6 breads. You mix the stuff up, let it sit for an hour or more, divide into balls, roll 'em thin (8 inches, or so) and then throw them into a hot oven with tame fire burning in the back. Within a minute they puff up. You turn them once, pull 'em out and brush 'em with clarified butter.

Eaten shortly after baking they are incredible. I can honestly say that for some reason, I never really enjoy the flavor of whole wheat in any other bread the way I do in a hot chapati. You can reheat them the next day, but they are never quite the same.

The BB buys a BMW

Totally unrelated to baking and out of character in all respects, the BB has acquired a 1996 BMW 318ti (with only 39k miles). Fortunately, this is the red-headed step child of the BMW family, which means that the BB can retain his street creds and still enjoy the product of uptight German engineering. It may come as something of a shock to my readership of two that the BB has street creds at all but, well, we can't reveal all the juicy stuff in one post now can we?

And now, back to the bread. I made more of it last weekend. Pizza too.

Oh! This is of note ... two weeks ago the BB's spouse fired up the oven on her own for the first time. The oven was prepared for baking when the BB returned from work, which was very exciting for all.

It has a sunroof too!