Mounting the Flour
February 24, 2007 9:09 AM   Subscribe

"When you squeeze it, its golden brown crust should crackle and even sing. Its aroma should be a little bit sweet, a little bit toasty. There should be a good marriage between its crust and its interior crumb. When the crumb is pressed, it should spring back rapidly. Its color should be off-white and its cavities widely distributed and uneven in size. Its nutty, buttery taste should be both sweet and savory - like a good chardonnay.” Bread expert and Cornell prof Steven Kaplan talks with Conan, to pretty hilarious effect, about his latest book. You may have to snoop around the NBC site - I couldn't find a direct link. The man is really into baguettes. He's given a few entertaining radio interviews as well, and a New York magazine profile of him features a list of his six favorite NYC baguettes. If you don't have a great bakery nearby, you can try your hand at home. Bonus Game: Balance the Baguette! (from a previous post)
posted by jtajta (21 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You boughtte it, you baguette.
posted by Balisong at 9:11 AM on February 24, 2007

It's alarming how this dude hates all but one of his "six favorite NYC baguettes." He's like, this one would be nice if it weren't so disgusting.
posted by grobstein at 9:32 AM on February 24, 2007

Oh my... that was hilarious. Here's the full interview on youtube.

Also, off topic, but the ad on the NBC site got me all excited, Andy Richter has a new show! I can only hope it's half as good as the genius that was Andy Richter Controls the Universe.
posted by Kattullus at 9:41 AM on February 24, 2007

Fantastic. Thanks jtajta. I would have missed this otherwise. Glad to find out about such an interesting guy here at Cornell. And well, my name indicates my feelings for bread. Moreover, I used to really love Conan. Love this post.
posted by bread-eater at 9:44 AM on February 24, 2007

Even better, try this No-Knead Bread recipe from the NY Times a few months ago that has literally swept the nation. Ridiculously easy, and it makes commercial quality bread in nothing more than a basic Dutch oven at home.

No-Knead Bread
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1 1/2 hours plus 14 to 20 hours' rising

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/2 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at room temperature.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf.

Seriously easy, and seriously good bread. I make it maybe once a week.
posted by twsf at 9:51 AM on February 24, 2007 [10 favorites]

As a big fan of Conan, who's gotten tired of his schtick lately. I have to say thanks for this, probably one of the funniest interviews I've seen in a while. Possibly better than some of the legendary pee- your-pants surreal melt downs he's done with Harland Williams.
posted by Skygazer at 10:07 AM on February 24, 2007

It's alarming how this dude hates all but one of his "six favorite NYC baguettes."

That's all you find alarming about this guy?
posted by honest knave at 10:17 AM on February 24, 2007

posted by pwedza at 10:40 AM on February 24, 2007

Who knew there were bread snobs??
posted by matty at 11:16 AM on February 24, 2007

As one of the germanic people I say that bread should be manly and brown through-and-through and coarse. This mediterranean white bread is bland and effeminate.

Or: I don't like baguettes, or turkish bread, or ciabatta, ...
Snobbery or no snobbery he does not know what he's talking about.
posted by jouke at 11:44 AM on February 24, 2007

I thought the word for that, fandango_matt, was kneadophile.
posted by Kattullus at 11:46 AM on February 24, 2007

thanks twsf, for saving me from looking that up. Or finding the dampened, runny printout of it that's somewhere in my kitchen. (off to start runny bread...)
posted by wzcx at 11:56 AM on February 24, 2007

The no-knead bread is indeed awesome. Here's a nice collection of blogs that have talked about the bread phenomenon as it was taking off and the comments have some suggested modifications. Cheese or herbs go really well in this to fancy it up a notch. It's really very little work for a huge pay off.
posted by hindmost at 2:03 PM on February 24, 2007

That was hilarious—almost to the point of ridiculousness and yet I can understand where he's coming from. A truly great baguette is almost impossible to find in the U.S.

I don't doubt that there are many amazing bakeries all over the country, but the fact that only one baguette seemed to meet Kaplan's criteria is pretty telling (New York City isn't exactly a culinary wasteland). There's an article in the Washington Post where he tries to explain why that is.

Also, I love Germanic dark bread too, but comparing it to French bread is too much like comparing apples and oranges. I mean, just look at the differences in crust, they've got really nothing in common there.

I don't mean to come off as too much of a bread snob, but good bread is something special, and it's a shame that it isn't more prevalent.
posted by timelord at 2:55 PM on February 24, 2007

Thanks for the extra blog links on the no-knead bread, hindmost. My one try on that so far was a bit disappointing, I'll be poring over those comments to see which substitutions might have affected the results before trying that particular recipe again.
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 3:02 PM on February 24, 2007

Conan, tell us what is good in bread!

To crush your wheatflour, to see dough driven before you, and to hear the fermentation of their leaven.
posted by breezeway at 10:01 PM on February 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

No-knead bread on Metafilter.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:10 PM on February 24, 2007

This post made me really hungry.
posted by Wolof at 11:13 PM on February 24, 2007

He missed: the half-size baguettes that Tom Cat Bakery makes are the best ever. But the casatiello - lard bread! with salami in it! - from Caputo's in Brooklyn is the best bread in NYC.
posted by nicwolff at 9:58 AM on February 25, 2007

“It’s as if the female crumb has completely reduced the male crust to helpless impotence.”

I hate when that happens.
posted by Miko at 10:13 AM on February 25, 2007

But, the kneading is the fun part!
posted by shoepal at 2:42 PM on February 25, 2007

« Older Try to play just one round...   |   Presumed Lost Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments