French Model Barbie Loves Baguettes

by Libbie Summers
Assisted by David Dempsey

Barbie dreamed of being a high fashion model in Paris. When Sears called and asked her to pose with a bike and french baguettes for their Spring/Summer catalog she remarked that “dreams really do come true”.
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Learn how to make a baguette HERE!

Napoleon Bread (a shorter baguette)

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

I put my baguettes in the refrigerator overnight to do a cold fermentation. It’s less messy and I think the dough holds its shape better . . . and those are the only reasons why. The taste is the same. The only thing to be cautious about is not to use too much pressure when you do the final shaping of the refrigerated dough—like a short Frenchman, you don’t want to squeeze out all the hot air/gas.

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Napoleon Bread
(a shorter baguette)

What you need:
2 cups warm water (about 95° F)
2 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
5 1⁄2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
Vegetable oil, for the bowl

What to do:
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, put the water and yeast and stir until just combined. Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed just until the dough forms an ugly ball. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes, until the dough is smooth and tacky, but not too sticky (see Note). You can adjust the flour or water here as needed. (If the dough is too dry, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time. If the dough is too wet, add more bread flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.) Let the dough rest in the bowl for 5 minutes.

Oil the inside of a large mixing bowl with the oil and set aside.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for 1 minute. Transfer the dough to the oiled mixing bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Punch the dough down with your fist if it starts creeping over the top of the bowl.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 hours before you want to bake the loaves. Being careful not to deflate the dough too much, transfer it to a lightly floured surface and divide into four equal portions.

Line a baking sheet with a large kitchen towel that has been lightly dusted with flour. Set aside.

Form the four dough portions into baguettes by first shaping the dough into a thick rectangle about 14 by 6 inches. Fold the bottom half of the longer side of the rectangle to the center
of the dough and press with your fingers to hold it in place. Next fold the top half to the center and press it with your fingertips to seal the seam you have created. Roll the bottom
of the dough over the top, creating a new seam on the underside. Gently rock the dough back and forth while moving your hands out toward both ends. This lengthens the baguette. Apply a little more pressure at the ends to taper the dough slightly. Repeat the rocking motion as many times as necessary until the baguette is about 16 inches long by 21⁄2 inches wide.
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Transfer the baguette to the floured cloth and repeat the shaping process with the remaining pieces of dough. Tuck folds of the floured cloth around the sides of the loaves to help support the dough as it rises and to help separate the baguettes. Oil the underside of a piece of plastic wrap and loosely cover the loaves with it. Let sit at room temperature for 90 minutes, until the loaves have not quite doubled in size. The dough will increase 11⁄2 to 13⁄4 times in size. (As with many things in
life, here size does matter.)

About 45 minutes before baking, preheat your oven as high as it will go. Place a baking stone or an overturned heavy-duty baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and place a cast-iron skillet on the lowest shelf or on the floor of the oven.

Remove the plastic wrap from the dough. Using a sharp razor or serrated knife at a 30-degree angle to the loaf, make 4 or 5 equidistant slashes, 4 inches long and 1⁄2 inch deep, in the top of each baguette. Transfer each baguette to the hot baking stone or baking sheet (don’t worry if they collapse a bit, they will spring back while baking). Spritz the baguettes lightly with water and place 1 cup ice cubes in the cast-iron skillet.

Lower the oven temperature to 450° F. Bake the baguettes for 30 minutes, or until the crust is a dark golden brown and the loaves sound hollow if you give them a thump. Let cool for
at least 30 minutes before serving.

Pretzel Bread

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

I think it was in fifth grade that I studied states and capitals. Each student’s final grade depended on an oral presentation about an “adopted” state. Our teacher wrote all the states on colorful pieces of paper and placed them in a goldfish bowl for us to choose. I picked Montana. It could have been worse; my friend Randy picked Idaho. I don’t remember much about the presentations aside from the Missouri one given by my classmate Paul, who had a talent for the theatrical. Paul donned a coonskin cap as he talked about Daniel Boone, then deftly removed the cap and taped on a white felt mustache as he read a poem by Mark Twain. The best part of Paul’s state performance was the German pretzel bread he passed around as he talked about Germans immigrating to St. Louis in the mid-1800s. The bread was the best thing I had ever eaten inside the walls of our school. Still warm from Paul’s book bag, it tasted like a thick slice of pretzel. I’ve been obsessed with it—and Paul—ever since. I hope Paul earned an A on his presentation. He deserved it for the bread alone. I’ll ask him the next time we talk. All these years later, Paul and I are still the best of friends.

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Pretzel Bread
(a sliceable hot pretzel)

yields 2 loaves, or twelve 4-inch rolls

What you need:
1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (115° F)
1⁄2 cup warm milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling
3 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
1⁄4 teaspoon vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup baking soda

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, put the water, milk, butter, yeast, and brown sugar. Mix until combined, then let the mixture rest for 10 minutes, or until it begins to foam. Mix in the salt.

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With the mixer on low speed, add 2 cups of the flour
and mix for 1 minute. Continue to add the remaining flour as needed until the dough forms a firm ball that is tacky, not sticky (think about a Post-it note—it’s tacky, not sticky to the touch). Transfer the dough to a mixing bowl. Drizzle the dough ball with the oil and turn it over in the bowl to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

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Knead the dough at medium-low speed for 10 minutes, until the dough has a satiny shine and is elastic. Cover the dough and let rise for 1 hour, or until it doubles in size.
At this point, if you would like to make Pretzel Brats see the variation on page 110.

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Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into two equal pieces. Roll each piece between the palms of your hand in a circular motion to form two smooth balls. (If making rolls, divide the dough into twelve equal pieces and form into balls, then continue with the following steps.)

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Preheat the oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a stockpot, bring 4 quarts water to a boil. Slowly add the baking soda without stirring.

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Working with one dough ball at a time, use a large spider or slotted spoon to slowly lower the dough ball into the boiling water. Boil for 30 seconds, turning once to make sure the complete surface of the dough has been covered with water. Remove with the slotted spoon to drain and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the second ball of dough.

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Make a cross in the top of each loaf using a sharp knife or razor. Don’t worry if the dough looks rather ugly at this point; it will pop up and become beautiful during baking.

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Sprinkle the loaves with salt (kosher, pretzel, or Maldon salt). I like a salty pretzel bread and salt-free pretzel rolls.

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Bake for 25 minutes (15 minutes for rolls), until the loaves are a dark golden brown, turning the baking sheet around once in the middle of the bake time. Let the loaves cool slightly before serving.
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Eyes Wide Shut Bread

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

Sometimes you can see more clearly with your eyes closed. Eyes closed, a bite of a hot dog with the works and I’m an adolescent again, sitting on the bleachers at Wrigley Field. Close my eyes and a bite of a fried pork tenderloin sandwich takes me back to the warmth of my grandmother Lula Mae’s kitchen. Sea urchin roe with a squeeze of lemon? I’m transported to a secluded beach in Greece and a vision of a boy who was never a gentleman.

When I close my eyes and take a bite of this apricot bread— with chunks of sweet apricots and hints of rosemary—I’m back on the island of Sardinia with the love of my life. If I open my eyes, I’m in my Savannah kitchen with the same man. I guess sometimes you don’t need to bother closing your eyes when heaven is staring right at you . . . blue eyes shining, and a mouthful of apricot bread.

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Eyes Wide Shut Bread
(an apricot + rosemary chewy loaf)
yields 2 loaves

What you need:

2 cups warm water
1 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 1⁄2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1⁄2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2⁄3 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon cornmeal

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, stir the water, yeast, honey, and oil with a spoon until the yeast dissolves. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes, until the yeast begins to foam. Add both flours and the salt and mix until the dough is a messy, ugly ball. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Add the rosemary and apricots and continue to mix for about 4 minutes, until the dough is firm and smooth and the rosemary and apricots are evenly distributed.

Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 1 hour. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal portions and shape them into rounds. Place the rounds on the prepared baking sheet, cover with a kitchen towel, and let them rest for 1 to 11⁄2 hours, until they have doubled in size. (I prefer to let the dough rise in proofing baskets, but if you don’t have any don’t worry, just use a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you do use baskets, dust them first with flour and shake out any excess flour, then place the rounds of dough, seam side up, in the basket. Cover with a kitchen towel and let them rise as directed.)

Preheat the oven to 450° F. Place any size cast-iron skillet in the bottom of the oven, and a baking stone or baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven to preheat, too.

Using a serrated knife or a razor blade, score the tops of the loaves, making an X that is 1⁄4 inch deep (if using proofing baskets, turn the loaves over and gently remove from the baskets before scoring the top). Dust the baking stone or baking sheet with cornmeal and place the loaves, scored side up, on it. Add 1 cup ice cubes to the cast-iron skillet and close the oven door. Bake for 20 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 425° F and continue to bake for 20 minutes more, until the loaves are a rich brown color.
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2 Fabulous Flatbread Recipes

by Libbie Summers
Photography by Chia Chong

Flat breads are an easy intro into bread baking. Somehow, even if you think they aren’t going to work out…they always do! Here are two of my favorites.

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Flat-chested Flat Bread
(grilled, sweet, spicy, + cheesy)
yields 8

A training bread, if you will. A soft, chewy, simple bread grilled and brought alive with the sweet heat of brown sugar and chile oil. A bread to honor flat-chested girls everywhere. I was once one of you . . . spicy, sweet, and just waiting to rise.

What you need:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for the grill
3 cups warm water
2 1⁄2 teaspoons active dry yeast
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons salt
1⁄2 cup plain Greek yogurt
4 teaspoons chile oil (available in the international section of your grocery store)
4 teaspoons brown sugar
1⁄4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the 1 tablespoon vegetable oil with the water. Add the yeast and stir to dissolve. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Add the all-purpose and whole wheat flours to the yeast mixture and mix on low speed just until a loose, raggedy dough forms. Cover the bowl of the mixer and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.

Add the salt and yogurt to the dough and mix for 5 minutes, until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl to form a loose ball. Remove the dough hook, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat an outdoor gas or charcoal grill to high.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured work surface. Divide the dough into eight equal portions and roll out each portion to 1⁄4 inch thick (or press with your hands). Don’t
worry about uniformity: the less perfect, the better. Stack
the dough rounds on the bottom of an overturned baking sheet, placing a sheet of oiled plastic wrap between them so they won’t stick together.

Brush the grill liberally with oil and, working two at a time, grill the flatbreads for 2 to 3 minutes per side, until there is a nice black/brown char on the grill side and the top is puffing up. If the dough sticks to the grill when you try to turn it, the flatbread has not cooked long enough.

When the flatbreads are hot off the grill, drizzle them lightly with chile oil (a little goes a long way) and sprinkle with a little brown sugar and cheese. Serve warm.

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Forgiveness Naan
(pillowy garlic butter flatbread)
yields 10

Naan is my yeast-based guilty pleasure. Wherever I may be traveling in the world, I’m searching for this pillowy flatbread with the crisp bottom. If there is a restaurant with naan on the menu, mark my words, I will find it.

Although I have yet to taste dreamy Chef Suvir Saran’s naan (he promises to make me some one day), my favorite naan is made at a seedy back-alley restaurant in the West Indies by a guy named Sanjay (come to think of it, most of the naan bakers I’ve met are named Sanjay). I’ve been lucky enough to land on Sanjay’s island many times over the years while cooking on boats. Even luckier, he has always been around, is always wearing too much cologne, and is always willing to bake me a fresh basketful of naan—no matter what time of day. Each piece of Sanjay’s naan is the size of a roadmap, spilling over the sides of the basket of bread he brings to the table. It has the perfect charred bottom and buttery flavor . . . with just a hint of Old Spice.

Once you start baking your own naan, you’ll quickly discover what all Sanjay naan bakers already know: Naan gets better every time you make it. Like an elastic waistband, the dough is very forgiving.

What you need:

6 tablespoons clarified butter, melted
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1⁄4 cups warm milk (110° F)
3 tablespoons plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons minced garlic

Use a small bit of the clarified butter to lightly grease a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast, brown sugar, and milk. Briefly stir with a spoon. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes, or until
it begins to foam. With the mixer on low speed, add the yogurt, 2 tablespoons of the clarified butter, and the salt. Add the flour, starting with 2 cups and mixing well to combine. Gradually add enough flour until the dough forms and cleanly pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl. Mix for 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Put the dough in the greased mixing bowl, cover, and let it
rest at room temperature for 11⁄2 to 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into ten equal portions. Use your palms to form each into a ball. Cover the dough balls with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500° F. Position one oven rack on the lowest level of the oven and remove or place the other rack high enough in the oven to stay out of your way. Place a baking stone (or pizza stone) on the lowest rack. Have a spray bottle of water and a cooling rack ready.

Stir the garlic into the remaining butter.

Roll each piece of dough out (or pat the dough out with your hands and fingertips) to an 8- to 10-inch circle. Pull one end of the dough to form a teardrop shape. Brush the dough lightly with the garlic butter. Working with one shaped piece of dough at a time, carefully place it on the hot baking stone and spritz the dough with water. Bake for about 4 minutes, until brown spots start to form on top and the dough begins to puff up. Remove the naan from the oven and brush again lightly with the garlic butter. Repeat the process with the remaining pieces of dough, keeping the cooked naan covered and warm until ready to serve. At my house, the naan doesn’t stand a chance of getting cold. Every piece seems to disappear as soon as it comes out of the oven.

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