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bread-baking – La Gourmandista

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Etiqueta: bread-baking

Mexican Orange Sweet Buns (Colchones)

I believe my generation devoured, at least once in our youth, the industrial packages with brioche-like sweet buns as if they were the most delicious thing in life. As a matter of fact, I don’t even remember buying them at the bakery. I don’t even remember there being a version selling them by the piece.

As part of the transformation my cooking has suffered as an immigrant to a foreign land, I constantly try to reproduce such types of breads that would remind me of my childhood. I still remember my first tries. They were soooo bad. They literally were horrible. And even though many of them have started out in an uneducated way but inspired, I would look up for a recipe in a book or a blog like this one sharing different versions of the classics. But I have to admit that as part of my culinary training I have incorporated a good amount of hours before the baker’s oven to improve the quality of my small home production.

To date, I have almost stopped buying bread completely, unless I find an artisan I am interested in tasting the products of their workshop. Now, this recipe, I learned it a few months ago and even when I haven’t managed to master it, several around me have already fallen in love with it. Now, I invite you to try it and share with me what happens.

Mexican Orange Sweet Buns

I used to wait for buns to come out of a bag, either from the bakery or from the grocery store. Now, the wait is longer, but well worth it.

  • Scale
  • Small bowl
  • Plastic wrap or kitchen towel (clean and dry)
  • Zester
  • Dough scraper
  • Pastry brush
  • Cake mold
  • 250 g all-purpose flour
  • 4 g active dry yeast
  • 50 g sugar
  • 60 g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 oranges (zest)
  • 8 g salt
  • 25 g milk
  • 100 g fresh water ((approximately))
  • 50 g melted butter (for glazing)

For the sponge:

  1. Mix a couple tablespoons of the flour, the yeast and two or three tablespoons of the water in a small bowl to prepare a thick and sticky dough. Take a little of the already weighted amount of flour and water for this step. Additionally, I like adding a pinch of sugar to promote the yeast's activity.

  2. Cover with a dry kitchen towel or a little plastic wrap for about 15 minutes on the counter for the yeast to start being active.

Prepare the dough:

  1. This is a bread I learned how to do by hand and carry on doing it like this, at least for now. Therefore, make a volcano on your counter with the flour and inside the crater add the sugar, milk, egg, and sponge.

  2. Use your dough scraper to add little by little dry flour into the crater. If necessary, add a little of the water you have available. However, you may not need any at all. Whenever the dough is fully hydrated, add the butter and carry on kneading to incorporate it into the dough.

  3. Add then the orange zest and salt, and continue kneading for about 10 minutes.

  4. Knead until your dough is elastic, yet not sticky.

  5. Verify how elastic the dough is. You will see it will stretch and will almost be see-through.

  6. Portion in balls of 50 grams and let it proof for 2 hours in the refrigerator. Don't forget to cover it with plastic wrap or with your kitchen towel.

  7. Take out of the fridge and let it come to temperature for about 30 to 45 minutes. Glaze with the melted butter.

  8. Bake for approximately 20 minutes at 180 °C or 350 °F.

  9. Unmold and let it cool down on a rack.

Preheated oven at 180 °C or 350 °F.

Prepare this bread by hand. This will allow you to feel humidity and see how elastic it is and determine if it needs more hydration or kneading, and deciding when it’s ready. 

Bread Baking
bread baking, brioche, Mexican bread baking

Baking Bread from scratch (Beginner friendly!)

Bread, like most food, may describe in one way or another how people relate to it according to their culture. For example, in Mexico most people will eat a tortilla, if you are in the north it will most probably be a flour tortilla, while in the center or in the south, it will be white corn tortilla, though it can also be of blue corn, and nowadays they have made some with chipotle or poblano added, or using a mixture of corn with cactus -the latter mostly preferred by ladies of all ages because of the lesser caloric intake. In France, like in most European countries, bread is what accompanies a meal. White, majorly, but whole wheat and organic in the poshest bakeries of the Ville Lumière.

When we first arrived here we did not enjoy completely the texture of what is known as a Baguette Tradition. Little by little we not only got used to it, but we learned to enjoy its flavor and textures. Oh, and we also found where the good bread was sold. One of the reasons for choosing to live this culinary adventure was my intention to find the secret to French bread baking. However, and unfortunately, this is not one class I will have for the time-being. It will take place, just not for now. Since the feeling of ‘urgency’, if I may be allowed to use such a term, was a shared with another one of my classmates, we decided to ask a third fellow student who has already gone through the pastry road to show us how to work the dough.

He gladly agreed to show us. We just needed to get our hands on the recipe to avoid making mistakes when measuring ingredients, since bread needs a certain amount of yeast, especially yeast. Got’em. Now we just needed to mix it, wham it, and dry it.

Oh my God! It was like a little piece of heaven. We prepared an insane amount of bread, some were baguettes. Other pieces were pain de mie. We spread butter and ate it as it came out of the oven. It was like a bread feast. We forced ourselves to stop eating it. We sprinkled zaathar to some, oat to some others, a few more were plain. But all of the pieces were equally tasty.

Truly, now my relationship with bread is different, like with most of the food, and although I still can’t bake a perfect brioche, I will keep on trying to nail it -preferably before attending the corresponding class. It’s just pride, I think.

Now, whenever I leave France, another little piece of the Héxagone will inhabit our home thanks to its bread, its home-baked bread. Care for some?

How to Bake a Great Pan de Muerto (Day of the Dead Bread), the traditional Mexican sweet bread of the Festivity

I generally don’t whine about missing Mexican food because I try to reproduce our favorite foods at home, however, there are some which I have come to learn all the way to my Parisian kitchen because they were always within reach. It was just necessary for me to go the store and/or the supermarket.

For those who aren’t familiar with the story behind the origins of this bread, and which until today I was not completely aware of. Back in pre-hispanic times, this was already part of the offering made for ancestors, however, it was prepared with ground toasted amaranth seeds, and then bathed with the blood of sacrificed people to honor the gods Izcoaxauhqui or Huehuetéotl. Nevertheless, during Mexico’s conquest by the Spaniards, such a ritual was rejected and a wheat bread shaped as a heart which was then bathed with sugar painted in red started to be prepared. As time passed, the preparations and styles have changed in the different parts of the country. Evidently, I looked for the one type I have eaten since I was little in my hometown, Mexico City.

Thus, I share here the recipe I prepared last year, and which I edited, because even though the bread came out delicious and beautiful, it was a bit confusing for me to follow the instructions. I am surely going to prepare it again this year, but if you want to prepare it before hand, voilà !

Pan de muerto (Day of the Dead Bread)

The bread we eat for Día de Muertos is one of those we wish we had at home year-round, however, at least at home, it's just available between October 25 and November 3.

  • Big Bowl
  • Plastic dough scraper
  • Baking sheet (preferably 2)
  • Stand mixer with bowl (it may be done by hand as well)
  • Hook attachment for the stand mixer
  • 2 Small bowls
  • Brush
  • Medium bowl

For the dough:

  • 240 g All-Purpose flour
  • 9 g Active-Dry yeast
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 3 g salt
  • 80 g unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 orange (zest)
  • 30 ml water
  • 3 ml orange blossom water
  • cooking oil

To decorate:

  • water
  • 1 egg
  • 50 g unsalted butter
  • granulated sugar (to sprinkle on top)
  1. To begin with the dough, spread the flour in a well, or a volcano, leaving the space of the crater empty.

  2. Spread the dry active yeast on the outside of the well.

  3. In the center of the well (the volcano crater), add 1 ½ tablespoons sugar, 2 eggs, ½ teaspoon salt, and half the butter needed fort dough, i.e., 1 ½ tablespoons butter previously softened.

  4. Start mixing all the ingredients with your fingers from the inside towards the outside, integrating flour and yeast with the ingredients from the center of the well. Once you work the ingredients into a single mixture, add the 2 tablespoons of water and knead until a uniform dough consistency.

  5. Extend a bit the dough to integrate the rest of the butter (1 ½ tbsp), the orange zest, the orange blossom essence, and the remaining 1 ½ tablespoons sugar.

  6. Integrate everything into the dough. It will become sticky, but there’s nothing to worry, just keep kneading it until it becomes compact again.

  7. This process will take about 20 minutes or so, since the kneading takes place in order to develop gluten and make the dough become elastic. If you decide to use your stand mixer with the hook attachment, the whole mixing and kneading process will take about 10 minutes instead of 20.

  8. Smear a bowl with cooking oil. I personally prefer sunflower or grapeseed. Put the dough in the bowl and cover with a damp cloth in a warm place for about 45 minutes for the fermentation to take place and the dough to double its size.

  9. In the meanwhile, prepare a baking sheet with some parchment paper, or flour the baking sheets if you’d rather.

  10. Once the fermentation has taken place, “punch” the dough to extract the generated gas. Then, knead the dough for a moment in an orderly fashion just to make it compact once more.

  11. Take small portions of about 2 oz. to make the individual pieces of bread. Mold them, and separate two portions to work on the bone-like decorations for the bread.

  12. To mold the pieces of bread, take a portion under the palm of your hand and on the work surface. With your fingers towards the inside, press the dough just a tad and make the dough go round on the table until obtaining a firm uniform ball. Place all the balls on the baking sheet and press a little on the center to flatten them a bit to let them expand.

  13. With the portions previously reserved form the bone-like decorations for the bread. These bone-like decorations I made them as if I was forming snakes with the dough, and for the irregularities, make some of the sections finer by pressing the dough in some sections . This will make the dough that you haven't pressed a bit thicker.

  14. Brush each of the portions with water, but only making a cross in the center of each bread where the bone-like decorations are to be placed. Then repeat the brushing, but only in the very center to stick the bone-like decoration that crowns the bread in the form of a sphere.

  15. Once the mounting has been done, let the bread rest for another 30 minutes. This will allow the breads to double their volume.

  16. When the second fermentation has taken place, brush the breads completely with egg wash for the breads to come out with a nice shiny color.

  17. Pre-heat the oven for 10 minutes at 400 °F (200 °C) and put the baking sheet with the breads inside to be baked. Lower the heat to 350 °F (180 °C) for about 20 minutes or until the bread has its base cooked. 

  18. When taking the breads out of the oven, melt the last ¼ cup butter to brush over the breads and sprinkle generously with sugar.

* Oven preheated to 400 °F or 200 °C to bake at 350 °F or 180 °C

Bread Baking
bread baking, festivities, Mexican bread baking, Mexican cuisine, traditions