“What a waste! They were going to throw these brotforms away!” exclaimed Albert as he approached Olive and SOURDough. “Do you believe this? They’re just slightly used and heading to the trash bin. These cost 20-30 dollars a piece. You guys interested?”. Albert didn’t have to ask twice, as Olive and I snatched away the precious brotforms from his hands, dreams of beautiful loaves dancing in our head. Olive squirreled hers away, hoping to avoid the attention of those who may want to pilfer her newly prized possessions. She has lost out on many treats in the past, for this someone would lose an eye if they tried to relieve her of the new toys.
For those not in the know, brotforms are wicker baskets designed to hold and proof dough, giving it shape and support, especially for slack doughs. The wicker baskets ornate weave create concentric circular patterns on the top of the loaves when floured right. They can be substituted cheaply with plastic baskets, but there’s something special about these simple baskets, an old world elegance that gets forgotten in modern day industrialized bread production. With these discarded treasures now in hand, I started planning this week’s blog on making a new bread I hadn’t made at home.
Pain au Fromage (cheese bread) is one that is enjoyed by most, and is made in many different styles worldwide, from various cheeses. At the factory we produce a three cheese bread which can be quite tasty if made properly, but this will be a classic French version made from a hard grated cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano. The single cheese pared with the levain-enhanced dough leaves a light lactic taste on the tongue that lingers for quite some time. You can use any hard cheese you would like, or even a blend of cheeses if your feeling fancy. This recipe was originally made into boules, but we are forming a log shape with the brotforms. It makes for nice petite sandwiches with deli meats, or a spread of jam or butter to serve with coffee or tea. Thinking about the next day at the factory while enjoying some freshly baked cheese bread, I dreamed of other treats that can be saved from disposal. Wonder if they’re discarding any industrial sized mixers………
Pain au Fromage
Excerpt from The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Bread Baking
Note- Any firm or hard cheese like Gruyere, Asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano will work.
To make the liquid levain, combine the bread flour and water with the culture in a large mixing bowl, stirring with a wooden spoon to blend. When blended, scrape down the edge of the bowl, cover with plastic film, and set aside to ferment at 70 degrees Fahrenheit for 12 to 14 hours.
Combine the bread flour, water, and liquid levain in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the hook. Mix on low speed until blended. Stop the mixer and autolyse for 15 minutes.
Add the salt and yeast and mix on low for 5 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium and mix for about 8 minutes, or until the dough has come together but remains slightly sticky.
Check for gluten development by pulling a window. If the gluten has developed sufficiently, mix in the cheese on low speed.
Scrape the dough into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside to ferment for 1 hour.
Uncover and fold the dough. Again, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to ferment for 90 minutes.
Lightly flour 3 brotforms. If you don’t have brotforms, lightly flour a small kitchen bowl with a linen towel lining the inside of the bowl. Lightly flour a clean work surface.
Divide the dough into three 500 gram/18 ounce rounds on the floured surface. Cover with plastic wrap and bench rest for 15 minutes.
Uncover the dough and, if necessary lightly flour the work surface. Gently press on the dough to degas and shape into a log. Place each log into a floured brotform, seam side up. cover with plastic wrap and proof for 1 hour.
About an hour before you are ready to bake the loaves, place the baking stone into the oven and preheat it to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place steam pan on bottom of oven now.
Uncover the dough and, using a lame or razor, score the loaf with one or two or three diagonal slashes. To make the required steam, and 1 cup of ice to the hot pan in the oven. Invert the loaves from the brotform onto a peel, immediately transfer the loaves to the hot baking stone in the preheated oven.
Bake, with steam, for 40 minutes, or until the crust is a reddish-brown color, the sides are firm to the touch, and the loaves make a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom.