I cook with wine. Sometimes I even add it to the food.
- W.C. Fields
Bread, wine and cheese, the Frenchman's favorite meal, I kid you not. How often does this make a meal in our home, with the addition of fresh fruit at the end? In winter, add a steaming, warming bowl of soup. In summer, a cool salad. But really, even those are not necessary for my Frenchmen to be happy and satisfied. Bread, wine and cheese.
Many moons ago, I worked in culinary tourism in Paris. A tour guide and interpreter, I brought clients through the best restaurant in the city, cheese and wine shops, visits with chefs, cooking demos and wine tastings. I loved my job. One of the classes my boss offered was a bread, cheese and wine pairing session. We picked up a selection of cheeses from one of the remaining two cheese shops in Paris that still had its own aging cellar; we picked up a fabulous selection of breads from Lionel Poilâne's famous boulangerie and wines from a shop owned by an Englishman. We (for I learned alongside the students) learned not only in what order cheeses should be eaten, but how each cheese (round, wedge or chunk) was to be sliced, which bread (baguette, compagne, dark, loaf with nuts and dried fruits, etc) paired best with which cheese and, of course, the ideal wine to accompany which bread and cheese combination.
And, married to a Frenchman, living in France, I have put all that I learned to practice each and every day. Bread, wine and cheese.
So what a welcome surprise was this month's Bread Baking Babes challenge recipe from hostess Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups. A Beaujolais Bread, shaped into rolls and formed into a gorgeous bunch of grapes. The wine incorporated right into the bread, the better to be served and eaten with a platter of cheeses.
These wonderful, earthy rolls are infused with wine, creating the perfect bread to be paired with cheese. And charcuterie. Dense and chewy, perfectly so, the wine gives the bread a faint rye flavor, or something close to it, deeper and just darker than a plain roll, making it perfect, flavorful enough as a backdrop for salty or smoky cured hams or salamis or a wide range of cheese from tangy goat to nutty hard cheeses such as comté, gruyere or beaufort or salty, creamy blue cheeses. And the beautiful grape shape makes this bread perfect for a party… not only is it pretty but everyone breaks off "grapes" as they desire.
And do visit my fellow Bread Baking Babes to see how their loaves turned out – and you may very well pick up tips and advice on perfecting this recipe (many are experts in all things bread):
Bake My Day – Karen
Bread Baking Babe Bibliothécaire: Thyme for Cooking – Katie
blog from OUR kitchen – Elizabeth
Feeding My Enthusiasms – Elle
girlichef – Heather
Lucullian Delights - Ilva
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies – Natashya
My Kitchen In Half Cups – Tanna
Notitie Van Lien – Lien
My Diverse Kitchen - Aparna
Bread Experience - Cathy
You can join the Bread Baking Babes and earn your Buddy badge by simply baking this delicious Beaujolais Bread by the end of June, mentioning and linking to the Babes (ask for the Buddy badge!), linking to the hostess Tann's blog post with the recipe challenge and emailing your link to her. Enjoy!
I will share this link with Susan of Wild Yeast for her weekly Yeastspotting!
One should always be drunk. That's all that matters...
But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you chose. But get drunk.
― Charles Baudelaire
From A Passion for Bread: Lessons from a Master Baker by Lionel Vatinet
Yields 16 bread rolls (one grape cluster)
3 ½ cups (16 oz / 455 g) white bread flour, unbleached, unbromated
1 1/8 tsps (7 g) fine sea or table salt
1 ½ tsps (5 g – I used 7 g) instant dry yeast
1 Tbs (21 g) honey
1 ¼ cups + 2 Tbs (320 g) Beaujolais or other red wine (should be around 82° - 84° F)
1 cup (115 g) salami cut into ¼ inch cube, optional (I also think coarsely chopped walnuts would be a great replacement for the salami)
Measure all dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add the honey to the dry ingredients and using your hands bring loosely together then form a well in the center.
Add the wine to the well in a slow steady stream as you rotate the bowl with one hand while simultaneously mixing the wine into the dry ingredients with your other hand. Frequently scrape your fingers and the bowl to gather all ingredients into the dough ball. The dough will be soft, slightly wet, extremely sticky and should pull away from the sides of the bowl, just coming together to form a dough. The dough will be very sticky; do not give into the temptation to add more flour.
Turn the dough out onto the counter. (I actually "kneaded" the dough in the bowl, which I found much easier.)
Knead the wet dough: Hold hands, palms facing up, at opposite sides of the dough mass. Slide your fingers under the dough and lift the dough an inch or so from the surface. Squeeze your thumbs and index fingers together to form a tight OK sign through the dough. While holding the OK sign, continue to curl thumbs and index fingers tightly together to pinch off a portion of dough. Working as quickly and smoothly as possible, moving the dough mass in approximately 1 to 1.5 inch increments, until the entire dough mass has been worked through. You should begin to feel the dough coming together.
*(Now you understand why I just worked the dough for this first knead in the bowl, turning the bowl clockwise – away from me – with my left hand, flipping, folding and kneading the dough towards me with the right.)
Turn dough a quarter turn and continue lifting, pinching and turning until it begins to take on an identifiable shape and becomes less and less sticky; taking anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes (I worked it for about 10 minutes). Resist the urge to add flour. A scraper is useful in collecting all the dough off the work area. Consider the dough kneaded when it forms into a ball. The dough should be soft, pliable and hold it’s shape; it should not be stiff and dry.
Form dough into a ball: using both hands, lift front and fold over, quickly dropping it down to the counter. Repeat 4-5 times until a ball is formed. Use the scraper to ensure all the dough is gathered.
Using the palms of your hands, flatten the dough ball into a rectangle. Scatter the salami evenly down the middle. Wrap the sides up and over salami, pinch dough together, turn and repeat until the salami is incorporated. Form into a ball. Again lifting from the front, fold it over onto itself in one movement then dropping down onto the counter. Repeat 4 to 5 times until ball forms. Using your scraper to be sure all the dough is gathered.
The dough should no longer be sticky. If it continues to be sticky repeat the folding process until it is no longer sticky.
The wine will extend fermentation to about 3 hours, divided into 3 hour-long "rises" with folding in between:
Place the dough in a clean glass bowl large enough to allow the dough to rise without coming in contact with the lid. Taking care to maintain the round shape, transfer the ball to the bowl and cover the container (I covered with plastic wrap and then a clean kitchen towel. Fermentation will take about one hour in a warm 75° to 80° F draft free place.
At the end of the hour, dust the counter lightly with flour. Place the dough onto floured counter. Pat into a thick square. Lift the two right corners and fold into the center patting the seam lightly. Lift the left two corners and fold into the center lightly patting the seam down. Repeat with the top two corners and the bottom two corners meeting in the middle patting down the seams. Return the dough to the bowl seam side down, cover and return to a warm draft free place for another hour.
Repeat this process one more time. The total rising or fermentation time will be 3 hours.
Flour the counter. Scrape the dough onto the counter and allow to rest 30 seconds. If the dough is very sticky at this point dust your hands with flour but do not add additional flour. Use the bench scraper to lift the dough if it sticks to the counter but do not pull and do not stretch the dough. Press the dough into a rectangle 12 inches by 4 to 5 inches wide. Be sure the dough is not sticking to the counter by lifting it to gently up. Cut the dough into 16 equal pieces with the bench scraper.
Shape the dough: Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
Roll 15 of the pieces of dough into small ball shapes for rolls, the last piece will become the grapevine. Create a triangle by setting four balls together in a line followed by a line of three balls then two balls and finally one ball. Angle the remaining four balls to one side of the triangle so that the entire piece resembles a large cluster of grapes with the smaller one to the side.
Shape the last piece of dough into a rope about 10 inches long and shape it into a curved grape vine shape that you attach to the top of the grape cluster. Dust with flour.
Final Fermentation: Allow the dough to rest for 60 – 90 minutes in a warm, draft-free place. Determine the dough is ready to be baked by uncovering and making a small indentation in the center of one of the rolls with your fingertip; the dough is ready to be baked if the indentation slowly and evenly disappears.
Preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). If using a baking stone, slide the stone in the oven with the rack at the lowest level.
Vatinet recommends covering the entire grape shape with a large stainless steel mixing bowl or rectangular baking pan. Slide the baking sheet into the oven onto the preheated baking stone. Bake covered for 10 minutes then remove the bowl/pan and continue to bake until the bread is golden brown has a thick crust, total additional time 15 to 20 minutes. The total time then would be 25 to 30 minutes.
When fully baked transfer to cooling rack for at least one hour to cool.