Would I be a loser if I admitted that it is 10:45 am and I am laying — not in, but on top of — my bed, messing around on my computer? First of all, it is a Saturday, my day of rest. Second, I am nursing an illness. A cold. A manly/sexy low voice. Before the phlem, but after the aches. And I believe laying on my bed will improve my chances at a speedy recovery. Am I still a loser?
Dave says yes.
No worries. I have the self-esteem to weather that particular storm.
So, I’m writing. I love to write. I just don’t usually have the time… Oh boy… you’re in for a treat today!
Actually, I do worry how often clients end up on this particular site and wonder how it is that I manage to post ‘Meatless Monday X’ when they are still waiting for their project to be delivered. It’s a valid concern because it happens a lot. It’s psychology for another post; my need to procrastinate work until the last possible moment…
Anyway, enough of that depressing topic. I’ve been on a bread baking flurry. I used to only make it once a week, but I now seem to be on at least a 2x-a-week schedule. Plus, the first week of every month through June, I am committed to delivering an additional 12 loaves to two silent auction winners that bid on and won 8 months of bread deliveries. I just completed my fifth month and it has really made me feel the need to expand my repertoire. I tend to stick to my favored techniques and recipes, up on YouTube, that I can do it in my sleep. And yet…
I want and need more.
Not just because I worry about the bread auction recipient’s satisfaction, but because every once in a while, I come across a baguette that speaks to me. Unfortunately, I can’t exactly put my finger on what it is that is so different from my own bread. I’m not that skilled, I guess. So, I’ve spent the last hour on the internet reading about bread and looking at a couple newer books. Good Lord in Heaven. No wonder people are afraid of making bread. If you get caught up in the BS, it’s enough to make anyone cower: Hydration, crumb, retardation…
Now there’s a word that I can understand: retardation.
Oh forget it. I’ll just get in trouble.
What is the name of this post again?
I’ll try to bring it back around. Because of all the bread I’m baking, I had to re-visit Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman’s No-Knead Bread recipe in order to bring enough variety of loaves to the auction winners without spending an insane amount of time on new recipes. I tried the recipe when it first came out three years ago and thought it was sort of a pain in the ass, what with the pre-heating of the pan, the spastic flopping of the dough into the pan, etc. At the time, I had no knead of it. (ha ha. couldn’t resist).
When I started making the No Knead Bread again though, it brought up this long-standing issue I’ve had with my Le Creuset Pans. And that is: why do mine always look like crap on the inside?
Back when I started making the No Knead recipe, I researched the equipment. Everywhere I’d read said that the method was safe for Le Creuset, the exception being the black plastic knob on the lid, and even that was probably OK…
I was stupid enough to believe this back then.
I’ll tell you what to expect if you decide to bake bread inside your precious Le Creuset: discolored areas, finger marks baked on to the exterior. The interior dark and frightening.
Here’s some practical advice: Don’t do it. I wouldn’t go so far to say that it will wreck your pan but it definitely is not worth it. Save yourself the angst and use plain cast iron. I eventually replaced the Le Creuset that I baked the bread in. I gave it to a friend who still uses it. The interior is mostly black from all the scrubbing — I guess you could say she went after the discoloration with a gusto, but it still functions well.
And I got a new one.
Which quickly lost its gloss and gives me heart palpitations, despite my best attempts and doing everything “right.”
Every maddening cooking blog or TV show with Le Creuset shows these sparkling, gleaming pans. I’m willing to believe television cooks get new pans for their shows, but bloggers? How can it be that bloggers, who presumably cook a lot, can have perfectly new and shiny Le Creuset pans? It’s a very emotional topic for me. They are like my babies and I have failed them somehow.
I have used every trick in the book, on the internet and at the store. The only thing that can even come close to restoring my pan to a usable state after a particularly frisky pan-sear or long oven braise is Bar Keepers Friend.
[Update: Le Creuset makes a cleaner for their pans that I finally knuckled under and purchased. It isn’t cheap. I think I paid about $20 for a smallish bottle. It does seem to do a great job. I would definitely consider buying some, especially if you have a new pan. ]
But Bar Keepers Friend is not even a sanctioned cleaner because of its slight abrasives (I do not recommend using it unless you are at your wits end as you will no doubt lose the glossy finish). So, I give up. My pans are hopeless. They definitely have that “well-loved patina.” So, now I just live with them like this, since the ‘new’ ones look very similar to the old ones I replaced, minus the scratch marks on the bottom from my over-vigorous husband before I replaced all our metal utensils. They are still excellent pans that I use almost every single day. Patina or no patina, I love them.
So anyway, no new pans for me. Well. No new Le Creuset Pans for me.
Instead, before I settled on just using plain cast iron, and in order to be able to peacefully make the No-Knead pot bread method without angst over ruining my bazillion-dollar pans, I decided to pick up an old enameled cast iron pan from an antique store. Problem was, I couldn’t find any around here. So I called my trusty parents in Hayward and had them go back to the place I got all my latest ones. They, too, were out! …the heck? On their second stop, they found a bountiful selection. After a tense phone call, fraught with impatience on my part — no, I don’t remember why; I’m always impatient — they selected a light blue one that I love. It’s slightly smaller than the 5-quart size recommended by Lahey for his bread. I like the smaller size because I find the bread rises up more than out. The interior is crazed/crackled, but it really doesn’t matter. I cleaned it all up nice. I just love it.
[Update: that crackled finish eventually gave up and started populating my food with porcelain-crown breaking enamel chips and has since been retired. I’m cool with it. I hated baking bread inside of pans anyway. If I get the urge, I use my old lodge campfire dutch oven, even though it’s a tad large]
But just to illustrate what happens to me, when I cook the bread, this is what it looks like when it comes out of the oven:
I have to wonder who else suffers this pan-wrecking affliction?
I also have to wonder how other food bloggers keep their pans looking so perfect?
Baking soda, salt and vinegar?
Isn’t that the recipe for those exploding volcanos?
I’ll stick to
Bar Keepers Friend Le Creuset’s Cleaner.