28 November 2011

Try this: Hagelslag – the serious chocolate sprinkles

Hagelslag, according to the Dutch, is the reason bread was invented*. Bread, you see, is the vehicle for conveying hagelslag, chocolate sprinkles for grown-ups (though they do make kid versions).

It's ideal for people who want to relive the youth they never got to experience because their moms were scatterbrained anti-sugar fascists!

[Box of assorted hagelslag. The best is the original one and the pure chocolate one and the golden one.]

Around 1936, some enterprising Dutch man by the name of Gerard de Vries at the Venz chocolate factory decided to revolutionize the consumption of chocolate in the form of sprinkles – which, by the way, can only be called hagelslag if it's 45% chocolate or more, otherwise it's labelled chocolate-flavoured hagelslag.

Butter up your bread (or toast, though it might be frowned upon) and sprinkle hagelslag generously on top and eat with a grin: the butter is the binding agent that unites the world.

[I might go to hell for putting hagelslag on toast but it's totally worth it.]

Take it from the Dutch: chocolate sprinkles are serious business  about 14 million kilos of business annually, on 850 million slices of bread.

* Totally could be made up.

24 November 2011

Baked bread so good, you can hide stuff in

Sometimes when you least expect it, you can learn something. In this case, I learned something revolutionary from the talented local photographer, Mr. Simoneau when I went to help him dispose of bodies learn desktop publishing crap – I learned that you can make [expletive]ly fantastic bread with very little kneading and patience.

Let's call it Fancy Bread for Lazy People.

I was in complete denial that this would work and boy was I ever schooled!

[Still hot in the Dutch oven]

The NY Times piece that first revealed this technique says that all you need is:
  • 3 cups +/- (~750ml) of flour (mix and match)
  • 1/4 tsp (1.5ml) instant yeast
  • 1-1/4 tsp salt (6.5ml) (I found 1 tsp was sufficient)
  • 1-5/8 cup (385ml) water
  • Cornmeal, more flour, or wheat bran for dusting
  • Big bowl
  • A Dutch oven or something similar with an oven-proof cover. They're on sale this week at Canadian Tire, so you have no excuse unless you live in an armpit.
  • Patience (also available at Canadian Tire for $12.99) 
The secret, Mr. Simoneau says, is magical unicorn saliva. But I think it's the humidity that gets trapped in the preheated pot for the first part of the cooking process.

[Mr. Simoneau making his olive version, where he reduced the salt by about a quarter. Please ignore the yelling face he is making at me.]

[A 50% whole wheat bread with black sesame]

Oh, btw, I said you can hide stuff in the bread; I tried hiding Pee-Wee in it while baking and it worked out quite well (wouldn't you say?).

Thanks, Mr. Simoneau for the great tip! And thanks to Pee-Wee for being such a good sport.