Baking With Br. Chris: Tips and Techniques

Friar Voices

‘Beard on Bread’ by James Beard is Br. Chris’ favorite cookbook

Second of seven parts

Tips and techniques

We asked Br. Chris Cahill to share some of his tried-and-true tips for baking:

• In place of all-purpose flour, “I use bread flour” for baking. It contains a higher percentage of protein, which helps gluten develop, adding to chewiness and elasticity.
• “One thing I’ve noticed is recipes never have enough cinnamon. I usually double it.”
• The exact temperature can make or break breads. “I use a thermometer” to test baked goods. “It’s gotten me much better results.” Chris takes the bread out of the pan and sticks the thermometer in the side for an accurate reading.
• To avoid wasting batter or dough, invest in nylon pot/pan scrapers in several sizes.
• “All I ever use is real butter.” (Butter, which gets a bad rap, contains healthy saturated fats.)
• “I do make pies. Apple and pumpkin are the big ones for me.” For apple pies, “I’ll make a lot of filling and put it in the freezer, then pull it out when I need, let it thaw and dump it into a pie shell. It keeps its integrity” after freezing.
• His favorite cookbook is the classic Beard on Bread by James Beard (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group). Tested recipes, excellent instructions. “I got it as a Christmas gift,” Chris says. “That’s the best book I’ve ever seen for breads. I like the variety; I like his recipes; they’re straightforward and clear.”
• How long can you keep home-baked bread? Since it has no preservatives, “It will go bad in three or four days, if it lasts that long,” Chris says. “You can toast the stale bread and it’s still good.”

(NEXT: Bread recipes for breakfast or brunch.)