Rustica's Steve Horton: Chef Chat, part 3 [RECIPE]

Today we wrap up our interview with Rustica Bakery owner and baker Steve Horton. Horton also shares a sweet recipe with readers. (Read the rest of our interview here and here.)

What is your best culinary tip for a home cook? I always recommend a digital scale, precise down to a few grams. When you're measuring salt and things of that nature, you're going to need to be fairly precise. Volume measurement with teaspoons, tablespoons, cups is just not as exact. That comes back to consistency. Another one is a thermometer [to measure] your room or your air temperature and your water, your dough temperatures.

You really get into the technical side of baking bread. Did you like science classes? Yeah, I did. I enjoyed science, and certainly professional bread baking--there is an art that sometimes gets lost when I'm talking about it--there's a science to the craft that is key in terms of making a quality product. Knowing and understanding and being able to manipulate time and temperature is really key to bringing out the full flavor of the wheat. That all goes to fermentation, and fermentation can be controlled, but you need to know what variables are at hand. Science is of interest, absolutely. With the craft comes an artistic component, too.

"Bringing out the full flavor of the wheat" is part of your mission--so what do you think of gluten-free bread? I am very sympathetic to people who have gluten intolerance and celiac disease. But I'm not really a fan of calling it bread. There's certainly a science and skill to making it well, but it's not a bread. It's not about fermentation, and it's not about bringing out the flavor of the wheat. It's nothing we would ever do.

If you could bake for one person, dead or alive, who would it be? I don't know. That's a tough one. There's a French bread professor. He was a baker, but he also became an educator of sorts worldwide and he tried to bring back the traditions of French baking. His name is Raymond Calvel. I never met him, but I have a few of his books. I think it would be entertaining to bake for him and see what he thought. It sounded like he was a fairly critical fellow. He was very geared toward process, demanding in terms of execution and consistency and the details of baking.

It's always subjective, even if you have a really great palate and know a lot about process and product. People are always going to disagree. For example, our head baker doesn't like whole wheat flour. It doesn't matter if it's good or not. It's just somebody's taste. I don't tend to like things with caraway or dill in them. I don't like to put a lot of things in bread.

What is your favorite restaurant? I'm not going to say because I have a lot of restaurant accounts. [laughs] I actually don't go out to eat that much. I have a family, so we go to the kids' favorites: Punch Pizza, Brasa, and Jasmine Deli.

What if it was your birthday and someone wanted to take you out to eat? Well, since I haven't been to Piccolo, I think that would be a good experience.

How do you spend your free time? Believe it or not, I sleep most of the time when I'm not at work, or spend time with my wife and kids. I really lead a very boring life, from what most people consider a life. That's by design--if I go out too late, it's hard to get back into the rhythm.

What would you do for a living if you could not be a baker? Well, I went to the University of Minnesota to be an urban planner, but I don't think I would do that. When I got into my internships, I discovered that probably wasn't for me. I'd probably be a lawyer, which is just what the world needs more of. So probably I should stick to baking.

That's all for our interview with Horton, but he was kind enough to share a dessert recipe from Rustica with readers:

Cranberry Galette Ingredients for the filling: 600 grams fresh cranberries (frozen will work) 108 grams brown sugar 300 grams white sugar zest from 1/2 lemon

Ingredients for the dough: 170 grams cold, cubed butter 276 grams all purpose flour 1/3 tsp. salt 128 grams cold, cubed cream cheese 115-135 grams ice cold water 10 grams lemon juice

Equipment: Scale Sheet pan Rolling pin Food processor Parchment paper Stainless steel or glass bowls Plastic wrap

Directions: The day before baking, pulse the cranberries slightly in a food processor to break them in half. Do not over-pulse. Toss the cranberries in a bowl with the sugars and lemon zest. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight to macerate.

The day of baking, pulse the flour, salt, and cubes of butter until the butter is pea-sized. Add the cream and lemon juice and pulse until pea size. Do not over pulse. Place in a bowl and drizzle about 80 percent of the water into the mixture. You do not want to get the dough too wet. Press the mixture together with your fingers. You want it to just come together with pieces of butter and cream cheese throughout. Do not overwork the dough; minimal handling is desired. If necessary, drizzle a little more water to get the mixture to come together. The desired consistency is chunky and dry. Press the dough into a 1/2-inch-thick square piece. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

Thirty minutes before taking the dough from the refrigerator, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Roll the dough out to 1/4-inch-thick square. Fold it in thirds like a letter and roll it out again to 1/4-inch thickness with a dimension of 10 inches by 20 inches. Using the tip of a knife, cut two 10-inch rounds out of the dough. Place the two rounds on a sheet pan, lined with parchment paper.

Gently toss the cranberries with a spatula. If using frozen cranberries, you might need to drain some liquid from them.

Mound the cranberries (an equal amount) in the middle of each dough. Leave a 1 1/2-inch border free of cranberries. Fold the dough over and crimp as you fold. When done, a round opening is visible in the middle.

Spritz with water and sprinkle sugar over the top.

Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Lower the oven to 325 degree; bake for another 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 20 minutes, or until the galettes are golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool for five minutes. Then remove the galettes from the pan and place on a cooling rack or a clean pan so the galettes do not stick as they cool.

Note: Factors affecting the bake include oven placement, thickness of dough and type of sheet pan. The bake times may vary due to the above factors and consistency of heat from the oven.

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