Pastry chef Francisco Migoya. MODERNIST CUISINE

This Mexican pastry chef is head chef of the Modernist Cuisine culinary laboratory and co-author of 'Modernist Bread', an authentic 'bible' of bread, the result of four years of research. The work, composed of five volumes, contains 1,200 different recipes

These are (some of) the best bakeries in Madrid

Francisco Migoya (Mexico City, 1974) is head chef of the Modernist Cuisine gastronomic laboratory, an interdisciplinary project led by chef, photographer and scientist Nathan Myhrvold. Four books on gastronomy have emerged from this center of operations in Washington. The last one, 'Modernist Bread', published in 2017, is an imposing work on bread, consisting of five volumes and a kitchen manual.

This 'bible', which contains 1,200 different bread recipes and more than 5,500 photographs , is now available in Spanish, French and German since last October.

Migoya joined Modernist Cuisine in 2014 with a long career as a pastry chef and chocolate maker, recognized especially in the US, where he lives. These days he has left his 'office', which looks more like a spaceship than a kitchen, to travel to Spain, invited by the organizers of the Best Bread Award in Madrid. As an Asturian father, neither our country is foreign to us nor our gastronomy: "I love the fabada, the stew and I make paella at home. But I also like Mexican, American and Italian food, where my mother is from. All that culture is always at my table, "he acknowledges.

Although few like him can sit a chair on bread, he is neither a purist nor dares to judge those who buy in a super five bars for one euro. "If it's the bread that some can buy, that's fine. But if someone has economic capacity, let's make the commitment to buy a good artisanal bread. And if the baker charges you three, four or five euros, let's pay them . " This is his way of reinvindicating a product that does not cost, he says, for its ingredients, but "for the time and space it occupies, precisely for everything that is intangible and invisible."

What would you say are the main false myths that circulate about bread? The first one will surprise you: Wholemeal flour is not healthier than white flour . This is completely false and is based on a superficial investigation on the effect that wholemeal and whole grains have on digestion. As wholemeal flour is cheaper than white flour, the industry clung to this 'paper'. Convince people that it is healthier and use it to make bread, cereals, etc., means saving money. There is a great irony because in the majority of products that are consumed and produced industrially, flour is not a health problem, but the large amount of sugar, fat and salt they carry.

Chocolate and cherry sourdough bread. MODERNIST CUISINE

Francisco Migoya, in addition, shoots at seniors: "What makes a flour integral is the parts outside the grain, that is, the germ and the bran. But they are not digestible. As they enter, they leave. There are even some investigations that they claim that they drag and steal vitamins and minerals ... " First Dart

The second, in case there were doubts: "Bread, in addition to carbohydrates, just provides some micronutrients. If you want to take care of yourself, eat a salad or an apple. This is one of the most important conclusions we have drawn in the research. It is what says science. They are data, "he concludes.

Now, with bread, everything revolves around the mother dough. There is a lot of mysticism around this concept. People who say, for example, that their mother mass is 100 or 200 years old, that they have passed it from one generation to another ... Assuming it is so, that mother mass they gave you one day is impossible to resemble that You have now, because she is alive. Maybe you have had it in refrigeration for one or two weeks and it has died. And you have "revived" it by adding water and flour, but what you have actually done is a new mother dough. It is no longer that one. The main characteristic of yeast and acid-lactic bacteria is precisely that they adapt to the environment and change. How do you make a brioche with foie gras? It is one of the recipes that we collect in 'Modernist Bread'. Brioche is a bread based on butter, which has 82% fat. The foie has that same percentage of fat and it occurred to us to replace it with the butter with the foie. So, this brioche recipe has no butter. It's ridiculously expensive, of course, and I don't recommend it for a business.

Of the 1,200 recipes in the book, one of his favorites is the mother-made bread with chocolate and cherries . Oddly enough, Migoya argues that it is not sweet. The reason is that the chocolate they use has 85% cocoa and that the other ingredient, cherry, also does not stand out for its sweetness. "Although it is not an intuitive combination, besides being alone, it goes very well with salty, with light cheeses, spreads ... I love it," he says emphatically.

Can bread be frozen or is it a sin? A baker will not want you to freeze bread, because he would rather you buy every day, but the bread freezes very well. One of mass mother can endure between 3 and 5 days, but if you do not have time to consume it, throw it in the trash it would be a sin. I cut slices, freeze it like that and I take it out. Then defrost it, roast it and it looks like new.

The crumb with large bubble is typical of breads with high hydration. MODERNIST BREAD

What does a consumer have to look for to buy a good bread? A good bread, usually, has the crust is darker, a deeper brown. In sourdough breads, which have long fermentations, we see the trace of that process in the surface ampoules, which are the CO2 that has been released. It will also have a complexity in the aroma and, depending on the bakery, we will see the irregular honeycomb: in the crumb there will be large, small, medium bubbles ... because it is a process that cannot be controlled, but depends entirely on the yeast. You also have to know that the bigger the bread, the more complexity of aroma and flavor it will have, because it will have taken more time to ferment and to bake. A good bread is better not to have a very thick crust, because it is not pleasant on the palate. If it is fresh, when cut, part of this scab will crumble. When we taste it, a quality bread will have texture and will be extensible.

The five volumes of 'Modernist Bread'. MODERNIST CUISINE

The Mexican chef says other surprising things, such as that it is better to cut the bread with a pronounced tooth knife; that breads with very large bubbles in the crumb are high hydration and more difficult to make; that the bread marries very well with the champagne , "because both are fermented"; and that although he knows that many artisan bakers are against it, he accepts the use of so-called bread improvers. Some are chemicals, such as ascorbic acid, but others are in any supermarket: "In the experiments we saw that there is an enzyme that exists in papaya, kiwi, pineapple, which relaxes the gluten in the dough and facilitates its handling. With two droplets. OK".

Another of these improvers is gluten powder, a protein that has fallen out of favor in some circles: "If we add it to some doughs, make sure that the flour will have a certain strength, that it will have a volume, extensibility ... Sometimes people are afraid of him, as if he were the fierce wolf. It's because of misinformation, "he says. And in case there were doubts: "With gluten there is a bit of hysteria, that can kill you, that makes you fat ..." .

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