Saturday, June 09, 2007

Bread Daily

Ours is not a low-carb household. I buy Goldfish and salt-free-saltines by the truckload, and the kids eat more "breakfast crackers" (Spoon Size Shredded Wheat), Grapenuts, and "flakes" (Honey Bunches of Oats) than humanly possible.

And I bake bread nearly every day.

My favorite is Honey Wheat (recipe from the back of the King Arthur whole-wheat flour bag), but mr warillever and the Agents prefer French bread, so I make it several times a week.

The recipe (adapted to stand-mixer):

"Easiest and Best French Bread" -- adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

3 1/2 Cups all-purpose or bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
Kosher salt and herbs (optional)
  • If the yeast is refrigerated, bring to room temperature before starting measure 1 teaspoon into mixing bowl 15 minutes before everything else.
  • mix salt, yeast, water, and half of flour in mixer bowl. Switching to dough hooks, add remaining flour a quarter cup a time.
  • none of the measurements need be exact -- if the dough is very dry, add a bit more water 1 tablespoon at a time until it is a "defined but shaggy ball"
  • dump dough into a large bowl. Cover loosely with a plastic bag, plastic wrap or a thick dish towel.
  • Let sit for 2 to 3 hours in a warm place. The longer it sits, the more the flavor.
  • sprinkle a small amount of flour onto counter (we actually do this on a platic placemat so that we don't have flour ground into the counter every day), cut the dough into 2 or 3 equal pieces, and shape each into a ball, sprinkling with more flour flour if necessary. (if you want rolls, cut into 12-16 pieces, if you want one large loaf don't etc). Cover with a towel and let rest for 20 minutes or so.
  • Spread a large heavy piece of cavas or cotton on a table and sprinkle lightly ith flour (you can use a tablcloth, floded into quarters to give it stiffness; I use a fabric placemat folded in half)
  • Press each dough ball flat, then fold it over on itself twice; seal the seam and roll the dough into a snake (like it is playdough).
  • Place the loaf, seam side up inot the cloth (in cooking jargon,this is called a couche). Cover all loaves with a cloth and let rise for 1.5-2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 450. Make sure it is really up to temperature (may take half hour to preheat)
  • when ready to cook, sprinkle kosher salt and/or herbs onto top of loaf, then slash the top several times with a razor blade or very sharp paring knife Slide onto baking sheet or baking stone. Spray the inside of the oven with water to create steam, then put the loaves in the oven.
  • After 5 minutes, spray oven again, then bake another 12 minutes or so (cookbook says 25-35 minutes, but in my oven, the loaf is overcooked well before 15 minutes).
  • Remove from oven, spray with water if you want a shiny crust, and let cool on a wire rack.
As I typed the recipe in, it sounds complicated, but it really isn't.
The dough sits on the counter most of the day, and we have fit it into
our daily routine. I set out the mixer and let the yeast warm up
while I eat breakfast; after lunch I roll it into balls, drink a cup
of tea, and then form into loaves; I bake the bread as I make dinner
(or earlier if that's how the day is working out).

Some important points:
  • use good flour. I have settled on King Arthur, but any quality unbleached flour should do.
  • this recipe also works with whole grain flours, but needs at least some white flour in order to rise well.
  • the loaves will be more dense in the winter, so split the dough into two loaves when it is cool. In warmer wet weather split into three loaves

1 comment:

Kate in NJ said...

I am going to have to try this!