Thursday, November 19, 2009

Something to check off the list!

I read once that when you can put out a consistent loaf of bread time after time, you understand the ingredients and how they perform and can now claim, "I know how to make bread". Well, today I am happy to announce that I can make bread! Until now it has been trial with lots of error, more of a hanging out by the oven with hopes of success rather than popping it in and being able to walk away until the timer goes. This bread I am talking about is just a basic round loaf of bread, however it's good to know that if I promised someone a round loaf of whole wheat bread, I would be able to follow through on that promise AND know exactly how it would turn out. I am still working on sweet egg bread and have not yet attempted a sour dough. I do have the time to take, the road to knowledge does not need to be a speedy one. This is most certainly not a matter of pride to me, but one of satisfaction and of confidence to move forward from here, with high hopes to attain my goal of making true artisan bread.

It can be more stress than fun the first time one bakes bread, but the joy is always the same when it's all done. The smell and taste of fresh bread can not be tired of, in my humble opinion. I believe the highest compliment to me is to inspire others to step out and try new things in the kitchen too. To share with me in that satisfaction - to be OK with flops, to perhaps do a little dance when it's perfect but most of all to feel that sense of excitement when someone tries your food, and are left speechless. (Especially with food they thought they would never eat!)
So here it is, my recipe with some little tips that make it work:
The recipe is measured by cups and spoons - so please do try it out at your home!
Basic Round Loaf
Makes 4 medium loaves
20 ounces Water, divided (one cup = 8 ounces)
1/2 tsp Sugar
3 tsp Salt
3 tbsp Vegetable or Olive Oil
4 tbsp Malt Syrup
4 cups White Bread Flour
4 cups Whole Wheat Bread Flour
4 tsp Active Dry Yeast
From the 20 ounces of water, use about 5 ounces slightly above room temperature to soak the yeast with the 1/2 tsp of sugar. Let sit for about 10 minutes, or until frothy.
In a large bowl, place remaining water with salt, oil, malt syrup and flours. Add the yeast mixture when it has frothed, combine everything until smooth. Take out of mixing bowl and knead for 10 - 15 minutes, stretching and pushing with your fingers and palms. Drizzle about 1/2 tsp oil into the mixing bowl. Round the dough and place upside down into the bowl. Swirl around several times to coat with oil, then flip right side up. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
Preheat the oven at 350 F for 30 SECONDS. Turn the oven off. Ferment dough in the oven for 1 1 1/2 hours.
After fermenting, punch down the dough by folding it like an envelope on all sides. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces (about 475g each), round each section and place on baking stone or parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel and set in a warm, draft free place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 F while the dough is proofing. Place rack on 2nd lowest position. Here you can add a non-glass brownie pan on the lowest rack as you heat the oven. At the same time the bread goes in the oven, add half a cup of water to the brownie pan to add steam to the oven. Remove the pan after 10 minutes. Apparently the steam could potentially damage electric ovens, so the risk may out weigh the benefits. The steam prevents the crust from cracking while at the same time producing a nice crunchy but not hard crust.
When the dough has proofed, remove the tea towel and dust with a little flour using a small sifter. Scour the tops of the loaves with an X, running the knife horizontally over the dough, keeping the full blade in contact with the dough - using only the tip can punch the dough down a bit.
Bake the bread in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes, you will know it is done by knocking on the bottom of a loaf (use an oven mitt to lift it off the baking sheet!) and hear a hollow sound.
Cool bread completely on a wire rack before slicing into it.
These loaves freeze nicely.

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