Thursday, December 24, 2009

Artisan Bread

Crunchy. Crispy. Crusty.  Light. & Airy.
Everything you should expect from "...a bread that is crafted, not mass produced." -

I used to love going to the grocery with my mom when I was younger. We would always buy french baguettes. Impossible to resist the aroma of freshly baked bread, it was unlikely that the whole loaf  made it home. We would pinch off portions and nibble all the way home. (and it was not a short ride.. 20 minutes at the least.) I acknowledge now that this was a horrible habit but at the time it was a guilt free indulgence.

Since my entire family shares an affinity for carbs of all kinds I excitedly awaited my mom and sister last night for dinner with broccoli soup accompanied by this Artisan bread reminiscent of our car rides home.

The original recipe comes from a book called "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" but I used the version posted at Culinary Covers.

The only bread I have ever made are these dinner rolls but I was looking for something very specific in texture and taste to accompany my soup. At first I was a little intimidated by the recipe because it specified the bread to be baked on a baking stone. (Basically this keeps things from burning and absorbs more moisture than a cookie sheet.)  But I decided to risk it and I made fabulous bread on a cookie sheet!

This could not be easier. No KNEADING !

I halved the recipe, and made four small loaves - I was trying to make bead bowls but they were a little too small for that. Next time I will make the whole recipe but instead of the two loaves it yields, make three or four. I wrote out the recipe based on the original, I kept some of the author's verbiage but also changed some of it to what I thought would be helpful.

The Master Recipe: Boule (Artisan Free-Form Loaf)

Source: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Makes four 1-pound loaves.  The recipe is easily doubled or halved.

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tablespoons granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method

1.  Warm the water slightly:  It should feel just a little warmer than body temperature, about 100 degrees F.

2.   Pour the water into a Kitchen Aid mixer bowl and add the salt and sprinkle the yeast directly on top. Let the yeast foam while you measure out the flour. (If you're going to be mixing by hand just add to a large bowl - about 5 qt)

3.  Measure the flour using the "spoon and sweep" method by scooping up flour with a spoon, filling the measuring cup, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula.  [You should always use this method when baking. Improper measuring can result in in-proportionate liquid to dry ingredients ratio. Here is a good article explaining the importance in more detail.] Using the dough hook attachment mix in the flour on low to medium speed - adding the flour continuously. Mix until the flour is well incorporated, about 1 -2 minutes and then mix for an additional minute.  (If you’re hand mixing, use a wooden spoon or your hands. Don’t knead- it isn’t necessary.) 

 The dough should be wet and loose and fall gently. It might also look a little lumpy but its okay. 

4.  Allow to rise:  Cover with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on top), approximately 2 hours, depending on the room’s temperature and the initial water temperature.  Longer rising times (up to 5 hours) will not harm the result.  You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period.  Fully refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and is easier to work with than dough at room temperature. *I did not have any problems working with the dough at room temperature.  The authors recommend that the first time you try this recipe, you refrigerate the dough overnight (or at least 3 hours) before shaping a loaf.

5.  The gluten cloak:  don’t knead, just “cloak” and shape a loaf in 30 to 60 seconds.  First prepare a cookie sheet by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven. (This step is important if you're using a baking stone - You could probably easily just use parchment paper. I just kept the loaves on the baking sheet and popped them in the over just like so.)  Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour.  Pull up and pinch off a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece of dough, or desired size. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands.  Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.  Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough.  The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out and adhere during resting and baking.  The final product with be smooth and cohesive.  The entire process in this step should take no longer than 30 to 60 seconds.

6.  Rest the loaf and let it rise Place shaped ball on cornmeal-covered baking sheet (If you're using a baking stone please see original recipe).  Allow the loaf to rest on the sheet for about 40 minutes (it doesn’t need to be covered).  You may not see much rise during this period; more rise will occur during baking. *I actually saw a bit of rise.

7.  Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising of the bread. I put a glass 8 x 8  Pyrex baking dish on the lower rack.

8.  Dust and slash:  Dust the top of the loaf liberally with the flour, which will allow the slashing knife to pass without sticking. Make sure you are using a sharp knife!! Slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross, scallop, or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top, using a serrated bread knife. (*I used a very sharp steak knife. Worked perfectly.)

9.  Baking with steam:  After a 20 minute preheat, you’re ready to bake. Put the cookie sheet with loaves on the middle rack.  (Or - (If you're using a baking stone please see original recipe.)  Quickly but carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water from the tap into the broiler tray - or small baking dish - and close the oven door to trap the steam.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch.  Because you’ve  used wet dough, there is little risk of drying out the interior despite the dark crust. * I did not have any problem with this what so ever. Also, my smaller loaves only took about 22 minutes to bake.*  Allow the loaf to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack.

 You can store the remaining, unused dough in the refrigerator in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next 14 days.  The dough “matures” over the 14 day period, improving flavor and texture of your bread.  Cut off, shape and bake more loaves as you need them.

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