Sunday, August 16, 2009

Better Bread for Kitchen Klutz's

Ok, so I am not the best cook in the world, though I pride myself on creativity. I have had my fair share of snafu's in the kitchen.
Like when I was about's how the train of thought went...when you bake a potato in the oven you wrap it in tin foil and it's supposed to cook faster...but cooking in the microwave is faster than cooking in the my 12 year old brain said that if you wrap the potato in tin foil AND cook it in the microwave, it will cook super fast...the end result: eerie popping noises and blue flames coming from the microwave. So that's how I learned that lesson.
And recently (as recently as today, actually) I decided to test out a bread recipe that was published in one of my favorite magazines (Mother Earth News, see bottom of post for link). So I make the dough, get the oven ready as directed, and start to put things in. It says to preheat the stone and the broiler pan, and when oven is ready to put the bread on the stone, then put the water in the pan and close the door quickly. I did this exactly as directed (or so I thought). In my haste to get things ready, I just grabbed the first large rectangular pan in the cabinet, which happened to be a glass casserole pan. So, into a 450 degree oven goes the stone and the glass pan. Once preheated, I grabbed my loaf and slid it onto the stone without a hitch. Then I added the water to the "broiler" pan...this was followed by a very loud cracking sound as the glass pan splintered all along the bottom and I had water sizzling on the floor of my oven. So very carefully, I removed the loaf, still on the stone, and then, even more carefully (after all the water had leaked out or evaporated) I removed the now defunct casserole dish. I replaced this with a true broiler pan, filled with water, put the bread back in the oven and baked as directed. The photo above is of the finished loaf. My VERY first loaf of homemade bread! The basic recipe and instructions are below...
(ed. note - I did not come up with was published in Mother Earth News, and the article was adapted from a book, ARTISAN BREAD IN FIVE MINUTES A DAY by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois)

Makes 4 1 pound loaves

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 T. granulated yeast
1 1/2 T. coarse kosher salt or sea salt
6 1/2 C. unsifted, unbleached, all purpose white flour

1. Heat water to about 100 degrees F (just warmer than body temp)
2. Add yeast and salt to water in a large, lidded container (I used a plastic Tupperware cake holder, trust me, you need something this big) Don't worry about getting it all to dissolve.
3. Mix in flour by gently scooping it up and then leveling the top of measuring cup with knife; don't pat down. Mix with a wooden spoon, high capacity food processor/ heavy duty stand mixer with a dough hook until uniformly moist. DO NOT KNEAD!
4. Cover loosely, Do not use screw top jars as they could explode from trapped gases. Allow to rise at room temp until it begins to collapse, or at least flatten on top, about 2 hours, but up to five hours will not harm the results. you can use a portion of the dough any time after this, though refrigerated dough will be less sticky and easier to work with.
5. Prepare a pizza peel (I used a large plate, as I do not have a pizza peel) by sprinkling liberally with cornmeal (I used all purpose flour the first time, but cornmeal does work better...flour gave the bottom a spongy texture ). Sprinkle surface of dough with flour, then cut/pull off a 1 pound piece (about the size of a large grapefruit). Flour your hands, gently stretch the sides of the dough around the bottom, so you end up with a ball with 4 bunched ends on the bottom.
6. Place dough ball on pizza peel (or plate) and allow to rest for 40 minutes (it may rise a little).
7. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on another shelf.
8. Dust the top of the loaf with flour. Slash across the top in whatever pattern you choose. These slashes will help the dough expand during baking.
9. Slide dough onto baking stone. Then quickly pour about a cup of water into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the crust is brown and firm to the touch. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack for best flavor, texture, and slicing. The crust may initially soften, but will firm up again when cooled.
10. Refrigerate the remaining dough in your lidded (NOT air-tight) container and use it over the next 2 weeks. You will find that even 1 day's storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. The dough can also be frozen in 1 pound portions and thawed in the refrigerator prior to baking day.

5 Minutes a Day for Fresh Baked Bread - Mother Earth News Full Article

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - Amazon link to buy the book

Hope you enjoyed this....and please leave comments about how your bread turned out, or some kitchen mishaps you would like to share :)

**just a note, the second loaf turned out much better than the first. the crust was firmer and did crackle when i took it out of the oven...could have had something to do with the broiler pan mishap during the first attempt...the oven was not at temp when i put the first loaf in, so the crust was a little too soft, even after cooling**