01 March 2010

i made bread, ya'll. i made bread

i have been thinking about making bread for a while. for a real long time. a girlfriend of my embarked on this adventure by buying a baguette pan (!) and she made french bread ya'll. i think i'm a little nervous to try that, but what i wouldnt give to be able to make french bread. i think a crusty warm baguette may be one of the best things in the world. and, for that matter with nothing on it because it just tastes that good. 
i digress. so. i made bread. it was an interesting process. i didnt have active yeast, i had instant yeast, so i was worried about my ratios. but, all in all. i think it turned out pretty great. the bread was a little dense and tough...the dough was tough to knead. i wonder if i kneaded it too much...i will have to do some research on that. i cannot tell you how happy it made me to have made bread. the anticipation as the wet dough rises created this palatable energy in the apartment as i busied myself doing other things....reading lines, surfing the inter-web...i just wanted it to get bigger so i could knead again and wait again, so that it would finally be ready to put in the oven! and the smell! as the bread turned a beautiful shade of golden brown, the whole apartment smelled of wonders! i think i just love bread. i could be a carb-a-vore. seriously.  
please try this. the satisfaction you have when  you bake your own loaf of bread is ridiculous. so, why not, give it a shot.  i cannot wait to start playing around with bread recipes! 
Two Crusty Round Loaves
  • 4 cups bread flour (the higher gluten content in important)
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
1. Measure out 1/4 cup of bread flour and reserve a the clean counter top.  Place the remaining 3 3/4 cup bread flour in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment.* Measure the salt and place on one side of the flour and add the yeast to the opposite side of the flour.  Pour the warm water in the middle and mix on low speed (with the paddle attachment) until the dough just comes together. 
2. When the dough forms a mass, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Dough should clear the sides but may stick to the bottom a bit.  If you feel like the dough is too sticky or too dry, feel free to add a touch more water or flour by the tablespoonful.  After 2 minutes, let the dough rest for five minutes.
3. After the five minute rest, mix the dough again for 3 minutes.   Place the dough on the counter and, using the 1/4 cup of bread flour we reserved in the beginning, hand knead the dough.  You may not need to incorporate the entire 1/4 cup.  If the dough feels firm and solid enough, just knead for a few minutes and prepare it to rest.  You should have a satiny, smooth compact ball.
4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, and turn the dough over to coat the entire dough lightly in oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to rest for 1 1/2 hours.  The dough should double in size.  Remove from the bowl, punch down and reform into a ball.  Return to the bowl, cover and allow to rest for another 30 minutes.
After the second short rest, place the dough on a lightly floured surface and cut into 2 pieces.  Form each piece into a smooth, round ball, tucking any haggard edges on the underside of the dough.  Leave to rest, covered with a damp cloth, on the lightly floured surface for 45 minutes to a hour.
5. During the last 20 minutes of the resting period, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a baking rack in the lower third of the oven and leave either a baking stone or an upside down baking sheet in the oven to heat as well. 
6. Just before the boules are set to go in the oven, slash the top of the loaves with 2 to 4 slashes, using a sharp knife.  This will allow the bread to expand in the oven.  Remove the super hot baking sheet from the oven.  Carefully transfer the dough onto the baking sheets and return to the oven.
7. Here’s some fun!  Just after you put the bread in the oven, take 1/4 cup of water, open the oven door, quickly poor the water onto the hot oven floor and immediately close the oven door.  We’re creating steam here people… it’s exciting.  Wait 2 minutes and repeat the process.
8. Bake loaves for 20-25 minutes.  They’ll be golden and gorgeous.  Remove from the oven and insert a thermometer.  The temperature should be between 190 to 210 degrees F.
You should wait until its totally cool to slice into it...i couldn't, but you should try. 
 * I don't have a stand mixer, so i followed some instructions for another way - You should be able to follow the directions as listed but instead of using the mixer to do the mixing do this instead: Put your dry ingredients (minus yeast) in a bowl. Make a well in that hill and pour your luke warm water into it. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and wait a minute or so. Then start to mix in the flour with the water until you get it together into a doughy gloop. Then knead the dough until it gets the nice smooth consistency and it stops sticking to the bowl as much–you may need to add a smidge of flour to get it to this consistency.

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