Tuesday, July 1, 2008

This bread thing is getting out of hand!

I have been so into bread making while Madame has been away. But now with the help of Dan Leader, I am turning out baguettes that are just to die for. No I don't (yet!) have a steam oven, but I am getting the really crusty outside with a tender crumb. I haven't asked Dan's permission to repost here, but I hope he won't mind. I have varied it a bit (adding cake flour), and I can't get it done in the 4 hours he says it takes. It usually takes me 4 1/2. But still that is not long for a really good tasting loaf.

So yesterday I baked, loaves came out of the oven at about 3:30, and of course I couldn't wait for them to cool. I had to try a piece. Yup! That hit the spot. So for dinner, I took 7" of baguette, split it lengthwise, layered some tomatoes from the Grapevine Farmers' Market directly onto the bread so the juice would soak in a bit, spread some fresh goat cheese (also bought at Grapevine Farmers' Market) fresh basil from the garden some salt and a little sherry vinegar. WOW a perfect sandwich.

So here's the bread recipe (adapted from Local Breads by Daniel Leader, published by WW Norton ). I would strongly recommend getting his book, he explains it so much better than I can - and he has pictures!

It is a very long recipe although it is easier to do than it looks.


1 1/2 cups of tepid water (70-75 degrees F, 21-23 degrees C)
1t instant yeast
3 cups Organic unbleached AP flour
1/4 cup Cake flour (not self rising)
1 1/2t Kosher salt
Cooking spray to grease the bowl

Pour water into a large mixing bowl and add the yeast. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes until refreshed. Then mix in the flours and stir with a spatula until you have all the water involved and the dough is kinda shaggy. Leave to sit for 20 minutes so the flour hydrates.

Empty the dough onto the board, and sprinkle the salt over it. Knead for 12-15 minutes. Try to avoid flouring the board or your hands. It will feel a bit sticky, but persevere and it will come together into a nice smooth dough. Every now and again release the dough from the board with a bench scraper. If you prefer to use a standing mixer (and I have not tested this), put in the bowl of the mixer, attach the dough hook and knead on low (number 2 setting) for 8-10 minutes. You will still need to give it a few hand strokes at the end, so I am not sure what using the mixer would buy you.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave to sit for an hour at 70-75 degrees (21 to 23C). It will not double, but it will have expanded some.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured (very lightly!) board and shape into a rectangle of about 6 inches by 8 inches (15x20cm). Fold the dough like a business letter from the short side. Plop the dough back into the bowl and allow to rise for another hour.

About an hour before baking you will want to heat the oven. Ideally you want a baking stone in there, but an upside down sheet pan will work too. The oven should be heated to 450F. The bread is quite sensitive to temperature so do check the oven. Make sure the rack is just above half way and on a lower rack there is a container into which you can put ice to create steam.

When the bread s ready to shape, place a sheet of parchment paper onto a peel or another upside down rimless pan. Flour the parchment.

Turn the dough onto the board and divide into 3 pieces each of around 10oz (280gm). Pat each piece into a small rectangle fold in half. Cover lightly with cling wrap and leave to stand for 10-15 minutes to relax.

Now we are ready to shape the dough. For each piece of dough, make a 3x5 inch rectangle (8x12 cm) and fold as follows. Take the long side, fold to about the center and press the seam lightly. Do the same with the bottom edge. Then quickly roll the dough into a 14" length (275 cm) (or however wide your sheet pan or peel are). Place the loaves onto the floured parchment 2-3 inches (5-8cm) apart. Then make a little pleat in the parchment between the loaves and pull it up sliding the loaves together, but still separated by parchment. At the outside edges roll up kitchen towels and use them to bolster the loaves so they are held in neat cylinders. (This is called a couche, by the way). Sprinkle a little flour on the surfaces and cover with cling wrap to rest. This resting will take around 45 minutes - until the dough springs back slowly when you press it lightly.

When you are ready to bake uncover the loaves, remove the kitchen towels from the sides and pull the pleat out of the parchment. The loaves will separate, but retain their shape. Score them with a very sharp knife - or use a single edged razor blade. Make the scoring about 1/2 inch (a little more than 1cm) deep. Make the score marks long - don't just cut straight across. Immediately slide the parchment off the peel or baking sheet onto the hot stone (or rimless baking sheet) in the oven and add 1/2 cup ice to the container. After 2 minutes add another 1/2 cup of ice and again after a further 5 minutes. You do need to add the ice in instlments to get a shot of steam. Adding all at once cools the container too quickly.

Bake the loaves for 15-20 minutes - until they are a light caramel color. Remove fom the oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Devour greedily!

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