Sunday, March 16, 2014

Fresh Bread Every Day

I am lucky enough to have had some  baking teachers. Some of them know who they are, but many don't. In this post I want to acknowledge the people who have really helped my bread making journey. I will probably forget some, but here goes.

My late Aunt Jill used to make all the bread that her family ate. It was whole wheat, sturdy and delicious. She made me realize that it was possible.

Mark Bittman in the NYT for publishing the no-knead bread approach

Daniel Leader for his amazing book called LocalBreads - it really started the ball rolling with the wonderful variety of artisinal European breads. Opened my eyes to what happens when ratios are varied. Introduced me to the world of baker's percentages.

Peter Reinhard on this craftsy course  introducing me to the stretch and fold method of dough making. Suddenly I was able to handle much larger amounts of dough.

Mike Avery at sourdoughhome  for explaining to me why my sourdough starter was leaving me with flat limp dough. And thus helping me make fantastic sourdough.

Clint Cooper of The Village Baking Co. in Dallas for answering my newbie questions so patiently

Ciril Hitz in this video for demonstrating how to shape loaves.

Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day  (twitter @artisanbreadin5) for the method that ensures I have fresh bread every day.

All in all a very helpful crew! Now I make dough once per week and have fresh bread every day. And it is very good.

The daily bread is mostly small (because I don't have a huge oven) baguettes that I take to work with either cheese, soup (or both!). We also bake a couple of normal (1 1/2lb) sized loaves for toast, etc. Left overs become croutons and breadcrumbs.

Yes I do weigh everything. Yes it is metric. But the ratios are easy.  The Imperial weights are not directly equivalent. I rounded the flour to a convenient amount and scaled everything else accordingly.


2 Kg  Bread flour (1 use King Arthur)                    5lbs = 1 bag
1.36 Kg room temperature filtered water                6 3/4 cups
14 Gm Rapid rise yeast                                            1/2 oz
44 gm salt                                                                1 1/2 oz (maybe a little more)
a little vegetable oil to prevent sticking


In a large bowl mix the flour, salt and yeast. Add the water and mix thoroughly. Cover and leave to stand for 20 or so minutes to hydrate the flour.
Lightly oil your work surface, turn the dough out onto it and lightly oil the dough. Stretch the dough by anchoring one end to the counter and pushing the dough away from you with the other until about doubled in length. Fold the dough back on itself, rotate half turn and stretch again. Stretch and fold four times. Cover the dough again and allow to rest. 
Stretch and fold following the preceding procedure twice more at 25 (give or take) minute intervals. By now the dough should be smooth and stretchy.
Put the dough into a container that has room for it to double in volume. Leave the dough at room temp until it has doubled.
Take the dough out of the container onto your work surface (do not flour). Stretch and fold once more, form a ball, replace the dough into the container and refrigerate.
When baking you want to have a pizza stone on the upper middle rack and a pan for water on the rack below it. You will use about 1 cup water in the pan.

My morning ritual for making bread for lunch goes something like this:
  1. Turn on oven to 425F
  2. Put water on for tea/coffee
  3. Retrieve dough from fridge and tear off some 175 gm (6 oz) pieces. Roll gently on a floured board and allow to relax
  4. Replace Container in fridge
  5. Make tea/coffee
  6. Form the dough into mini baguettes
  7. Drink tea/coffee
  8. Place dough in couches to rest and rise a bit
  9. Shower
  10. Transfer shaped dough to floured peel
  11. Slit the dough using a razor blade making three lengthways cuts
  12. Place water into the hot pan that is on the lower rack (creates steam in the oven for a better crust), taking care not to scald yourself.
  13. Transfer loaves to oven and bake for 24 minutes
  14. Dress
  15. Pull loaves from oven and place in brown bags for lunch
Start to finish time - about an hour!

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