Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fresh Baked


Some you may remember that had baked some bread about a month or so ago. Well today I made two more loaves to go with the Tomato sauce and dinner. This recipe is really easy and I do not have a stand mixer so I had to manual do the mixing, making for a good arm work out. I think I have the hang of it, so I wanted to share the recipe in case any of you wanted to give it a try. It tastes amazing and the kitchen still has the lingering aroma of the fresh baked bread. All you need is a little butter maybe some of your favorite jam. As Alton Brown always says "now that is Good Eats!"





French Bread Recipe

makes 2 loaves the size I have in the pic

4 cups bread flour
2 tsp active quick rising dry yeast (one package)
2 tsp salt (kosher)
1 1/2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees)

1. Prepare the yeast using the instructions on the package. Put 1/4 cup of bread flour on your clean counter top and reserve. Place remaining 3 3/4 cups bread flour in your mixer bowl, add the salt and mix through. Add the yeast mixture while and then pour in the warm water and with your regular mixer paddle, mix on low speed until the dough comes together in a mass. (I don't have a mixer so, I used a wooden spoon and then switched to using my hands.) Switch to the dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Dough should clear the sides but stick to the bottom. If it is too sticky, add 1 T of flour at a time. If too dry, add 1 T of water to dough to adjust. After 2 minutes, let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

2. Turn the mixer on again and mix for 3 minutes. Take the dough out and place on the counter. Remember that 1/4 cup of flour that we reserved? We’ll use it now. As you knead the dough by hand, incorporate more flour as you need. You might not need it all. Knead by hand until the dough is very satiny, smooth, tight and formed into a nice, compact ball:

Place this dough in a large lightly oiled bowl (I use olive oil). Turn dough over so that all sides have a thin coating of oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set in warm place for 1 1/2 hours. Dough should almost double in size. Punch dough down and form back into a ball. Poke your finger on the surface – the dough should give into the pressure and slowly creep back up.

3. About 1 hour into the rest stage, preheat your oven to 450F (convection 425F). Place your pizza stone, inverted baking sheet or covered cast iron pot into the oven to heat up.

4. Ok, here’s the fun part. Cut the dough into half – you’ll shape one half at a time (keep the other piece under wraps) Pick up the dough – stretch it out until it forms a big rectangle. On your countertop dusted with flour, fold over the ends like this:

Now do a little “karate chop” lengthwise down the middle of the bread and stretch out the long ends again. Fold over in half. The karate chop helps get the middle tucked inside. Pinch all sides shut. This is important – you want to make sure that all ends including the short ends are pinched tightly to create a seal. This allows the bread to rise & expand up and out evenly. If the bread looks a little lopsided, you can try to fix it by letting it rest 5 minutes and gently stretching it out again. Just don’t knead the dough again – you’ll pop all the beautiful gas that took 1.5 hours to create!

5. Turn the bread over so that its seam side down. Cover the loaf with a damp kitchen towel. Repeat with the other dough halve. Leave the loaves to rest on your well-floured pizza peel or cutting board for 30 minutes. After resting, take a sharp paring knife and make 3-4 shallow, diagonal slashes on the surface of the loaf. This allows the steam in the bread to escape so that it expands evenly during the baking process:

When you are ready to bake, remove your baking vessel. Carefully slide the gorgeous loaf into or onto your baking vessel. I like baking one loaf at a time. The most important equipment to have is an instant read thermometer to measure temperature of the bread.

If you are using pizza stone or inverted baking sheet: You can probably fit both loaves on it at the same time if you wish. -> Get a 1/2 cup of water ready next to the stove. Open the stove, put your bread in the oven and throw the water on the oven floor. Immediately close the oven door. This creates your steam. -> Bake 20-25 minutes. Check temperature of the bread – internal should be 190-210F. Remove and let cool before cutting into it.

(I used a cast-iron skillet placed on the lower rack and inverted cookiesheet on the upper rack. But followed the method described here. Be careful of the steam when pouring the water in the skillet.)

If you are using a long cast-iron pot or covered baker: -> Before closing the lid on your pot/baker, put 1/4 cup of water directly in the pot. Cover immediately. Put pot in oven. -> Bake 10 minutes. Remove lid of pot. Bake another 14 minutes. Check temperature of the bread – internal should be 190-210F. Remove and let cool before cutting into it. Repeat with other loaf. (For convection ovens- bake 8 min covered, 10-12 min uncovered. Check temperature of bread) To re-crisp the crust, put in 375F oven for 5 minutes. Eat one loaf, share the other loaf with a friend!

http://steamykitchen.com/75-baking-the-perfect-loaf-of-french-bread.html


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