Very exciting... Bit by Bit, we are moving towards solid food. Yesterday Jackie got to eat eggs. Today, she asked for toast!
Whoo whoo, I get to bake!!!
Seriously, a bread post on the last day of 2010 makes a great deal of sense. Last year at this time I posted my resolution for the year. It was simple, stop wasting bread. I initially thought that meant I would buy a loaf, freeze half (we are empty nesters, just Jackie and myself), make some more bread pudding and bread crumbs for coating fish and chicken. It evolved into being a baker. I have over a dozen different varieties of bread under my belt, and I can not think of a week in the last year when I did not bake bread.
In all seriousness, if I can do it... certainly you kitchen pros can take some flour, water, salt and sugar mix in a little yeast and make a stunningly beautiful looking, delightfully aromatic and deliciously tasting loaf of bread. I have had many cooking success stories, but to this day, the thrill of a home baked loaf of bread is my favorite kitchen experience.
I hear from a few of you every time I do a bread post that you are afraid of yeast. I understand, I've been there. But, it's a new year, it's an opportunity to try new things. So, to those half dozen or so of you bread baker want-to-be's... This post is for you...
Makes one 2-pound loaf or 2 1 pound loafs
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (about 100º F)
1 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
4 cups all-purpose white flour (no need to sift)
2 1/2 TBS Sugar
Extra 1/4 cup Flour to aid in kneading
A brush of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
a pinch of Sea Salt
- Mix the dry ingredients first. I like to do the mixing stage in a gallon size ziplock bag. I mix my bread in a Kitchenaid Mixer. I have also been successful mixing in a food processor. During my time on the island, when I didn't have any kitchen appliances, I did the mixing by hand..
- Add the water and mix well. Be sure the water is warm, but not too hot. Anything above 110 degrees will kill the yeast before it gets a chance to do it's magic.
- Now it's time to knead the bread. Keep the extra flour handy, as the dough at this stage is very wet. Knead for at least 10 minutes. You will need to add flour to get to a sticky, but not too sticky phase. With experience, you can feel and see the bread become hydrated. That is when the ingredients mix completely, and it is ready for a rest. I "knead" in the Kitchenaid at a medium-low setting for about 5 minutes. I do the last few minutes by hand to get the feel of the right consistency. Ready to add more flour if needed, or more water (in 1/2 teaspoon increments) if needed.
- Modern Bread makers call it proofing, old timers call it rising. But whatever you want to call it, form the dough into a ball, coat with a bit of Olive Oil so the outside does not dry out, cover with a towel and let it rise for 2 to 3 hours. The dough will double in size in that time .
- And now, it's time to punch the dough down, and orm the loaf
- Punching the dough is exactly what it sounds like. The yeast releases gases. That is why the dough doubles in size. When you take a punch at the dough, the gases are released. The dough returns to it's original size. If you are dividing the dough, use a knife to cut the dough, instead of tearing.
- You can make a round inverted bowl shape, or in this case, I made a loaf size. A little kneading is fine (it's just fun to knead), but no more than a minute or two.
- If you press the dough out to a circle, even thickness, and roll it up, it forms a nice submarine shape.
- Brush a little Oil on the outside of the bread and sprinkle a bit of coarse cut Sea Salt on the top.
- Take a VERY sharp knife and cut slits onto the bread
- I bake the bread (350 degrees) using a remote read thermometer, with the prob inserted into the center of the bread. The bread is done when it reaches an internal temp of 190 degrees. If you cook by time, it takes about 25 minutes if you are baking a loaf (long, thinner, like a submarine), or about 30 minutes if you are baking a bowl shape.
- Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting (this also evens out the cooking internally so the final loaf has no underdone dough spots).
For Jackie's toast, I brushed on some Truffle Olive Oil and rubbed a slice of garlic on each side. Pop in the oven until just starting to toast around the edges. Then topped with just a little bit of Pecorino Cheese. Similar in taste to Parmesan, but melts much better.
This recipe is for a French Bread. I do add a bit extra sugar to make a sweeter bread. .
And of course, regular readers know that I make this bread in memory of my friend who passed away in 2010.
Eng Bread. You know it, you love it, and it is nearly fool proof.
It's just a simple loaf of French Bread, with just a bit extra sugar. Very easy, very fast and tastes great. Go ahead make bread baking your New year's goal.