Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bread is near at hand or stomach...whichever, we're almost done..

Fatty thought he was helping by keeping watch on the prep table. In the beginning there was bread. Let us finish. With any luck, you have a stand mixer. If not, with any luck, you have forearms like Popeye. Here are the possibilites. Make one dough, split up the starter to make multiple flavors of dough, or either of the above and reserving some of the starter and continue to feed for the next time you want to make bread. You can even put the extra starter in the fridge and it kinda puts it to sleep so you don't have to feed it everyday.

Lets say that you are going to make two breads. Split the starter in half. Add half to your mixer w/ a dough hook attachment. Add 2 T sugar, 1 t kosher salt, 1 T malt extract/barley malt, 1/4 C extra vigin olive oil, and 3 C semolina flour. If you don't have semolina use the bread or HG flour and if that is not gonna happen, use AP flour. Add whatever flavoring you like. Begin to spin the dough.

You want this sucker to fight back. Continue to add AP or HG flour till it forms a ball. It should be firm, not sticky. Now once you get a firm ball, let the mixer run at medium speed for 10 minutes and let it have it's way with your dough. It's ok, dough likes it rough. You are creating texture. Next, cover the whole bowl with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and put somewhere warm.

After it has doubled, maybe an hour and a half, punch the air out of it and form it into a ball, oblong, whatever you like. Wipe a sheet tray with olive oil or dust with corn meal, place dough on it and cover again and let sit another hour. Lets prepare for the end. I suggested trying a oven thermometer to see if it runs as the dial says it is. Electric ovens are unreliable. Put one rack on the bottom level with an empty sheet tray on it. Put one more rack at the medium level. Crank it up to 475F. When it is up to temp, take a razor and put a couple slits on the top of the dough. This will help it to rise and it looks nifty. Take a spray bottle of water and spray the dough lightly. Take about 6 ice cubes and toss them onto the sheet tray in the oven. Lastly place the bread into oven middle shelf and close the door.

Water, why water? Long story short, water or more importantly steam lubes the outside of the dough helping it stretch and rise. It caramelizes the sugars in the flour on the outside of the bread creating a crust. Big Note....don't open the oven. Don't matter how curious you may be, don't touch it. You'll let the steam out and most likely get a faceful of heat that would love to make you challenge Quasimoto in a busted face-off. After 10 minutes drop the temperature down to 375F and now you may peek, carefully, at your creation. You may need to turn it every so often to even the browning. Depending on the size, this could take 25 to 40 minutes to finish. This is where Wonderbread turns to a crusty love machine of flavor. Be patient. While you wait, I would look for somewhere to cool your bread that has a mesh or rack appearance. A flat bottom will create steam and the bottom of the bread will loose it's crunch. When your not sure if it's done there is only one thing to do. Pull it out. Hold it upsidedown with a towel or something and tap the bottom. It should be hard and hollow. For real, it should sound like rap a tap tapping on George W's noggin.

Now you have bread. If you have any problems or need help sourcing ingredients, just comment me and I'll do my best. Or here...this is my email Happy eatings.

PS...some say bread is best fresh. I don't know. Letting it cool, slicing it, brush it with olive oil, and grilling it or under the broiler is fantastic.

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