Monday, September 14, 2009

Give Me My Daily Bread

I love bread and nothing is better than a slice of warm fresh baked bread with butter. Bread is not very complicated as far as ingredients, but the method is less to be desired for me. All of that kneading and rising and punching down and rising. Well, I tried out this super easy recipe that I heard about on National Public Radio's "The Splendid Table" with Lynn Rosetto Casper.

I was really impressed with how simple it was and anyone could whip up a batch on a Sunday afternoon such as I did. You just let it sit on your counter for several hours then you throw it into your refrigerator. Very easy!

So, this morning while I was sewing a project I took some of my new dough out and shaped it and let it sit for a bit and then baked it. The final word...YUM!

Five-Minute Artisan Bread

1 1/2 Tbls granulated yeast (I used two packets)
1 1/2 Tbls kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached flour, plus extra for dusting dough (I just used regular white all-purpose)
Cornmeal (this is kind of important to use)

In a large plastic resealable airtight container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm (about 100 degrees) water. Using a large spoon stir in flour, mixing until mixture is uniformly moist with no dry patches. Do not knead. Dough will be wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of the plastic container. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. I just set the lid on top without sealing it or you can use a clean towel or plastic wrap.

Let dough rise at room temperature, until dough begins to flatten on top or collapse, at least 2 hours and up to 5 hours. At this point dough can be refrigerated up to 2 weeks. How simple right? Cold dough is easier to work with and if you want bread that day put the dough in the refrigerator at least 3 hours. However, the longer you leave the dough in the fridge the flavor will develop and the texture will get better.

When you are ready to bake a loaf (of any size) sprinkle some cornmeal on a pizza peel or a small wooden cutting board will work. The cornmeal is important because it acts like little ball bearings to help slide your loaf into the oven.  Place a broiler pan on bottom rack of oven and place a baking stone on middle rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees, preheating baking stone for at least 20 minutes.

Sprinkle a little flour on dough and on your hands. Pull dough up, and with a serrated knife, cut off whatever size you want (a grapefruit sized piece is about 1 pound). Working for 30 to 60 seconds (adding flour as needed to prevent dough from sticking to your hands; most of the flour will fall off and it is not incorporated into the dough), turn dough in hands, gently stretching surface of dough, rotating ball a quarter-turn as you go, creating a rounded top and a bunched up bottom.

Place shaped dough on your cornmeal prepped pizza peel and let rest, uncovered for 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it in lidded container. Dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in airtight containers and defrosted overnight in refrigerator prior to baking day. Dust dough with flour.

Using a serrated knife, slash top of dough in three parallel, 1/4 inch deep cuts (or in a tic-tac-toe pattern). Slide dough onto preheated baking stone. Pour 1 cup hot tap water into broiler pan and quickly close oven to trap steam. Bake until crust is well-browned and firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven to a wire rack and cool completely.

Of course I couldn't wait for the loaf to cool and I sliced off a piece immediately and slathered some butter on it. As the loaf was cooling off a bit you could hear the crust snap and pop like cereal. The crust was so crunchy and the inside texture was soft and perfect. Very, very satisfying.

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