Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rustic Bread Recipe-better late than never!

Time flies around the kitchen table here. I have been meaning to post the recipe for the rustic bread dough, but keep getting distracted on other projects.  As's my recipe...

530 gms flour ( I use 1/2 Gold Medal Better for Bread and 1/2 Fancy Duram)
325 gms. Ice cold water. (Mix water and ice together so it's really at freezing temp., then measure out the 325 gms.)

Mix this thoroughly, but quickly and refrigerate it immediately. You can leave this in the fridge for up to 3 days, but make sure it is at least chilled overnite. I don't know what this does to the dough, but I think the water starts to activate the enzymes in the flour and some of the starches get converted to sugar. The cool
temp keeps it from fermenting with any kind of wild yeasts which would sour the dough. The resultant dough has a wonderful and somewhat sweet flavor. (Trust me, you will love it)

Remove the dough from the fridge and while still cold, add 5 gms of instant dry yeast (Red Star Rapid Rise is good) and 20-25gms cold water.  Mix very thoroughly, then add 8.75 gms of salt and a bit more water, again 20 gms or so to get the salt mixed in well.  Do not add the salt at the same time as the yeast or you will kill off your yeast. Once this is mixed well and has developed good gluten, place in a oiled bowl to double in size. (This might take up to 6 hours as the dough is very cold at this point, in my nice warm kitchen it has been taking about 4 hours)  Divide dough into two equal pieces trying not to degass the dough any more than necessary to get it out of the bowl and divided. Stretch each piece of dough as shown in the video to build the gluten farther and get in into an approximate loaf shape. You can stretch and fold this several times (I usually go about 3 times) to build the gluten structure and get a nicely shaped loaf. Place the loaves in something to hold their shape. (I use cheap baskets from the dollar store lined with kitchen towels, dusted with rice flour)
Let this raise while you warm up your oven and baking stone.  When the oven is hot..500F...load the loaves onto a piece of parchment on a bakers peel and place them directly on the baking stone. Cover them with an aluminum roasting pan (that way you don't need to mist them) for the 1st 15 minutes. Once the bread is in the oven, turn the temp down to 460F.  remove the aluminum pan cover after 15 minutes and continue baking until they reach an internal temp of 200-205F (for me about another 15 minutes)
Voila! The best rustic bread you've ever eaten.

Give it a try and let me know how you do with this wacky wet dough.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Handling Wet (Rustic) Bread Dough

I played around with trying to learn how to handle wet bread dough for ages. I asked other bakers, but never really "got" it until I saw how soupy the bread dough could be going into the oven, and how much the "oven spring" would influence the final matter how awful the bread looked when you pushed it into the oven. This is the type of bread that the fancy baking books refer to as high hydration. (hydration of 70% or more - meaning that the ratio of water is 70% or more of the weight of the flour in the recipe.....more like a paste than a dough.
                                                                                                                                                            Seeing is believing....Give it a try. You will have a blast with this dough.
It's fun to do and the taste and crumb structure is unbelievable. Great fresh, but it's sublime as
toast, (try it with lemon curd) garlic toast and bruschetta. Mmm, Mmm, Mmm..

I hope you may find this video helpful in understanding how to work with this crazy wet dough.

Also, here's a quick look at the finished product. I'll talk about recipes for this bread next post.

Amazing Neighbors if you love to bake bread, what would be the coolest thing that you could possibly imagine?
How about living up the street from a real wood fired bread oven and a neighbor who loves to share his hearth!!!!!!

I've had an opportunity now to not only get to bake a number of times in this incredible oven, but also to get to know a couple who share my love of bringing people together around food. What fun!!!!
The bread and pizzas are amazing and the added element of having someone who is a very accomplished baker to learn and bounce ideas off of is marvelous.  With Mike's coaching and encouragement, I have finally mastered, yes I can honestly say mastered, making the wet doughs that had eluded me for nearly two years.

When time permits, I will post some recipes and maybe a video or two that will show some of the technique involved in working with this ultra fun and delicious type of bread dough.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sitting around the table

My fondest memories have been birthed around a table it seems. I grew up in a household where there was much love.  Love for family was expressed by doing special things for each other, often by preparing their very favorite foods.

To my grandparents, an abundance of food was symbolic for the opulence of their home in this country, but it was never taken for granted. It was blessed, thanks was given for it, and it was never, ever wasted. Everything left, ultimately became a soup or a stew. Both of my Grandmothers were renowned for their cleverness and ability to craft a wonderful meal from seemingly nothing. I try to hone that skill.

Sometimes my Mom used food as a lovely little hint. As the potato pancakes or leberknodel soup would appear on the table Dad knew he was about to be hit up for a little extra money in the shopping budget for some household improvement or a new outfit.  Mother truly knew the way to a man's heart as well as his purse strings was routed directly through his stomach. This wasn't "fancy" food, but it took time to prepare and she knew we loved it.

Summer as a child on my uncles farm, the table prepared for lunch with pies...too many to count. Aunt Carol and my introduction to home made bread. Surely the beginnings of my passion for baking all things pie and bread.

Neighborliness took the form of many neighborhood cookouts and weekly coffee klatches with a dizzying array of pastries or cakes and donuts.  All rounded out by numerous church diners, luncheons, booyas etc.  When someone married there was a banquet, when they were born there was a banquet, birthdays, funerals, every gathering was a reason to feed people.

I love to cook. Not for myself. Oh, I would definitely cook something for myself if I were hungry for it.
Particularly the many ethnic dishes that I'm fond of, but if it were just for myself I would cook a lot of soup. Once made, it's the perfect fast food with a nice crust of homemade bread.  Oh, but, I love to cook for people. I love to be able to give something of value, something you don't just run out and buy, or slip in a card. Something that takes time and appeals to all the senses. That's real food. A perfect gift.

I share this heritage of a family that cooked and I love sharing food with people. Never in the course of our contact with other people do we share such intimate and stimulating conversation under such relaxed circumstances as when we sit down to table with one another.

Grab some tea, pull up a chair, let's share something tasty and homemade......