Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Artisan Bread

One of my favorite times during my week is making bread. The patience it requires varies with the recipe, but the joy that it brings is equally rewarding. I don't own a bread machine, though I would like one at some juncture in my life, but for now I savor the smooth, sticky feel of bread dough under my hands and between my fingers as I knead with gusto. I'm sure others have used the same likeness, but as I make bread I correlate the process with growing as a person. In our lifetime, we will have moments where we feel as though we are being kneaded, punched down, and set out to rise. But the end result is a life well lived that turned out perfect in its own way. The bakers patience, love and tender care creates an aromatic, structured loaf of bread to savor.

The first time this recipe caught my eye, I was looking for a classic loaf with a little extra character. This artisan bread has become my go-to recipe for a loaf to be served with dinner, a cache of cheeses, or to show a little love. 

Artisan-Style Bread
Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook
Prep: 45 minutes  Stand: 8 hours  Rest: 50 min 
Rise: 2.5 hours  Bake: 20 minutes  Oven: 450˚F
Makes: 2 loaves (28 slices)

1   cup warm water (105˚F to 155˚F)
¼  teaspoon active dry yeast
1   cup bread flour
1   tablespoon rye flour
¾  cup warm water (105˚F to 115˚F)
1   cup warm water (105˚F to 115˚F)
3   to 3¼ cups bread flour
2   teaspoons salt
½  teaspoon active dry yeast
     Spray bottle filled with water

Combine the 1 cup warm water and the ¼ teaspoon yeast; set aside for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl combine the 1 cup bread flour and the rye flour.

Stir yeast mixture; add 1 tablespoon of the yeast mixture to the flour mixture. Discard remaining yeast mixture. Add the  ¾ cup warm water to the flour mixture, stirring until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 8 to 24 hours (surface of mixture should be bubbly).

Bubbly mixture after 16 hrs.

Add the 1 cup warm water to the flour mixture and stir until combined. In a large bowl stir together 3 cups of the bread flour, the salt, and the ½ teaspoon yeast; pour the water-flour mixture into the dry flour mixture. Using a wooden spoon, stir until combined. 

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead dough only a couple of strokes (dough will be very sticky). Cover; let rest 20 minutes.

Knead dough for 3 to 5 minutes more (dough will be wetter and softer than you may be used to). If dough is too sticky to work with, knead in up to ¼ cup more flour. Dough should be smooth, but still sticky, after kneading. Place the dough in an ungreased large bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap (do not let plastic wrap touch the surface of the sticky dough); let rise until nearly double in size (2 to 2½ hours).

Turn dough out onto a heavily floured surface; divide dough in half (gently handle dough, trying not to disturb air holes). Using floured hands, gently form each dough half into a small rectangle. Cover each dough rectangle with a large bowl or towel; let rest for 30 minutes.

Using floured hands, gently pull each piece of dough into a 12-inch baguette or a 6-inch round loaf, gently handling dough so as not to disturb big bubbles inside. Roll the baguette-shaped dough onto parchment paper. Place the baguette dough in baguette pans, parchment-paper sides down. Gently place the round loaves into two greased 8-inch round baking pans. Cover; let rise until double in size (30 to 45 minutes). Preheat oven to 450˚F.

Ready to rise in baguette pan

Place pans in oven. Working quickly, heavily mist the inside of the oven, including the bread, with water. Bake about 20 minutes or until bread is a deep golden brown and sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove from pans. Cool on wire racks. Share with love.

Harmony's Thoughts
I prefer to let the starter set out for 12-16 hrs.
If you do not own a baguette pan, please do the round loaves. 
I frequently use King Aurthur Bread Improver in this recipe.

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