Saturday, February 28, 2009


I decided to make some bread today of the "artisan" variety. A couple of years ago I did a post about the no-knead bread recipe that Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhatten developed. It makes a nice crusty bread that is airy with lots of holes and not dense. I've taken a liking to kneading bread, though, and I don't think far enough ahead to do the eighteen hour rising thing that you do with the no-knead recipe. So lately I've been using some more traditional recipes with good results.

Over the holidays my sister brought some good bread from Austin with rosemary in it, and it was delicious. She brought some fancy cheese and wine with it, and everything went so well together. We have a bunch of pecans, so I made a couple of loaves with pecans and rosemary. It is really good together. Everyone liked it except Jon. He does not like nuts and apparently does not like rosemary either.

I learned some important lessons today. Do not cut your loaf before the second rise. Cut it just before you put it in the oven. The loaf that I crosscut sort of split open in a big way during the second rise. I had to try and pinch everything back together which made it kind of collapse, so I had to let it rise again a little.

A couple of weeks ago I made homemade french bread, and we used it to make french bread pizza. It was a hit. I did learn some things when I made these loaves. The recipe I used says to let the dough rest for ten minutes before shaping into the loaves. The top surface got a little dry during those ten minutes. I should have rolled this in so the more moist side is on the outside. The way I did it left my loaves with some kind of bread measels. It tasted good, and that's the important thing.

French Bread
5 1/4 cups all purpose flour (we use Gold Medal Better for Bread Flour)
2 packages quick rise yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups warm water

In a small bowl mix the yeast and the warm water (and maybe a little sugar) to make sure the yeast is active. In a large bowl mix 2 cups of flour and the salt. Then add your yeast water using a large wooden spoon to mix it together. Start adding the rest of your flour mixing with the wooden spoon, and then eventually mixing it with your hands. Transfer only a floured surface and knead until a nice dough forms. It takes about 8 to ten minutes to have a nice smooth, elastic dough. If you want to make the pecan rosemary bread, at this point mix/knead in two large handfuls of chopped pecans, a tablespoon or so of honey, and a tablespoon or so of rosemary.

Place dough in a large greased bowl and turn once so all sides get some oil on it. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubles- about an hour.

Dump dough onto a floured surface and gently punch down. Divide dough in half and shape into loaves. Place on a baking pan with a light dusting of cornmeal. Cover with a damp kitchen towel. Put in a warm spot and let rise for about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 425. Place a pan on the lowest rack (you'll use this pan to create steam).

After 45 minutes or so of rising, remove damp towel and score loaves with a sharp knife. Place baking pan in rack in middle of oven. Pour water into the hot pan on the lowest rack. It will immediately sizzle and steam will begin to form. Immediately close the oven door. You can also use a spritzer to spray the loaves and the sides of the oven to create a humid environment.

After twenty minutes take baking pan out and rotate. Bake for another twenty minutes. If the tops of the loaves start to get too brown at any point, you can cover the tops with aluminum. Let loaves cool on a wire rack. Do not cut loaves while they are hot. Allow to cool and use a good bread knife to cut the loaves. You could also use the no-knead method of baking in a dutch oven or enamel stock pot.

No comments: