Thursday, April 02, 2009

Bread Making 101 - Part 2

I really enjoy making bread by hand. I feel like I am really in touch with my food when I make a loaf or two. I enjoy the process of kneading, the feeling of the dough as I pat it down and shape it and the anticipation of the final results while it is baking in the oven. I also love the looks of wonder and appreciation when my family enjoys the results because nothing tastes like homemade bread fresh from the oven!

French Bread – adapted from Peter Reinhart’s “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”

Pate fermentee from previous recipe
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 ¼ cups bread flour
¾ tsp salt
½ tsp instant yeast
1 ¼ cups water, lukewarm

Make sure to remove the pate fermentee from the fridge at least one hour before you are going to use it to take off the chill. To warm it quicker, cut it into small pieces, cover with plastic and let sit for an hour.

Stir together dry ingredients, yeast and pate fermentee. Add the water and stir until everything comes together. Adjust the flour or water if necessary – you want a dough that is not too sticky, almost rubbery. Knead by hand for about 10 minutes or with a dough hook for about 6 minutes. The dough should be smooth and springy and have an internal temperature of around 80F.
Place dough in an oiled bowl, turn the dough over to coat lightly in oil, cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours or until the dough doubles in size.
Gently remove the dough from the bowl and put it on a lightly flour counter. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces, taking care to degas as little as possible. Form the pieces into baguettes or long cylinders by rolling gently. Place on a parchment lined baking tray and let proof at room temperature for 45 minutes or until the loaves are about 1 ½ times their original size. Spray loaves with a fine mist of water and slash the loaves with 3 or 4 short diagonal cuts using a very sharp knife, razor or baker’s blade.
Preheat oven to 500F and make sure to have an empty tray in the bottom of the oven – you’re going to use this to make steam.
Put the loaves in the oven or transfer to a baking stone (if using). Pour 1 cup of hot water into the pan at the bottom and close the oven door. After 5 minutes lower the oven temperature to 450F and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans to ensure even baking and bake for another 10 – 20 minutes until the crust is a deep golden brown and the internal temperature registers at least 205F.
Remove the laves fro the oven and cool on a rack for at least 40 minutes before slicing or serving.

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