July 4, 2012

Homemade Bread: The Next Frontier

I always felt a little bit fraudulent calling myself a baker. When it came to sweet goods, sure, I felt like a pro. I figured out how to adapt a range of cupcake recipes to work at high-altitude. I could bake a pretty epic layer cake. I even had pretty decent frosting skills!

But bread? Oh boy. Bread.

For some reason, bread has always scared me. I made up excuses -- it's too messy, too time-consuming, too difficult. But then I saw the recipe for Mark Bittman's No-Knead Bread. That's right, No-Knead bread. The recipe didn't involve any kneading, fancy ingredients, or special equipment. I literally threw flour, water, and yeast in a bowl, and just left it alone.

And this is what it made:


Holy cannoli, right?

The recipe promised an artisan bakery loaf with a "crackling crust, open-holed crumb, light texture, and fantastic flavor". And boy, was it right:


The bread had a golden, delicious crust with a soft and chewy inside. The flavor was incredibly yeasty and went beautifully with a pat of butter. Tearing into the bread a few minutes after I pulled it out the oven, I felt like I was eating the bread that fancy restaurants give you before a meal.


This was the perfect recipe to conquer my fear of baking bread.

I don't really know why I've feared the bread making process for so long -- at the end of the day, it's just flour, water, and yeast. Part of the reason why I was scared was because I only started become a serious baker in a high-altitude environment -- although I understood the science behind pastry leaveners like baking soda and baking powder, yeast seemed like a completely different animal. One I wasn't quite ready to conquer in Denver.

But now that I'm in Portland, there's no excuse. This is the first of many bread recipes I hope to try -- get excited! And for you pastry bakers afraid of baking bread, believe me. This one's a doozy. Welcome to a new frontier.


Mark Bittman's No-Knead Bread
Time: About 1 1/2 hours, plus 14 to 20 hours' rising
(Adapted from the online version)

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Ingredients

Special Equipment:

For the Bread:
(makes one 1 1/2-pound loaf)
  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant rapid rise yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 5/8 cups water, at about 120 (F)
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Recipe

  1. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon yeast, and 1 1/4 teaspoons salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and use your hand to quickly stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest for at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at a warm room temperature of 70 degrees. If your house is a little colder, the dough might need a few more hours.

  2. The dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

  3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface and your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a non-terry cloth cotton towel with flour; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for another 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

  4. At least half an hour before the dough is ready, put your 6- to 8-quarter heavy covered pot in the oven. Preheat the oven (with the pot inside) to 450 (F) degrees. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from the oven -- WATCH OUT. THE POT IS VERY HOT AT THIS POINT. Slide your hand under the towel and turn dough over into the pot, seam side up. It may look like a mess, but that's okay. Shake pan once or twice if the dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. Use a spatula or tongs to remove the bread from the pan and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

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3 comments:

  1. This looks gorgeous!!
    I had a go at making some vanilla cupcakes the other day, if you're interested I did a post on it!

    http://missimogensmith.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/hummingbird-bakery-vanilla-cupcakes.html

    From a fellow hummingbird lover!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooo, your cupcakes look lovely! I like the different toppings you put on your frosting... are those chocolate chips? Yum!

      Thanks for reading my blog!

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  2. Loving your blog... Everything looks so yummyful... Could you check mine out?
    http://thenew62.blogspot.co.uk/ also follow me on twitter if you have it @Rachael_Haile
    Love Rach
    xx

    ReplyDelete