Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Artisan Baking

What I've attempted today is by no means artsy. However, I did learn a couple things, and I'd like to make a note of them before I forget! 1) I now know what yeast is really supposed to smell like. It smells like my natural starter! Mine is slightly more sour, but other then that, it's pretty damn close! 2) when making bread by hand, from scratch, leave one hand clean. I use this clean hand to hold a paring knife, which I use to scrape the clingy dough from my kneading hand. Sounds silly until you try any other way. 3) My favorite way to rise the bread is to slightly heat my oven, then turn it off and pop the dough in. Warm, draft free environment to the rescue! --- Now then, the bread. My basic set up was really, really easy. I've used about 1 kg of whole wheat flour, poured it onto my table and made a well in the center. Into this well, I added: 24g Active dry yeast 30g sugar 20g sea salt 1 pint tepid (blood temperature) water I used a fork to mix all the ingredients in the center, and to gradually, carefully start using the flour from the side of the wells. Be careful at this step! It's way too easy to accidentally use too much flour from one side, and then your well will collapse! I've heard a couple horror stories about yeasty water pouring all over the place, so please be careful. It's really easy once you get into a rhythm. I used my fork to keep stirring and incorporating until the mixture started to get slightly thicker, and then I switched to using one hand to stir. Remember, one hand! If you use both, both your hands get all sticky and goopy, and it's really hard to clean. Try turning on your kitchen taps with two sticky hands, and see how far that gets you! I kept a paring knife in my clean hand, and used it to shave off the dough whenever my hand got too big. Much easier! Once the dough is looking like a recognizable bread dough, you can dig in with both hands and just really go at it. Beat that dough like it's your ex, your lame boss, hell, even your boyfriend if he's refusing to help with chores! This is an amazing stress reliever. Doing this really gets the gluten forming, and makes for a really nice bread when you're done! Once you've got all your flour incorporated, go switch on your oven at 200 F. Shape your dough into a circular shape on the baking try and score it deeply with a paring knife. This really helps your dough rise much better. With that done, go switch off your oven and leave the door open for a sec. Grab your baking tray, and pop it in the slightly warmed oven until it doubles in size. I spend this time cleaning off my table, my utensils, basically anything that got dough on it. I find my table cleans best by soaking the area with some cold water, and using a wooden spatula to scrape off the wet dough. Cleans up pretty fast! Anything else you can soak in the sink, wet dough is much easier for me to clean then when it's dried and caked on. This picture here is the dough before the rising. Basically your loaf should just GROW. This should take roughly 40 min, although I usually give mine about 45. I've never really had an issue with bread rising, but if you're having a problem, you should probably make sure to proof your yeast to see if it's still alive. It's easy to do, just mix some sugar and yeast in some warm water, and see if it starts to get all bubbly in about 10 min. Also, I can't stress enough that you need to use tepid water to make your dough, cold water from your tap just doesn't encourage the yeast to grow how it should. Watch your temperature! Now, when your dough has doubled in size, take it out of your oven, and switch the oven to 425 F. Basically what you want to do is take that risen bread dough, beat it around for about 5 min, and shape it into whichever type of bread you'd like. Buns, loaves, maybe even one big round loaf! I usually shape mine into two, long, identical loaves. Drape a clean tea towel over these and put them in a warm, draft free environment to rise until they've once again doubled in size. I usually put mine on top of the warming oven. Unfortunately, I forgot to get a picture of my loaves before their second rising. Rest assured though, that whichever form you chose will look roughly like the dough before its first rising. Once the dough is doubled, you need to treat it like a newborn. Don't knock the tray around, and when you're putting it in your preheated oven don't slam the door shut! You want to keep all those lovely air bubbles in your bread, and you don't want them collapsing. Leave your dough in the oven for about 20 minutes for a medium dark loaf with a crispy bottom. I prefer about 15 minutes, but judge for yourself how you'd like your bread. Resist the urge to pop open the oven door every couple of seconds, you'll let all the heat out and that'll affect how nicely your bread is baking. You'll know it's baked all the way through when you knock on the bottom of your loaf and you hear a hollow sound. Put it on a wire rack to let it cool down before digging in, this allows all the beautiful flavors to develop in the bread. If you like your bread hot, heat it up again before slicing. This fresh bread stores beautifully, uncut, at room temperature. The crust acts as a sort of shell, that helps keep the insides nice and moist. The next day, I usually wrap mine up in paper bags, if there's any left at all!


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