Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Baking Artisan Bread

Lately, I've been making a valiant effort to bake all of our bread.  I feel like I've somewhat conquered the sandwich loaf (as much as I care to, anyway).  However, I really like crusty, artisan bread.  I have discovered that artisan bread is even easier to make than the sandwich loaf, and you can also refrigerate the dough to use at your convenience!  This means about five minutes of mixing (no kneading! extra bonus points) and wa-la--bread for a week.  Ok, it's trickier than that, but that's the basic idea.

There's a great book that I just checked out at the library on the subject: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I found the "master recipe" from their book posted on Food.com, as well, though I highly recommend getting the book.  There is a wealth of information in it, as well as yummy variations on this recipe.

Master Recipe for Basic Boule Bread

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt or 1 1/2 tablespoons other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups flour, unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose (not strong)
            (I usually use all sprouted grain or rye flour, which yields a much heavier loaf and is not particularly recommended unless you have a strong affinity for that type of thing--like I do.)

An abbreviated version of the directions:

1. Mix yeast and water.  Add remaining ingredients. Dough will be wet.

2.  Rest 2-5 hrs.

3.  Put in fridge with a loose cover on top.  Store up to 10 days. Flavor will improve over time, but longer than that will produce a flatter loaf.

4.  When ready to bake, pull off a grapefruit sized chunk and dust with flour.  Stretch the dough around the top of the ball to the bottom, making quarter turns as you go.  You will end up with a smooth, uniform top and four bunched ends on the bottom.  Rest for 40 minutes.

5.  After 20 minutes, preheat oven to 450 degrees and place an empty broiler tray on bottom rack.

6.  When dough is done resting, dust the top of the loaf with flour and slash with serrated knife.  Place in oven on stone dusted with cornmeal, and pour one cup of water in the broiler tray.  Quickly close door.

7.  Bake 30 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.

Kefir Bread

With my ample supply of goats milk, I have been regularly making homemade kefir--one quart every other day. Since Sage and I are the only ones who drink it (it is very tart, and I only add a little juice for sweetening), I usually have plenty left over for baking.  I did a little research online and discovered that the yeast in kefir is the same as that in a sourdough starter.  Using kefir as the liquid in your bread recipe not only replaces the need to add yeast, but also gives it the time-ripened, delicious sourdough flavor without the hassle of needing a starter!  I based my kefir bread recipe on the one explained above, with a slight variation on ingredients.

3 cups kefir
3/4 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
6 cups flour

All the directions are the same.  I add the honey to somewhat counteract the strong flavor of my kefir.

My bread baking is a huge work in progress, and I've yet to tackle any specialty/sweet breads.  Baking with sprouted grain flour has been somewhat of a challenge, but each successive loaf seems to be a small step in the right direction.  Anyone have favorite bread recipes they use or general bread baking tips?

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