Sunday, April 13, 2008

No More Crummy Bread

I’m quickly discovering that one of the funnest parts about having a blog is the comments from other people. In reference to an earlier entry about how complicated bread making can be, my friend Pauline Grocki sent me a recipe a friend gave her for a very easy bread.

Bread making is a skill I really want to master. First of all I love good bread more than most other foods. I’m pretty sure I could live on bread alone. Then there’s the meditative kneading and the smell of it as it bakes in the oven. All good things. But so often my bread doesn’t turn out quite like I want it to. Either it is the wrong shape (usually too flat) or the crust isn’t crisp enough. Since my husband loves bread too, in January he bought "The Bread Bible." The word “Bible” in the title led me to believe that there might be some sacred bread making secrets within those pages that would convert me into a bread goddess.

Uh, no. While there are plenty of great recipes in Beth Hensperger’s cookbook, it didn’t take me long to figure out that my biggest problem with bread making is that bread takes TIME – and planning ahead. At least once a week, I would sit down at about 3:00 in the afternoon and try to find a recipe that I could make for dinner that night. More often than not I wouldn’t have the necessary ingredients and after wasting a half an hour pouring through the book to find a recipe that I did have the ingredients for, I wouldn't have the time.

With only four ingredients, the recipe Pauline sent solves at least one of those dilemmas. I always have flour, salt, yeast and of course water. But this recipe does require 14 to 20 hours for the first rising and another two for the second rising. The recipe was quirky and I was intrigued enough to give it a try.

The dough took about 2 minutes to make, so I was off to a good start. I took Pauline's advice and added a little more salt, but the recipe only called for 1/2 teaspoon of yeast, which kind of worried me. Most bread recipes I’ve tried call for closer to 3 teaspoons. Since I'm convinced that even though cooking is an art, baking is more like science, I decided to stick to the recipe.

By the next afternoon, the dough had risen up to the top of my covered dish and looked light and bubbly. With very minimal handling and well floured hands, I scraped the dough out of the dish and onto a floured board where I shaped it into a loaf and wrapped like a Christmas present in a clean dishtowel liberally covered with first flour and then corn meal.

My first problem occurred when I tried to figure out what dish to bake it in. My only covered casserole dishes are Pyrex and at 450 degrees I worried they might shatter if I put them in the oven empty. I know from personal experience, there's nothing like a Pyrex bomb going off in your kitchen to ruin dinner. When I was first learning to cook, I had the same experience as this unfortunate couple:

To be safe, I settled on a regular metal loaf pan with an aluminum foil cover. The second problem was getting the towel off the bread and transferring it to the now hot pan. I could feel the very soft dough sagging in my hands as I peeled the towel off and when I plopped it into the pan, it was considerably deflated and had more wrinkles than a pug's brow.

To my surprise the high heat caused the bread to rise right up and the wrinkles became wonderful nooks in the crust. It looked like a bakery loaf of rustic bread.

Bread needs to be removed from the pan immediately or the steam from it will soften the crust. Even though the pan wasn’t greased, the loaf came out of the pan fairly easily after I ran a knife around the edges.

But best of all - it was delicious! The bread was delightfully chewy with plenty of nice sized air holes and the crust was crisp, just the way I like it. So thank you Pauline and thank you Carol Yindra for sharing your recipe with me!

Carol Yindra’s Simple Bread

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water

Mix together dry ingredients. Add water, mix, cover and let rise 14 – 20 hours.

Flour a board. Dough will be wet. Flour hands and fold dough into a bread shape. Put into a dish towel that’s covered in flour and then corn meal. Fold dough in the cloth and let rise for 2 hours.

Put cold casserole dish into cold oven and set temperature at 450. When hot, put dough in casserole, cover and bake for 3 minutes. Remove cover and bake another 20 to 30 minutes. draft 4:55:0

1 comment:

Scarlett and Annabelle Darling said...

Yum! I could totally live on bread too, though I'd need to have cheese too!

Thanks for sharing the recipe and all the tips!