Bread, Take 2

On Sunday, I decided to try making bread again. Yeah, it was close to 80F in my apartment, not ideal baking weather — but then again, I’m the kind of dumb person who attempts to make caramel when it’s like 90F inside. Not smart. Bad results. Never again.

This time, I kept all factors the same, except I actually followed the instructions and remembered to knead the bread for the right amount of time.

And wow! Did that ever make a difference!!

Take #1

vs.

Take #2

See how much taller the loaves got?

They might even have been TOO tall, since they almost seemed a little weak inside (I could see the swirls from where I had rolled the dough — seemed odd). It was so hot inside our apartment that afternoon, and I think that caused these to rise at crazy speeds and to crazy heights/volumes.

But look! So much lighter and fluffier!!

Take #1

vs.

Take #2

(Ok — maybe you can’t tell from the photos, but it was much fluffier!)

Now, I am quite pleased with the bread, and happy that I have one loaf merrily waiting for me in the freezer.

I LOVED making this. It’s awesome. It’s magical. It will (eventually) make your house smell good. There’s nothing like seeing the fruits of your hours of labor emerge golden brown and perfect from the oven, and then getting to laugh at store-bought loaves because yours are so much more awesome.

Added bonus… all that kneading has got to lead to some killer arm muscles, right?!

So, without further ado, here’s the recipe. I started with A Year in Bread‘s recipe for Farmhouse White and adapted it a bit, making 2/3 of a recipe to get two loaves instead of 3, using only all-purpose flour, and omitting the sugar. I measured everything by weight (in grams) because I wanted to be as exact as possible — sorry not to be more US friendly! Some advice: Make sure you have 3+ hours to do this. You can leave the dough while it rises, but it does have to be attended in specific intervals, so just plan ahead.

Farmhouse White (adapted from A Year in Bread)

Makes 2 loaves

377.3 g + 550 g all-purpose flour

14.6 g active dry yeast

20 g canola oil

605.3 g warm milk (I used 2%)

14.6 g salt (I only had kosher — but if you are going by weight, it doesn’t matter!)

In a very large bowl, stir together the 377.3 g flour and yeast using a wooden spoon. Make a small well in the middle of the flour mixture — add canola oil and milk. Milk well, and continue mixing vigorously while adding all  but 1 cup of the rest of the flour, 1 cup at a time (make sense?). The dough should be soft and slightly sticky… this will take a few minutes.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface, flour your hands, and knead for 6-7 minutes. Add more flour to the surface and your hands as necessary (I used probably half of the remaining flour). Place the mixing bowl over the dough. Let it rest for 20 minutes.

Remove the bowl, flatten out the dough with your hands, and sprinkle about half of the salt over it. Begin kneading the salt into the dough. After a few turns, sprinkle on the rest of the salt and continue to knead for 5-7 minutes, until the salt is completely incorporated and the dough is soft and smooth.

Sprinkle flour in the dough bowl. Put the dough in the bowl and liberally dust with flour, then cover it with a damp tea towel. Set the dough somewhere that is preferably between 70°F and 75°F (see why the temperature was an issue this weekend? This dough rose like CRAZY!!) until it has doubled in size, about 60-75 minutes. You can tell that the dough is ready by pushing a floured finger deep into the dough — if it doesn’t spring back, go to the next step! (There are more scientific ways to do this, but this is what I did).

Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, flattening gently with your hands to break up any large air bubbles. Divide the dough in two equal halves. Shape the dough by forming a 6″ by 8″ rectangle and the rolling from the short end, pinching the seams as you go. Put the dough into the pans seam-size down and dust the tops with flour. Place loaves seam side down in lightly-greased loaf pans.

Cover the loaves with a damp tea towel and let them rise for 45-60 minutes. You can tell it’s ready for baking when you poke a lightly poke the dough with a floured finger and it just springs back a little.

Bake at 375° for 35 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown and the bottoms sound hollow if tapped. Remove immediately from pans and let cool on a wire rack. Let them cool before cutting (at least part way…!), and freeze anything you won’t eat in a day or two.

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