Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I have a crush on you...

Coming home tonight the only thing I could think about was bread. Crispy, crunchy, soft, chewy bread. I'm not sure why. But the thought of carbs after a long day just seemed so comforting, homey. And the smell of freshly baked bread wafting through my apartment was not an idea I could pass up after the chill today.

I was specifically craving flatbread, liberally sprinkled with some flaky sea salt and rosemary. Cut in strips and dipped in olive oil with some fresh cracked pepper. And even though I ended up making a normal meat and veggie supper with a tasty cranberry horseradish sauce (and yes, that's sooo good... recipe soon)... it ended up becoming tomorrows lunch. Because, happily, the bread was my dinner.
Nicely browned on top, a little puffy. Crispy on the outside and so deliciously chewy on the inside.
So in honor of things I'm fond of... and before the all out post-of-wrath-to-come over completely stupid holidays of obligation I'm crushing on bread. It's not on the same level as my all out glutinous love affair with rice but it's delicious, it smells amazing while baking, I can bake it without using a fancy appliance and unlike rice, I can make it completely from scratch. 

Here are 2 lovely recipes to get you started. The first (pictured above) is a slight variation between a focaccia and the flatbread recipe I gave you before, it just takes less time to rise. The second (pictured below) is the ever so popular Jim Lahey classic No Knead bread recipe. I know everyone has blogged about this one but there's a reason. And maybe this post might help to drive home that this is the worlds easiest bread recipe and I can assure you it builds confidence in your bread making abilities.

 Focaccia-ish bread
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour- or bread flour, if you can find it
2 tsp. sea salt
1 packet active dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp white sugar
2 Tbl olive oil
1 1/4 c. lukewarm water

1. Put the flour into a large bowl and make a well in the middle. In a large measuring cup, mix the yeast, sugar and olive oil into the water and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork, bring the flour in gradually from the sides and swirl it into the liquid. Sprinkle in the salt. Keep mixing, drawing larger amounts of flour in, and when it all starts to come together, work the rest of the flour in with your clean, flour-dusted hands. Knead until you have a smooth, springy dough.

2. Wash out your bowl, dry it and oil it lightly. Place the ball of dough in the bowl and turn to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and place in a warm room or an oven (not turned on) for about an hour. The dough will have doubled in size.

3. Now put the dough on a flour-dusted surface and gently deflate it with your hands - this is called punching down the dough. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge (or freezer) until required. If using right away, simply pat out to the size of your bread pan or divide in half and roll out to cover two pans. You can also divide the dough into little balls to freeze back and save (a wonderful idea!).

4. With tips of fingers press down on dough. Sprinkle olive oil, rosemary and sea salt flakes on top and bake them in a very hot, preheated oven (turn your oven as high as it will go) for about 10 minutes until crisp and almost bubbly.
This was my first loaf ever. In my old apartment too, so I've come a long way since then.
No Knead Bread
3 c. all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ tsp instant yeast
1¼ tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. 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 it 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 or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 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 a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if 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 loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

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