Sunday, February 17, 2008

Beautiful Rustic White Bread

I found this bread recipe on one of my favorite food blogs - smittenkitchen. It looked so beautiful and sounded so wonderful I knew I just had to make this. So I did. The are instructions to make the dough in a food processor and to knead by hand, but I would much rather use my stand mixer when I can. So I did, cause I could.

Rustic White Bread
Nick Malgieri, The Institute of Culinary Education

From Nick: This bread reminds me of the rough country bread found throughout France and Italy. I like to shape it into a thick baguette (long loaf) to get the most crust. I also sprinkle the loaves heavily with flour after they are formed - this keeps them from crusting during the rising and also gives the baked loves an appetizing appearance.

2 cups warm tap water, about 110 degrees
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
5 1/4 to 5 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons salt 1/3 cup flour for dusting the loaves

Cornmeal for the pans 2 small cookie sheets or a large (at least 11×17-inch) jelly roll pan

To mix dough in a heavy-duty mixer, place smaller amount of flour and salt in bowl of mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add water and yeast and mix on low speed to form a smooth, elastic and slightly sticky dough, about 5 minutes. Incorporate the remaining flour a tablespoon at time if the dough is too soft.

Place dough in an oiled bowl (you may need to use a scraper) and turn dough over so top is oiled. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise at room temperature until doubled. If you wish to interrupt the process, let the dough begin to rise, then punch it down, cover it tightly and refrigerate. When you are ready to proceed, bring back to room temperature until it begins rising again.

To shape loaves, scrape risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and press it to deflate it. Divide dough in half and shape one piece at a time. Press dough into a square, then roll it up tightly. Rotate cylinder of dough 90 degrees and roll up again from short end. Arrange dough seam side down, cover with plastic or a towel and let it rest of 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining piece of dough.

Dust pan with cornmeal. Roll each piece of dough under palms of your hands to elongate it. Work from middle of loaf outward, pointing the ends slightly. Place loaves seam side down on cookie sheets and dust each loaf heavily with flour, using about 1/3 cup in all. Cover with plastic or a towel and allow to rise until doubled. About 30 minutes before you intend to bake the loaves, preheat oven to 500 degrees and set racks at the middle and lowest levels. Set a pan on the lowest rack to absorb some of the excess bottom heat and keep the bottom of the loaves from burning.

Holding a razor blade or the point of a very sharp knife at a 30-degree angle to the top of each loaf, make 3 to 4 diagonal slashes in each loaf. Immediately place loaves in oven and lower temperature 450 degrees.

After loaves have baked for 20 minutes and are completely risen, lower temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking about 20 to 30 minutes longer, until bread reaches an internal temperature of about 220 degrees. Remove loaves from oven and cool on a rack.

When I took those loaves out of the oven, I almost wept. I tell ya, it was just a beautiful sight. I finally made some beautiful loaves of bread. I was starting to think it was never gonna happen for me. I think I am finally getting the hang of this bread baking thing.

I brought my neighbors a big helping of chowder and half a loaf of this bread (I also threw in dessert, some of the chocolate chip bars for their grand daughter Madison, who I just adore, and a few of the apple pie pastries. Sometimes I think sharing the food I make is almost better than eating it.
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