Monday, August 17, 2009

Give Us This Day...

Oddly, I'm still making my own bread. Despite the heat, humidity, time constraints and the availability of good bread at retail establishments, I still bake a loaf every week or two. I suppose I like the ritual of it, just as I enjoy my morning tea out of a pot rather than a tea bag, despite the fact that the taste is really the same if I'm honest about it.


For the last six months or so, my bi-weekly/weekly loaf has been one from Dan Lepard's wonderful bread book The Handmade Loaf. But this weekend, inspired by Michael Ruhlman's exhortation to use ratios when it comes to bread baking (and everything else, actually), I went outside my comfort zone and abandoned all of my recipe books. And the result was a triumph.



I think this may be my best loaf ever. High, round, crusty with a tender yet substantial interior texture. What was this miraculous non-recipe? Well, you need a scale, but beyond that it couldn't be easier. 1 part sourdough starter (I used the starter I had on hand, but if you don't have any check out this Ruhlman post, which describes an easy 48 hour method for developing one), 1 part water, 2 parts bread flour and 1% salt by weight.


Now I hewed to the 1:1 water and starter ratio (350 grams of each) and the recommended salt level (14 grams), but I also threw in a few handfuls of wheat germ to give the bread a little gravitas, and then just added enough flour to make a dough. I can only assume it was somewhere in the neighborhood of the 700 grams that would have been called for. I kneaded like crazy once the dough was well formed, until it felt tight and it sprang back when I pressed it, and then I left it to rise in a clean, oiled bowl until it doubled in bulk (yesterday that was about two hours, but it varies pretty dramatically).

Following the first rise I punched it down and then formed it into a boule, which I let rise in a bread basket. I had a few errands to run, so threw it in the refrigerator while I was out. Once back, I left it out at room temperature for an hour to take the chill off. And in the meantime, despite the hellish temperature, I preheated the oven, with my Dutch oven inside, to 450 degrees. Once everything was ready, I dumped the formed dough in the Dutch oven, clamped the lid on so that the bread would rise in a humid atmosphere, and baked it for 30 minutes. Then, to ensure a crisp golden crust, I removed the lid and baked for another 20 minutes. And happiness ensued.

15 comments:

My Farmhouse Kitchen said...

Oh, Laura, what a beautiful looking bread. And it came just in the nick of time for me. Tomorow I am going to go to Barnes and Noble and get "The Bread Bakers Apprentice" by Peter Reinhart.

There is a group (it was started by Nicole of "Pinch My Salt") and they are baking every recipe in there..one bread a week. I am REALLY excited about it...especially as we get into the fall.

So when I saw this I thought..O BOY ! Bread World. I am just in love with bread baking and your bread was very inspiring to me today....

What are you making for dinner to go with it?

More Later
Kary

Jane said...

Gee I am truly impressed, that bread looks amazing. I am not sure I will ever do that but maybe I should give it a try. I am sure it is a very satisfying thing to do!

Millie said...

Have only made bread once & that was about 20 years ago! Two lovely things about your post: 1. I'm going to do it again very soon. 2. That Le Crueset dish I've been asking Santa (aka MOTH & the 5 boys) for the past 10 Christmas's will be bought & wrapped by me. I'll collect the cash from them all on the day! No more excuses.
Millie ^_^

Karine said...

This bread looks phenomenal! Thanks for sharing, you did a great job with it!

koshercamembert said...

Absolutely gorgeous! I so want to get the Ruhlman book and you're giving me yet another reason.

Melly/Melody/or Mel said...

My husband makes bread. I am so lucky. He made two loaves of challa this past weekend. I'll have to post it.

I just love coming by to see what you are up to. It's always a fun and educational romp!

Laura [What I Like] said...

Farmhouse Kitchen - I've heard wonderful things about that book...I'm excited to hear how things go! Dinner was baked ricotta with zucchini and various herbs. Perfect for summer, except for the whole turning on the oven thing.

Jane - Yes, I find it quite satisfying and sort of basic somehow. Can't think of any other reason to do it...I've got loads of good ready made options in New York stores!

Millie - You must give it another go! And yes, Le Creuset it very important (or Staub I've heard is good as well). Actually for years my mom used an old Lodge cast iron dutch oven with no enamel and it was great. Way cheaper as well.

Karine - Thank you! I don't share my efforts too often since most of the time they don't look anywhere near this good.

koshercamembert - I know, it's been calling to me. I still haven't heeded the siren song but soon I think...

Mel - You are VERY lucky. I would do just about anything for a man who baked bread for me!

Rob M. said...

Bread looks amazing!

Laura [What I Like] said...

Rob - It is, it really is.

Rob M. said...

I went out and bought the Bread Baker's Apprentice this evening. I will let you know how my bread-making experiment goes (hopefully better than my Walden experiment, which is going sloooowly).

Laura [What I Like] said...

Rob - Please send photos. Of your loaves and of you covered in flour.

Josephine Tale Peddler said...

Laura that bread looks divine. I have been planning on baking bread for awhile (I'm in love with the idea of my daughter coming hone from school to fresh baked bread) I was thinking of using a break maker. I don't know if that's as good as doing it the old fashioned way? xx

Laura [What I Like] said...

Josephine - I'm sure the taste isn't much different, and the bread machine is certainly less work to clean up. But I recall that my mom went through a bread machine phase once when I was growing up. she had a loaf waiting for my sister and I when we came home from school with our friends. The only problem was that the loaf was so small that it was all gone in less than ten minutes!

Neuf Francs said...

Mmm! It looks amazing!

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