Saturday, April 19, 2008
Bread: Good

Last night, Chris and I baked a loaf of bread. I never thought the simple act of preparing and cooking something that is such a part of our daily diets would be so satisfying, but it was. Once we saw the loaf come out looking like one you might buy at a bakery, and then tasted it to find it tasted like one you would buy at a bakery, we were pretty pleased with our ability to make something so basic yet seldom prepared.

It seems odd that baking your own bread has become, well, odd. Shouldn't something that we eat everyday be something that is prepared with regularity and ease?

The bread is a product of our obsession with Cook's Illustrated and my new feeling that basic foods shouldn't contain a bunch of ingredients we can't pronounce (a direct influence of the book In Defense of Food). Plus, it seems that anything that is time consuming is generally thought of as a hassle--in this case preparing food--when in fact, it was really fun and pretty rewarding once we saw the finished product.

Having said all that, I think any day spent baking bread with your love is a good one and I would recommend everyone give it a go.

Here's the recipe from Cook's Illustrated:

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsps. instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 tsps table salt
3/4 cup + 2 tbsps water at room temperature
1/4 cup + 2 tbsps mild-flavored lager
1 tbsp white vinegar

1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.
2. Lay 12- by 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.
3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6- to 8-quart heavy-bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 6-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhang and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

Posted by Kelley at 3:14 PM | 0 comments