Monday, April 4, 2011

My Bread Baking Binge

As a general rule, I’m not one for baking my own breads, unless they’re the quick kind. It’s not that there’s anything particularly difficult about it. It just always seems like more of a time commitment than I’m willing to make. But I had a couple of things happen that put me in the mood.

First, I had planned to bake a loaf of Basque bread for last month’s Dinner o’ the Month (still looking for a good name), but because of my Epic.Vertebrae.Fail, I had to shelve the idea. And so, the recipe sat on my recipe holder, mocking me.

Second, I landed a small catering job at work. I’ve been doing the odd platter of baked goods, but this time around, I was asked to provide the entire lunch (a sandwich buffet for 15 - pretty basic stuff). I thought it would be a nice addition to have some freshly baked breads available.

Ever since the cookie baking lunch extravaganza back in December, I’ve been wanting to try out Carley’s Pumpernickel Hazelnut bread, which was just fantastic. It’s a no-knead recipe, and had I paid closer attention to the baking process, it would have been great. I managed to overcook it a bit, and the bottom got a little over-browned. But no matter. I simply cut off the entire bottom of the loaf and no one was the wiser. It’s a nice, dense bread, anyway.

Of course, I never managed to snap a photo of the final BAKED product (sigh), but you get the idea.

Pumpernickel Hazelnut Bread
Thank you, Carley

1 cup rye flour
2 cups bread flour (I used King Arthur)
1/2 tsp yeast
1 packet Starbucks Via instant coffee
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs cocoa powder
1-1/4 tsp salt
1-1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup molasses
1 cup chopped hazelnuts

Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the bread hook attachment, stir on a medium-low speed until well combined. Cover and let sit in a warm, draft-free spot for 18 - 24 hrs. The dough will have risen and be slightly bubbly.

Place a well-floured cotton towel on the counter. Take bread dough from bowl and place on top of towel. Fold over a couple of times and shape into a ball. Cover with another floured cotton towel and let stand an additional 2 hrs.

Line the bottom of a Dutch oven with foil. Heat oven to 425º and allow the Dutch oven to heat up during the pre-heat process. Remove from oven and carefully place the bread in the Dutch oven. Coat the lid of Dutch oven with olive oil to prevent the loaf from sticking and cover the bread.

Bake for 25 minutes and then remove the lid. Allow to bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes until the top is browned and the loaf is done (tapping on the outside will produce a hollow sound).

* * *

To offset the heartier pumpernickel, I decided to include this Potato Bread, which has a nice, soft texture and a delicate flavor. In addition to following the recipe below, I brushed the tops of the uncooked loaves with a little melted butter (and then I brushed them with a little more once they were done cooking).

Potato Bread
adapted from Catherine McMichael, Cooking Light Finalist

1 cup cooked potatoes, mashed (about 8 ounces)
1 cup 2% milk
1 1/2 Tbs honey
2 Tbs butter
About 4 ½ cups bread flour, divided
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 large eggs
1 tsp olive oil
Cooking spray

Combine first 4 ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 2 minutes or until mixture is 110°. Stir with a whisk until smooth.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, yeast, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add potato mixture to flour mixture, stirring with a fork until combined. Add eggs; stir until combined.

Add about 2 cups flour to potato mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining 1/2 cup flour, a small amount at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel sticky).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.

Spray two loaf pans with cooking spray.

Divide dough in half. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll one portion into a 14 x 7–inch rectangle on a floured surface. Roll up rectangle tightly, starting with a short edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal. Place loaf, seam side down, in an 8 x 4–inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Repeat with remaining portion.

Cover and let rise again in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350°. Bake for 30 minutes or until tops are browned and loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from pans; cool on wire racks.

My final foray into the world of breads (this week, anyway) was the Basque Sheepherder Bread that I’ve been keeping on ice. Let me say that this made a HUGE loaf of bread. Next time I’ll probably divide the dough in half. Although it baked just fine, I did run into an issue with the dough sticking to the lid of the Dutch oven (Probably should have lined it with some non-stick foil). When I tried to take the lid off, a good portion of dough stuck, so rather than a nicely domed loaf, mine was kind of flat and scraggly on top. But it tasted (and smelled) pretty incredible. Definitely will repeat this one.

Basque Sheepherder Bread

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbs salt
3 cups hot water
2 packages dry yeast
7 to 7 1/2 cups bread flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine butter, sugar, salt and hot water. Stir on low with paddle attachment only until butter is melted. Set aside so ingredients can cool until they are warm. Stir in yeast. Cover and set aside in a warm place until it bubbles, about 10 minutes.

Add 5 cups of the flour and beat at medium speed until batter is smooth. Remove the paddle attachment and add the bread hook attachment. Add more flour (about 2 cups), mixing on low, to form a stiff dough. Remove from bowl onto a floured board. Knead, with long strokes, for about 10 minutes. Add only enough flour to prevent sticking. Place dough in a large greased bowl; cover with a damp dish towel, and let rise in a warm place until doubled - about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down and knead about 10 minutes. Form a smooth ball. Cut a round of foil and place in the bottom of Dutch oven. Dust it lightly with flour. Line the inside of lid with foil or grease generously. Place dough in Dutch oven and cover. Let rise in a warm place until dough pushes up lid, about ½ an hour.

Heat oven to 375º. Place Dutch oven in middle of oven. Bake 12 minutes. Carefully loosen any raw edges with knife, then lift off lid. Bake bread, uncovered, for 45 to 50 minutes more or until golden. Cover loosely with foil the last 20 minutes to prevent overbrowning. Remove from oven. Loosen loaf from Dutch oven with a flat table knife, and place on a wire rack to cool.

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