Saturday, December 01, 2007

Bread. Like, Six Weeks Later.


Now this is just ridiculous. After my last post about the bread starter (and my promise to give you the full recipe in a few days), I found myself so busy leading up to several weeks of travel that I just couldn't fit in the time to edit the photos and finish things up.


But I assured myself, with 8 hours of travel time to a conference, 7 days to spend in San Diego, and 2 more hours on a plane, 3 days at home in Phoenix, and an additional 8 hours back to New Haven, I would finally write up my bread post, and a few more to boot (homemade oreo cookies, banana bread, pumpkin muffins, blueberry muffins, oh, there were baked things). I would make each post perfect, with beautiful photos, and I would be satisfied to indulge my hobby because I like doing this just because I like doing this - even if nobody ever actually read it or made the recipes.

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My Mom and one of her dogs (if a thing that tiny can be considered a dog - keeping in mind that my mother is only 5 ft tall, on the small side herself)

Well, there I was, on an airplane (err, times 5, with connections), all of my photos conveniently organized on a CF card, laptop fully charged, and, err... uhm. No bread book. No scrap paper with scrawled notes. And thus not a single recipe. Nice plan, eh?


Then I figured: no problem. I'll get home, have a week to blog, and then at the very worst I'll just do it again on the 8 hour plane ride to Phoenix, the 6 days of Thanksgiving relaxation, and the 8 hour travel back home. Right? Yeah right. And then I got back home, and then I got sick, and blah blah blah blah.


I kind of feel like a loser blogger, especially since this is NaBloPo Month. Other bloggers have put me to shame!

Here's the basic idea. It looks scary, but I promise it's not. Start before 6pm on day one to make the poolish. Start at around 4pm on day 2 to have fresh, hot bread sometime around 8pm. It's really worth it. Total hands-on time, including cleanup? About 2 hours, maximum.

1. Mix the dough

2. Preferment

3. Stretch the dough, rise and stretch

4. Continue rising

5. Shape the dough

6. Proof

7. Bake


Ciabatta, Poolish Version

Makes two 1-pound loaves

From "The Bread Baker's Apprentice", by Peter Reinhart

(My notes are centered under the photos.)



3.25 cups (22.75 oz) poolish

3 cups (13.5 oz) unbleached bread flour*

1.75 tsp (0.44 oz) salt

2 tsp rapid rise yeast

6-8 tbsp (3-6 oz) water, lukewarm (90-100) **replace up to 1/4 cup with olive oil


After the poolish ferments overnight, it looks something like this.

1. Remove the poolish from the refrigerator 1 hour before making the dough to take off the chill


After mixing everything together just until incorporated: the dough will be sticky and lumpy.

2. To make the dough, stir together the flour, salt and yeast in a 4-quart mixing bowl. Add the poolish and 6 tablespoons of water. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until the ingredients form a sticky ball. If there is some loose flour, add the additional water as needed and continue to mix. Mix on medium speed with the paddle attachment for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. Switch to the dough hook for the final 2 minutes of mixing. You may need to add additional flour to firm up the dough enough to clear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should be quite soft and tacky


After kneading in an electric mixer for more than 5 minutes, the dough becomes smooth and pliable (even though it still sticks to the bottom of the bowl as the paddle turns - see lower left corner). The dough should clear the sides of the bowland you should be able to stretch a piece out thin enough to see light through (without the dough breaking).

3. Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to make a bed about 8 inches square. Using a bowl scraper or spatula dipped in water, transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour and proceed to stretch and fold: lift both ends of the dough with outspread hands and stretch until it is two-three times its original length, allow the dough to relax for two minutes, and then fold envelope style (one over the other back to the original size). Mist the top of the dough with spray oil, again dust with flour, and loosely cover with plastic wrap

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Here's how you fold the dough.

4. Let rest for 30 minutes. Stretch and fold the dough again; mist with spray oil, dust with flour and cover. Allow the dough to ferment on the counter for 1.5-2 hours. It should swell but not necessarily double in size.


After the first fold, before rising. My kitchen is so cold that I turn the oven on to 180 for just a few minutes, turn it off, and then put the pizza peel in the oven to let the dough rise at somewhere around 90F.

5. Shape the dough as desired on a freshly floured surface (RWS suggestion: split into two or three loaves and carefully elongate; Peter Reinhart asks you to set up a couche -- too much trouble for me). Mist the top of the dough with spray oil and dust the dough with more flour, then cover the dough with a kitchen towel.

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The first picture is after the 30 minute rise. The second picture is after the 2 hour rise. My oven temp was a little warm and I think the dough rose a too much (it deflated slightly when I moved it).

6. Proof for 45-60 minutes. (Meanwhile, turn on the oven to 500 degrees or as high as it will go).


I chose to incorporate Herbes De Provence, a french seasoning that includes flavors like lavender. Those are the herbs you see sprinkled on top. I also drizzled extra olive oil everywhere. As I mentioned, this batch rose a little too quickly and then deflated a bit, so these "dough logs" are not as puffy as they should be... but it still came out fine.

7. Generously dust a pizza peel or the back of a sheet pan with semomlina flour or cornmeal and very gently transfer the dough pieces to the peel or pan (RWS note: I do step #5 on a pizza peel to avoid this transferring step). Lift each end up and tu the dough out to a length of 9-12 inches. If the dough bulges too high in the middle, gently dimple it down with your fingers to even out the height of the loaf. Slide the doughs on to a baking stone (or bake directly on the pizza pan). Pour one cup hot water into the steam pan and close the door. After 30 seconds, open the door, spray the side walls of the oven with water and close the door. Repeat twice more at 30-second intervals. After te final spray, turn the oven setting down to 450 and bake for 10 minutes (RWS note: my oven isn't good at staying hot so I leave it at 500 the whole time and still bake a few extra minutes). Rotate the loaves 180 degrees and continue baking for 5-10 minutes longer, or until done. The bread should register 205F in the center and should be golden in color (but the flour streaks will also give it a dusty look). The loaves should feel quite hard and crusty at first but will soften as they cool.


In the oven. Note regarding the whole water-in-the-oven thing: the aim here is to keep the external surface of the dough moist and pliable for the first several minutes in the oven, so that it can go through a final last rise (if the surface cooked too quickly, the dough could not become nice and puffy like you see here). It's kind of a pain but I think it's worth it. I use a small metal dish bought especially for the purpose (I actually cracked a piece of corning glass on my first attempt): I place the dish in the oven while the oven preheats. I fill a small spritzer with water, and then follow the directions carefully - being cautious not to hit any heating elements or the glass on the oven door (which could easily shatter. Be careful).


On the counter. Oh, it smells yummy!

8. Transfer the bread from the oven to a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 45 minutes before slicing or serving (RWS note: if you slice before this time, you will let steam escape and halt the cooking process of the loaf thus possibly destroying some delicate final flavors. But, you also get slice warm bread and melt butter all over it right away : ) ).




Anonymous said...

Welcome back!

Pics look beautiful and soon enough I'll have a kitchen large enough to make bread. :D

Linda said...

this bread looks delicious. i've always wanted to become something of a bread baker but don't have the patience nor the skill apparently. i tried the no knead bread several times never coming up successful once! congratulations. you have true skill. gorgeous loaf, really. and you are quite the photographer. what lens are you using?

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Hey! Welcome back! Gorgeous pics on this post.

Rachael said...

Jenifer: thanks! you know, it's really not as messy as it looks. Mostly I just need space for a stand mixer and then a big spot for the pizza peel. Having been terrified of bread-making in the past, I feel an urge to convince other people to try it too!

Linda: I am using a canon rebel XT camera fitted with one of the following three canon lens: the kit lens (18-55mm), a 50mm f1.4, and a 100mm macro lens. I shot most of the photos in this post with the 50mm, which is a great (sharp) lens.

Susan: thanks!