Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tuscan Bread

I already mentioned that this year is the Year of Bread. I want to make "REAL" bread. The good stuff. The stuff that sometimes takes 2 or 3 days of your attention between the rising and the pounding and the yeasting. The ultimate for a carb lover, like myself.

I have the most fabulous cookbook for making authentic breads, The Bread Baker's Apprentice. I've made several things out of it and though making bread is a combination of artistry and science, I haven't had a dud yet.

Tuscan Bread

Flour Paste
1 3/4 C. boiling water
2 C. unbleached bread flour

2 2/3 C. unbleached bread flour
2 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
2 T. olive oil
about 1/2 C. water, room temperature
Semolina flour or cornmeal, for dusting

1 - Make the paste 1 or 2 days before making the bread. Pour the boiling water over the flour in a mixing bowl and stir vigorously until the flour is hydrated and makes a thick, smooth paste. Cool, cover, and leave out overnight at room temperature.

2 - The next day, make the dough. With a large metal spoon, mix together the flour and yeast in a 4-quart mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the paste and olive oil. Stir together (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment), adding as much water as it takes to make a soft, supple ball. It's okay if the dough is a little sticky because you can add more flour while kneading.

3 - Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and knead by hand for about 10 minutes (or mix for 6 to 8 minutes on medium speed with the dough hook; you can let the dough rest after 4 minutes of mixing and resume 5 minutes later to make it easier on your machine). The dough should be tacky but not sticky. Continue to sprinkle in more flour as needed. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

4 - Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours. If the dough doubles in size prior to that, knead it lightly to degas it (the "punch down") and return it to the bowl to continue fermenting until it doubles again or until a total of 2 hours has elapsed.

5 - Line a sheet pan with baking parchment and lightly sprinkle with cornmeal or semolina flour. Gently divide the dough into 2 equal pieces (they should weigh about 18 ounces each), being careful to minimize degassing the dough. With a light touch to protect the internal gas, form the dough into boules. If you plan to bake the loaves as rounds, transfer the dough to the prepared sheet pan. If you prefer oblong loaves, shape the dough rounds into batards after a 15-minute resting period, and then place them on the prepared pan. Mist the dough lightly with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

6 - Proof the dough at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until it nearly doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough by placing the covered pan in the refrigerator immediately after shaping and leave overnight. The dough should be nearly ready to bake when you pull it out of the refrigerator. If not, leave out at room temperature for a couple of hours.)

7 - Prepare the oven for hearth baking, making sure to have a steam pan in place. Pour 2 cups of water into the steam pan. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Just prior to baking, mist the loaves with water and dust lightly with bread flour by tapping some through a sieve held over the loaves or by flinging the flour across the surface of the dough. Score the breads (shown in the photo).

8 - Slide the breads directly on to the baking stone (or cookie sheet), parchment and all, or place the pan on the middle shelf of the oven. After 30 seconds, open the door, spray the oven walls with water and close the door. Repeat twice more at 30-second intervals, and then lower the oven setting to 450 degrees F and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the steam pan 10 minutes after loading the oven (be careful not to splash yourself in case there's any water left), rotate the loaves 180 degrees for even baking, and continue baking for 10 to 20 minutes longer, or until the loaves turn a rich golden color and register over 200 degrees in the center. If the crust is getting too dark and the inside has not reached above 200 degrees F, place an aluminum foil tent over the loaves and continue baking until the desired temperature is reached.

9 - Transfer the loaves to a rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.

Days to make: 2
Day 1: 15 minutes flour paste
Day 2: 10-12 minutes mixing; 3 1/2 hours fermentation, shaping, and proofing; 20-50 minutes baking


Tiff said...

Yummy! I love making bread! And so do my kids. I'm going to have to try this recipe! Ooh i could make a soup bowl out of it!

Frisbies Forever said...

I am making bread today too! That looks delicious!