Thursday, January 15, 2009

Bread Time!

Some people make New Years Resolutions about losing weight, spending less money, or stopping a disgusting habit, such as chewing and subsequently eating your nails which you know drives your crazy girlfriend to the brink of insanity. Ahem. I, on the other hand, make resolutions about baking. My goal this year is to get good at making bread. And also to finally make it through A Random Walk Down Wall Street so that I can learn to invest my nonexistent money. But I won't actually HAVE any money until I pay off my student loans (insert panicked, hysterical laughter) so I figure the bread thing is more important.

I've never made a standard loaf 'o bread so I decided to go that route first. I found a recipe in Cooks Illustrated which promised to produce a from-scratch loaf in just two hours, which was a big motivating factor. One reason I don't bake much bread is because it takes so very, painfully long and I'm an instant gratification person. I want my bread now, not 12 hours from now!

INGREDIENTS:

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cornmeal
3 1/4 cups bread flour , plus extra for work surface
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup milk , warm (110 degrees)
1/3 cup water , warm (110 degrees)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
3 tablespoons honey
1 package rapid-rise yeast (also called instant yeast)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Bring 1/2 cup water to boil in small saucepan, slowly whisk in cornmeal. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, about 1 minute.

  2. Adjust oven rack to low position and heat oven to 200 degrees. Once oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain heat 10 minutes, then turn off oven heat.

  3. Mix cornmeal mixture, flour, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix milk, butter, honey, and yeast in 1-quart Pyrex liquid measuring cup. Turn machine to low and slowly add liquid. When dough comes together, increase speed to medium (setting number 4 on a KitchenAid mixer) and mix until dough is smooth and satiny, stopping machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook if necessary, about 10 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead to form smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.

  4. Place dough in very lightly oiled bowl, rubbing dough around bowl to lightly coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.

  5. Form dough into loaf by gently pressing the dough into a rectangle, one inch thick and no wider than the length of the loaf pan. Next, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam side up and pinch it closed. Place dough in the pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Finally, place dough in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.

  6. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in warm spot until dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees, placing empty loaf pan on bottom rack. Bring 2 cups water to boil.

  7. Remove plastic wrap from loaf pan. Place pan in oven, immediately pouring heated water into empty loaf pan; close oven door. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted at angle from short end just above pan rim into center of loaf reads 195 degrees, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove bread from pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.

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And the recipe delivered, despite my usual lack of sense. I failed to realize we didn't have butter until I was supposed to add it. I used olive oil instead. I also used all purpose flour since we didn't have bread flour. I'm curious to see how much of a difference the bread flour makes, that shall be my next enthralling experiment. We also ran out of milk (rice milk, actually) so I used more water plus some buttermilk powder instead.


I thought it could maybe use a touch more salt? Then again, this is supposed to be a pretty basic bread for sandwiches and such. The only other problem I had was that the bottom of my bread was a bit soggy when I took it out of the loaf pan. But I had let it cool for hours while I was at class so that may be my own fault. Still good though and tastes especially good toasted. And it really did only take about 2 hours. I'll play around with this recipe some more, it supplies a good basic loaf without too much fuss. Approved!

See my toaster in the background? It toasts toast and cooks eggs at the SAME TIME. I don't really use the egg portion, usually only BJ does, but it's still pretty awesome, no? Next I'll teach it to do the dishes.

1 comment:

Katy said...

For someone who's just out of the gate making bread, your loaf looks postively awesome! Very well done indeed!