Saturday, September 28, 2013

Making Bread

On a lazy weekend, when the days and nights are cooling as we head into fall, there is nothing wrong with baking some bread.  Lately, I have been using a starter (levain) that I keep in Tupperware in the fridge, adding a bit of flour and water each week as 'food' to keep the yeast alive, and taking out a cup or two to bake a few baguettes or a loaf of bread.  My recipe is from the book "Bread Alone," which really, honestly, does not demystify the process. If you want to feel at ease with bread making, stick with the no-knead bread that Bittner's NYT column has made famous.

With Bread Alone you'll grow --if anything-- more in awe of artisan bread bakers. But after months of experiments and disasters, I now have a reliable go-to bread (that only takes about 6 hours!).

Here is a peek at the dough, getting on its way to a nice loaf.

Really, only about an hour of work (including clean up), and a lot of rising time.

The levain was made of flour, water, and literally a pinch of yeast.  It was left covered on the countertop for three days, as I fed it more flour and water each day. Now, as I mentioned, the levain lives in the fridge and gets a weekly feeding. For two loaves I use:

Two cups of levain (the mild sourdough starter),
5-6 cups of flour (I use bread flour usually but all-purpose works)
About 2 &1/4 cups of water
One tablespoon of salt.

After a 2-hour rise, I will punch it, then rest it for 30 minutes, shape it into loaves and let it rise another 2 hours before baking for half an hour in a hot  and steamy (450) oven.

I'm tempted by the possibilities at this point.  I have some minced sun-dried tomato and jalape├▒o I could knead in. Or should I fold in some fresh herbs or nuts? Just a few sesame seeds on top maybe? Or just score the top to let steam escape, and make it a nice naked bread?

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