06 January 2011

Baking Bread

My inspiration for baking my own bread came from Jorge Garcia's blog Dispatches from the Island. (He has since started a new blog, Further Dispatches.) There's a general consensus that baking bread is incredibly difficult. I can remember as a kid in the mid 90's my mom had one of those bread makers where you put all your ingredients inside and it would mix, rise, and bake the dough without you lifting a finger. The thing made a God-awful noise when mixing the dough, and the bread came out looking and with the density of a brick (sorry mom). The recipes also called for what I now know to be extraneous ingredients like sugar and powdered milk.

There are only FOUR THINGS you need to make a great loaf of bread.


That's it!

I get my bread recipes from Jim Lahey's book my bread. It's a great book, his No-Knead method is so easy, and the bread tastes great. There's something very satisfying in successfully baking bread and it makes your house smell great. In order to avoid copyright infringement, I will not be posting the full recipe here, but you can find it here on another blog, The Wednesday Chef.

Aside from the four ingredients, there are other supplies you will need.

A dutch oven is the most important (the red pot with lid pictured above). It's your oven in an oven and will bake your bread to perfection.

Mixing your ingredients according to the book's instructions, you leave it to rise for at least 12 hours, preferably 18 or 20 at room temperature, away from drafty areas.

Pre-risen dough

Risen and shaped into ball

After letting your dough rise, you shape it roughly into the shape of a ball and, seam down on a cotton cloth, allow it to rise further for two hours.

Preheat your oven at 450 degrees about a half hour before your dough will be ready. Put your dutch oven in your oven as it heats. When your dough is ready, slide your hand under the cloth and flip it seam side up into your warm (hot! Don't burn yourself!) ceramic pot. Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, and 20 - 30 with the lid off.

Once your loaf is ready to come out, cool on a rack. As it cools, you'll be able to hear it sing! This was the coolest part for me. Lahey describes it as the last phase of cooking. I know you're tempted to start slicing the bugger right away, but you have to let your bread cool on the rack for at least an hour. As it cools, the crust shrinks and cracks, and steam from the inside - what is known as the crumb - escapes through the cracks. This solidifies the crumb as the moisture escapes and makes the crackling noises known as singing.

Bon App├ętit!

Brand new day

I'm not one to make New Year's resolutions. I generally subscribe to the belief that if there's something in your life needing to be changed, you would change it as soon as you realized you needed a little course-correction and not wait for the beginning of a new year to get off your butt and do it. This year, however, I think I'm going to make an exception.

My 2011 Resolution.

I'm going to blog my little heart out.

I hope you enjoy what's to come.