Baking with Julia – Country Bread

IMG_4841This is another late one. I could make a bunch of excuses, but really it’s just that I didn’t have my shit together to get this done on time. No real reason, it just didn’t happen. And I know this is terrible, but I kind of like being late on these because I can learn from everyone else’s mishaps. That’s terrible right? The whole point of this group is that we’re supposed to be baking these things together and sharing our experience and I’m kind of poaching that when I read everyone else’s posts and adjust my methods accordingly. Ugh, sorry. I’m the worst. I’ll endeavor to be better in the future. I really will.

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So this bread…it’s pretty, right? Everyone was saying that it made a HUGE monster loaf so I decided to split my dough in half and make two smaller loaves so I could freeze one. This was an excellent notion and the loaves were still a pretty good size. I also replaced the rye flour in the recipe with corn flour, mainly because I had the corn flour on hand, but really because I kinda hate rye. The only time I can stomach it is in a marble rye and that might just be because of this:

So the corn flour made these loaves a beautiful light color and added some nice, gritty texture to the bread. Is it weird that I like that? Normally gritty is reserved for describing unpleasant things but I don’t think it has to be a negative. So far I’ve made some truly amazing toast with this and a really nice frou-frou grilled cheese made with Dijon, Brie, and apples. Yeah, I’m fancy.

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Country Bread (the no-rye way)

(adapted from Baking with Julia, contributing baker Joe Ortiz)

The Sponge

1 1/2 cups warm water

2 1/2 t active dry yeast

1 cup bread flour (I used King Arthur)

1/2 cup corn flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

Put about 1/4 cup of the warm water into the bowl of an electric mixer and sprinkle the yeast over it, stirring it to mix. Let that rest for about 5 minutes, until it becomes creamy, then add the rest of the water. Stir the 3 flours together in a small bowl and gradually add them to the yeast mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon and mixing until everything is evenly blended. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise at room temp for 6-8 hours or cover it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight. If you refrigerate, take the sponge out of the fridge about an hour before you intend to continue with the next step and make sure to use warm water in the next mix.

The Dough

1 t active dry yeast

1 cup water

The Sponge

3 cups bread flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 T salt

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of the water and pour the other 1/2 cup into the bowl with the sponge. Combine the bread flour and the wheat flour in a small bowl and set aside. Attach the bowl to the mixer and using the dough hook, gradually add about 2 cups of the flour mixture at the lowest speed. Don’t forget to lock the head of the mixer in place if yore using a tilt-head and make sure to keep an eye on your machine – mine had a hard time with this dough. After mixing for about 3 minutes, add the yeast mixture and incorporate it well. Sprinkle the salt over the dough and mix that in as well. Now add the remaining flour mixture and settle down for the long mix. The dough should start to clear the sides of the bowl almost immediately. Knead on low speed for about 10 minutes. I ended up turning mine off after 9 because my machine was really struggling and felt hot to the touch. If this happens to you, just knead it by hand for a few minutes until the dough feels right. I know this is weird to say, but after making enough bread you just know. It should be smooth, moist, and pliable. Once you reach the right consistency, place the dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temp for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until it has doubled in volume.

Make a resting place for the dough by choosing two vessels of equal size (I used two 9″ pie dishes). Line them each with a clean dish towel and rub flour into the dish towel to keep the dough from sticking. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and using a dough scraper, divide it in half. Place one half back in the bowl and cover it with the plastic wrap while you prepare the other. Pat the dough ball into a disk with your hands and fold all four edges in towards the middle. Using the heel of your hand, smush the middle down, then flip the dough over and use your cupped hands to form the dough into a tight little ball. Repeat this process four more times. Turn the loaf over and lay it flat-side down in your prepared place, folding the towel over to lightly cover the dough for the final rise. Repeat with the second dough ball. Let the loaves rise at room temp for 1-1 1/2 hours.

About 30 minutes before the loaves are ready to bake, position a rack in the lower third of your oven and place your baking stone there. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. When the dough is fully risen, rub a baker’s peel with cornmeal and invert one of the loaves onto the peel. Using a grignette or razor, slice the top of the loaf in a pattern of your choice (I did one tic-tac-toe and one criss-cross) and then quickly open the oven and slide the loaf from the peel to the baking stone. Reduce the oven temp to 400 and bake the bread for about 40-45 minutes, or until the crust is nicely golden and an instant read thermometer inserted in the bottom reads 200 degrees. Repeat this process with the second loaf. If you like, you can create steam by spritzing the top and sides of the oven with water from a spray bottle before you place the loaf in but I didn’t have one so I didn’t do it.

Let the loaves cool on a wire rack to room temperature before slicing. Store the bread cut side down on a cutting board and it should last about 3 days. I wrapped my second loaf in plastic wrap and then in foil and put it in the freezer where it will keep for up to a month.

 

 

 

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Cleaning & Baking

IMG_2879I know, I know, very 1950’s of me right? But when you have the day off and it’s one of those gray and dreary spring days where you can’t tell what time it is from looking outside because it stays the same color all day, sometimes it’s just what you want to do. Or is that just me?

So there’s this little ol’ website called Pinterest, have you heard of it? And on said site you can find so many things to want and buy and make and try that it becomes kind of overwhelming at times. Not joking, when it first came out I had to take like weeklong breaks from it because I would just see so many cool things I wanted and then get mad that I couldn’t afford them. Kind of like every time I’ve ever gone into Anthropologie. AnthroRage – it’s a real thing, I swear.

Anywho, I have pretty much gotten over grounding myself from Pinterest and mostly use it to find recipes to try and to store up ones I have tried and liked but I also use it for cleaning tips. For instance, I cleaned my washing machine out using a Pinterest tip and though I don’t know if it really did anything vis a vis making the machine run better, it did make me feel accomplished which is what really matters, right? So yesterday I decided that I wanted to try another one – cleaning the window on my oven. I have no idea how old our oven is because it came with the house but I’m gonna guess it’s pushing 20 and you really can’t see through the little window at all. Kind of defeats the purpose.

IMG_2863Yuck right? So the Pin said to make a very thick paste out of baking soda and hot water and then smear it all over the inside of the window until it was completely covered. Doesn’t the paste look really pillowy soft?

IMG_2865Then you’re supposed to leave it on there until it gets completely dry, which in my case took about 4 hours. And you’re supposed to keep your oven off obviously so it really cut into my baking plans for the day. Thus more cleaning happened. I have been meaning to clean out and organize my pantry for months and I finally did it yesterday. Huzzah! I know it’s weird to be excited about that but seriously you guys, I found a canned good that expired in 2009. That means when we bought our house and moved in in 2010, I brought this expired item with me and it’s been here ever since. That’s pretty bad. I didn’t take pics because honestly it was embarrassing beforehand and even after it’s not that great to look at but it fills me with joy and that’s all there is to it. Are you dying to see how the oven door turned out?? Spoiler alert: It’s not crystal clear and magnificent.

IMG_2869I can see a little bit of a difference but honestly it was kind of a let-down. Sigh. I guess I will just have to wait until I get a new oven sometime in the future to really have a useable oven window. On to the more photogenic and edible part of the day!

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Recently Joy the Baker did a whole week on toast and not only was it beautiful and delicious-looking but it also made me remember that toast is probably my favorite food of all times. I know it sounds boring but the crunch of toasty bread with obscene amounts of butter and jam is the most comforting edible thing I can think of (followed closely by mac & cheese obviously). In high school when we used to go out to eat at the all-night diner in town I would always order toast and jam and munch happily away while totally seagull-ing everyone else’s plates for stray fries and chicken fingers (duh). My dad had this big jar of change which is where I got the majority of my money before I had a job and one night, when the change jar was running a little low I asked the waitress if the toast would be cheaper without butter and my friends have NEVER let me live it down. Honestly, I thought it was a valid question. Nowadays I would never order toast without butter cause now when things get tight there’s always a credit card. $1.59 charge for toast? Ummmm yeah.

So after I got over the disappointment of a somewhat failed oven cleaning, I decided I needed to make some bread. The oven needed to be redeemed and I needed some flippin’ toast. I haven’t been baking much lately because I’m trying to be less chubby but it just had to happen. My last few bread baking attempts have left me less than pleased with my stand mixer so I decided to try to re-unite Candy with her estranged best friend – yeasty dough. I have this Kitchenaid cookbook that I haven’t used much so I pulled it out and gave their Scrumptious Sandwich Bread a try, with a few tweaks of course.

IMG_2872Totally one of my favorite sights, smells, and feels actually. It’s all very sense-y. During all this baking & cleaning I managed to watch 4 movies and wax my eyebrows so I think it was a pretty productive day all around. Next time it’s gloomy, make some bread – it helps.

Scrumptious Sandwich Bread ala Me

1/2 cup lowfat milk

3 T sugar

2 t kosher salt

3 T unsalted butter

2 packages active dry yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water (about 115 degrees)

5-6 cups bread flour

Put the milk, sugar, salt, & butter in a small saucepan and heat over medium until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool down a bit. Put the warm water and the yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer and let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast becomes creamy. Add the milk mixture to the bowl with the yeast along with 4 1/2 cups of the flour. Attach the dough hook and mix gently on low for about 1 minute to bring things together. Add the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough sticks to the hook and starts to clean the sides of the bowl. You might not need all 6 cups of flour.

Turn the mixer to 2 and let it knead the dough for another 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile get out a big bowl and oil it. When the dough is ready it will still be a little sticky. Scrape it out onto a clean and floured surface and knead it a few times by hand to get the feeling of it and bring it together into a ball. Put it in the oiled bowl and turn it over a few times so it has a nice sheen to it. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and leave the bread to rise for about an hour in a warm place free of drafts. After an hour it should be big and poufy like the picture above. Grease two loaf pans with butter or oil and have them nearby. Punch the dough down and use your scraper to divide it in half. Shape the dough into a rectangle and fold it like you would a business letter. Try to make the letter the same length as your loaf pan. Place the dough into the loaf pans, cover them with the towel again and let them rise for another hour or so until they have come up over the top of the pans a little. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the pans on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until they are golden brown and beautiful. About 5 minutes before they’re done you can brush the tops with some melted butter if you like (I did!). Take the pans out and turn the loaves out onto a cooling rack immediately. If you want to be sure they’re done, stick an instant-read thermometer in the bottom of the loaf and make sure the temp hits at least 200 degrees. Then let the breads cool and you’re dunzo. Delicious and impressive sandwich bread for everyone!

IMG_2877Proceed to eat as much toast as your can stand. I had 4 pieces this morning and I’m not sorry. 4!

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P.S. I also made myself a grilled cheese for lunch using the bread and it was amazing!