Sunday, February 19, 2012

My First Loaf!

I have been dying to make bread for a few weeks now.  I don’t know exactly why I felt such a strong desire to make bread from scratch, but I knew I had to try it.  And now, 22.5 hours later, I have successfully made my first loaf of bread.  I feel like a domestic goddess.

I used a cookbook my mom had called “My Bread- The Revolutionary no-work, no-knead Method” written by Jim Lahey.  He developed the no-knead Bread-in-pot technique.   It’s really simple, all you need it water, flour, yeast, salt, and time. 

The instructions call for a cast iron pot, which I didn’t have, so I went out and bought one yesterday.   I found one for fifty bucks at Homegoods.  It’s  porcelain enamel coated cast iron, so it’s really heavy!  In an ideal world I’d have a Le Crueset dutch oven, but this will do for now. 

Making the Dough:
First, I gathered all the ingredients.
3 cups bread flour
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon yeast
1 1/3 cups cool (55-65 degrees F) water
Corn meal (for dusting)

In a medium bowl, I mixed the flour, salt and yeast.  I then added the water and stirred with a wooden spoon until it was a wet sticky dough.  I had to add another tablespoon of water to get it to be sticky to the touch.

I covered the bowl with saran wrap and let it sit for the fermentation period.  This can take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours.  I let my dough rise for 18 hours.  

The book says to pay attention to the “visual keys” of a successful rise, such as a bubbly surface with a darkened appearance.

Once the dough has risen, I took it out of the bowl, and laid it on a floured cutting board. 
I folded it and shaped it to be more round, and placed it seam side down on a tea towel dusted with corn meal.  I loosely wrapped the tea towel over the dough.  This is when the second rise begins.  I let it rise for a little less than two hours. 

note the indentation, bottom left
The dough is ready to be baked when it passes the “poke test.”  Gently poke the dough with your finger to make an indentation ¼ inch deep.  If it holds the indentation, it’s good to go!

While the dough is in the second rise, I pre-heated  the oven and the pot.  Once the oven was up to 475 degrees,  I placed  the dough in the pot and dusted it a little more with corn meal.

I baked the dough for 30 minutes with the lid, and then another 15 minutes without the lid.  

And it is so beautiful!

I think I did everything right. As soon as I took the loaf out it was making some cracking sounds, called “singing.”  The “singing” occurs when the bread starts to cool, and the crust is shrinking and cooling, and the steam is escaping through the cracks.  

The bread must cool for at least an hour before slicing.  Once cool, I sliced it and had a photo shoot... then I had a serious bread binge. 

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