Monday, March 25, 2013

Rosie Makes Bread.

I love baking bread.
There's something primal about it.
It's a wonderful, relaxing activity for me
and when the aromas of baking bread 
spread throughout my house,
I know I've done something very good for my soul.

I've always made my own pizza dough, focaccia, and loaf breads,
and they've always come out well,
but I wanted to get serious about bread-making.

 I decided to be a little more scientific about the process.
So I bought a bunch of bread books.
That's what Rosie does when she wants to learn about something.
She buys books.

Why don't you just look it up on the internet
and save yourself money and space, you ask?
Because I like the feel and smell of books.
I like to hold a book in my hand and turn the pages.
I like looking at pretty glossy pictures.
I know where to turn to a recipe in my cookbooks.
I remember it by the picture or which side of the page it's on.

I can't do that on a computer.
I have lots of recipe files,
but it's hard to find the recipe I want on the computer.
I can turn right to it in a book.
I am also unable to edit my columns by looking at a computer screen.
I have to print them out and read the hard copy.
Any errors are glaring on paper.

All of which brings me back to bread - the staff of life.

I want to create artisan breads.

What is artisan bread?

Artisan bread is crafted, and baked in small batches,
not mass-produced on a factory assembly line.
Attention to the ingredients, 
the interactions between ingredients,
the process, the chemistry,
and a return to the fundamentals
of ages-old bread-making traditions
is what sets artisan bread apart from
soft, soulless, chemical- and preservative-laden
commercial breads.
An artisan baker must understand the science
behind the chemical reactions of the ingredients
and be able to control the fermentation,
 providing a proper environment for the bread to develop,
whether you want a light delicate flavor
or a strong rustic flavor.

Whereas your supermarket plastic-wrapped loaves
will have up to twenty ingredients,
artisan bread will have the basic building blocks of bread -
flour, water, salt, and yeast.
More complex artisan breads may be flavored
with other ingredients,
but these ingredients will be recognizable -
nuts, seeds, garlic, onions, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, herbs.
 Today I'm making a soft sandwich bread and rolls,
using the same recipe.

I'm adapting the recipe from
Peter Reinhart's, Artisan Breads Every Day.

The thing about bread is that it's been around forever.  Egyptians, circa 8000 BC, developed a simple grinding stone and their bread was unleavened, similar to the Mexican tortilla.  Around 3000 BC, Egyptians invented the closed oven and developed the skills to bake bread, experimenting with leavened doughs, along with brewing beer. Circa 40 BC, Roman authorities decreed that bread should be distributed free to all adult males.  And there you have it.  The rest, as they say, is history.

In Reinhart's introduction, he refers to three waves in the United States which led to improved bread -
the whole grain wave, the traditional wave, and the neo-traditional wave.  The 1960s saw a whole-grain movement, part of the counter-culture era.  White flour and sugar were symbols of mainstream thinking and industrialization.  Organic foods, free of herbicides and pesticides, locally-grown ingredients, and whole grains symbolized a healthy, holistic style of living and were promoted as an alternative to highly processed foods. Think Alice Waters and Chez Panisse here.  The problem at the time with the nutritionally superior whole grain breads is that they weren't particularly palatable, and were labeled as "health food."

The 1970s and 1980s saw a emergence of the traditional wave - basically a culinary rebirth in which European chefs and bakers came to America and brought their great food traditions to our culture.

A third wave - the neo-traditional movement - developed as regional cuisine in the United States became the domestic and local expression of traditional Asian and European influences.

Reinhart describes the three waves as converging in the 1990s to create what is now known as the artisan bread movement.

And there you have it.

I always look forward to making bread. It's a fun day-project for me, so I was all set to make bread.
I'm gathering the yeast, salt, milk, egg, and bread flour, and for the first time ever, I don't have a backup package of bread flour in my hideously spacious pantry tiny hall closet. Not to worry.  Rosie can deal.

One of the techniques Reinhart espouses is overnight fermentation.  The dough is mixed and kneaded and then covered and refrigerated overnight.  Refrigeration retards the fermentation process allowing microorganisms and enzymes time to work on the dough molecules and develop flavor.  The unbaked dough can stay in the fridge for up to 4 days, so you can work in small batches.

Rosie's Soft Sandwich Bread and Rolls

1 package yeast
1 tsp sugar
15 ounces lukewarm milk (I used skim, but you could use any kind.  Buttermilk even.)
2 cups bread flour
4 cups all-purpose flour (Normally, I would have used all bread flour.)
1 heaping TB vital wheat gluten  (Explanation to follow.)
5 TB sugar
2 tsp Kosher salt
6 TB melted unsalted butter
1 egg

Sprinkle yeast into the lukewarm milk with a teaspoon of sugar. Whisk to combine and set aside until proofed, i.e., the mixture is foamy and pouffy.  This means the yeast has "proven" it's alive and active.
Combine, flour, gluten, salt, sugar, melted butter, and egg.  When yeast has proofed, add the milk mixture to the flour mixture.  The dough will be coarse and slightly sticky.  Knead by hand until the dough is soft, supple, and tacky, not sticky.  When I knead dough, I'll knead for about 5-7 minutes, then give both the dough and myself a rest.  Five minutes or so.  And set your timer.  Five minutes of kneading is longer than you think. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or for up to four days.

On baking day, remove the dough from the fridge about 3 hours before you plan to bake.  Divide it in half.  For a 5 x 9 loaf pan, use 28-32 ounces of dough.  I made 1 loaf of bread.    I divided the other half of dough into 2.5 ounce balls, to make rolls or buns.

Oil your loaf pan and baking pan and let dough rise at room temperature for about 3 hours, or until it the loaf domes about 1 inch over the pan rim.

Put a cast iron skillet on the lower oven rack.  Heat oven to 350° and let it stay for 45 minutes before you put the bread in.  Fill a cup with ice and water and pour into the hot skillet when you put the loaf or rolls in.  Bake loaf pan for 20 minutes, then rotate pan for another 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

For the rolls, heat oven to 400° and bake about 15 minutes.

Cool on racks.

Now, on to the step-by-steps.
I nuked the milk to lukewarm - about 96 degrees -
and added in a package of yeast.

I always pour in a little sugar
so the hungry yeast will have something to snack on.

Normally, I would have used all bread flour.
I only had 2 cups of bread flour,
so I subbed all-purpose flour for the rest.

What's the difference between bread and AP flour?
Why the vital wheat gluten?
What is gluten?

All wheat flours contain a protein called gluten,
but flours vary in both the quantity and quality of gluten,
depending on the different varieties of wheat
and different growing seasons.

Cake flour is typically 7-9% protein.
All-purpose flour contains 10-12% gluten.
Bread flour has a higher gluten content - 12-14%.

If you substitute AP flour for bread flour,
your bread will be denser and flatter.
You can actually feel this as you knead the dough.
Your dough will not be as elastic.
That's why I added the vital wheat gluten to my dough.

Gluten is a protein, most commonly found
in wheat and other related grains, such as rye and barley.

There are four main proteins which form gluten:
and prolamin.

Prolamins and gluetenins have higher concentrations in wheat flour.
Globulins and albumins are more prevalent in rice and corn.

 Most of the protein in wheat, approximately 80%,
is made up of a composite of equal parts
 of gliadin, which is found in prolamin
and glutelin which is in glutenin.

In the presence of water, gluten forms an elastic network 
throughout the dough.
The kneading process organizes these strands of gluten
running through the dough,
developing a strong, resilient web.
This interconnected web of protein
entraps carbon dioxide bubbles given off by the yeast as it ferments,
enabling the dough to rise.
Without gluten, the carbon dioxide
would merely bubble up to the surface and dissipate.
Without this network/mesh/web,
we wouldn't have bread.

You've probably heard of Celiac Disease.
Celiac disease is triggered by the consumption of gluten.
It's an autoimmune digestive disease
that damages the small intestine
and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food.
Basically, the body attacks itselfwhenever it encounters gluten.

Here's my heaping tablespoon of vital wheat gluten going in.
Vital wheat gluten is the protein in its powdered form.
Vital wheat gluten is especially effective
in improving the elasticity of low-protein flours.
like rye and whole wheat, 
both of which have trouble developing gluten.

My yeast has proofed.
It's alive!

Pour the melted butter into the flour mixture.

Pour in the beaten egg.

And pour in the proofed yeast mixture.
Mix dough with a wooden spoon.

Lightly flour your work surface.

This is what the mess looks like. when you start out.

Knead away until you have an elastic, cohesive mass.
Every now and then,
give both yourself and the dough a rest.

Place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat.

Cover with plastic and refrigerate over night,
or until you're ready to bake,
up to four days.

Chilling the dough has reduced the fermentation of the yeast.
There's not much rise,
but the flavors have been developing.

I halved my dough.
Let's see how well I halved them ...
1 pound 9.4 ounces

1 pound 13.1 ounces

Not bad.
 Unless you're a dope dealer.
But I'm a dough dealer.

I'm making 11 rolls.

And one loaf.

Let rise for a couple of hours.
Probably should have tightened up on my rolls.

You probably didn't notice, but I switched from a glass loaf pan
to Mr. Hawthorne's metal meatloaf pan.
I happened to have a pizza stone in the oven
and was worried about the cold glass shattering.

Make an egg wash -
1 egg white and 1 TB water.

Give the rolls a little washie-washie.
A sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Some poppy seeds.

When you're ready to bake,
pour a cup of ice water into the skillet.

Mickey Mouse!

Butter and sourwood honey.
Oh my!

Give the loaf a wash.

Sprinkle coarse sea salt over top.
Bake at 350° about 55 minutes, turning halfway through.

I gave it some butter-lovin'.

My kitchen smells oh-so-good!

My loaf has dimples on its bottom
from the meatloaf pan.

Hey, the crumb matches the texture of the loaf in the picture in the book!

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