Friday, August 8, 2014

Rosie Makes Julia's Bread.

Rosie has been a bread-baking fool lately.
I recently gave you the recipe for some
of the easiest bread you could ever make.

There's very little hands-on work -
only shaping the loaves.
Everything else is done in a food processor.

Today, I'm going to make a more artisinal loaf.  What is "artisanal" bread, you ask?  I think of it as a rustic bread.  Artisanal bread is crafted, not mass-produced.  Artisanal baking is a return to the basics of age-old bread-making techniques.  Artisanal bread has soul.  There are only four ingredients, the basic building blocks: flour, water, yeast, and salt.  Look at the label on any preservative-laden, commercially produced bread.  You may find twenty or more ingredients/chemicals. 

With artisanal bread, the ingredients are mixed and slowly fermented.  First, I'm going to make a culture of flour and water.  The culture is created when wild yeasts and bacteria and other microorganisms present in the air, in the flour, and on your hands begin to ferment spontaneously.  After fermentation, the culture is "fed" regularly to "train" it into a happy, lively "starter."

It takes patience.  And I got patience!
Time is the key to successful bread making.
 Making a proper loaf requires long, slow risings
and many bakers, following European bread making traditions,
are using sponges, sourdough, and levains
to produce quality, hand-shaped, browned breads
with crackling crusts and soft, moist interiors.
A levain  is simply a starter, or a mother,
made by making a pasty mixture of flour and water.
The mixture, over time,
will begin to ferment as it picks up natural yeasts from the air.
I always have a starter mixture on my counter,
which I feed regularly 
with a mixture of unbleached bread flour, 
whole wheat flour, and water.
When you're ready to bake,
you take a portion of the starter
and mix it with more flour and water to make your dough.
You now have a sourdough culture that further ferments,
deepening the flavors.
It's this two-part fermentation that's responsible
for artisan bread's characteristic "tang."
The dough now needs to rise,
the result of the yeast emitting carbon dioxide and alcohol
as it metabolizes the sugars in the flour.

Now that you know what all is involved,
let's make Julia Child's Mixed-Starter Bread.

Because of the starters and long fermentation times,
this is a two-day process.

Julia recommends the following schedule:
Day One
11 AM 
 Make first starter
Let rise 8 hours.

7 PM  
Make the second starter
Let rise 4 hours.
Chill 8 hours.

Day Two
7 AM
Mix the final dough
First rise 1 1/2 hours

9:30 AM
Shape the dough.
Final rise 1 1/2 hours

12:00 noon
Bake the loaves.

For the First-Stage Starter:
a walnut-sized piece of fully risen dough
1/4 cup warm water
2/3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

And I just happen to have some fully risen dough.

Cut the dough into small pieces
and drop them in a bowl with the warm water.
Let soften for about 5 minutes.
Gradually mix in the flour
and beat with a dough hook on low speed for 2-3 minutes.
Put dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap,
and let rise for about 8 hours,
after which it will be soft, bubbly, and springy.

Second-Stage Starter 
First-stage starter
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Cut the dough into 4 pieces, 
place in a bowl, add the water,
and let soften for 5 minutes.
Add in flour and mix at low speed for 2-3 minutes.
Transfer to a large bowl,cover with plastic wrap,
and let rest in a warm place for about 4 hours,
during which time it will more than double.

After this rise, the "sponge,"
when stretched, will show long, lacy strands of gluten
and will smell sweet and yeasty,
(even though you haven't added yeast yet).
This aroma is the result of the starter's natural fermentation.
Chill the sponge for at least 1 hour, 
but no more than 8 hours, before proceeding.

Final Dough
the second-stage starter
1 1/4 cups warm water
package of yeast
3 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 TB kosher salt

Fit your mixer with the dough hook.
Put the water into the bowl of the mixer,
sprinkle in the yeast,
and stir by hand to mix.
Break the second-stage starter into pieces into the water
and allow it to soften for 5 minutes.
Add the flour and mix on low speed until the flour is just incorporated,
then let the dough rest in the bowl for 15 minutes.
This resting process - called autolysis -
allows the flour time to absorb the water.
During autolysis,
the enzymes in flour (amylase and protease)
begin to break down the starch and protein in the flour.
The starch gets converted to sugar
and the protein gets reformed as gluten.
Kneading the dough also serves to form gluten,
but kneading also exposes the bread to oxygen.
Over-oxidized dough results
in both color and flavor loss in the finished bread.
An autolyse period gives the flour time to soak up the moisture,
resulting in more orderly gluten formation.

Kneading the dough
After the 15-minute autolyse process,
sprinkle the salt onto the dough with machine running at low speed.
Increase speed to medium-high and 
knead for 8 minutes.

Third Rise
Transfer to a clean bowl and allow to rest
in a warm place for about 2 hours,
until dough doubles in bulk.

Final Rise
Fold the risen dough down on itself a few times
to deflate it and to redistribute the yeast.
Cover and let rise 1 hour.
Do not punch dough down.
You don't want to lose the open, bubbly structure
that's been developed.

After this final rise, you must shape and bake the dough.
If you refrigerate the dough or do anything to retard it,
you will have a sourdough bread,
which is not what this is meant to be.

I made 3 loaves out of this -
2 long baguettes and a loaf of bread.

Divide dough into three equal pieces.
To shape the baguettes,
gently pat the dough into a 5 x 8 inch rectangle.
Fold the top third down, pressing with fingertips to seal.
Then fold bottom third up, pressing to seal.
Turn seam-side down and roll back and forth
to elongate the dough and make a 15-inch baguette.
Place in greased baguette pans

For the loaf of bread,
I rolled the dough into a ball,
folding the dough underneath itself.
Allow it to rest and note which way it elongates.
That's the grain.
Work with the grain and shape the dough into a loaf.
Place in greased loaf pan.

OK. This is the FINAL rise.
Cover the loaves and let rise for about 2 hours.

Heat oven to 450°.
Have an iron skillet on the bottom rack.

When you're ready to bake,
you need to slash the loaves.
With a sharp knife or razor,
make about 4 slashes diagonally across the width of the bread,
about 1/4 inch deep.
Slashed loaves need to immediately go in the oven.

About 2 minutes before you put the loaves in the oven,
pour a cup of water into the hot skillet.
Immediately close the door to trap the steam.
I like to mist my loaves about 5 or 6 times
right before they go in the oven.

I mist again in 3 minutes
and then again in another 3 minutes.

Total bake time is 20-25 minutes.
You want an internal temperature of 200°.

Resist the temptation to tear into the bread.
Let it cool a bit.
The flavors are still working.

Here's my second-stage starter.


Very elastic.

 The structure here is amazing.

 Look at the threads.


Very nice crumb.
Wonderful flavor.


Rocquie said...

your bread looks amazing, Rosie. I used to bake bread often, but I think I have gotten too lazy.

Rosie Hawthorne said...

Thanks, Rocquie. I don't buy bread any more. The family requests my baguettes. Here's the Lazy Woman's Bread Primer:

Let me know if you try it. Warning: If you make this once, you'll be making it forever.