Sunday, October 12, 2008

My First Real Loaf of Bread - Italian Rustic Loaf

I now know why the bread maker gets up in the middle of the night to bake the bread. Baking bread is a time intensive process. Good thing I ran all my errands yesterday.

I decided to make bread this weekend after I purchased the American Test Kitchen's Family Baking Book this week at Costco. Baking bread is my weakness so I wanted a clear and easy book to follow to try my hand at baking a loaf of bread.

I decided to make the Rustic Italian Bread. It took two days but tasted amazing with some Kerrygold Irish Butter.

Rustic Italian Bread
Source: America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

This recipe requires a bit of patience—the sponge, which gives the bread flavor, must be made 11 to 27 hours before the dough is made. We find it makes the most sense to prepare the sponge (which requires just 5 minutes of hands-on work) the day before you want to bake the bread.

On the second day, remove the sponge from the refrigerator and begin step 2 at least 7 hours before you want to serve the bread. If you own two standing mixer bowls, in step 1 you can refrigerate the sponge in the bowl in which it was made. Use the second bowl to make the dough in step 2. Have ready a spray bottle filled with water for misting the loaves.

2 cups (11 ounces) bread flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1cup water, approximately 110 degrees

3 cups (16 1/2 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface and hands
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/3 cups water, approximately 110 degrees
2 teaspoons salt

1. For the sponge: Combine the flour, yeast, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Knead at the lowest speed until the ingredients form a shaggy dough, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the sponge to a medium bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature until it has risen and fallen. Let sit at room temperature for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours.

2. For the dough: Remove the sponge from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature while making the dough. Combine the flour, yeast, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook; knead at the lowest speed until a rough dough is formed, about 2 minutes. Turn the mixer off and, without removing the dough hook or bowl from the mixer, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap; let the dough rest 20 minutes.

3. Remove the plastic wrap, add the sponge and salt to the bowl, and continue to knead at the medium low speed until it is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes (the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom). If after 4 minutes more flour is needed, add 2 tablespoons at a time until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, knead by hand to form a large smooth ball, Place the dough to a large lightly oiled bowl (at least 3 times the dough’s size) and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a cool, draft-free spot until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour.

5. Remove the plastic wrap and leaving dough in the bowl, slide a plastic bench scraper under one side of the dough, gently lifting and folding one third of the dough toward the center. Repeat with opposite side of the dough, and, finally, fold the dough in half, perpendicular to the first folds (so that it resembles a rough square). Replace the plastic wrap; let the dough rise 30 minutes. Turn the dough again, replace the plastic wrap, and let the dough rise 30 minutes.

6. Top a rimless (or inverted) baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn dough out onto a work surface lightly coated with flour. Gently scrape the dough from the bowl and invert onto the work surface (the side of dough that was against the bowl should now be facing up). Dust the dough and your hands liberally with flour and, using minimal pressure, push the dough into a rough 10-inch square, gently dimpling it with your fingers. Then fold the top left corner diagonally to the middle. Repeat this with the top right corner, and begin to gently roll the dough from top to bottom, continuing to roll until the dough forms a rough log. Roll the dough onto its seam and, sliding your hands under each end, transfer the dough to a sheet of parchment paper. Gently shape the dough into a 16-inch football shape by tucking the bottom edges underneath. Coat the loaf lightly with vegetable oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap; let the loaf rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

7. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a baking stone on the rack, and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Let the stone heat for at least 30 minute but no more than 1 hour.

8. To bake: Using a single-edge razor blade or sharp chef’s knife, cut three diagonal slits 1/2 inch deep across the top of the loaf; spray the loaf lightly with water. Slide the parchment sheet with the loaf onto a peel or inverted rimmed baking sheet, then slide the parchment with the loaf onto the hot baking stone in the oven. Bake 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees and quickly rotate the loaf from front to back using the edges of the parchment; continue to bake until deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf reads 210 degrees, about 30 - 35 minutes longer.

9. Transfer to a wire rack, discard the parchment, and cool the loaf to room temperature, about 2 hours.

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1 Comment:

~Amber~ said...

What a beautiful loaf of bread. Great job.


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