Monday, October 5, 2009

Nothin' says lovin' like fresh BREAD in the oven!

Nothing is as intoxicating as the smell of fresh bread wafting in the air. I was inspired by my husband's offer to make meatballs and sauce for Sunday dinner and figured the only thing that could possibly make that meal a little better would be to bake fresh bread. That being said, I know nothing about baking bread. My father once said to me, "There are two types of people in the world, cooks and bakers." I am certainly NOT a baker. I cook with passion and for me that rarely means measuring and even if I do measure, I'm not great at making it exact. I typically toss in a little of this a little of that and see where the dish goes. Baking is such a different discipline. I will admit that I was a bit apprehensive maybe even nervous to try my hand at baking bread. There is so much that can go wrong, the yeast isn't active, the bread doesn't proof, did I let it rise long enough, etc. I am happy to report that it went smoother and more easily than I had anticipated.

I was setting out to make something a little rustic- a crusty on the outside, doughy on the inside loaf of bread- something like what you get at Carrabba's. I came across a recipe on the web that sounded like what I was looking for. I put on my apron, rolled up my sleeves and got to it. The bread making as a whole was considerably more simple than I had anticipated. The biggest challenge for me was the patience factor. There was a lot of working then waiting then working then waiting. Probably a good exercise for me as I tend to be a little on the high strung side.
All in all the bread came out ok. I wasnt blown away but then again, could be more my fault than the recipe's. I was hoping the bread would be a little more elastic on the inside. It was definitely very crusty but never quite browned the way I had hoped. I also had an issue cutting the slits in the top of the bread. The moral of the story is that I am satisfied with my bread making ability. I look forward to trying again with a different recipe. I found the kneading and waiting almost therapeutic- half stress relief and half exercise to make me slooooow down.

If you've never made bread, try this recipe. It was forgiving and all in all came out a-ok.

Carrabba's Style Bread
Makes one (8 to 9 inch) round loaf (JCB note: a bit confused here because at the end the recipe calls for a 9x5 load pan- so is it round or square???)

1 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
pinch of sugar
1 1/4 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons lukewarm water at 110 degrees F (43C)
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
olive oil to grease the bowl

Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the 1 1/2 tablespoons of lukewarm water. After 5-10 minutes you will see the yeast start to activate by bubbling and foaming.

Put 1 cup of the flour in a large bowl and add the yeast mixture. Start mixing and gradually incorporate the salt and shortening. Add the remaining flour and, as the mixture starts to absorb the water, begin adding the remaining water until a ball of dough forms. If the dough is too wet, knead in an extra tablespoon at a time until the dough is "tacky". Be careful not to add too much flour and make the dough too firm. You want it a little sticky and moist. Add just enough flour to make it possible to handle but still a little difficult. Place the dough onto a floured board and knead for a few minutes to a nice, smooth consistency.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a draft-free place for 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for about 4 minutes. Place it on a greased loaf pan 8x5 or 9x5-inches, oil the top of the dough and loosely cover with plastic wrap again. Let the dough rise a second time for another hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230C).

Gently remove the plastic wrap and, with a razor or very sharp knife, make 2 slashes in a crisscross shape across the top using a quick motion.

Place the dough in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. (Do not open the oven door for the first 30 minutes of baking).

Turn the heat down to 350 degrees F and continue to bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the crust is deep brown on top. Remove from the oven and let it cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and place on a cooling rack.



redkathy said...

I couldn't agree more. There is nothing more rewarding that fresh baked bread!

J said...

True! But I would love to find a different recipe that someone has tried and had success with. I will live to Bake another day!
= )

Anali said...

Congratulations on your first bread! It looks great! I'm getting ready to make some bread myself for World Bread Day 2009 on 10/16. I always love seeing the roundups from these events!