Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Basic Hearth Bread

Ever since I've sworn off of eating sandwiches for lunch during the week, I look for any excuse to eat bread with dinner. Last Sunday, I planned to make poached eggs with braised peppers and onions, and figured the Basic Hearth Bread from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum would be a good one to try.

This bread has a great crust and is hearty enough for dipping into something saucy. In fact, tonight for dinner I sauteed some mushrooms, threw in a container of leftover spaghetti sauce, and ate that with just the bread for dipping. It was yummy!

I used a stand mixer to knead the dough, so the following instructions reflect that. You could knead with your hands if you're  so inclined. 

I also left out a step in her original recipe (she calls for allowing the dough to rest for 20 minutes after the initially mixing it), but I thought it turned out wonderfully despite this oversight.

Rose's book is fantastic because she gives very specific instructions (including what speed to use on your stand mixer).

Dough Starter
5.5 oz. bread flour
1.25 oz. whole wheat flour
3/8 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp. honey
1 1/3 cups of room temperature water

Flour Mixture
10.3 oz bread flour
1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt

To make the starter (aka sponge) whisk the bread flour, yeast, honey and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk for 2 minutes to incorporate air and to get the mixture very smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap while you combine the flour mixture.

For the flour mixture, combine the ingredients and gently pour the mixture onto the dough starter to cover it completely. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment at room temperature from 1-4 hours.

After fermenting, mix the dough using a dough hook in a stand mixer until the the dough is rough. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 7 minutes, until its elastic smooth, and slightly sticky. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to rise until it has doubled, about 1 hour. 

Next, shape the dough into a boule and place on a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan (or prepare a loaf pan and shape it into a loaf.) Allow it to rise 45 minutes to an hour (mine took an hour). Place a sheet pan on the bottom rack of the oven, and have a rack in the middle of the oven. Pre-heat your oven to 475 degrees. Right before you bake the bread, slash the dough. Place the dough on the middle oven rack, and pour 1/4 cup of water into the sheet pan on the bottom rack to create steam. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the bread for even browning, and lower the temperature to 425 degrees, and bake for another 20 minutes. Take the bread out of the oven and (try to) wait until it's cool before slicing.