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Monday, March 18, 2013

Fresh Bread


It's hard to beat bread baked at home. After fancy cakes, home baked bread and rolls usually get the most oooh's and ahh's from my guests. People don't bake bread at home anymore (my friend John, the uber-baker and vineyard owner,  and Jenny of La Poeme, excepted) so if you go to the trouble of baking your own bread, your guests really appreciate it.

For years, I had a bread machine and I regularly made bread at home. The motor croaked a couple of years ago and I have gotten out of the habit of making bread at home. I'm trying to fix that. I still take the lazy way out by using my big KitchenAid mixer. If you want to make it by hand, all power to ya!

The loaf pictured above is a recipe from Pie in the Sky by Susan Purdy, a high altitude baking book, which I mentioned in my recent post of cream cheese brownies. Though it has adjustments for higher altitudes, all the way up to 10,000 ft (if you happen to live in Silverton, CO), this is not just for high-altitude bakers because all the recipes are adjusted for sea level and up. So, if you live in NJ, it's still a great book. I heartily recommend it.

Grassy Creak Multi-grain Bread for 5000 ft above sea level
(makes one large boule)

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (regular or rapid rise)
¼ cup warm (110°F) water
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ cup + 2 Tablespoons water
½ cup plain lowfat or regular yogurt (not Greek)
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons neutral vegetable oil like sunflower or canola
3 Tablespoons honey
2 ⅓ cups white bread flour
1 to 1 ¼ cups whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur Flour's White Wheat)
¼ cup wheat germ
3 Tablespoons ground flax seeds
3 Tablespoons whole flax seeds
¼ cup sunflower seeds or chopped walnuts
egg glaze made with 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
hot water

In a small bowl, combine the yeast, warm water, and sugar. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine ½ cup + 2 Tablespoons water, yogurt, salt, oil, and honey. Heat until just hot, 120°F. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl of a big mixer, mix together bread flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, wheat germ, ground and whole flax seeds, and sunflower seeds or walnuts. Add in the yeast mixture then the in ingredients in the saucepan. Mix with paddle attachment until the dough holds together. Switch to the dough hook. Knead for 5 minutes. If the dough seems really sticky, add a little more whole wheat flour, a Tablespoon at a time. It's better to err on too little flour than too much. Knead for another 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, form into a nice smooth ball. Flour your hands if the dough is sticky. Place the dough ball in a large oiled bowl and roll around to oil all over. Cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm spot for about 50 minutes until doubled in size. The time will depend on your kitchen temperature. I have an oven with a proofing setting and it takes 50 minutes but if I let if rise on the counter it could take longer because my kitchen is usually around 65-70°F except during summer.

Punch down the dough. Reform into a ball and let rise again, again until doubled, about 40 minutes. While the dough is rising, prepare a sheet pan by either lining it with a silicone pad or parchment paper.

Punch the dough down again. Form into a tight slightly flattened ball. Place on the lined sheet pan and cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap. Let rise until about ⅓ larger, about 15-20 minutes. While the dough is rising, place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place a pie plate in the bottom of the oven to heat up.

When the dough has risen sufficiently, brush the top with the egg glaze. Slash the top with a very sharp knife - a serrated knife works well. Make 4-5 slashes ¼" deep in one direction, than 4-5 perpendicular to those. Place the pan in the oven and pour hot water into the pie plate to generate some steam. This helps the bread develop a crunchy crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and add more water if it has all evaporated. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the pan with the water. Bake for another 30 minutes until the bread is nicely browned and its internal temperature is 190°F. Allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing. It's a good slicer, making delicious sandwich bread.

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