Friday, July 27, 2012

Pretty Good Made-up Bread

This is a totally made-up-on-the-spot recipe. I hadn't made bread in a while, and I'd just strained a batch of kefir, and I had ground flax seed on hand from my horrid breakfast beverage, so this is what happened.

Ingredients (for "sponge")
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tsp yeast
  • 2 tbsp molasses
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 2/3 cup strained kefir
  • 1/4 cup ground flax meal
  • 1 cup rye flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unbleached bread flour
  • 1/4 tbsp olive oil
  • roughly 5 cups unbleached bread flour
  • a handful of cornmeal
  • a splash of olive oil
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • a kitchen mixer with bread hook 
  • or a big bowl
  • a damp cloth
  • someplace warm
  • a baking stone (or a baking sheet, if you're lame;)
  • a small ovenproof bowl of water
  • a pizza peel
  • small knife, preferably serrated
1. Sprinkle the yeast and molasses into the warm water and proof (7 to 10 minutes).
2. Mix in the remainder of the "sponge" ingredients. This is a totally fake sponge. Real sponges take at least 12 hours and have a more complex, sourdough-like smell. This is quick and dirty with the kefir added for some microbiological complexity.
3. Set mixture covered in a warm place (I set mine above the water heater) until very bubbly. 1 to 2 hours.
4. Mix in remainder of flour. I'm deliberately vague about the exact quantity. This should be a soft, sticky dough, nearly as sticky a sourdough, but not quite.
5. Knead for 10 minutes.
6. Form in to a ball and transfer to a large bowl that has been oiled with olive oil.
7. Dust top with extra flour and cover with damp cloth.
8. Return to warm place and allow to rise until doubled. About 1 hour.
9. Punch down and return to rise until doubled in warm place, or if you need to slow things down you could put it in the fridge for a while. This will gain you up to 4 or 5 hours on the final rise.
10. Place baking stone and an ovenproof bowl of water in oven
11. Preheat your oven to 415˚ F or 213˚ C.
12. Divide dough and form into two torpedo shaped loaves on a flour dusted pizza peel.
13. Dust loaves with flour and allow them to rest for about 10 minutes.
14. Throw cornmeal onto baking stone and slide loaves on.
15. Slice top of loaf with a serrated knife or wet paring knife (wetting the knife keeps the dough from sticking and pulling, a serrated knife works dry).
15. Splash a handful of water onto the base of the oven (if this won't cause all kinds to nastiness to fly up), or spray water in oven with a mister (avoiding loaves).
16. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 375˚ F or 190˚ C.
17. Bake another 25 to 35 minutes. This a dark bread already thanks to the molasses and rye and wheat flours, so rather than eyeball it, pick up a loaf and thump the bottom. It should sound hollow.
18. Allow bread to cool before cutting into it. Baking continues for several minutes after it comes out of the oven, and cutting into it while it's hot (it's so tempting, I know!) can ruin the internal structure of the loaf.

This bread is great with butter from happy cows (we get ours locally from Lucky Layla at Lavon Farms, or Kerrygold is a great supermarket alternative), and honey from a backyard hive, or jelly from foraged wild fruits (I made mustang grape jelly a couple of weeks ago). It also makes decent torijas.

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