2020-06-05 It Doesn't HAVE To Be Difficult!
Sometimes, OK - all too often, we make baking bread harder than it has to be. Feed the sourdough starter for three days. Make a preferment for 12 to 18 hours. Bake the bread in a dutch oven or a wood fired oven that has never cooled in the past 150 years. Only use pure salt puddled from pure water on the coast of Bali Ha'i, using flour milled in a stone mill and sifted by naked virgins under a new moon using wheat that was organically grown with proper attention to biodynamic principles 500 miles from the nearest fertilized or pesticide treated field. We all have our own rituals!
But sometimes we just want some bread, not an endless descent into ritual. Really, it shouldn't be all that difficult! I recently needed to compare two ways of using an Ankarsum mixer (which will be discussed in a separate newsletter or blog entry). I didn't have any sourdough starter ready and didn't want to make any. I didn't want to create a poolish or biga or sponge! And as for old dough, fugettaboutit! I just wanted to make bread.
I started going through recipes and couldn't find just a plain, simple, yeast bread recipe. And then I remembered that many years ago the good folks at General Mills had given away a pamphlet entitled, "Making Artisan Bread". It's a beautiful little book that covers a lot of territory. If you'd like a copy, just click on the link above.
Among other things, it has a great baguette recipe. So, I thought I'd make that! Just flour, water, salt and yeast. Easy peasy! A quick look in the book showed the recipe was for 25 pounds of flour and used compressed, or fresh, yeast. I scaled the recipe to make two 1 1/2lb loaves that I was going to bake as pan loaves.
Here's the formula:
|Volumetric Measure (Cups)||Ingredient||Weight||Baker's Percentage|
|2 2/3 Cups||Water||640 Grams||68.64%|
|7 1/8 Cups||Bread Flour (See note 1)||930 Grams||100%|
|2 tsp||Salt||14 Grams||1.5 %|
|1 tsp||Instant Yeast||5.2 grams||.6%|
Note 1 - General Mills suggests you use their Harvest King or Better for Bread flours, which are the same except for the packaging. I didn't have any so I used King Arthur's Sir Galahad. Any good flour will work well, and those are very good flours!
Their instructions, on the last page of the pamphlet, are only a little more complicated than mine. Add ingredients to the mixer in the order given. Mix until well developed. I like 5 minutes of mix on low speed, a 5 minute rest, and then 5 more minutes of mixing at low speed. (You can knead by hand, of course.)
Cover the dough and let it rise. It should double in size in about an hour. Scale into 770 gram loaves. Preshape into rounds, let rest for 20 minutes, then shape into pan loaves, put the loaves into pans, cover and allow to rise. You could make baguettes instead, - it's YOUR bread after all!. Start heating the oven to 425F. Let the dough double in size again, 30 to 60 minutes.
Put the breads in the oven to bake for 25 minutes, then turn the loaves an bake another 20 minutes.
By the time I turned the loaves, Beth was commenting how something smelled SO good! And she was right, the house was full of a delightful aroma!
Once the bread was done, it was very difficult to let it cool before we sliced it. Much butter was melted on still warm bread (maybe we didn't wait long enough) and there was soft moaning.
The bread was an absolute delight. It was interesting in other ways. We all "know" baguettes don't last very long. In part that's because they rise so quickly. It seems to be more the shape than the speed of making the bread. I made the loaves a week ago and they are still toasting nicely.
Give yourself permission to make an easy bread. A really easy bread.
Until next time, may your dough always rise, even if it only has four ingredients!