Monday, August 5, 2013

Breaking Bread Together

My first dough on it's second rise.
Our French roots run deep in New Orleans.  Anyone will tell you, our bread is the. best. in the country. There is a lot of talk about bread here at MiddleBar since there are only 3 bakeries in Los Angeles where they bake anything even close to Leidenheimer's. (For my full diatribe on New Orleans french bread click here.)

Bread making is, for sure, one of the great artistic contributions from the French.  But getting started is easier than you think.  One of my favorite take-homes from CAN IT ACADEMY is bread-making, and this delicious boule.

I'm proud to say that my canning education is being put to good use as I'm busy trying to replicate the delicious, light, and terrifically airy french bread of my youth.  In the meantime, here is a simple bread recipe to get you started on your own bread baking adventure.

NY Times Recipe adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising 
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed. 

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

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