Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Artisan Bread Series: Terms and Techniques

 Back to that pesky bread series....

There are a few terms and techniques you will need to know in order to successfully make the Artisan Breads.  Not that you didn't know or think of these on your own, but I thought I would share.

  • Warming Your Water.  I'm too lazy to grab a thermometer.  As a good rule of thumb, your water should be slightly warmer than body temp.  I always think to make it a little warmer than room temp.  Too hot of water will kill your yeast.
  • Adding Yeast.  You don't need to let it sit or add sugar.  Just stir until most of it is dissolved.
  • Mixing in the Flour.  Mix all of the flours in at one time.  You can use your hands, but I use my KitchenAid and dough hook attachment.  Mix until it's a uniform mixture.  Do not knead
  • Let your Dough Rise.  Yes, it's bread in 5 minutes, but that reflects the time you have to actively invest on baking days.  When you prep the dough, it takes a few minutes to mix and then it will need to proof.  Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rise for at least 2 hours at room temperature.  You can let it rise for up to 5 hours.  Once done, you can use the dough right away, but it's really hard to work with.  Put it in the refrigerator, covered but not airtight, until chilled and then it will be much easier! 
  • Prepping for Baking.  When you are ready to bake, you will need to separate the dough into "loaves" (as described specifically in each recipe).  Many loaves should be 1 pound of dough, or the shape of a grapefruit.  Only take out what you want to bake that day.  Stretch the dough a little and pull the ends down to the bottom center to make a "ball".  Do this, turning the dough clockwise each time you "pull".  It will make a perfect little ball (with a hot-mess of a bottom.  It's okay!)- this is called the "gluten cloak".  The cloaking action should only take 30-60 seconds.  Let it rise for 40 minutes before baking on a corn-meal dusted plate (the book calls for a pizza peel, I use a floppy cutting board from the dollar store.  Either way, it works best to be able to slide the dough off onto your stone when ready to bake).    
  • Oven Preheating.  Preheat your oven, stone and broiler pan inside, 20 minutes before baking so that both are hot when the dough is baked.  The dough needs 40 minutes to proof, so I always set a timer for 20, preheat the oven, set another 20, then bake.
  • Dust and Slash.  Before the loaf goes into the oven, dust liberally with flour and, using a serrated knife, slash a scallop or tic-tac-toe pattern 1/4 inch deep.   
  • Steam.  Pour warm water in to the broiler pan that was preheated below your stone.  Set the dough on the stone, and hurry up and get that door shut! 
  • Bake.  Times will vary with recipe.  Let the bread cool completely before cutting, or you will smoosh the crumb and have gummy bread.  Store in a brown paper bag.
  • Parbaking.  You can parbake loaves of bread by baking it until the center is set, about 90% of the baking time.  Let cool completely, then freeze.  To reheat, let defrost completely at room temp, then bake at 450 for another 10-15 minutes. 
  • Yield.  Yield indicates how much the recipe will make.  Each recipe has a different yield.  The breads that are intended to actually be a part of your daily meals yield more, where as the dessert recipes yield less.  These doughs are awesome.  Because they can be stored for so long in the refrigerator (and you will be fighting the urge to bake it all at once), prepare enough dough to bake fresh bread for your family for at least one week.  The first time I baked this recipe, I made one full recipe.  It lasts about a week and a half, but it's mostly used for my husband's sandwiches (and my picking fingers!).  If you have more people in your family, try one full recipe, then adjust as needed.  Keep in mind- it's called Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.  You aren't supposed to be making the dough every other day, just preparing and baking!
Now that you are familiar with some of the basic baking steps, you are ready for some Artisan Bread!  I promise  I will post the recipe tomorrow.  You will not regret it!


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