Friday, February 25, 2011

Artisan French Bread Boule

I am slightly embarrassed to say that I've never cooked a homemade yeasted bread until now.
The idea of getting the temp right, the dough to rise, etc, always made it seem like it might be more trouble than it's worth.
In truth, it (or at least this recipe) is amazingly easy. And amazingly delicious.

Thanks to Angela K for giving me the recipe and her tips and pointers, most of which are included below.

This one batch got me three good-sized loaves: original, garlic+rosemary, and cinnamon raisin. The extras in the latter two were just folded into the dough as I created the ball pre-baking.

This recipe is from the book " Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois. The recipe below is for the French Boule and it is SO good! You can play with this recipe and add different spices to change it up, but it is really good all alone too. I also use this same dough for pita bread too and it comes out great every time!
You can keep the dough in your fridge for up to 14 days and just pull out a hunk of dough whenever you want bread. The longer the dough is in your fridge, the more it will taste like sourdough.

You will need:
~ a 5 quart (minimum) plastic [Kelly's note: I used a big metal bowl actually] container that is NOT air tight. You can use a bigger container if you want too.
~ A pizza stone. This is crucial! Doesn't matter if it's square or round
~ A broiling pan [Kelly's note: A 9x13 basic baking pan works too]
~ An oven :)

1 1/2 Tablespoons Yeast (doesn't matter if it is quick rising, active, or something else. I just happen to use "active yeast") ( oh, and keep your yeast in the freezer. it lasts longer)
1 1/2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
3 Cups warm-hot water
6 1/2 Cups Unbleached, all-purpose white flour
Cornmeal for pizza peel (I use a wooden cutting board as my pizza peel)

1. Put Yeast, Salt, Water in your plastic container and mix with big spoon. (You can add herbs here if you want too) Add flour all at once and mix all up. That's it!! Now put the lid [Kelly's note: I just used a piece of foil and laid a kitchen towel on top...I think the idea is for it to be covered but not absolutely airtight] on your container and let it sit on your counter for 2-4 hours. You can start using it after the 2-4 hours, or you can pop it in the fridge.

2. If you want to use the dough right away, after the 2-4 hours of rising, heat your oven to 450 degrees with the pizza stone in your oven and the broiler tray underneath the pizza stone. After 20 minutes of preheating (even if your oven isn't at 450 yet), go ahead and sprinkle some flour on the dough in your container and pull a chunk of dough (grapefruit size or bigger) out. Keep sprinkling flour on your hands and dough to keep it from sticking and stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all sides, rotating the ball around as you go. Dust your loaf and slash it with a knife. Slide it from your pizza peel onto your hot pizza stone (with some cornmeal dusted on top of the pizza stone) in the oven and then pour 1 Cup of hot water into your broiler pan. The water steams the bread, helping it to rise in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Take out and cool on cooling rack

3. If you refrigerated your dough, pull out the chunk of dough, shape it, and put it on your cornmealed pizza peel and let it rise for 20 minutes. If it doesn't rise, don't worry, it will in your oven. After the 20 minutes, then preheat your oven to 450. After another 20 min, stick your dough in your oven on the pizza stone and the 1 cup of hot water into your broiler tray. (The dough will have sat out on your counter for 40 min total before going into the oven). Bake for 30 min. Take out and cool on cooling rack.

Pita Bread:
Do all of the above. But when you go to bake, preheat your oven first to 500 degrees. No need for broiler pan here. No need for rising time. After the oven has preheated, pull out a hunk of the dough and put on a FLOURED pizza peel or wooden cutting board and roll out with a rolling pin until it is super thin, about 1/8 in thin. You can pop it right into the oven onto the pizza stone. Bake for 5-7 minutes until it is puffed and browned a little. Take out and cool between 2 towels on a cooling rack and it will cool and soften.

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