Bread Goodness

24 06 2008

I spent three hours at the gym this afternoon. It was nice to work that hard for that long, primarily because I need to work through mental crap and work off the calories from the loaf of bread I made last night. It’s become a summer project to learn how to decently make bread, never having figured out the whole yeast thing, and my first go was last night.

I started with a really easy recipe for simple crusty round bread. All I needed to start my bread baking adventures was a pizza stone ($10 at Target) and a digital thermometer ($10, also at Target) to take the guesswork out of dissolving yeast. I gathered a package of yeast (1/4 oz.), 3/4 cups of lukewarm water, 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and 1-3/4 cups of flour. You will also need extra flour for countertops and sprinkling on the dough before baking as well as 1 cup of water for oven-steaming.

I began by dissolving the yeast in the lukewarm water. The trick to bread, and what has been eluding me, has been dissolving the yeast at the correct temperature. Yeast will only be active in water from 110- to 115-degrees. I tried to get my water as close to 115 degrees as possible to allow for cool down and proper activation. This is where the digital thermometer comes in handy. Once the yeast is dissolved, with the water nice and bubbly, I hauled out my KitchenAid, combined all four ingredients and mixed using the dough attachment. Not all the dough mixed so I kneaded the dough on a floured counter top to get a decent consistency.

So I put the dough into a bowl, pictured above, put a towel on it, and let it sit for two or three hours so it could rise. After it had risen, it looked like this:

Now comes the small part: the baking. The oven needs to be preheated to 450 degrees – be sure to have your pizza stone in the oven before you preheat it and placed on an upper rack. Placing a pizza stone in an already heated oven could cause it to crack, which would be no good at all. When the oven and pizza stone are preheated, place a pan containing about a cup of water in it – the water is what causes the crust on the bread. Place the dough on the pizza stone, dust with a little flour and let it bake for 12 to twenty minutes, depending on how golden you like your bread.

Mine could have stood a minute or two more in the oven, but still turned out pretty tasty. Definitely a bread best right out of the oven with a reasonably-sized pat of butter. Crusty, warm goodness.

Up next: olive oil bread. Could be interesting.


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