Well, I probably shouldn't do this, but I've started another Blog. Like I don't already spend too much time at the MacBook. As some of you might have guessed, I like to cook and I love to eat. So I thought I'd share my recipes, humble as they may be and an occasional dinner menu at our house. I am somewhat "reluctant" to share this project right now, but caution to the wind. The plan is to be discovered by the Food Network for my cooking show Cranky Franky's in the Kitchen.
Am I ready for critics? Probably not. I know my instructions are not always clear or precise. Let me know if something doesn't make sense. Anyhow, if you're interested, check out "Dinner's Ready"

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Two-Day Bread

 Two-Day Bread
I've posted bread and pizza on the blog before, and I've always been fascinated with bread and how there are so many different tastes and textures, some of which depend on using different ingredients like milk or butter or molasses or eggs or whole wheat.  But what always puzzled me was how flour, yeast, salt and water could result in such different products.

A few years ago I bought a couple of bread baking books by Peter Reinhart.  To be honest, the author was just a little too precise and technical for me.  He listed ingredients in grams and percentages of the total weight.  He required one to construct a kind of brick oven to insert in the kitchen oven and most of the recipes involved using some form of a "pre-ferment" like a 'biga" or "poolish" or "pate fermentee".  These preferments were to be made a day or two or three ahead of time - before making the actual loaf, which would require several hours in itself.

I don't usually know what I'm going to do this afternoon, let alone tomorrow, so planning on Monday to make bread on Wednesday just seemed like too much of a commitment.  Besides, I am impatient and need immediate gratification.  I want my daily bread today, not on Thursday.  I admit I fooled around with a couple of the recipes, but was not impressed with my skill or my results.  I reverted back to making my dough the way I always did: three mugs of warm water, three packages of yeast, a teaspoon of sugar, three teaspoons of salt, three tablepoons of olive oil (optional) and enough flour  to make dough...but never measured exactly.  (King Arthur All Purpose and I mixed in some Whole Wheat when I wanted to be a little healthier, usually about 3 parts white to 1 part whole wheat).

Yesterday I was making dough for pizza and decided to make my version of a "poolish" - basically a sticky, wet dough to set aside in the fridge.  I made my dough as usual but before mixing in all of the flour, took out about two cups of what was at that point a batter, a little thicker than pancake batter, and set it aside to ferment.  It then went into the fridge overnight.

I then took the remaining batter, added more flour to make dough and turned it into some great pizza and a calzone last evening.

Today I took the preferment out, let it warm to room temperature, added a mug full of warm water, a teaspoon of yeast, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and gradually added more white and wheat flour and beat it by hand till I had to take it out of the bowl to knead it.   The only oil I ued was to coat the dough in the bowl before letting it rise.  I let it rise for an hour and a half, then formed rolls and one large loaf.  Let it rise again for 30 minutes or so, brushed it with milk, and sprinkled it with sesame seeds (thanks to Bob who gave me a huge bag of the stuff), and baked them all in a 475-500 degree oven (my oven is so imprecise - did I ever mention that we bought it for like $275 from Sears Dent and Scratch Store 12 years ago?  We've recently looked at stoves and they have too much electronics, some have burner grates that are a disaster waiting to happen and they are like $800 to $3,000 and that's just a beginning...).

Anyhow, after 30 - 35 minutes the bread emerged looking like an Artesian Loaf, (did I say that right?)
I could not help it, I ate a roll with some butter while they were still hot.  While yesterday's pizza crust was excellent, the texture and flavor of today's bread were even better - crunchy on the outside, airy on the inside, and with a nice nutty flavor, thanks to the whole wheat and sesame seeds.

I will definitely try this method again when I feel I can make the commitment.  I may even look through the bread books again and try to do it more precisely.  But chances are that I will wing it as usual and hope for the best.  It usually works out.