Thursday, February 23, 2006

Basic Bread

This easy and delicious basic bread formula comes from Chef2Chef. With only five simple ingredients, allow a short time to rise, and you have a beautiful loaf of Da Bread. It has been made many times in the La Vida Dulce kitchen with excellent results. It can be made by hand, with just a wooden spoon and a big bowl. It also mixes up easily in the Kitchen Aid mixer. Remember not to go above speed #2 or you will burninate your mixer. Try adding in a bit of olive oil, minced garlic, and fresh rosemary. Or some diced fresh jalapeno with grated cheese. Be creative! Get out your kitchen scale, because in baking, the ingredients need to be weighed accurately. 3 1/2 cups of flour may weigh a pound one day, and then weigh something different the next day. Have fun!

DA BREAD – ADAPTED FROM CHEF2CHEF – makes two large loaves
You can tweak it up some by adding olive oil, spices, herbs, corn, or whatever feels right that day. Note that the salt in the recipe is fine sea salt. Do not use kosher salt because the grains are too big and do not break down as easily. They can tear the gluten, which holds the bread together, and can interfere with the rising process.
2 1/2 cups water, warmed
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 pound 10 ounces bread flour

Whisk the honey and yeast into 2 cups of pure filtered water. The water should be warm, like 100 to 110 degrees, not too hot or you will kill the yeast. This wakes up the yeast and makes ‘em happy. Once the yeast is dissolved add the salt then the flour, and stir it all up to form a dough ball. You may need a little more flour depending on the humidity. Add any additional seasonings or herbs at this stage. Knead for 5 minutes then let rest 5 minutes more. Divide into 2 BIG loaves. Line a sheet pan with parchment and sprinkle with a little corn meal or flour. Lay the loaves on top and brush with water.

Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Occasionally re-brush with water to keep a skin from forming. You will know the dough is ready when you poke it with your finger like the Pillsbury dough boy and the indentation stays, after about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Brush with water once more and score three cuts across the top with a sharp knife. Bake at 425 degrees F in the center rack of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. You will hear a good deep sound from thumping the underside of the loaf. Cool slightly on a rack for 5 to 10 minutes. Place on cutting board, just do not cut into the bread yet. It is still cooking. For best results let cool for a full 30 minutes before slicing. Serve with butter or olive oil.

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