baking real bread

You may have heard the news yesterday that Subway plans to remove the additive azodicarbonamide from its breads. I’m really excited about this because it’s finally got people talking about the ridiculous conditioners and chemicals they put in bread.

When I moved to Chicago, I bought a loaf of sourdough from Whole Foods to tide us over before I could bake. A few weeks later, I opened the bread box to find a slice from that loaf, still pristine as the day I bought it! It should have been moldy and disgusting, but then again, it wasn’t real bread. One of my favorite groups is the Real Bread Campaign, and they remind us that real bread needs only four ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt (and time). No azodicarbonamide. Nothing with maximum use levels or tests on human toxicity.

bread2

I’ve been making a lot of bread this winter, and while my family was kicking me for it (hey, it’s not my fault that it tastes so good you can’t stop eating it) I was having a blast. I decided to get over the all-or-nothing approach that stunted me the last time I went on a bread kick. I wanted it to be 100% local whole wheat and wild yeast (sourdough). I’ll get there some day, but for now, I’m using commercial yeast and doing the no-knead method. I still try to use as much local flour as I can. In Massachusetts, I bought it in bulk from the amazing Four Star Farms.

You do have to figure out your timing and do some simple math before you put together your dough. Make sure that in 18-24 hours from the time you make the dough, you will have 3 hours at home for the final rise and baking. If you make it around 8 or 9 PM, you will be on track to make the bread as you make your dinner the next day. You’ll get used to it. Again, this recipe is in weight measurements.

No-Knead Bread, based on Jim Lahey’s now classic recipe
200 grams all-purpose flour
230 grams whole wheat flour
¼ teaspoon instant yeast (1 gram)
1¼ teaspoons regular table salt (8 grams)
355-365 mL room temp water

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 355 mL (same as 355 grams) water at first, and add more if you need to.

IMG_3013

You want the dough to come together and look well hydrated but not wet. The whole wheat flour needs more hydration than just plain white. Dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees. I put my dough in a drawer.

dough

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack for at least an hour before you cut in! You will thank yourself for waiting.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

Note: I’ll be adding more pictures over the next day as my bread rises!

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