Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bake The Book: The Art and Soul of Baking

One of my 2009 Christmas presents was a new cookbook called The Art and Soul of Baking. For beginning to experienced bakers, it is filled with detailed instructions on how to measure and weigh ingredients, mixing equipment, pan explanations, what to have in a baker's pantry, and of course, loads of recipes. Sure it was on my Christmas list, but did I realize it was 454 pages of pure baking bliss? Not quite!

So I started thinking, what better way to become more skilled at one of my favorite hobbies than to try every single recipe in the book? Ambitious? Maybe. But I'm always up for a good challenge. I don't really have a time goal in mind--as in, finish all the recipes by the end of 2010. So my self-imposed challenge is pretty laid back. I'm thinking of trying to knock out at least 1 recipe per week...and if life gets too crazy and I miss a week? Oh well. It's really the perfect winter activity! biggrin

Chapter 3 of the book (the first chapter with actual recipes) is titled "Yeast Rolls and Bread." And what better way to start of than with something my husband will actually eat? And yes folks, I'm literally going recipe-by-recipe in order to work my way through the book.

First up was a simple white loaf (recipe below). The closest I have come to making bread from scratch is making pizza dough, and this wasn't a whole lot different. The hardest part is all the waiting while the dough is rising!

I was a little nervous about the dough being too sticky, but I had absolutely no problems. And it shaped into a rectangle and fit in my loaf pan quite nicely. Here is is prior to baking.

It had a nice golden brown texture after it came out of the oven, thanks to the egg wash.

Overall, a successful first effort. Now we'll see how well it freezes.

Recipe #1: Old Fashioned White Loaf

1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, lightly beaten

1. Place the water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. In a medium bowl, whisk together the warm milk and melted butter.

2. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer. Mix for 1 minute on medium speed to blend. Add the yeast mixture and milk mixture and mix on medium speed just until the dough comes together, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading. Turn the speed to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is firm, elastic and smooth, 3 to 6 minutes.

3. Lightly oil a bowl, scrape the dough into the bowl and lightly cost the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don't knead the dough again or it will be too springy and difficult to shape. Shape the dough into a rectangle. Lightly coat a loaf pan with melted butter or canola oil spray. Place the dough, seam side down, in the pan.

5. Lightly oil the top of the dough to keep it moist. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise again until its top is 1/2 to 1 inch above the rim of the pan, 45 to 60 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and position an oven rack in the center. Brush the top of the loaf with a thin film of the beaten egg. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the internal temperature registers 200 degrees. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Slice with a serrated knife.

Source: The Art and Soul of Baking



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