Tonight I went to see Julie & Julia-- that new movie about Julia Child and a blogging crazy woman who made every dish in Julia's book. It was fantastic. Meryl Streep as Julia was impeccable, of course. But most importantly, it inspired me. Julia Child took 8 years to write her book. I've only been working on mine for about two years, and not very diligently at that. That blogger woman wrote every day, and cooked every day. I only write once a week. I don't make everything I write about. I'm such a slacker, and I need to do better.
I was also inspired to cook. Today I went to visit my fine friends at the Crumb Brothers Bakery in Logan, and got all jazzed about baking good bread. I came right home from the movie tonight and mixed up a batch of starter for some bread I'll bake tomorrow. I tells ya, I have a passion.
My bread isn't special, particularly. I mean, its better than just about anything you might buy at the grocery store (especially when its fresh), but really, its just bread. Its not a pioneer recipe exactly, although many old recipes I've read follow in the shadows, and I'm sure a pioneer somewhere made bread like mine. But anyway, I just wanted to share with all of you one of the things that makes me happy.
To 1/2 cup water at room temperature, add 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast. Let it dissolve gently, and swish it around in a small bowl. Add 3/4 cup unbleached white flour. Using a wooden spoon, mix it until it is integrated, then beat vigorously for 100 strokes. Cover and let it sit out for several hours, even overnight.
In the morning, measure two cups of water at room temperature into your large bread mixing bowl. Add 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast to this water and let it dissolve gently. Next, add the starter you made the night before. Break it up with a wooden spoon until it is thoroughly dissolved and becomes slightly frothy. Add 1 cup flour, and mix well. Add 1 Tbs. salt, and continue mixing with the wooden spoon. Gradually add three more cups flour. When it becomes difficult to stir, turn it out on your floured kneading surface. Knead for 15 minutes, adding flour to total about 6 cups or so. When it is well kneaded, clean out the big bowl, grease it with butter, and turn the dough in the bowl until it is coated with butter. Cover and let rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
After rising, punch the dough down and cover it again. Let it rest 30 minutes. At that time, turn the dough out and briefly knead it again, just a few strokes. Divide the dough into two lumps. Shape it as desired (I use a round loaf), and set it to rise the 2nd time in whatever you have to help it hold shape. Real bakers use a form called a couche but I use little mixing bowls lined with a well floured dish cloth.
When risen, have your oven ready at 450F. I use a baking stone, preheated. Remove the stone from the oven and throw a couple of ice cubes on the floor of the oven. Close the door while you turn the loaves onto the baking stone and let the oven fill with steam. Gently turn the loaves onto the stone, and using a very sharp razor or serrated knife, score the tops of the loaves. Return the stone and loaves to the oven. Bake for 35-40 minutes, reducing to 425 when loaves start to color. Cool on wire racks, or lean against the wall to cool.
This bread gives me joy every time. I hope you like it too. Thanks to Daniel Leader for teaching me.
My Audio Book of Eight Flavors is out now!
3 days ago