Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bread for the Ages

It's been ages and ages since I last posted. So long, actually, that I'm not going to check the date, but I will take a moment to finally put up that picture or two I've neglected. I do have a good excuse, as we moved to another state and things have been crazy preparing for the move and unpacking. Not a good enough excuse, of course, but it'll have to do.

I 'm really happy with our move, though there were so many good friends we left behind it broke our hearts to drive away. But we have wonderful family and friends built in here in Utah, not to mention a nice view out the front and office windows:

The two months before we moved were filled with anxiety, work, and a lack of time to enjoy much cooking or baking, so I'd been looking forward a long time to having a semi-normal life and a kitchen so I could return to one of the huge stress-relievers in my life. One of my first tasks was to replace my old broken tiles I used in the oven for baking. I stopped by a stone yard to pick something up, and the salesman recommended limestone, since it does well in the heat of summer, the cold of winter, and a variety of humidity conditions. I bake on parchment, so I'm not concerned about food-safe surfaces; I just wanted something about an inch or an inch and a half thick and big enough to nearly fill my oven. I've been more than thrilled with the result! You'll have to try this out if you're looking for an option. It is heavy, but I just store it directly under the oven in the drawer, and I expect it to last a good long time.

Back to a normal life means back to baking bread for my family, and when I started a batch yesterday morning I noticed we were out of whole wheat flour. I'd been waiting for an excuse to experiment anyhow, and I was really happy with our bread yesterday and plan on repeating it frequently. I added a few grains to give it some texture and flavor, as well as improve the nutritional aspects of what would have been just white bread. It's still white, but not really white bread. The crumb is really nice – not too fluffy, not too dense – and I love the flavor. I'll probably try using whole wheat flour for part of the white flour in the future...when I have it around, of course.

3 Grain Bread

1 c. warm water
3/4 t. instant yeast
3/4 c. bread flour

Combine the sponge ingredients first thing in the morning and set aside for 2-3 hours. Alternately, combine the ingredients the night before and refrigerate overnight.

2 c. warm water
1 t. instant yeast
1/3 c. milk
1/3 c. honey
1/4 c. canola oil
2 1/4 c. quick oats, processed in a food processor until fine
3/4 c. corn flour (you can use masa flour from the Mexican section of the grocery store)
4 c. bread flour, plus more as needed
1 1/2 T. Kosher salt

Stir the warm water and yeast into the sponge. Warm the milk and honey together until the honey stirs into the milk completely, then add the milk mixture and oil to the sponge. Add the remaining ingredients and begin kneading, adding more bread flour as needed until the dough holds together well but is still pretty sticky. Knead 8-10 minutes, until the gluten has developed and the dough pulls apart in strings rather than breaking quickly.

Let rise in a warm place until double in volume, about 60-90 minutes. Divide between two 9"x5" loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Let the loaves proof until the dough is above the line of the loaf pans.

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Set a deep dish cast iron skillet or stoneware pan on the lower rack in the oven, and let that preheat with the oven.

Score the top of the loaves with a very sharp knife, slicing 1/4" deep in one line across the top of the loaf. Place the loaves in the oven and add 1/2 c. of ice cubes to the deep dish. Close the oven door and keep it closed.

Bake until the loaves are nicely browned and thoroughly baked, 45 minutes. Turn out and cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.


Heidi said...

Nice! Glad you are getting back to posting again...missed your recipes and entries. :)

The Gentry Family said...

That looks so yummy! One day you will have to teach me how to make bread...:)

The Luke Family said...

Looks delicious!

so glad to have you home! : )

We love you guys!

Seth and Sarah said...

I'll be up there about 4 PM for your offering. Looks delicious!

The Despain Gang said...

Hi Rachel,
I'm so glad your signature on email is your blog address. How fun. I'll try and use some of your wonderful ideas--although this is not my expertise at all. So excited! Thanks for sharing. :)