I find it refreshing when we can reign in the ego a bit and admit to our mistakes. Which is why I am writing about bread. While Darcy is an accomplished bread maker, I am not. A big part of the problem is that I have serious issues with directions. Try as I might, I never seem to follow them. I in general find this to be one of the more endearing aspects of my personality, but a great bread baker it does not make. So the other day, while reading of Orangette's cooking tribulations, I realized that we shouldn't just blog about the good /great dishes. We need to discuss the failures because - hey! - it's not a perfect world. And maybe you can all learn from some of our missteps! Which is, again, why I write today about bread.
Last week was attempt number one at bread making. I have watched my mom make rolls and things, but had never tried my hand at it. So I decided, with the guidance of a Mark Bittman cookbook, to make my first attempt. I can't say it was an abject failure, but the result was inedible. My mistake - using a white whole flour in place of standard all-purpose flour (I wanted something healthier). I knew from the beginning something was not right. The dough took much longer to rise than indicated in the recipe, and it lacked the desired spring in a well-risen dough. Only after my very flat sandwich loaf emerged from the oven did I decide to research what might have gone wrong. And it ends up, it is all in the flour. White whole white is not a blended flour (as I thought) but rather a different variety of wheat (whole wheat flour is made from red wheat, white whole wheat from white wheat). And wheat flour takes longer to rise. About twice as long. For both rising times. So really, I just needed to give my bread a bit more time! I do not have a picture of my sad little loaf, as I was not impressed; but it did not go entirely to waste, and nourished some very happy little birds.
Not one to accept failure, I gave breadmaking another go last night. Whereas version 1.0 was made entirely by hand, I listened to Mark Bittman's advice and used my food processor (it really makes everything so easy!). Instead of a sandwich loaf, I decided on french bread. Easy enough, right? So I made my sponge last night, around midnight, and as directed, left the whole thing in the food processor, covered it with plastic wrap, and went to bed. This morning, I awoke to a yeasty explosion on my kitchen counter. The sponge had risen a bit more than expected and literally oozed down the side of my Cuisinart. But all was not lost.
And in the end, the bread turned out beautifully. Two nice little boules. I of course had to slice one open within minutes of removing them from the oven. It was perfect. Warm, yeasty with a nice crust. I can't wait to make it again!
Overnight French Bread
from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian
3 1/2 cups bread or all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp salt
Put 2 cups of the flour in a food processor, add the yeast and half the salt, and turn the machine on. With the machine running, pour about a cup of water through the feed tube (ed. note: I used about a cup and a half). Process until you have a smooth pancake-like batter. Cover and let rest in a cool place overnight, or for at least 6 hours.
Add the remaining flour and salt to mixture, turn the machine on, and add water, a little at a time, until a moist well-defined ball forms (ed. note: this took about half a cup of water). If the dough sticks to the side of the bowl, you have added too much water. Add about 1/4 cup flour and keep going.
Dump the lump of dough into a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap, and let sit at room temperature for at least an hour.
Dust a counter or work surface with a little flour. Shape the dough as you like (I made boules, but you can make rolls, baguettes). Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while you let the bread rest, covered with a towel.
When you are ready to bake, slash the top of each loaf once or twice with a sharp knife. Bake on a stone or a lightly oiled baking sheet. Turn the heat down to 375 degrees, and bake the bread! The baking time will vary, based on the shape of bread you choose to make. Rolls take about 15 minutes, baguettes about 25 minutes, and the boule 35 to 45 minutes. Bread is done when it makes a hollow sound when tapped. Enjoy!