Thursday, March 17, 2011

thursday thrift: bread


i love it. who doesn't? it's so versatile, you can eat it with any meal. i'd venture to guess bread, or some form of it, is one of the top 3 comfort foods for 98% of north america's population.

i am not a fan of all store-bought breads (like wonderbread - bread is not naturally that white - or the kind with 30 ingredients, half of which are chemical preservatives and colors), and the kind of bread i do like to eat (like a bread affair bread for those of you in the vancouver area. i mention them all the time. because they are amazing, that's why.), while amazing, is often expensive too.

i grew up with a mom who made our own bread all the time. when she baked, our kitchen turned into a factory and we had enough bread and rolls and cinnamon buns to last us weeks or months. although she did give a lot of it away. i love my mom. some of my best memories of childhood stem around bread. kneading my little ball of dough, making mini 'barbie-sized' bread loaves and buns, and eating fresh, warm bread, with fresh, homemade peanut butter. my mouth is watering now.

but over the last few years, almost every time i've tried to bake bread, its been a failure in one way or another. or if not a failure, i got a boring, tasteless loaf of bread. wait, yeah, that's a failure. needless to say, i was justifiably afraid to try baking bread for a while. and to bake in large batches like my mom does? i can't even fathom it. i'm a bit of a slow baker. i like to think that i just enjoy it so much that i savor each moment, but really i'm just slow.

my sister and i have recently discovered the wonders of no-knead bread. how is it wonderful? you don't have to knead it, and its not so picky. if you go over the specified amount of waiting/rising time, you won't be left with dense, flat, horrible bread.

i also tried the kneading bread again. three times. and it worked pretty decently!

so i'll give you both recipes below. the photos are from the kneaded bread. the no-knead bread isn't as pretty, cuz we bake it in a casserole dish.

basic white bread (kneaded):
adapted from reader's digest ultimate bread by eric treuille and ursula ferrigno


2 teaspoons dry yeast (i've been using active dry yeast)
1 1/3 cups water (325ml)
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  1. sprinkle yeast into 1/2 a cup of the water (lukewarm) in a bowl. leave for about 5 minutes, stir to dissolve.
  2. mix flour & salt in a larger bowl. make a well in the centre & pour in dissolved yeast.
  3. use a wooden spoon (not sure why its specifically wooden...) to bring in just enough of the flour into the dissolved yeast to form a paste. cover bowl with a dish towel, and wait 20 minutes. you want the paste to get spongy, frothy, and expand a bit.
  4. pour half of the remaining water into the centre, & mix in flour from the sides. stir in water as needed for a firm, moist dough.
  5. turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. knead until smooth & elastic, about 10 minutes. (i usually gave up around 7. oops)
  6. put the dough in a clean, lightly oiled, bowl & cover with a dish towel. let it rise until its' doubled in size, around 1 1/2 to 2 hours. punch it down (get the air bubbles out), and then let it rest for 10 minutes.
  7. shape the dough into a loaf. i basically took the punched down dough, flattened it a bit into a rectangle shape, and rolled/folded it into itself on a lightly floured surface. pinch the ends together, and that end becomes the bottom of your loaf. make sure the top is smooth. it helps to cup your hands over the loaf, and kind of roll it - the top of the loaf will just barely touch your hands. make sure the ugly side with the pinched ends stay on the bottom.
  8. place loaf on a floured baking sheet* and cover with a dish towel. let it rise again (proof) until its doubled in size, around 45 minutes.
  9. cut slashes in the loaf diagonally, & bake in a preheated oven (425 F) for about 45 minutes. a good test is to pick it up with potholders, and tap it underneath. it should sound hollow.
  10. cool on a wire rack.
  11. slice up a few slices, spread on the butter, and devour.
*you can also use a loaf pan if you prefer.

no-knead bread:

i'm actually not going to type this one out, because the new york times' article its from is pretty in-depth already. here it is. sometimes we mix rye or whole wheat with our organic unbleached, all purpose flour. one cup of rye flour gives it a nice flavor, and gives the bread the appearance of wholesomeness.

no photo for the no-knead bread. as i mentioned before, we bake it in a casserole dish, so it takes on a weird shape. it's ugliness doesn't affect the flavor, but it just doesn't like the camera all that much.

if you have any good bread recipes or bread-making tips, do share, or send me a link if you've blogged about it.

happy bread making!

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