I think it’s about time I do a bread post.
Considering how much I need/knead bread (harhar), I’m surprised I haven’t done written about a yeast-leavened carbohydrate yet.
Well, better late than never they say.
This is the recipe, and these are the ingredients:
These ingredients were mixed with water to make the soaker, or a pre-ferment.
A soaker is a loose mix of wet and dry ingredients that you let sit for (usually) 4-12 hours at room temperature so the yeast has a chance to feed and develop really good flavors.
Once the soaker reached a batter-like consistency, the recipe instructions said to scoop the rest of the ingredients (more flour, more yeast, and salt) on top of the soaker without stirring it in.
Hmm. Interesting. I’d never encountered this technique.
But I did as I was told and covered the bowl with a plastic bag (reuse!) and let it sit for 3 hours.
This is the mix after the rest. It doesn’t look much different… Maybe a little bubblier. But I forged on.
It was only after I stirred the soaker with the unmixed dry ingredients that I kneaded the dough.
This here is a clip of me kneading the dough so you guys can get a better sense of how I do it.
As you can see, I start with a loose dough that I push forward with the heels of my hand then fold over, rotating 90° every once in a while. You’ll see that after a couple of kneads, the flour starts to hydrate and the dough gets sticker. You only need to sprinkle more flour onto your working surface to adjust your tackiness. The dough shouldn’t be too stiff or too loose, but very… kneadable and doughy (helpful, I know). As the gluten develops, you’ll feel the dough “fighting” your efforts to push it as it gets stronger.
If you’ve kneaded well and long enough, you’ll end up with a dough as happy as mine.
The recipe calls for 2 risings and one final proofing. I know that sounds like a lot of time, but all that resting time will make the yeast really happy and your bread really yummy.
After the 2nd rise, I shaped the dough into a batard or a long oblong-shaped loaf, not unlike a baguette. Then I proofed it (more or less a 3rd rise) before sticking it on a bread stone in an oven preheated too 450F.
Yeah, the oven is screaming hot. But that’s what gives the bread a good crust. That, and spraying the insides with water to create steam.
Bake for 40 minutes, rotating half-way through, and when done the bread will look like this:
I’ll be honest, this wasn’t my best, or best-looking loaf, but it was still pretty delicious.
Let’s be real, there are few things that smell or taste better than a freshly baked loaf of bread. But did you know that this delightful aroma was once feared across the lands? According to the article “Kills a Body Twelve Ways” from Gastronomica magazine, “the smell of fresh bread was the stink of death… taping into several food fears, including anxiety about yeasty fermentation and chemical adulteration…” I know, it’s hard to believe. Sure, yeast can smell a little funky to people who’ve never used it before, but the fact that it was feared is a little outlandish.
In the early 20th century, this fear of yeast developed into a phobia that we still see today…. A fear of WHITE FLOUR. Yes, it’s not as nutritionally dense as whole-wheat flours, but according to this article, the humble white loaf was accused of causing “anemia, cancer, diabetes, criminal delinquency, tuberculosis, polyneuritis, neurasthenia, gout, bursal rheumatism, childhood blindness, choked intestines, overstimulated nervous systems, acidosis, morbidity of mind and body, and ‘white race suicide.’” It was called “the food that doesn’t feed,” and there was even a saying that went: “The whiter your bread, the sooner you’re dead.”
I think that’s worse than some of the things you hear about high fructose corn syrup these days.
Even though you don’t see this kind of phobia linked with bread these days, there’s no doubting that people are somewhat carb-phobic. I won’t lie, I used to be like that too. It took me a while, but I realized that eating is not just about being healthy and eating nutritionally well. Yes, that is a part of it, and there’s no one food that can sustain you. But food is also about the pleasure of eating. What tastes good, what smells good, what feels good is all a huge part in the culture of food.
And it doesn’t matter what shade of brown or tan a loaf of bread is. If it’s tastes good, you can be sure I’ll be nomming on it, because I know that the happiness I get from eating that slice is just as good for me as eating the most nutritionally dense bread.
What do you think?