Like yoga, a walk on the beach, and cuddling with your kitty, baking bread can be therapeutic AND, unlike other zen moments, you get to eat it afterwards!
Last weekend, I drove up to LA for the monthly FBLA (Food Bloggers Los Angeles) meeting because (1) I hadn’t been to a meeting in probably a year or so and (2) it was a Bread Baking workshop and (3) I love bread, especially if it’s homemade.
It was fun reconnecting with friends and learning step-by-step how to bake my own artisan bread. Instructions were to bring two bowls, one for mixing and one for taking your rising loaf home, two kitchen towels, and something snacky that is good with bread – cheese immediately comes to mind, so I brought one of my favorites: aged Vermont Cheddar cheese from Cabot Creamery, a Korean pear and pecans for a simple cheese board.
We gathered around the kitchen island at the home of our hostess, Dana Shrager of Foodie Goes Healthy, and listened intently to the instructions, tips and tricks that Karen Kerr of Karen’s Kitchen Stories shared with us.
There were about 10 of us actually making the dough which made time for fun convos and bantering as we each weighed our dry ingredients (very important in baking) under Karen’s watchful eye.
Feel the coolness and fine texture of the flour as you mix the dry ingredients with your index finger (or a spoon, if you’d rather). Then it was time to add the warmed water (also weighed precisely, zeroing out the scale for the measuring cup). Again, you can mix the ingredients with your hand (or spoon) until all the flour is incorporated and cover with the dish towel for the first 20 minute rest.
After the dough rested for 2o minutes, then, we added the yeast and salt and mixed it into the dough with moistened hands (dipped in ramekins of water). I used only half the salt and, trust me, the bread tasted just fine! The dough rests for another 20 minutes, giving the group time to nosh on all the goodies that everyone brought including a deliciously healthy chicken soup that Dana made and these crazy good Chicken Croquettes wrapped in Shredded Fillo that Judy Lyness created.
Meanwhile, Karen’s boule was baking in the oven and we were able to see the finished product – and what our lovely loaves would look like.
The flour pattern was created by the dish towel that Karen used.
- 450 grams bread flour
- 50 grams whole wheat flour
- 365 to 380 grams 90 to 95 degrees F water. The amount of water should depend upon how much hydration you are striving for.
- 10.5 grams fine sea salt
- 4 grams instant yeast
- Rice flour for dusting
- Combine the flours and the water in a large bowl or dough rising bucket. Mix with your hand until all of the flour is incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Sprinkle the top of the dough with the salt and the yeast. With a wet hand, fold the dough over the salt and yeast, and then pinch the dough with your fingers. Continue to wet your mixing hand and fold the dough over itself, and continue to pinch and fold, until the salt and yeast are dissolved. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Fold the dough by picking up each "side," stretching it, and folding it over the middle. Cover again. Fold the dough again after 20 minutes. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and let rise until tripled, about 1½ to 2 hours.
- Gently scrape the dough out onto a floured surface, and shape it into a boule or batard by gently folding the dough over itself from all "sides." Flip the shaped dough over so that the seam side is on the counter. Using a bench scraper, draw the loaf toward you, and then away from you, to tighten up the top of the dough. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes. In the meantime, dust a banneton or towel lined bowl with a 50-50 mixture of wheat and rice flour.
- After 10 minutes, place the bench scraper under the shaped loaf, and scoot it around from all four sides to tighten up the loaf a bit. Place the shaped dough into the banneton, seam side up or down. If you do it seam side down, you won't need to slash the dough before baking, as it will open naturally.
- Cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap or a clean towel, and let rise until puffy, about an hour. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F with either a Dutch oven or baking stone placed on the middle rack.
- When the dough has risen, turn it out onto parchment lined plate. Either lift it into the heated Dutch oven, or slide it onto the baking stone. Cover with the lid, or in the case of the baking stone, cover with a stainless bowl or hotel pan.
- Bake for 30 minutes, remove the lid or pan, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, until the bread is a deep brown and reaches an internal temperature of about 205 degrees F. Cool completely on a wire rack.
- Yield: 1 - 24 ounce loaf
Crunchy crust and lovely air pockets – prized in country loaves such as this.
Thank you Karen, for your infinite patience and sharing your baking experience with us. Visit Karen’s Kitchen Stories blog if you’re new to baking bread, as I am, she shares a wealth of helpful information – like what baking tools you didn’t know you needed.