People always talk about the tantalizing smell of freshly-baked bread hot from the oven. Or the inaugural slice with butter. But do you know how easy it is to bake it yourself? No more fighting other customers at the grocery store for the piping hot baguette. Keep the fighting at home. Oh, that didn’t sound good, did it? You get the gist.
With the help of my trusty KitchenAid mixer, together we’ve created some beautiful breads. Lovely baguettes, loaves of oatmeal honey bread, bagels, and
most recently a heavenly feta and spinach round. I find the key is follow the recipe and give it time! Rushing is not an option with bread; the longer you wait, the better it is. I thought I’d walk
you through my most recent foray. First off, let me cite my source for this spinach feta recipe. Couldn’t have done it without them. You’ll notice there are “Night Before” ingredients. The first time I baked this bread, I totally disregarded it and did it all at once, and only used bread flour. It was a masterpiece! Crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. I also added a little honey to the mix during the first few ingredients, just to give it a hint of sweetness.
This time I’m following the rulebook. I mixed my “Night Before” ingredients (3/4 bread flour, 1/2 cup lukewarm water, 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast), and let them sit for 14 hours (see photo). Today I continued with the rest of the recipe in the mixer, adding the water, dark rye, whole wheat flour, yeast, salt, and bread flour. Add a little extra water if too stiff, or a little flour if too moist. When the sides of the bowl are clean and the dough is basically a ball, then it’s ready. After resting it for 10 minutes or so, I added the lightly-sauteed and dried spinach and a small container of quality feta cheese.
Once all ingredients are fully incorporated, I kneaded the ball by hand in the bowl a few times, placed it in another greased bowl (flip it on both sides so all are greased), and covered it with plastic wrap. Ordinarily I use a handtowel, but after watching a recent Julia Child baking special where a master baker claimed to only use tight plastic wrap, I say let’s give it a go. She also placed a rubberband around the edges to further insure no air was going in or out.
Now for the waiting. Read the paper, grab that good book you’ve been meaning to enjoy, take a bath, whatever you’d like. You have two hours! Once the dough has doubled in size, I slice it into two, knead each briefly to shape a ball again, and cover each in oiled bowls. Give them another hour or so, and they should be nice and plump. During this time I preheat my oven and pizza stone (as per the recipe). If you don’t have a pizza stone, use a cookie sheet or loaf pan. I
sprinkle the stone with corn meal, which adds a little crunch to the bottom of the bread.
When my oven is totally ready, I flip the top of the dough down on a piece of lightly-floured parchment paper (again, thanks to Julia). Cut the excess paper; you only want it covering the top of the dough and excess will burn in the oven. (The bit of flour gives a rustic look to the finished product.) Now gently place the bottom of the dough on the pizza stone. You’ll hear an immediate little sizzle sound. After about 15 minutes, take the parchment off the top (it will peel back naturally), and after another 15 minutes, you’ll have a gorgeous bread. I let mine rest on a little stand. And the old rule of thumb is if it sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom of the bread, it’s ready!
Now you have your loaf for the week, and the other will freeze in a ziploc until you need it. And in the immortal words of Child, “Bon Appetit!”
On the road again,