Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Baking bread

Last weekend in the midst of kids in tents, visits to area farmers' markets and a surprise water heater emergency (as if there's a such thing as a planned water heater emergency) I decided to bake bread. Not throw the ingredients in the machine and push a button bread, but three different risings and kneading bread. Bread that matured and became more complex and interesting through its longer, cooler rising times and over night stays in the fridge. I started the bread just after noon on Saturday as a half whole wheat and half unbleached white all purpose poolish (a watery starter that sits out and develops), and we ate it at dinner Monday night. Bread is a deceptively simple thing: flour, water, yeast, a little salt (unless you're in Tuscany, but that's a different story, and you can always just throw a few grains on a slice when your host or waiter isn't looking.) Serious bread makers usually have brands and types of flour they prefer, and some recipes very definitely specify bottled or spring water. This time, just by accident (water heater, remember?) I used bottled water in the poolish and in the dough itself. After the first rising of the dough, it was so big I didn't know if it would fit on my pizza stone.

Dough ready to go on hot stone

This is basically the America's Test Kitchen Rustic Country Bread with a little rye flour. The loaf was gorgeous.
Rustic country bread in the oven

However, while the bread was yummy, and made great toast for our artichoke-crab dip later in the week, the crumb was a little dense; it didn't have those big holes I thought it should have. I think I'd add a little more water next time.

To go with the bread...because after 3 days in the making, the bread was really the focus of the meal...I made a very fresh and light lentil and basmati rice soup with diced carrot, cumin and fennel seed, and diced yellow squash, shredded spinach and arugula from the garden. It was even well accepted by the 10 year old, and the cup of it that was left over was even better for lunch the next day.

Lentil spring vegetable soup

And yes, I finally got a hot shower.

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