Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Two loaves: Crusty 'Country' Bread

It's been a while since I baked bread (almost 4 whole weeks!) and I had been having the urge to bake some, primarily due to the fact that Gail and I received a KitchenAid mixer for Hanukkah!! Both of us have been more then eager to test out the 5 quart tilt-head mixer. Gail had her opportunity on Friday when she whipped up a batch of meringues, Monday was my turn!! 
I wanted to try a new recipe, but did not want to over commit myself as the bread was being made in the downtime while baby sitting a beef stew. Because I was already doing prep work for the stew on Sunday, I had the opportunity to make a biga. Besides my use of sourdough starter I had never tried any other pre-ferment methods for bread baking. The biga or mother was a pretty simple mix:
3/4 cup water
1 cup + 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
Combine the water, 1 cup of flour, and yeast until well mixed. Let sit in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 6 - 8 hours. Stir in the additional 1/4 cup flour until dough stiffens up, recover, and place in the refrigerator overnight. That's it. Just like Ron Popeil says: set it, and forget it! Not much effort to make the mother, just some time. 
The actual bread recipe is in Joanne Chang's Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe which I have baked from before with great success. She says about the Country Bread recipe "It's not ethereal and light like a classic French baguette, nor is it hearty and sour like an artisanal sourdough loaf. Rather, it falls deliciously in between..." After making and trying this bread I have to agree wholeheartedly! The loaf we eagerly cut into had a crispy crust and a nice density without being too thick or hearty. 
I altered the recipe a little by rubbing minced garlic and sage into the dough, however I didn't use nearly enough as the flavor was completely missing from the final product, but the bread was great and one is wrapped up and can sit in the freezer for a few weeks!

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