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My first bread book was the Tassajara Bread Book, first published in 1970 by an American living in a Zen Monastery. (He still does). Forty years ago! Can it be so? I put contact paper on the cover long ago, which kept the covers together but not on the book, and the pages are brown and stained, and there's a place or two where the book came under attack by roaches living with me in an apartment in Atlanta. It remains my bread bible.
Basic Bread Dough from Tassajara Bread book: Whole Wheat, White, or Mixed
Bread loaves, Pita bread, Pizza, soft pretzels, Pain du Chocolat: Bread dough is versatile and it does NOT have to involve a lot of uncertainty. Just follow these five simple rules:
Prepare your sponge:Into a warm 8-quart bowl or cast-iron pot place:
That rubber-band texture you feel forming in the mud is GLUTEN, the key to a fine, high rising loaf of bread! Most people develop gluten by kneading... we do it the easier way.
Finish and proof your dough:
Now you have to do a little manual labor: knead this sponge into a real bread dough. The sponge should already be well developed (very springy) from the two risings; your task at this time is to fine-tune the dough, making sure that it has a seamless, non sticky resiliency.
At this point I will lay a small damp dish towel on the counter or table and lay a large cutting board on top of it. (The damp dish towel keeps the board from moving around.) You can knead on any surface you choose: table, counter, inside the pot (although that is awkward).
Flour the board and turn your sponge out onto it. Scrape the bowl and add the scrapings.
Now, knead a little, add a little flour. If your fingers start collecting dough, flour your fingers and rub the dough off. Do not try to add the flour all at once; this dough firms up a lot slower than a cake mix and you have to go slow in order to develop the gluten and to find out when to stop adding flour. This step takes me about ten minutes.
Then grease the original 8-quart pot/bowl again, place the dough in it, turn the dough over so the greasy side is up, cover it, and let it rise until double in bulk (about thirty minutes).
Shape and cook your bread:
Always remember to maintain the integrity of the dough: lightly knead every unit (loaf, pita, pretzel) a time or two before shaping so that it will acquire its own identity: it should not look ragged and torn off.
If you want to save the dough (it will keep for up to a week if kept punched down), place dough in plastic storage container with lid and put in refrigerator. Keep an eye on it over the next few hours; it will continue to rise until it is fully chilled. Punch down when necessary. Check dough every day and punch down when necessary. Allow to come to room temperature before attempting to use it.
Then choose your bread shape from below and cook it as advised.
Uh oh! Do NOT use any other than the smooth side of a sponge or cloth to clean up. Flour and gluten LOVE to get caught in the tangled and rough sides of sponges, scrubbies and etc. Remember that damp towel I put between the counter and the kneading board? It is microfiber and a real champ at cleaning up without needed crazy amounts of chemicals!
Variations on the Bread Theme
BUNDT PAN BREAD
Monkey bread with class.
Adjust the ingredient quantities to:
Proceed to knead and proof as above. When the dough is ready to be shaped and baked:
Let rise for the last time and then bake at 350 degrees F until cooked.
Let cooked bread rest for ten minutes and then turn it out of the pan. You will now have a beautifully shaped loaf that separates very easily into individual "slices" of bread.
Very tasty alone or dipped into olive oil and herbs or used as sandwich bread.
Pita breads are made from 2" diameter balls of dough, well kneaded and rolled out to 1/3"- 1/2" thick. Allow to rise until double: cook in pre-heated 475 degree oven or toaster oven for 5-10 minutes, until puffed and brown.
Make pizza by rolling a piece of dough 1/4"-1/3" thick. Place on greased pan. Cover with sauce, top with shredded, whole-milk mozzarella cheese. Cook in pre-heated 450 degree oven 10-15 minutes.
Another suggestion, using a pizza stone and peel:
Two French cooks who have become very fond of pizza suggest spreading pizza dough on parchment paper on top of a cooking sheet, pricking it with a fork to aerate it, and cooking it at 550 F for 8 - 10 minutes.
Pretzels will not have the authentic texture and taste you want unless you boil them briefly in a bath of water and baking soda.
"If you want to make real Bavarian pretzels, here's my mom's recipe. It has the original Metric system measurements, so grab a kitchen scale for this one."
Nina Goebel's Bavarian Pretzels
500 grams flour
Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C)
In a food processor with dough-blade attachment, mix yeast, hot water, salt and flour. Place into a bowl and cover with a moist kitchen towel. Let the dough rise for about two hours.
Form dough into pretzels, rolls or whatever shape you prefer. (Note: The actual pretzel shape is really difficult to get right; rolls are far easier)
Mix baking soda into water and bring to a boil. Dip pretzels for 30 seconds to a minute, turn and leave in the solution for another 30 seconds. Take them out carefully with a slotted spoon and dry off, patting with a paper towel. Place onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt.
Bake for about 14-20 minutes, until "nice and brown."
Important: Avoid touching the dough after dipping it into the baking soda mixture, and keep it off of aluminum surfaces. It's not lye, but it's still corrosive.
PAIN DU CHOCOLAT
Pain du chocolat is a roll with bittersweet chocolate in the center.
Maura Enright, Proprietor
Author: Maura Enright
©2012 - 2014 by Maura Enright
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