Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bread Baking Virginity, Part 2

Whole Wheat "Almost No-Knead" Bread
I have to admit it - I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself right now.  When I lifted the lid off the dutch oven that I was baking the bread in, I could hardly believe my eyes - an actual loaf of bread! Wahoo!!  And, the house smells just like a bakery, I just wish that the hubby didn't have a biochem exam tomorrow (which is keeping him at school ALL day today) so he could be here to smell it, too.

The leaf design on the top could be a little better - I think I'll use a razor blade next time to get better gashes, but there's nothing like room for improvement.  The crust is nice and crispy crusty, and the inside is fluffy, yest substantial, and most importantly, it's deeeelicious. I must say, all in all, this wasn't too hard.  Time consuming, yes, but nothing really difficult. It's safe to say that this is my first foray into the world of loaves, and I/m already looking forward to trying out another recipe.

And, I must give credit where credit is due - this recipe, the yeast used to bake it, and the motivation, came from a good friend of the hubby's and mine, Alex, a masterful bread baker!  He made this recipe the other night when Ian and I were over at he and his wife's house for an amazing dinner of steak and lobster tails (Yeah, we owe them big time!).  Alex said this recipe was almost fail proof, and I must agree.

So, with that said, here's the recipe, courtesy of Alex who got it from Cooks Illustrated.

Almost No-Knead Bread
Makes 1 large round loaf. Published January 1, 2008. From Cook's Illustrated.

An enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid yields best results, but this recipe also works in a regular cast-iron Dutch oven or heavy stockpot. Use a mild-flavored lager, such as Budweiser (mild non-alcoholic lager also works). The bread is best eaten the day it is baked but can be wrapped in aluminum foil and stored in a cool, dry place for up to 2 days.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour* (15 ounces), plus additional for dusting work surface
1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water (7 ounces), at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons mild-flavored lager (3 ounces)
1 tablespoon white vinegar

*If using whole wheat flour (which I did) then you will need to add a bit more water (a teaspoon at a time) because the whole wheat is more absorbent.

1. Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add water, beer, and vinegar.  Using a rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 8 to 18 hours.

2. Lay 12-by-18 sheet of parchment paper inside 10-inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. (If you don't have parchment paper, use greased aluminum foil). Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam-side down, to parchment-lined skillet and spray surface of dough with nonstick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with finger, about 2 hours.

3. About 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, place 6 to 8 quart heavy bottomed Dutch oven (with lid) on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees.  Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 3-inch long, 1/2 inch deep slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment overhand and lower into pot (let any excess parchment hang over pot edge). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into center registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from bot; transfer to wire rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.

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