Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Alton Brown's Basic Bread

I wanted to compare the flavor of the 5 minute artisan bread to one of my favorites, Alton Brown's bread recipe. So I baked a loaf of his bread. To me, it had much better flavor and texture. I attribute this to the use of a pre-ferment. Parts of the yeast & flour and all of the liquid are combined and set in the fridge to ferment overnight. This gives a real flavor boost, a slight tang reminiscent of sourdough. Also,the dough can be kneaded in the food processor

Very Basic Bread
Adapted from Good Eats
(Printable Recipe)

1 pound bread flour, plus extra for shaping (1 lb. flour = 3¾ - 4 cups flour)
1 teaspoon instant rapid rise yeast
2 teaspoons honey
10 ounces bottled or filtered water
2 teaspoons kosher salt (I only use 1 tsp.)

Pre-ferment: Combine 1 cup of the flour, 1/4 teaspoon of the yeast, all of the honey, and all of the bottled water in a straight-sided container; cover loosely and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours.

Dough: Place the remaining 11 ounces (3 cups) of flour, remaining yeast (3/4 tsp.), salt, into a bowl; add the pre-ferment and knead just until it comes together. Cover the dough in the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for 20 minutes (autolyse).

After 20 minutes, knead the dough again until you are able to gently pull the dough into a thin sheet that light will pass through. The dough will be sticky, but not so sticky that you can't handle it.

Place the dough ball into a lightly greased container. Allow to rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 to 2 hours. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it onto a counter top, lightly dust your hands with flour, and press the dough out with your knuckles; then fold 1 side in towards the middle of the mass and then the other, as if you were making a tri-fold wallet. Repeat the folding a second time. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and allow to rest for another 10 minutes.

Flatten dough again with your knuckles and then fold the dough in onto itself, like you are shaping something that looks like a jellyfish. Turn the dough over and squeeze the bottom together so that the top surface of the dough is smooth. Place the dough back onto the counter and begin to roll gently between your hands. Do not grab the dough but allow it to move gently back and forth between your hands, moving in a circular motion. Move the dough ball to a pizza peel or the bottom of a sheet pan that has been sprinkled with the cornmeal. Cover with the kitchen towel and allow to bench proof for 1 hour, or until you poke the dough and it quickly fills back in where you poked it.

Place a baking stone into the lowest rack of oven and heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Gently slash the top surface of the dough ball in several places, approximately 1/3 to 1/2-inch deep. Slide the bread onto the stone in the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Once the bread has reached an internal temperature of 205 to 210 degrees F, remove to a cooling rack and allow to sit for 30 minutes before slicing.

Note: I have adapted this recipe for use without a stand mixer, and I use a baking stone. I do not use the cornstarch glaze, nor do I use a pan filled with hot water in the bottom of the oven. Instead, I spray water into the oven approximately every 3 minutes for the first 10 minutes.

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