Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Crying over bread, of How to make the most delicious bread you've ever tasted.

So you know that the basic bread formula is flour, water, salt and yeast, right?   Yesterday, I made a loaf that will make strong women weep and men beg for more. 

Secret ingredient - Potato water.  The water you've used to boil up some potatoes.  That water.  Next time you want a bread with an indefinable taste that will have your family in a swoon, use a bit of potato water.  Yeasties love a bit of starch to grow on, so when the starchy water and the yeasties meet each other, heaven happens.  Now don't salt the water when you boil the potatoes.  You don't need the extra salt, and your bread doesn't want too much salt; you want the fool thing to rise and salt impedes it.

Next secret ingredient - Chives.  Common ordinary chives.  Cut from your garden, or go to Penzeys and buy some.  They really are excellent dried.

Here's the recipe:
  • 1 cup of potato water heated until warm to the touch
  • 1 tsp kosher salt.  Don't use table salt; it's way too salty for your bread.
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp yeast  Yes, only 1 tsp.
  • 1-2 TB chives
That's it.  Mix it up however you like, give it a good knead, let it rise, gently deflate, shape into one gigando loaf, place on parchment paper onto top of a cookie sheet, cover and let rise for 1/2 hour.  Nah, I don't even put it into a warm area.

Put oven on to 500 deg F.

Set timer for another 15 minutes. 

Slash bread.

Brush with water. Trust me on this; it gives the bread a lovely crust and you don't have to play with the ice cubes, spraying the loaf with water thingie.  Just gently brush with cold water.

Put in oven.

Reduce oven temp to 425 deg.

Bake for 32-33 minutes until nicely golden brown.

Remove from oven and immediately brush again with cold water. Do this right from the oven.  It'll give you more of that crackly crust that you can't resist.  You'll actually hear it crackle.  Place on a cake rack to cool off.

Eat and eat and eat.  Toast it.  Eat plain.  Butter bread or toast.  Cheese melted on top of it.  If your family is good, allow them to have a small piece.

When you slice your bread, gather up the crumbs and store in the refrig.  After a few loaves, you'll have the nicest dried bread crumbs going.  And all for FREE!

If you and the gang don't like the ends, slice them up into crouton shapes, let dry or not, and put on top of your salad.

Yeast note:  I've been using only 1 tsp of yeast forever.  That's all you knead need.  Trust me.  And the more you bake bread, the more wild yeasties live in your kitchen and the better your bread will taste.  If you bake a lot of bread, go buy a 1lb bag of Fleishmann's yeast at King Arthur flour.  Keep it in the freezer, and it lasts at least a year.  Don't waste your money on the packets.  First of all, you don't need all that yeast in a single loaf, and wow, is it ever pricey.  If you buy it in the jars, it's better, but if you bake bread 2-3 times a week, buy the lb.

Kneading the dough:  I've done it all, from totally by hand to the Kitchen-Aid to the food processor to the bread machine.  The bread machine kneads it the best, and then provides a nice warm area for the first rise. The machine is not infallible; you must pay a bit of attention to the dough for the first few minutes to make sure that it's neither too soggy nor too dry.  After that, you can go out to the gym and for a long walk and ignore it all.  If you want incredible bread, however, do NOT bake in the bread machine.  It can't do awesome crusts, and the bread doesn't begin to approach the wonderfulness of an oven bake.  Anyhow, knead it however you like. 

You don't need vital wheat gluten, sugar or anything like that for a simple white bread.  If you're playing with rye or whole wheat, vital wheat gluten gives your loaves a nice boost.

Next time?  Maybe a bit of a biga loaf or perhaps Tejes Kolacs.  We'll see what I feel like baking.

6 comments:

Amanda said...

Thanks for the tips. I just recently started baking bread from scratch and I can use all the tips I can get.

Wall-to-wall books said...

Oh I have heard of this before! I don't think I have ever had the actual recipe though. Thanks, I will have to try it when I get ambitious.

Victoria Findlay Wolfe said...

Ruth! looks great! By the way, you won my giveaway, but I can't respond to your comment... please email me your address so i can mail off your copy of Generation Q magazine!

Mary Lee said...

So funny... I happen to be boiling potatoes right this minute. Not sure about my yeast supply though. It could have expired in the last century.

Mary Lee said...

So funny... I happen to be boiling potatoes right this minute. Not sure about my yeast supply though. It could have expired in the last century.

Holly said...

Nice! Now if I was ever home long enough to bake .....

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