Friday, July 14, 2006

Bread is so easy

OK, I know. I also think pie is easy. But this really was easy. I was making this mustard-Worcestershire-garlic glazed steak tonight and I thought to myself, Hey, you know what would be good with this? A nice crusty bread…with herbs of some kind in it…

I’ve gotten arrogant enough with my bread making that I don’t rush for the cookbook to find the appropriate bread recipe any more. I’ve got several excellent bread cookbooks, all of which go into excruciating detail about balance and blend of ingredients, proper kneading techniques, double-rising, misting my oven, etc. etc. etc.

Eh. OK, if you want the perfect crumb and sexy crust etc., yes. You’re going to want to follow those more exacting standards. But I don’t have time or inclination for all that. I have a KitchenAid with a dough hook, and am a tool using kind of primate with sore wrists.

So I put the following into my mixer bowl:

2 cups flour
1/4 cup (or so) grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons active dry yeast (or one package, if you're not the type who has a 4# bag of bulk yeast in the fridge) (ahem)
2 teaspoons dried oregano, lightly crushed so it smells extra good
1 teaspoon onion salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

I stirred the dry stuff together, then ignored it for a minute while I mixed the following in my Pyrex:

One cup warm water
Two tablespoons sugar
Two tablespoons olive oil

Boldly, I added the wet to the dry and gave it a few good stirs with a wooden spoon, until all the dry stuff was wet.

Then I added one more cup of flour, set the bowl under my KitchenAid with the dough hook, turned it on and watched intently. What I was watching for was, the dough should be moist, but not sticky-wet. If you (after turning off the mixer, of course) rest your finger against it and it sticks, it need a little more flour. Add in scant quarter cup measures until you get a dough that is moist, but not wet. Remember: it’s easy to add a little more flour. It is not at all easy to take the flour out again if you add to much – so err on the side of caution here.

Then turn your back on it and let the mixer do it’s thing for a while. Five minutes is good, ten minutes is better. (If you’re doing this by hand, knead until it forms a nice, elastic ball under your hands. Or until you’re sick to death of kneading, whichever comes first.)

Plop it into a greased bowl, flip it over so you’ve got a greasy top, cover with a kitchen towel and ignore it for anywhere from half an hour to an hour – however long it takes it to rise up good and fluffy. Tends to take less time in warm, humid kitchens, longer in the dry, cold winter.

Then toss it onto a greased cookie sheet and give it a little pat to make sure it knows who’s boss – pat it into a round shape, like a big fluffy cookie. The fatter it is, the more tender inside you’ll have. Cover with the towel and ignore again for another half hour or so. Then put it in a 375 oven for about half an hour – until it’s good and brown on top.

If the spirit moves you, you could probably sprinkle some fresh grated Parmesan over the top before you bake it; or brush the top with some really salty water to give it a glossy, tasty glaze.

We opted for some fresh roasted garlic, squeezed onto it like butter. There will be no kissing in this house for the foreseeable future – but it made an awesome partner to the steak.

See how easy, though? The only hard part is having a roughly three hour block of time to be 'around' while it rises and then re-rises. And if you're time crunched, they make a 'rapid rise' yeast that will literally rise in half the time.

Yet another reason why I love my KitchenAid: it kneads bread for me while I'm busy putting garlic into the oven to roast and prepping a steak for broiling.

1 comment:

PipneyJane said...

Mmmm..... Yummy!

Given the relatively small quantities involved, you could probably whip this up in a food processor (mine came with a plastic "dough" blade for kneeding).