Here goes nothing...

Well- Most of you don't know that this blog is even here. Hopefully I will commit enough to it to send out invites to those of you who want to participate. And then actually keep it up. I don't know why but sometimes I have a hard time committing to things.. but that is a whole different issue that we won't discuss at this time.

I have made a lot of stuff in the past few weeks. And at first few recipes I remembered to take pictures of. And it is all down hill from there. :) But don't worry I have a good menu planned for this week and will remember to take more pictures. But I will try to put all of the recipes up that I have used this past week. Alright, enough with the blabbing- and on to the main event!

I have been doing A LOT of bread lately. My husband got me these bread books for my birthday and I have only done one of the recipes in it but I have been pouring over them and the more I try the better the outcome. (practice makes perfect, right?)

The book (one of them) is called, "Artisan Breads Every Day" by Peter Reinhart. He has such a great technique on how to make bread. I have always dreaded mixing the dough- and kneading the dough enough so that the gluten will form. And even when I would mix the dickens out of it the bread still just wasn't quite right. It didn't have a great crust, and it was still crumbly. Well gluten wasn't the only thing that was going into the picture. I never even took into account that the yeast needed more than two hours to ferment. And so begins my very long journey into that perfect loaf of bread.

*I am not claiming that I know anything about bread- only what I have recently learned so bare with me.

Peter Reinhart's theory of bread making makes so much sense- I don't know why I never knew about it sooner. But the whole thing is that you have to let it rise long enough for the dough and the grain of the bread to reach it's full flavor. Makes sense, right? Well- you should go to the library and check this book out. It is loaded with the "how to" of bread making and not so much a recipe book- which I actually like a lot better.

Anyway- on to the recipe

This is called "Lean Bread" and time does most of the work with this bad boy. (which i think is fantastic) And like I said, all you have to do is a little bit of planning.

(I have used both bleached and unbleached and the unbleached definitely turned out a lot better. I also don't use bread flour because it is so much cheaper to buy gluten and then add that to your flour. So I am going to tweak this recipe the way that I did it.)

5 1/3 cups unbleached flour
5 Tablespoons of gluten
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast (and please do me a favor and make sure your yeast is active before you go to all of this work. :)
2 1/4 cups lukewarm water (about 95 degrees) (if you test it on your wrist you will have an easy time "eyeballing" it instead of actually having to us a thermometer)

So the next part is easy- you mix the dry ingredients for 2-5 minutes. (I mix for closer to 5 minutes) and then you set the dough in a oiled bowl and let it rest for five minutes at room temperature. The dough should be tacky and not sticky. But it shouldn't be dry. (You should be able to stretch it).

After the five-ish minutes are up you pull the dough from right to left, top to bottom and then one more time. (kind of in a Y shape) and then you let it rest for another ten minutes. Repeat this process 4-5 times over the next hour. After that hour is up place it in the fridge (covered with plastic wrap). Make sure you put it in a big enough bowl so that it will have enough room to rise.

The next day

The next morning try to contain yourself as you check on your BEAUTIFUL dough. (well that is how it is for me anyway). Make sure the surface that you are working on is clean and dry. Then add about 2 Tablespoons of oil to the surface and with wet or oiled hands take out your dough. Cut into two pieces and form into loaves.

Next (this is how i let my loaves rise) preheat your oven to 400-450 for one minute and then promptly turn off. Let your bread rise in your oven for two hours before baking. And when it comes time to bake your bread (this is also the way I do it- and not necessarily the correct way) take the dough from the oven... carefully people- it is fragile. Place a cookie sheet with a lip on it or a 9x13 pan and then preheat your oven to 550 (this is from the book so don't think that I'm crazy). When the oven and the cookie sheet is preheated- take one cup of cold water ready to pour into the cookie sheet. (i use a glass measuring cup so that it is easy to pour and so you don't burn yourself). Remember to put your bread back in the oven BEFORE you give the steam bath. Then of course pour the water in the cookie sheet. (I think I made it more complicated than it really is.)

Turn the head down to 450 degrees and bake for 10-15 minutes. I usually check on it then (because it won't be done yet) and set for another 10-15 minutes. Keep a close eye on it because you don't want it to burn.

When you are finished place the bread on a cooling rack and let it rest for one hour (if you can last that long- good luck). and enjoy!

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