Monday, February 16, 2009

Courage/Frenchie's Bread

I did it! After watching, who knows how many videos on kneading and proofing and second rises; reading endless recipe variations; and trusting myself to feel what was right, I finally made a tender, crusty, satisfying loaf of bread.

I think my greatest conclusion is that bread shouldn't be bread until it is bread. In other words, I wanted my dough to look and feel like bread, but usually that meant that I had over floured it and thus the result was dense and just wrong.

Saturday I went to a birthday party near Torino, it was a birthday party for a set of twins, and they were the only people at the party I knew. As I was leaving my house, I was so nervous. As much as I am getting used to living in a new country, my Italian lacks certain colloquialisms that would definitely make it a lot easier for me to socialize; however, I force myself night after night to put myself out there, let myself feel uncomfortable and just try to have fun because the truth is, I have nothing to lose. So I was at this party, and I was having such a nice time, everyone was friendly and interesting; and, people started asking me what I wanted to be "when I grow up." Truth, I do not consider myself a grown up yet (unless I am trying to convince my parents that I am "grown up" enough to do god knows what).
So as I was telling my new friends that no matter what my career would consists of cooking and food, they started to ask me more details, like what I prefer to make and what type of cuisine is my favorite. I decided to tell them about my adventures in breadmaking. Maybe it was the fact that I was willing to admit my failures to a group of strangers, or maybe it was that I was willing to admit it to myself, but the next day I opened the oven and out came the most perfect, golden loaf of bread. Putting myself out there, in the kitchen and out can be daunting, but at least this weekend, it was totally worth it.

Frenchie's Bread

125 g Bread Flour
125 g "00" flour + 2-3 tbsp. for dusting.
12.5 g Fresh Active Yeast
2 cups of warm water.
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. salt
1. Crumble yeast in water and let sit until foamy on top. Meanwhile, combine flours and 2 tbsp. olive in a large bowl. Add in water and combine thoroughly.
2. Lightly dust your counter with flour and begin kneading the dough. I used the "slap and fold" method. Gourmet describes this as " Slide your fingers underneath both sides of dough with your thumbs on top. Lift dough up (to about chest level) with your thumbs toward you, letting dough hang slightly. In a continuous motion, swing dough down, slapping bottom of dough onto surface, then stretch dough up and back over itself in an arc to trap in air. Repeat lifting, slapping, and stretching, scraping surface with flat side of bowl scraper as needed, until dough is supple, cohesive" ( This took me a long time because I am less familiar with this method.
3. Place kneaded dough in a well oiled bowl and let sit in a warm spot until double in size.
4. When it has doubled, slide onto counter, fold over several times to release some of the air bubbles, form into a smooth ball and let double again.
5. Take the ball out, reshape into a smooth loaf and place on baking sheet, gently cut an X into the top of the loaf. Lightly oil the loaf and let it rest/rise for 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat oven to 425 degrees. When the oven is fully heated place a baking sheet filled half-way with water into the bottom of the oven.
6. Make sure oven is fully heated and put the baking sheet with the bread into the oven. After about 15 minutes, add another cup of cold water to the baking sheet at the bottom of the oven, the steam will help the bread fully rise and develop a thick crunch crust.
7. The bread should be ready after about 30 to 40 minutes. When the crust on both the top and bottom is golden brown.
8. Make sure to let the bread fully cool on a rack to allow for proper air circulation. It is also important to let the bread finish its cooking cycle.