Monday, January 26, 2009

6 Years In The Making

I love to cook and bake and have plenty of time to do it. The one thing I can't do well at all is bread. And I don't mean the fluffy white stuff in loaf pans. Sitting on my kitchen counter right now is the most perfect loaf of bread I have ever baked. It's not perfect, but compated to my past attempts, it is. I've always wanted to emulate the crusty, spongy loaves I can only find in European bakeries, but mine always come out dry and crumby. You know when you cut a piece of bread and there are so many crumbs falling the cutting board can't even contain them. I had tried and failed too many times, so I figured I'd leave it to the professionals. Target and even Walmart carry artisan bread, but I had to boycott it once they started selling it in crust-sogging plastic (instead of paper) bags. Now my closest supplier for the once-in-a-while treat is Kneaders. If we want it more often than that it could get expensive. And we all know how I react to that. I wasn't quite ready to try my hand at it again until I started looking at the long ingredient list of the fluffy bread sold at regular grocery stores. Since I'm trying to keep processed foods out of our most eaten foods, I decided to try one more time.

Setting out to make ciabatta from this book, I had already done some homework and gave it my best. Unbleached flour, distilled water (so chemicals in tap water couldn't be blamed for my bad bread), sea salt, and yeast from a fresh supply went into the dough that my Leilani's baker extraordinaire husband, Ben, advised me should be more on the wet side and rise longer than I usually allow. The recipe was a snap. The dough came together perfectly in the mixer (usually I have too much flour), rose only once and went in the oven. Maybe 10 minutes of hands on time. Because it only rises once and you have to have delicate hands to deflate it as little as possible when forming the loaf, mine turned out much more dense than ciabatta's supposed to be, but more like the spongy bread I was after in the first place. It better not be a fluke. Now I can allow myself to buy that breadbox at Ikea. Maybe some day I will be as skilled as Ben who grew and keeps his own sourdough starter in the fridge. I hope having good homemade bread around doesn't offset the money saved by needing imported cheeses to go along with it.


Leilani said...

Looks great! We don't really buy store bread anymore. Glad your loaf turned out!

Don Ashley and Tigger said...

Awesome job Helena! Bread is one of my favorites to experiment with! I tried my hand at making some soft pretzels the other day and they looked dense as the fog covering the Smokey Mountains! I must have heated the liquid ingredients to much and unknowningly killed the yeast. The bread did not rise at all...haha. That is atleast what I "think" happened...will have to try again some day..keep up the good food work!

kim said...

The bread looks wonderful! It is perfect and looks delicious.

Anonymous said...

Your bread looks so professional and delicious too.I can almost taste it. I wonder if it would work out ok in my Kneader.
I, too, do not like it when good bread is put in plastic bags. Bread turns rubbery.