Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I thought I'd share a bread recipe. It's adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which is a totally rad (and totally aptly-named) cookbook. I tweak a little, here and there, obvi, but it's all for the best, I think.

1 3/4 cups bread flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 pkg instant ("rapid rise") yeast
2 tsp salt (kosher if you've got it and are using a food processor; regular otherwise, see why below)
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp "neutral oil" (i.e. veg oil)
~1 1/2 cups rice milk (or other "milk," dairy or non-)

*I recommend doing this in a food processor, if you've got one; otherwise, you're really gonna have to mix the crap out of it in a big bowl with a big wooden spoon.*

Integrate flour and yeast (i.e. don't just dump them in, mix them up a bit.) Add the sugar and the oil and keep mixing (I recommend pulses on the food processor, or, as mentioned above, mixing the crap out of it if you're doing it manually.) Add the "milk" slooowly, until a firm, sticky ball forms (the whole wheat means it's gonna be both firmer and stickier than white dough [plus I usually make my doughs a little wetter than some, it seems.]) If you add too much milk, just add more flour, a small pinch at a time, until you get the right consistency.

Let this hang out (in the bowl of the food processor with the top on, or covered with paper towels or something in the mixing bowl) for about 10 minutes. Go get a snack, brush your teeth, have a smoke, whatever (it could be longer than 10 minutes, whatever.) Congratulations! This is called an autolyse (or an autolysis, from the Gk. auto "self" + lysis "liberating, loosening"), and I read about it somewhere on the internet I can't find right now, but basically it's just giving the yeastlings a head start ("loosening themselves up," as it were) before the salt comes in and starts to regulate like Nate Dogg. Come back, and mix in the salt (this is why I actually recommend against kosher salt if you're mixing this bread by hand: the big crystals of kosher salt dissolve REALLY SLOWLY into the dough, so you really have to knead them in like hell in order to avoid pockets of über-salty dough.)

Pour a VERY small amount of veg or olive oil on a piece of paper towel, and rub it all over the inside of a pretty big wood or plastic bowl (not metal.) Put your newly-salted dough in said newly-greased bowl and cover (with plastic wrap, paper towels, or a clean kitchen or tea towel if you got one [ours are sketchy.]) Let this rize for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume.

Get some flour (it doesn't matter what kind, AP is fine here), and sprinkle some out on your cutting board or a clean counter. Take your dough out of the bowl and just work it, folding it in half over itself, pushing the bubbles out and around. Think deep-tissue massage. When it's more-or-less back to the size it was, and there aren't any visible seams in the dough (i.e., try to smooth it out into one coherent thing, plz), shape it into a "loaf" or a round or whatever you want, really (you could at this point, theoretically, cut it into 3 pieces, roll those pieces into long strands, and braid this sucker like challah, but that'd be a little weird.)

And now...Let this hang out (woo!) for like an hour. This is called benchproofing, and the longer you benchproof your bread, the bigger and airier it's gonna be. (I once wound up benchproofing a loaf for 3 hours, and when I came home, it was like twice the size of my copy of Bittman. I baked it as-was, and the result was an absolutely gorgeouus, gigantic loaf that completely collapsed when you tried to cut or tear a piece off. Still delicious, though.)

And now, for some roleplaying:
YOU have made a delicious BREAD DOUGH. You are in your KITCHEN. You have pre-heated your OVEN to 350 degrees. To your LEFT, there is a spray-bottle containing 1/3 cup water and a tablespoon of cornstarch. To your RIGHT, there is a small saucepan (or kettle) being heated to boiling, as well as a baking pan. Do you want to:
SPRAY the water-cornstarch mixture on your DOUGH
Put the near-boiling WATER into the baking pan and put it in the OVEN
(Here's the deal: the cornstarch-water mix, which you can also just brush on with a pastry brush or whatever, makes the outside of the bread all brown and sexy and 'artisanal.' The boiling-water rig helps to regulate the temperature in the oven, and leads to a crunchier, thicker crust. Obviously, you could do neither. But if you're someone who passes on the opportunity to improve their crust, I'm not sure you're so welcome around these parts...)

BAKE for like 45 minutes, or until it smells and looks amazing and sounds hollow when you flick the bottom (not too hard, please.)

REALLY IMPORTANT: YOU MUST LET IT REST! Please. For my sake. For like, half an hour, 45 minutes. It's worth it! Believe me!

Woo bread!

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