The hubs received the book “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart for his Christmas present this year. It’s a book he’d been lusting after for a while and I happened to drop hints to his sister that he had wanted this book. He was pleasantly surprised when he got it but was very happy. The hubs isn’t one to like surprises, but I guess this one was very welcome.
This is the first recipe we tried out, or rather he tried out in the book. He chose it mainly because it has cornmeal in it (texture!) and molasses, two flavors I love. It’s nice to think my husband thought of me while making this choice. 🙂
The recipe was relatively simple but just requires time. One thing I’ve learned about bread making is that time makes all things good. Bread dough needs time to rest for the yeast to do its thing.
The bread was baked in a loaf pan. It turned out lovely – nice and soft with an interesting texture due to the cornmeal. It also had a nice, light molasses flavor. I had some the next day with some ham and cheese.
(taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart, p. 108-109)
Makes two 1.5 pound loaves or three 1 pound loaves
For the soaker:
- 1 cup (6 ounces) cornmeal, preferably coarse grind (also packaged as “polenta”)
- 1 cup (8 ounces) water, at room temperature
For the dough:
- 4.5 cups (20.25 ounces) unbleached bread flour (we used APF)
- 2 teaspoons (.22 ounces) yeast
- 1 cup (8 ounces) water, lukewarm (90-100°F)
- 1.5 teaspoons (.38 ounces) salt
- 6 tablespoons (4 ounces) molasses
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounces) shortening or unsalted butter at room temperature
- Cornmeal, for dusting, optional
The day before making the bread, make the soaker by mixing the cornmeal and water in a small bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit overnight at room temperature.
The next day, to make the dough:
- Stir together 2 cups flour, yeast, soaker, and water in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and ferment for an hour, or until sponge begins to bubble.
- Add the remaining 2.5 cups of flour, the salt, molasses, and shortening and stir (or mix on low speed with paddle attachment) until the ingredients form a ball. Add water, if necessary to make a soft, slightly sticky mass.
- Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook), sprinkling in more flour as needed to make a tacky, but not sticky dough. The dough should be firm but supple and pliable and definitely not sticky. It will take about 10 minutes of kneading to accomplish this (or 6 to 8 minutes in the electric mixer). The dough should pass the window-pane test and register 77-81°F).
- Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment the dough at room temperature for about 90 minutes, or until it doubles in size.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 2 equal pieces of 24 ounces, or 3 pieces of about 16 ounces each. Shape the dough into loaves, and place them into bread pans that have been slightly oiled or misted with spray oil. Mist the top of the loaves with spray oil and loosely cover the tops with plastic wrap.
- Proof at room temperature for 60-90 minutes or until loaves crest fully above the tops of the pans.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Place the pans on a sheet pan and remove the plastic wrap. Mist the tops with a spray of water and dust with cornmeal.
- Place the sheet pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the sheet pan for even baking and continue to bake for 20-30 minutes, or until loaves are golden brown, including along the sides and bottom, and loaves register at least 185-190°F in the center. They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
- When the loaves are done, remove them immediately from the pans and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.