Ever since I first tasted freshly baked, hot from the oven bread, I've wanted to make my own. But other than making dinner rolls every Thanksgiving, I've never felt comfortable with the process or motivated to try my hand at making my own bread.
That all changed recently by two events. The first was I got a Kitchen Aid mixer (a must have for proper mixing of the dough) and the second was I discovered Baking Artisan Bread by Ciril Hitz. I know lots of other bread books exist, and I've seen many of them. So why did this book change my attitude? Unlike many of the bread books I've seen, Ciril gets right to the guts of bread making.
If you want to know all of the gory details on why you need to perform what steps, don't look here. But, if like me, you want simple steps on how plunge into the process without fear, then Baking Artisan Bread can help. The book begins with a discussion of the ingredients, the equipment, and general technique. This is interesting and not overly complex, but the most important part is found in Ciril's "Ten Steps of Baking". A mere 5 pages that provide details on his technique, this section made me comfortable and willing to proceed. It also helps that each recipe is labeled easy, moderate, or advanced so you know what bread to start the learning process with. And a DVD is included to help you where mere words won't do.
On my first bread making day I made Pane Francese (see below). This is an easy dough to prepare which is also easy to shape and bake according to Ciril. I have to agree. My first attempt produced wonderful rolls that had my husband asking when I would be making more. Since then I've made the pizza dough a couple of times and moved on to a slightly more complex bread - Ciabatta.
The book only provides 10 basic dough recipes but each recipe has several variations. Having already cooked my way through 1/3 of the book I can't wait to make the rest, especially the Baguette.
DOUGH PREPARATION: Easy
SHAPING AND BAKING: Easy
YIELD: 16 to 20 rolls
TOTAL TIME: approximately 4 hours and 15 minutes over 2 days
PANE FRANCESE HAILS from northern Italy, and its name directly translates to "French bread." As the name implies, this bread has a history connected to both the Romans and the French. Its substantial and hearty golden crust, combined with the open, moist crumb structure, is very much in the style of a French country bread. The size and shapes of these small breads and their very easy formula make them highly recommended for the beginner.
|Bread flour||280 g ||9.8 oz||2 cups + 3 tbsp||100|
|Water, 77°F (25°C) ||168 g||5.9 oz||3/4 cup||60|
|Instant yeast||2.1 g||0.07 oz||2 tsp ||0.75 |
The biga can be prepared either the day of or the day before baking, whichever fits into your schedule better. Mix the bread flour, water, and instant yeast together in a stand mixer on a slow speed for approximately 3 minutes until all ingredients are incorporated. The biga should feel smooth and tight and somewhat rubbery after being mixed. Do not add any additional water.
Place the biga in a container coated with cooking spray, large enough to accommodate double the initial size of the biga. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and let the biga stand at room temperature (approximately 68°F to 70°F [20°C to 21°C]) for 1 to 2 hours until it doubles in size. Theoretically the biga is now ready to use, but the flavor of the bread will be improved if the biga rests in the refrigerator overnight. If the biga will not be used until the next day, gently degas it in the oiled proofing container by pressing down on it with your hands, cover with a lid or plastic, and then refrigerate until the next day.
|Bread flour||408 g||14.3 oz||3 cups + 3 tbsp||100|
|Biga||All of it||All of it||All of it||100|
|Water 95°F (35°C)||294 g||10.3 oz||1 1/3 cups||73|
|Salt||12 g||0.4 oz||2 1/4 tsp||3|
*Note: If the biga has not been refrigerated, use 75°F (24°C) water instead.
1. Mise en Place
Prepare and scale all ingredients.
ADDITIONAL SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
- Baking stone
- Couche or proofing board
- Peel or parchment-lined sheet pan
- Steaming tray
Because the biga is less hydrated and contains a lesser percentage of water than the final dough, it needs to be cut into smaller pieces so it can be evenly incorporated into the dough during mixing. For even better results, place the pieces into the prescaled 95°F (35°C) water.
Using a 5-quart (5 L) stand mixer with a dough hook, combine the bread flour, biga, water, and salt on low speed for approximately 4 minutes. When the ingredients start to come together into the cleanup stage, increase the mixing speed to medium for 5 to 6 minutes. To see if the dough is done mixing, take a piece and do a gluten window test. It should be developed to a second-stage window and then taken off the mixer.
Gently pour the dough into a container coated with nonstick cooking spray. The container should be large enough for the dough mass to double in size.
Cover with a plastic lid and allow the dough to rest for 90 minutes. Plastic wrap may be used as well, as long as it does not come into contact with the surface of the dough.
Preheat the oven to 480°F (250°C, gas mark 10) with a baking stone and steaming tray in place with an hour to go.
4. Stretch and Folds/Degassing
Because this formula has a longer mixing time to create strength, this dough does not need a stretch and fold.
Invert the container onto a lightly flour-dusted table. Let gravity do the work-do not bang or scrape out the dough.
Using a dough divider, divide the dough into 16 to 20 small squares, approximately 2 x 2 inches (5 x 5 cm) in size. While care should be taken to keep the sizes uniform, these pieces should be clean cut and in one singular piece; therefore, they do not have to be divided by weight.
This shape requires no additional manipulation. The divided shapes become the shape of the bread.
7. Final Proof
Place the pillow-shaped pieces of dough onto a heavily floured couche or proofing board. Whichever side was down after dividing the dough on the table should now be up.
Cover the dough with a cloth and let rest for approximately 45 minutes.
It is not necessary to score this bread, but a single cut down the center may be made if desired.
Prepare a water-soaked facecloth to place in steaming pan, or have the water spray bottle ready.
Transfer the proofed pieces into the oven using either the peel or sheet-pan method.
Place the facecloth in the steamer pan, taking care that it is completely contained within the pan. Be sure that your hands and arms are well protected from the resulting quick burst of steam. Alternatively, pour ¼ cup (60 ml) of water directly into the steaming tray to create steam.
Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the crust forms a nice golden color. Prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon handle for the last 2 or 3 minutes of the bake, to allow any extra moisture in the oven to escape.
Place the finished bread on a wire rack and allow to cool completely, at least 1 hour.
Pane francese is best enjoyed the day of baking or by the next day at the latest. Otherwise, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
About Baking Artisan Bread
Baking Artisan Bread provides a simplified, formula-based approach to baking bread at home, making the mixing, the rising, and the baking itself more approachable and less intimidating. With step-by-step full-color process shots and clear directions, chef Ciril Hitz will show you how with just 10 formulas you can create more than 40 different products-how's that for streamlined?
Available from Amazon.com
Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.