Recipe Source: Reinhart, Peter. The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 2001 pp. 107 and 172.
I bake a lot of bread. I don't always post about it, largely because I don't often bake a new type of bread. When I'm baking for an event I tend to turn my home into a gluten hell, baking between six and eighteen loaves per day. It's not hard to do if you've got the right kind of recipe. I find the Peter Reinhart recipes to be incredibly easy to make. You don't even need a stand mixer for the whole wheat recipes. In fact, you can't really use a stand mixer for most of the whole wheat recipes. I guess you can try, but it just makes a mess. The thing is it is kind of a hassle and I don't always have the time or wherewithal or freezer space to make enough bread for a 400 person event ahead of time all by myself. My thought was that if I could get enough other people in the local group trained in this method of bread baking it wouldn't be a hassle for anyone. A bunch of people could make a few loaves and then it would just kind of fall into place.
So I'm preparing to do a workshop, and I'm pretty confident in the basic whole wheat bread. I hadn't tried to do any of the white breads from Reinhart, though. The whole wheat book belongs to me and the other book belongs to my husband, and I've been respectful of that. As I'm preparing to do the workshop though I've felt that I've needed to work on the white flour breads, so I grabbed Fearless Grill's copy off the shelf and went for it. I had an excuse, after all - a party for my daughter's birthday - and he hasn't made any bread in a while anyway.
I was surprised to find that the methods were a bit different, although I suppose I shouldn't be. The Bread Baker's Apprentice was written well before the whole grain version was written and in the introduction to the latter he explained that he had refined the method since the original. Furthermore, whole grain is apparently a bit different for reasons to do with chemistry that I don't really understand or need to understand. I went ahead and made the bread.
I had to make a few changes, in that I forgot to add the olive oil and I only have active dry yeast on hand. I followed the directions from the whole-grain book for how to address that issue. Using the sugar to wake up the yeast is not a universal thing, I've just never gotten results without it. On the whole I was reasonably happy with this bread. I liked the smell, I liked the look, I liked the crumb. It did go stale fairly quickly. I also expected more people than we got - we had a spate of last-minute cancellations, thank you norovirus - and so I wound up with a lot more bread on hand than I wanted to have. It's okay. I'll be making breadcrumbs with the leftovers.
Italian Bread (serves 10; approx. $0.09/serving)
Between 7 and 8 ounces warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
11.25 ounces white flour
- Mixing bowl
- Plastic wrap
- Re-sealable bowl (such as a large Tupperware)
- Combine the sugar with about 7 ounces (3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) warm water in a bowl, the kind of bowl you'd eat soup out of.
- Sprinkle the yeast on top and wait for it to become frothy. This will take time. The amount of time it takes will depend on how warm your kitchen is and, of course, whether or not your yeast are dead.
- When the yeast have woken up, combine the yeast mixture with the flour in the bowl. Mix well.
- Knead with your hands to get a tacky, pliable and soft dough.
- Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 2 - 4 hours.
- Punch the dough down and transfer it to your re-sealable container. Cover with plastic wrap, cover the container and transfer the lot to the refrigerator. It can hang out in the fridge for up to 3 days.
All of the biga
11.25 ounces flour
1 2/3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon raw sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
7 - 8 ounces warm water
- Mixing bowl
- Another mixing bowl
- Plastic wrap
- Optional baguette shaping form
- On the day you're ready to make the bread, take the biga out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. Go walk the dog or something. Cook something else - heating up the kitchen will help the yeast proof faster and help the bread rise faster anyway.
- When the biga has been out of the fridge for two hours start work. Proof the yeast - combine the water with the sugar and the yeast just as you did in the biga step.
- Meanwhile, combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
- When the yeast has proofed, combine the liquid ingredients with the flour and salt in the mixing bowl. Mix well, then knead with your hands.
- Walk away for about five minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead. Knead until you have a nice round, soft, pliable dough. Spray the other bowl, transfer the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside and let rise until doubled in size.
- Preheat your oven to 500︒.
- Shape the dough. Try not to de-gas it too much, some is probably inevitable. I shaped mine into baguettes but if you don't have a baguette form it's fine to just form it into loaves or whatever. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled or so.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 450 and bake about 20 - 25 minutes.
- Cool completely before serving.