Monday, November 2, 2009

Italain Baguettes

This formula has made the Autumn season that much better. I love comfort foods. On a chilly Autumn day, a favorite meal of mine would be a hot bowl of soup and fresh baked bread. Nothing warms the inside better! This formula is from a local breads cookbook. I do not know the creator.

This formula takes some advanced preperation, so start the evening prior to when you want to bake it.

This is an Artisan style of bread. The rustic flavor of this bread is wonderful! You can make an everyday Italian bread within 3 - 4 hours. However, this Artisan bread will transform your want / need for fresh bread.

Biga / Starter - Prepare this 9 - 17 hours before you want to bake
1/4 cup water (70-78*F)
3/4 tsp instant yeast
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Combine the water and yeast. Add the flour. With a rubber spatula combine ingredients just until dough forms. It will be stiff like pie dough. Dust the counter with flour and get it fairly but not perfectly smooth. Lightly oil the a bowl. Round the biga and place it back in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Leave at room temperature (70-75*) for 1 hour. Refrigerate it for at least 8 hours and up to 16 hours. The biga will double in volume, be glossy and porous and will smell mildly acidic.

Bread Dough
1 1/2 cups Biga
1 1/4 cups water (85 - 95*)
1 tsp instant yeast
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp sea salt

Remove the biga from the refrigerator and uncover it. It will be soft and airy, but a bit sticky. Scrape it into a large bowl. Pour the water over the biga and stir it with a rubber spatula to soften it and break it into clumps. Stir in the yeast, flour, and salt until a dough forms.

Place in a mixing bowl with the dough hook attachment. mix the dough on medium speed until it is smooth and elastic, 10 - 12 minutes. Check that the dough is well developed by cutting a golf ball size amount from the bulk of the dough and stretch it until an opaque windowpane. If it tears, knead for an additional 2 - 3 minutes and test again.

Ferment the dough
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled, clear 2-qt container with a lid. Cover and let it rise at room temperature (70-75*) until it doubles in volume, 1 1/2 - 2 hours. When you press your finger into the dough, the figerprint should spring back slowly.

Divide and Shape
Shape the dough into loaves. Place on sheet tray lined with parchment paper.

Proofing the dough
Let the dough rest until double in size again. abot 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Prepare the oven
If you have a baking stone place in the oven at 450*F 1 hour prior to baking, along with a cast iron skillet on the bottom rack.

Slide the dough still on the parchment onto the baking stone. Place 1/4 cup ice cubes into skillet, this will produce the light steam. Bake the bread until it is a honey gold, 20 - 30 minutes.

Cool and store
Slide the bread out of the oven onto a baking sheet. Place on a cooling rack. Cool the loaves completely 1 hour before serving. This bread is best eaten the day it is baked. Otherwise freeze for up to 1 month.


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