Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Short Break

Hi all, sorry to have neglected my kitchen for quite some time. Work has been busy, and there's something else on my plan(non-food related) currently. I hope all goes well and will update you guys. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What a Boule!

Since my cookbook buying spree a few weeks back, I have been trying out different recipes from the various bread books I now have(though I don't have time to write about all these attempts yet) . The latest book is The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, which I bought from Harris during their closing down sale(Orchard Road branch). The discount was too attractive for me to let this chance pass, since this is one of the bread books on my to-buy list anyway.

I have browsed through the book for several times, but could not decide on a recipe as I realized most of her recipes called for long rising times, sometimes stretching a few days. Finally with some nudging from a good pal, I picked an alcoholic bread - Beer Bread.

This is a pretty straight forward recipe, where the beer replaces the usual liquids like milk, water etc. If you are wondering if there is any 'beery' taste in this bread, the answer is no. In fact, the beer imparted a mellow 'wheat-y' flavour to the bread, one that you would love if you are a fan of rustic breads.

The recipe called for the usual shaping of the loaf into a boule(ball), and leaving it to rise on the baking sheet. However, I had always been 'mesmerized' by the beautiful imprints on some of the rustic loaves I have seen, mostly imparted by the use of banettons. Banettons usually refer to round or oblong willow baskets from France, but a plastic colander lined with clean kitchen towels can also be used. For me, I used my plastic colander, dust it heavily with flour and set my dough inside for the final rise. Once well risen, I inverted the dough carefully onto a baking sheet and off it went onto my baking stone in the oven.

Despite the slight deflation when inverting the dough out, it rose nicely in the oven, thank goodness! Most importantly, the flour imprints came out beautifully too. A golden brown crust, soft-and-slightly-chewy crumb coupled with the fragrance of walnuts, this is one flavourful loaf which I would love to make again!

Beer Bread (adapted from The Bread Bible)

5g active dry yeast plus 10g water
12g sugar
350g bread flour
30g whole wheat flour
240g dark beer*
7g salt
70g chopped walnuts(optional)

1) Sprinkle yeast over the water, set aside for 5-10 mins, stir to dissolve.
2) Whisk together the flours and sugar. Add in the yeast solution and beer. Using the paddle attachment of the mixer, mix on low speed until a rough dough is formed, about a minute or so. Cover the bowl and let dough rest for 20 mins.
3) Add the salt and knead the dough with the dough hook until a smooth, elastic and soft dough is formed, about 10-15 mins. Then gently knead in the walnuts.
4) Round the dough into a ball and place into an oiled bowl. Cover with cling wrap and let rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
5) Shape the dough**. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press it gently to flatten it slightly. Round the dough into a ball and set it(seam side down) on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover with oiled cling wrap and let rise until dough has doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
6) While the dough is rising, pre-heat the oven to 230C, and set a rack to the lower third of the oven. If you have a baking stone, place it onto the rack and pre-heat at the same time.
7) Once the dough is ready, slash the dough and mist it slightly with water. Place the dough into the oven. After 30 secs, open the oven door and spray the dough and sides of the oven (avoid the light bulb) and close the door quickly. Repeat this two more times and bake for 10 mins.
8) Lower the heat to 200C. If you use a baking stone, slide the dough(parchment and all) to bake directly on the stone for another 10-15 minutes. If not, just let it continue baking on the baking sheet for another 10-15 mins. The crust should be a dark brown colour, and the internal temperature of the bread register 95-100C.
9) Transfer the dough onto a wire rack to cool completely.

* The recipe called for dark beer like Bass or Beck's, but I bought Baron's instead, which is white. If you use dark beer, the crumb will be a dark golden colour(according to Ms Beranbaum).

** This is the shaping method as in the book. For me, I used a plastic colander (8 1/2-inch diameter), flour it heavily(very important), set the dough in it(seam side up). Once the rising time of about 1 1/2 hrs is up, and the dough has risen to about 1 inch from the top of the colander, gently invert the colander onto the lined baking sheet. It will deflate slightly, but it is okay. Then slash, mist and bake as Step 7 onwards.

*** Baking stones can get really hot, so be careful when manipulating the dough on the stone.