Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Bread Machine is a Many-Spendoured Thang

It never would have occurred to me to get one but then my pal Margaret sent me my bread machine one year for my birthday. I went through an initial spate of bread-making, but that sort of slacked off when the first blush faded.

Then I hooked up with Daniele and he went rather nuts with it. He adores that thing and makes bread nearly every day. Everything he produces vanishes almost immediately. We bake so much bread that we've started buying flour in 25 pound bags and yeast by the pound. Even at this rate, neither lasts very long.

I don't really do that much whole wheat but may add it occasionally. Maybe it's just me, but when I do whole wheat it always comes out like a brick, even if I add more yeast (never acquired my grandmother's way with pie crust, either). I do like to use unbleached, however.

Here is our standard recipe, with handing tips for scrumptious focaccia. I used to bake a lot by hand, but having the machine speeds up the process so much that I rarely do it that way anymore. This recipe is written for using the machine. If anyone prefers to do it by hand, I can tweak it for that method.


1c water approximately 100-110 degrees (I find that 55 seconds in the microwave is exactly right)
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs liquid fat of your choice (we mainly use olive oil, but one could just as easily use melted butter or margarine, vegetable oil, etc) 
3 cups of flour 
1 1\2 Tbs granular yeast
additional olive oil
kosher salt
1 Tbs or so chopped fresh rosemary leaves (take it easy, the stuff is delicious but pungent)

In the bread machine's mixer bowl, place water, salt, sugar, fat and flour. Sprinkle yeast evenly on top. Set machine to the dough setting and let 'er rip. When the dough cycle has completed (1 hour 20 minutes on our machine) shape as follows:

Pound the dough down a bit and knead, adding small amounts of flour as needed until not sticky and has a satiny feel. Coat a 15 x 10 baking sheet with olive oil. Spread dough out to cover the baking sheet. Pour a small amount (tablespoon or so) of olive oil over the top and spread over all with a pastry brush. With the top narrow end of a wooden spoon, poke holes all over the top. Sprinkle over the kosher salt and chopped rosemary. Allow dough to rise 30 minutes or so, until it seems somewhat puffy. Bake at 375 for approximately 20 minutes.

And since my pal from Salon, B&G, requested, here is the method for doing it by hand!

In a large bowl combine 1 cup of flour, the salt, sugar and yeast. Heat the water to the appropriate temperature  (check with a thermometer) and add fat. Add liquid to the flour, mix well. Add the remaining flour, a bit at a time, until the dough pulls cleanly away from the sides of the bowl. Plop dough onto a clean floured surface and continue kneading and adding small amounts of flour until dough is smooth and elastic.

Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Put in a warm, draft-free place until doubled -- about 1 1\2 hours. Return dough to a floured surface, punch down and knead again to remove air bubbles. place in prepared pan and shape as directed above.

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