Monday, September 15, 2008

Rustic Italian Bread

Well, bakery style bread out of my kitchen. Who'd have thought? Not me, but look at this! Ooo, I'm quite proud of this one.

Again, I used Cooks Illustrated and benefited from a kitchen full of wild yeast zipping around the room. The more you bake the better it goes. This one is so easy, I could make a loaf everyday. The starter sits overnight (or at least 8 hours) and the next day, you make the dough, allow it to rise for a bit, then pour the gooey substance into a bowl. Instead of kneading, you "turn" the it, pulling one side onto the other. This process happens twice, resting 1 hour and "power rising" in between. When the dough has risen to its full potential in the bowl, you form the dough into a rectangle and fold it up, sealing in all the air pockets, like this:

My supple and smooth dough turned into magnificent bread. I ended up making two loaves and discovering in the process that my oven is an appalling 50 degrees slow. Depressing, and I now have to cook with an oven thermometer hanging from the rack. Despite the climate difficulties both breads yielded moist interiors and deep "bready" flavors. The crust was the best part. It was exceptional with good olive oil and cracked pepper.

A little science for you: Dried yeast is simply the fresh yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) dehydrated. This applies to both active dry yeast and Instant (aka rapid-rise, quickrise and bread machine) yeast. When the yeast is dried, the dead cells form a protective layer around the living cells that activate to make the bread rise. There are fewer dead cells in rapid rise and, unlike active dry, it can be added directly to the bread without rehydration. Cool huh? I discovered this on Susan's blog, Wild Yeast. I love it! So informative, well photographed and simply delicious. Thanks Susan!