Nicole from Pinch My Salt came up with a great idea last week: to methodically work through Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The idea is to do one recipe a week, one after another with no bouncing around. She mentioned something on Twitter about it, and, at first, there were two of us that joined her. Before she knew it, though, the numbers started climbing. I think there are something like 100 people involved now. Peter Reinhart even contacted her as he’d heard about the challenge. It’s kind of interesting how these things take off on social media now.
As I go through these breads, I’m not going to just post the recipes, as they’re all in the book. If I do any variations of my own, I’ll list those, but I don’t plan to do that right now; I’ll probably do the recipes as they’re listed, though some have variations right in the book that I may do.
So the first bread is on page 108, and it’s called Anadama bread. This is bread from New England, made with corn meal, molasses, flour, yeast, salt, butter and water. The start for the bread it to soak a cup of corn meal in a cup of water overnight before making the bread. Nothing complicated at all!
The day after soaking the cornmeal, a bit more than half the flour, the yeast and water are added to the cornmeal and allowed to ferment for about an hour, until it starts to bubble. After that, the rest of the ingredients are added and mixed together and set aside to proof.
By the way, my standard bread tools are:
- A KitchenAid Professional 600 licorice colored stand mixer. This thing is great, and does bread dough very nicely, including all that kneading!
- A heavy linen couche that I bought from King Arthur Flour.
- A graduated dough rising bucket. This isn’t as ‘nice’ as a big earthenware bowl, but it’s covered, and it’s easy to tell when dough has doubled.
- A one piece silicone spatula. I like this because there’s no seam to grow bacteria, and it helps get dough out of the mixer, etc.
- A stainless steel bench knife, which I use to divide dough and clean off the counter after dusting flour everywhere.
- Plastic scrapers that I use sometimes to scrape dough out of the rising bucket, mixing bowls, etc.
- A couple bread loaf pans
- An XL Big Green Egg cooker, which I use to cook just about anything, but it also makes a great bread oven. I use a platesetter and a baking stone on it to turn it into an oven.
- A Thermapen thermometer, which is the fastest instant-read thermometer around. I can test temps of breads in just a couple of seconds, so I minimize the amount of heat I lose by opening the cooker to test the doneness of loaves.
- A standard electronic kitchen scale. I weigh all my bread ingredients except salt and yeast (too small to measure well) since ground ingredients can vary greatly in volume.
I was running late the day I mixed the dough, so I put it in the refrigerator to make sure it rose much slower. This way, I could keep it overnight. When I took it out, I punched it down (I punched it down before I went to bed, too). By punching down, what I mean is I turned the dough over and, using my fist, pushed the dough down in the container.
Since the dough was cold, I let it warm up for about 4 hours, while doubling in size. I put some flour on the counter and dumped the whole mess out of the dough bucket. I divided the dough into two halves and shaped them into loaves. I first spread the dough out into a rectangle about 5″ X 8″, then rolled it long-wise, pressing the dough together with each roll of the dough, then pressing the seam closed when it was all rolled up. This takes longer to write than to do; it’s really simple. The loaves went into lightly Pam-sprayed loaf pans that I covered to let it right.
When the loaves were doubled in size yet again, I misted them lightly with water and added a bit of cornmeal on top, then I baked them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then turned the loaves for another 20 minutes. I checked the temp of the loaves, which was 187 degrees, which was just about right. I took the loaves out of the pans right away and let them cool on a rack on the counter.
So, the only really important question with each of these recipes… Was it good? The answer is: yes! The bread has a great texture, and the molasses wasn’t as prominent as I thought it would be. I can see making sandwiches out of this, especially pb&j’s, but it makes really great toast, too. I would definitely make this bread again. The molasses gave the bread a nice look and a bit of sweetness. I’d actually like a bit more molasses, but I like that flavor a lot. I would like to try this again adding cinnamon to it.
Here are photos of the finished product…