Wednesday, February 6, 2013

homemade farmhouse bread

Who doesn't love crusty bread? Seriously, who doesn't love bread? Well, except for maybe people on Paleo diets and people who need to be gluten free... but seriously, they probably love bread too. This is the best kind of bread, too- simple, crusty and relatively plain to be combined with all kinds of stuff. It doesn't have to rise forever, you don't need a starter and it takes less than 2 hours for everything to be done and ready to eat.
Bread usually start with yeast and warm water, and this is no different. Since yeast loves sugar and sweets when ripening, I add a little honey. After your yeast has become frothy, you can add it to the dry ingredients, which are fairly standard as well. Blend in a mixer for several minutes with a bread hook, until combined. Then, knead for 4-6 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and smooth. Add more flour as needed. Use the thumb test- if you lightly press your thumb into the dough and it should spring back. Deposit in a greased bowl, cover, place in a warm area and let rise for 35 minutes.
Home stretch now. And I mean stretch. Divide your dough into 4 pieces and stretch into rectangles. Take the edges of the rectangle and fold into the center and crimp. Deposit the loaf seam side down onto a cooking tray or loaf pan dusted with cornmeal. Slice 1/2 inch hashes into the top and allow to rise again for 25 minutes. While the dough is rising a second time, preheat your oven to 450 degrees and place a metal or ceramic cooking pan on the bottom rack. DO NOT USE GLASS! When the dough has risen again, simultaneously slide the cooking tray onto the middle rack and toss 1/2 of ice cubes into the tray on the bottom shelf. This will release steam and create a crunchy crust on the outside of the loaf. Cook for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Eat is warm or cold, wrapped around salami or dipped into hummus- do what you want, this stuff is super yummy.

Homemade Farmhouse Bread
2 envelopes dry active yeast
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 cup warm water
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup ice cubes
vegetable oil

Combine yeast, honey and warm water in a bowl and allow to ripen until yeast is frothy. Add the yeast mixture to a large mixing bowl containing the flour and salt. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer with the bread hook attachment until combined. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for 4-6 minutes or until elastic and supple- add more flour as needed so that the dough is not sticky. Roll into a ball and place in a greased bowl to rise in a warm place for 35 minutes. Punch down dough and divide into 4 parts. Make a flat rectangle with  your hands and shape loaves by  by taking edges and folding inward. Place loaves seam side down onto a cooking tray that has been dusted with cornmeal. Score the top of each loaf with a serrated knife about 1/2 inch deep. Allow this to rise again for 25 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a cooking pan on bottom shelf. DO NOT USE GLASS (this will shatter if you throw ice into it later). When the loaves have doubled in size, simultaneously slide your cooking tray onto the top shelf and toss 1/2 cup ice cubes into heated pan. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.