Monday, February 13, 2012

All You "Knead" to Know About Healthy Homemade Artisan Bread

With the New Year in full swing, many people are working hard to honor their resolutions. In coming months, those dedicated to eating healthier will challenge not only their determination, but also their creativity. In early 2012, at Ocean Reef Club’s Artisan Bread and Pizza Making cooking class, bread buffs learned the techniques to create a variety of healthy and tasty loaves in their own homes – in just five minutes a day.

Led by celebrated authors and bakers, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, Club members learned how to incorporate whole grains, fruit, vegetables and gluten-free ingredients into mouthwatering creations, including Turkish spiced lamb flatbread and gluten-free cheddar and sesame bread.

For aspiring bakers looking to craft their own crusty creations in five minutes a day, Hertzberg and François have provided the recipe below, which emphasizes the use of simple and wholesome ingredients:

Master Recipe for Artisan Loaves (Whole Wheat version)
Makes enough dough for four 1-pound loaves

· 5½ cups whole wheat flour
· 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
· 1½ tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
· 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
· ¼ cup vital wheat gluten
· 4 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees F)
· Cornmeal or parchment paper for the pizza peel
· 1 to 2 tablespoons of whole seed mixture for sprinkling: sesame, flaxseed, caraway, raw sunflower, poppy, and anise

1 Measure in dry ingredients: In a 5-quart bowl or lidded plastic food-grade bucket, whisk together the flours, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten.

2. Add the water all at once and mix without kneading using a wooden spoon, until all ingredients are uniformly moist, producing a loose and very wet dough.

3. Rising: Cover with a lid (not airtight). Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse, about 2 hours, but no more than 5 hours. DO NOT PUNCH DOWN! After rising, the dough can be baked immediately, or covered (not completely airtight) and refrigerated up to 14 days. The dough will be easier to work with after at least 3 hours refrigeration.

4. On baking day, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it with cornmeal to prevent the bread from sticking when you transfer it to the oven. Uncover the dough and sprinkle the surface with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough (serrated knives or kitchen shears are best). Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating a quarter-turn as you go to form a ball. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough. The bottom of the ball may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out and adhere during resting and baking. The correctly shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds. If you work the dough longer than this it may make your loaf dense.

5. Elongate the ball, stretch gently, and taper the ends by rolling between your palms.

6. Allow to rest, loosely covered with plastic wrap, on the prepared pizza peel for 90 minutes (40 minutes if you’re using fresh, un-refrigerated dough).

7. 30 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450°F, with baking stone on middle rack. Place empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf.

8. Using a pastry brush, paint the top crust with water. Sprinkle with seed mixture and slash with ¼-inch deep parallel cuts across the loaf, using a serrated bread knife.

9. Bake: Slide the loaf off the peel and onto the baking stone (if you used parchment, it slides right along with the loaf into the oven). Quickly but carefully pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is richly browned and firm to the touch.
© 2012, Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, adapted from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day (Thomas Dunne Books, 2009)

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