Wednesday, October 05, 2005

3, 2, 1... bread!

Those numbers represent:

1) the closest hour (A.M.) at which I went to bed over the past 3 days -- and --
2) a handy mnenomic device for remembering the recipe for pizza crust/bread that I like to make for my kids, which goes like this:

Italian Herb Bread

3 cups unbleached, unbromated white flour (I like King Arthur best)
2 T olive oil (not extra virgin, just regular)
1 C water, warmed to about 100 degrees (about 30 seconds in my microwave)
1/2 tsp salt
about 1 tsp honey
1 packet "Rapid Rise" yeast
dried Italian herb mixture, or dried oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme

Here's how I do it:
1. Drizzle the honey into the warm water and stir to dissolve, then add the yeast to that to "proof" it. Let sit about 5 minutes for the yeast to activate and become foamy. If you don't see any change, your yeast is dead, and your bread won't rise. It's worth it to take the time to prove your yeast!

2. Put the flour, olive oil, salt and yeast mixture in your mixer's mixing bowl. With a dough hook, mix at low speed until the ingredients are just mixed, then knead at medium speed for about 2-3 minutes. (If you want to do this by hand, knead for about 5 minutes.)

3. Turn the dough out of the mixing bowl and knead by hand a few times to finish.

4. Drizzle some olive oil in a bowl and brush it around the inside. Pop the dough into the bowl and turn it to coat with oil on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft free place for an hour to an hour-and-a half.

5. Punch down the dough. Lightly sprinkle with Italian herbs (I like rosemary a lot, so I add extra rosemary) over the entire surface of the dough, then fold the dough over itself and flatten it out again. Sprinkle again with herbs, then fold and flatten again. Repeat the sprinkle/fold/flatten steps at least 3 or 4 times altogether. Obviously the more you sprinkle, the stronger the taste of the herbs will be.

6. We like to form this bread into two small round loaves: separate the dough into two equal parts, and then pat it with your hands to form a slightly flattened ball. Place the two round loaves about 4 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with oiled parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Coat the loaves lightly with olive oil again. Let rest for another hour or so to rise again, then bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how dark you like your crust.

Let it cool at least 20 minutes or it will mush down to nothing when you try to slice it. Of course you could just rip it apart! It is very simple and tasty -- not at all time consuming, you just have to remember to start it about 3 hours before you want to eat it.

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