Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Hearth Bread

Apologies for the hiatus.  A virus has once again descended upon our home, choosing a single victim to plague with stomach pains, sinus pressure, laryngitis, and a nasty dry cough:  ME.

I have been without a voice for the past four days.  Matthew has been really confused as to why I am unable to speak above a whisper.  I think he has been making up for my silence by being even more loud and obnoxious than normal.  His big thing lately has been to balance precariously on the edge of the couch and yell "Help! Help!" until someone comes to his rescue.  It was cute the very first time he did it, but got old quickly when he insisted on doing this for about 3 hours straight.

Since I have been feeling a bit under the weather, we have been surviving on make-ahead meals that I manage to assemble when I experience a surge of energy.  Last night, we enjoyed a delicious mushroom lasagna that I had actually made two days previously.  I wanted to make some bread to serve with the meal, but was really not feeling up to a recipe that was super involved like french baguettes or ciabatta.  I remembered a recipe that I have made a few times from King Arthur Flour for a basic "hearth-style bread" that can be prepared and baked within a matter of a few short hours.  It worked wonderfully and produced two beautiful loaves of bread.  Paul made a whipped garlic butter spread to serve alongside and Matthew polished off a good half of a loaf all by himself.  He sure does love his carbs.

If you are looking for an easy bread recipe to make for dinner tonight, give this one a try!

Hearth Bread
adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
5 1/2-6 cups all-purpose flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 5 cups of flour, the yeast, salt, and sugar.  Stir with the paddle attachment briefly to combine.  Slowly stream in the warm water until the dough comes together.  Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and increase the mixer speed to medium.  Knead for 8-10 minutes, adding additional flour by the tablespoon until dough is no longer sticky and feels soft and smooth.

Remove the dough from the ball and knead briefly on a floured surface.  Form into a ball and place in a large, greased bowl, turning once to coat.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down to remove air bubbles and turn out onto a floured surface.  Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a torpedo shape.  Transfer the shaped loaves to a parchment-lined baking sheet and spray the top of each loaf with cooking spray.  Cover with plastic and allow to rise for about 45 additional minutes.

While the loaves are rising, place one oven rack in the center and the other at the bottom of the oven.  Fill a roasting pan with water and place on the bottom oven rack.  Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Quickly diagonally slash the bread in 4 places with a very sharp knife or razor.  Spritz the surface of the loaves with water and immediately place in the oven on the center rack.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 400 degrees and continue to bake for 10-15 additional minutes.  The loaves should be golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.  Remove the loaves from the oven and allow to cool at least 1 hour on a wire rack before slicing.

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