My first loaf of bread

Im pleased to announce that my first loaf of home baked bread has turned out!  What a relief after failing so miserably on the starter.  I had decided that I needed to just start baking rather than putzing around with starters which is something that I’ll tackle again – but likely not something I should have started the month with.  At any rate, I followed the first recipe from the book Flour Water Salt Yeast which I had bought at the same time that I bought the Tartine book I mentioned earlier.  While the Tartine book is good, it might not be the best place for someone brand new to bread making (me) to start.  So here’s what the recipe called for…

Mix 500 grams of flour with 360 grams of water (The recipe actually called for twice this to make 2 loaves (wishing now I would have done this since it turned out so well but I halved it)).  The water should be around 95 degrees.  It is important that the temperature be accurate since the final resting temperature of the dough during rising is important.  Mix these in a large mixing tub until incorporated and then let the mix sit for 20 to 30 minutes…

After 20 to 30 minutes add 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) of yeast and 10 grams of salt (again this is halved from the original recipe).  I used finely ground sea salt and just normal yeast from a packet…

Add the yeast and salt to the tub and use a wet hand to incorporate it.  The book describes several methods for mixing including folding and using the pincher method which is essentially just using your hand to pinch through clumps of dough…

Now let the dough rest for 5 minutes and then come back and fold it for another 30 seconds or so.  When done, check the temperature of the dough.  You’re aiming for 78 degrees…

Perfect!  Now it’s time to let the dough rise.  Put the cover on the container and let it sit.  This is where I thought I might have gone wrong.  The recipe calls for folding the dough twice during the rise.  I had misread the recipe and thought that it called to do the first fold after an hour and a half.  It really said to do the first in the first 10 minutes and then the next within the next hour.  I waited and did my first fold around 50 minutes and the second one around 80 minutes.  Whoops.

The other piece I was worried about was the actual rising.  It’s winter here which means my house sits right around 69 degrees.  Ideal rising temperature appears to be around 70.  After the dough had some time to rise I decided to change things up a bit since it didnt seem to be rising very quickly.  My oven has a ‘proof’ setting that I put it on and then set the entire sealed container in.  I did this after applying both folds.  After 5 hours, my dough looked like this…

You’re looking for the dough to triple in size.  By the looks of it above – I think it had.  So the next step is to proof the dough.  Getting the dough out of the container is tricky.  I used lots of flour.  The trick from here on out is to not over handle the dough.  You want to be as gentle as possible with it.  Take your time, stop frequently to re-flour your hands to prevent sticking, and then lay the dough out on a floured surface…

The book then calls to fold the dough in on itself.  To do this, I stretched it out and then pulled each side in to the middle.  I then grabbed the top and folded that in followed by the bottom.  You’re trying to make a ball.  When flipped over it looked like this…

The next step was a little confusing to me.  Its a process of tightening up the dough.  To do so, you place it on an un-floured surface and gently pull the dough toward you.  Its hard to explain, but once you start it sort of comes naturally.  You do this a few times rotating the dough to make a tight ball like this…

The next step is to proof the dough.  The recipe called for a proof basket which I didn’t have so I placed a flour towel in a glass bowel and sprinkled with flour to prevent sticking….

Then I covered it with another towel and waited.  This is where the times in the recipe started to differ for me.  The recipe suggested proofing the dough for about an hour but also suggested a proofing ‘test’.  The test is poking your finger into the dough and seeing how long it takes for hole you poked to recover.  If it snaps back right away its not ready, if it doesn’t come back at all its proofed too long.  You want it to partially come back at a slow pace.  For me – this happened after about 40 minutes.  Since I didnt want to over proof the dough I went ahead and backed it at this point.

When the dough was proofing I had preheated the oven.  The recipe calls for baking the dough in a dutch oven.  Put the dutch oven in the oven at 475 and let it preheat for 45 minutes.  Again – since my dough didnt take that long to proof I only let it preheat for about 30 minutes.

Once the dough is ready to bake take it out of the basket and flip it over into the dutch oven.  This means that the doughs ‘seam’ will now be facing up since you had it facing down during proofing.  BE VERY CAREFUL.  It takes some time to find a way to get it into the dutch oven without burning yourself.

Then put the cover back on the dutch oven and put it back in your oven for 30 minutes.  When you take off the lid at the 30 minute mark the bread should look like this…

The recipe then suggested to put it back in the oven with the lid off for another 20 minutes.  I only put it back in for about 8 minutes.  I like a thick curst, but I also didn’t want to burn it.  When it was all done it looked like this…

I let it cool for 30 minutes and then cut it open…

It was soooooo good.  The crust was thick but not hard and the inside was cooked perfectly.  Im going to call this beginners luck for now but Im very happy with the results.

 

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