We had thunder today and the bucketing rain to accompany it. It’s been a wild several days of bitter cold, snow, rain, and thunder. And it’s only the 6th of January! I’m just hoping that winter is a quick one because I’ll be ordering my seeds this week and the seedlings get started in a couple of weeks. I wonder what the kids will choose for their veg this year.
One ingredient I wish was a perennial in our area is rosemary. It’s funny because the UK is much further north than we are but my MIL grows it and she grumbles how it gets out of hand in their mild weather. I’d gladly trade!
Last night Downton Abby started, finally, stateside so I was ready for a cosy evening with my husband. The only thing missing was a fine bottle of red wine due to my cold. Any time it wants to go away will be fine by me. We had some rosemary left over so I thought I’d make the rosemary bread we love from our go to book Local Breads by Daniel Leader.
My husband and I have recently improved our bread making. We’ve made bread for several years and it’s been good but they weren’t light and airy like the European breads. While we haven’t achieved the large bubbles because the flour we should really use isn’t available here we’ve started to see a nice bubbly texture. The big change we made? Follow the weight measures rather than using cups, tsps, etc. That change alone has really helped.
This bread gets started the day before when the biga is made. Biga is a type of starter for breads. While this bread isn’t difficult it is just time consuming in that you need to be near it for a good amount of time.
In a small bowl mix 65 grams of warm water, about 70-78F/21-25C, 2 grams of instant yeast, and 100 grams of unbleached all purpose flour. With a spatula mix the ingredients until they clump together and then knead for a minute or so. Leave in the bowl covered for an hour at room temp. Place in the fridge for 9-17 hours.
In the morning it will have doubled in size.
In his book he talks about the biga being soft and airy. I have yet to get it that way so that is something I need to research. Mine comes out a bit stiff. Next I get the mixing bowl for the kitchen aid and put the biga in and cover it with 300 grams of warm water (same temp as for the biga). Stir to soften and break up the biga.
The recipe calls for 10 grams of rosemary but we have found that doesn’t impart enough fragrance or flavour so we increase to our liking.
Chop the rosemary and to the biga and water add 5 grams of instant yeast, 500 grams of the flour, 65 grams of extra virgin olive oil, the rosemary, and 15 grams of sea salt. We’ve run out so I used kosher salt for this.
Using the mixer on low speed bring all the ingredients together so it is well blended.
Bring it up to medium speed or about 4 on the Kitchen Aid for 10-12 minutes to knead the bread. At this point I have one hand on the mixer and play Words with Friends with the other. Otherwise it’s a bit like watching grass grow! About half way through using a spatula scrap the dough off the dough hook and the bottom and then keep going.
Once it is smooth test the dough to make sure it’s been kneaded enough. You want to be able to stretch a small bit of dough without breaking so it is very opaque.
If it breaks knead for a few more minutes. The dough is very sticky so it was tricky getting the shot without messing the camera. I had to try stretching the dough one handed!
Place in a greased container and cover with greased cling film.
This is another step where we learned more is not better. We would sometimes get carried away with the rising. Not a good idea! For the first rising it should only go for 1 1/2 -2 hours where it is allowed to double in size.
It is time to shape them into baquettes or logs. Divide the dough into two equal parts and shape into a rectangle.
Then fold into thirds. Roll the top third down then fold the bottom up. Place seam down onto the parchment paper. They should be about a foot long.
Using a lame slice cuts into the tops about 5 times each. Do this quickly and don’t hesitate. Otherwise you can flatten the airy bubbles.
The second rising is for 45-60 minutes and they will almost double in size. Preheat the oven to 400F/205C with the baking stone in the oven. I baked the bread using convection so it only needed 30 minutes to bake but using regular it could take up to 40 minutes. You want it a nice golden colour.
The book says to allow it to cool completely which I did this time as I made it early. But it is also gorgeous served right out of the oven with butter.
My husband said it smelled really good while baking. I miss the smell of fresh baked bread. Thank goodness I can still taste it! So good with cheese.