Friday, October 29, 2010
Don't be scared, but this is real bread. Yeasty bread. Bread that requires kneading. It will take a couple of hours from start to finish to make this bread ... But it's so worth it.
Why? It uses up that last bit of ricotta or cottage cheese or farmers cheese you have in the fridge (and we hate throwing food out). It's kid-friendly. And it tastes sooooooo good.
I'm going to assume that if you made it past that photo - you're interested ... Maybe not yet committed - but you want to know more. Fair enough! I was always hesitant to make my own bread, till I found this little book on a sale table in my favourite book store:
But having always loved good quality bakeries (the world over) ... I was intrigued. Could I make good bread, too? Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes.
And yes, I was standing around taking pictures while Nelle did all the work. But that's beside the point.
adapted from Daniel Leader's amazing book Local Breads
makes 3 small loaves
10 min kneading + 60-90 min rising + 60-90 min 2nd rising + 20-30 min baking
3/4 c warm* water
1/2 c warm* milk
1 Tbs instant yeast
3 1/4 c unbleached plain flour (I've substituted up to 1 c wholemeal flour and it's turned out well, too)
2 Tbs butter, cut into small cubes
3/4 c whole-milk ricotta or cottage cheese** or farmers cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
a tiny bit of olive oil
flour, for preventing stickage
a pizza stone (or baking tray, if you don't have one)
a cast iron skillet
1/4 c ice cubes
*By warm, I mean so that when you stick your finger in it - it's comfortably warm. Not too hot.
** If you use cottage cheese, drain off the excess liquid first.
***Try to use organic ingredients when you can - particularly the dairy. (Because then you know it's happy cows and it doesn't contain icky extras like growth hormones.)
1. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl - you can use a breadmaker or a stand mixer for this part if you have one. Otherwise, just use a wooden spoon and your hand.
2. Dust the benchtop with flour and turn out the dough - knead it for about 10 minutes till it's very smooth and very elastic. If you have a breadmaker - use the pizza function to achieve this. Or use a standmixer with dough hook.
3. Transfer your dough into a lightly oiled, clean bowl and cover with a tea towel. Set in a warm place to let it rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hrs, until it's doubled in size.
4. Dust your benchtop with more flour and transfer the risen dough (carefully!) onto it. You don't want to squish the dough too much at this stage. Or knead it. No kneading! Simply cut or pull the dough into 3 equal-sized pieces. Shape them into rounds. Be gentle ...
(Don't worry if the shape is a little odd ... that's part of the loveliness of homemade bread! Plus, you'll get better with practice)
5. Put the rounds onto sheets of baking paper, far enough apart that they won't expand into each other. Cover with a tea towel and let them rise again for 1 to 1 1/2 hrs, until doubled in size.
*Another tip for knowing when they're ready - press on the puffy loaf with your fingertip, and if the indentation you make springs back slowly but surely - it's ready.
6. While the loaves are rising for the 2nd time, preheat your oven to 200C (400F). The baking process for this bread is a little different - because we want a nice caramel-coloured crust we have to do a few things:
- we'll preheat the baking stone (or tray, if you don't have a stone) and the cast-iron skillet in the hot oven
- it will be a hot oven
- we'll add ice cubes to the hot skillet when we put the bread in (to produce steam)
7. When your loaves have risen, slide them (on the baking paper) onto the hot baking stone. Put them into the oven and before you close the door put the ice cubes onto the cast-iron skillet. Close the oven door and bake for 20 - 30 minutes, until the loaves are golden.
8. When they're done, slide them (on the baking paper) onto a rack to cool. Try to resist cutting them open for at least an hour. Store in a sealed bag for 2-3 days at room temperature or 1 month in the freezer.
Ricotta bread LOVES butter. Almost as much as I do.
I used all organic ingredients, and my 3 loaves (about 300 grams each) came out to about $1.50 per loaf.
So hopefully you feel a little inspired to make some bread this weekend ... get your hands dirty ... put cute vintage aprons on your kids and bake together ...