N loves bread- buying, eating and baking, one of the very few things he likes to bake (so much for going on a low-carb diet). If I ever lose him in the grocery store I know where to find him- he’s that predictable with bread.
This Friday, N decided he wanted to make stretch bread. He had attempted a few before as well that didn’t quite make it on the blog ‘coz they were not very successful experiments. When he said he was going to spend the weekend making bread I decided I was not going to interfere. I may have mentioned this before, he does not like to measure stuff while cooking or baking and it pains my heart when I see him just dumping a heaping cup of flour in a bowl when the recipe calls for just a cup of flour. But I am learning to make peace with that and he is trying to measure stuff when he bakes.
So after weeks of research, reading up and a few failed attempts, he found a fool-proof recipe that he was going to use. It called for making a “poolish” a day in advance of baking the bread. Poolish is basically a starter used in baking French and Italian breads. It’s usually a mix of flour, water and yeast that is allowed to ferment for a few hours (N allowed it to ferment for about 24 hours). This starter is then used either in addition to or as a substitute for yeast in bread baking.
I won’t go into the science of bread baking anymore (since I don’t know it) but will warn you that there is a lot of waiting, proofing and rising time involved in making this bread. The outcome was absolutely fantastic and the bread was crusty on the outside yet so chewy on the inside and didn’t have a yeasty taste-totally worth the effort N put in. However, I don’t think I would have the patience to sit through so much proofing to see the dough rise, I am sorry N but I am not as passionate about bread as you are. 🙂
So friends, who wants some bread this Fiesta Friday?
Our recipe here is adapted from The Daily Meal. The original recipe uses bread flour but N used regular all-purpose flour.
- 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1/8 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
- ½ cup cold water (76-78 degrees F)
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/8 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
- ½ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 cup Poolish
- 1 cup cold water (65 degrees F)
- 2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- In a bowl, add the yeast and the warm water and whisk together until the yeast dissolves.
- Allow this to stand for a couple of minutes. Add the cold water and the flour and stir vigorously with a spoon until a smooth and somewhat elastic batter has formed. The starter should be thick and stretchy. It will get softer and thinner after it has risen.
- Bring together the batter in the center of the bowl and cover the bowl with cling wrap. Mark the height of the starter and the time on a piece of tape on the side of the container so that you can see how much the batter rises. It has to rise three times its original size.
- Allow it to rise at room temperature for 2-4 hours. Then keep it in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight.
- After 8 hours or overnight, remove it from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 6-8 hours to warm up and become active before using it.
- When it is ready, the batter will have tripled in volume, and lots of bubbles and small folds will appear on top of the surface of the starter. The starter should be used in the next 2-4 hours before it begins to deflate.
- Combine the warm water and the yeast in a measuring cup and stir to dissolve the yeast. Let it stand for a couple of minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the poolish, water and yeast mixture and mix well using your hands.
- Next, add in the flour and salt and mix with your fingers to moisten the flour. Using a spatula fold the dough from the sides to center in the bowl over and over again for about 3-4 minutes. The dough should look like a thick batter and should be very sticky. If the dough feels firm or dry, incorporate additional cold water a tablespoon at a time. At this stage, the dough should not be smooth.
- Then cover the bowl with cling wrap. Let this rest for 15 minutes to smooth out and develop elasticity.
- Then, repeat the folding process in the bowl for another 6-8 minutes. The dough will already feel stretchy, but will become smooth and develop strength with kneading.
- At this point put the dough on a lightly floured surface (make sure you don’t have too much flour) and knead for about 3-4 minutes. Use a bench scraper to remove the dough from the surface if needed.
- Then, oil the dough and put it in a large oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for an hour. The dough will feel puffy at this point. Gently fold the dough in from the sides to the middle to deflate the dough and turn it over so that the smoother bottom side is up.
- Cover the dough and let it rest again for 45-50 minutes. This time the dough will almost double and will feel strong and supple.
- Then, oil a large baking sheet with oil. Put the dough onto the baking sheet and form a long rectangular pillow (approximately 14 inches long). Be careful not to deflate the dough too much. Fold the dough from the sides onto the middle to form this rectangular shape. Cover with a lightly floured cloth and let the dough proof for 15-20 minutes.
- While the loaf is proofing, prepare the oven for baking the bread. Keep an oven rack on the bottom most shelf of the oven and another rack on the second (from the top) shelf of the oven. Place a shallow cast iron pan (like a skillet) on the lower rack. Preheat the oven to 480 degrees F.
- When the oven has preheated, pour 2-3 cups boiling water in the cast iron pan very carefully.
- Next, mist the top of the proofed bread loaf with water using a spritzer and put the proofed bread loaf in the oven to bake.
- After 3 minutes, pour in another ½ cup of boiling water into the iron skillet. Check the loaf after 20 minutes and rotate it if necessary to ensure even browning. Bake it for about 35-40 minutes or until the bread is uniformly dark golden brown in color and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool it completely on a wire rack before cutting.