Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Glorious glutens

In the past, my bread-making attempts have been less than fruitful. I've turned out lumpy loaves, misshapen messes, and rock-hard ryes. But lately, having honed my dough skills as the Pizza Queen at work, my homegrown efforts are yielding some delectable results. If you have a food processor, this is the least messy bread you'll ever make. (No need to knead!)
If you don't, it's still worth a try - simply incorporate the ingredients by hand, on a well-floured surface, and be sure to keep kneading until the dough is smooth and springy.

Herbed Sandwich Bread
(makes one big honkin' loaf)

- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary, thyme, za'atar, or dried herb of choice
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoon instant (granulated) yeast
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing bowl and pan
- 1-1/2 cups cool milk (or water)

1. Fit your food processor with the dough blade attachment. Add the flour, chopped onion, herb, salt, and yeast, and pulse a couple of times.
2. With the motor running, add the honey, olive oil, and milk slowly through the feed tube. Continue running the machine until a ball of dough forms around the blade, about 1 minute.
3. Remove the hunk of dough from the machine and shape into a sphere. Place in a large well-oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Let rise at least 2 hours in a warm spot.
4. Deflate the risen dough and reshape into a ball. Let rest 15 minutes. Then, shape into a loaf and place on an oiled baking sheet (if you're going free-form) or in a large oiled loaf pan, cover with a towel, and allow to rise again for another hour.
5. Heat your oven to 375 degrees F. With a sharp paring knife, slash across the top of your loaf in a few evenly spaced horizontal lines. Brush the top of the loaf with water and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it. You can also test for doneness by taking a read of the internal temperature of the loaf; it should be about 160 degrees F.

If you want to do some experimenting, try substituting garlic for the onion and add chopped kalamata olives. Or go nuts! Walnuts and sunflower seeds would work nicely, maybe with some caraway seeds sprinkled on top.

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