More bread. I just can’t think of a better food right now. It’s still a bazillion degrees below zero (or so it seems) and the only sensible thing is to stay indoors and heat the kitchen.
I’ve been making this particular bread for years. It may be one of the easiest, no-brainer-fool-proof breads in the world. And one of the absolute best-tasting.
Today, I really proved the fool-proof part.
Our neighbor across the street just had his gall bladder removed. Since he regularly comes over and plows our driveway when it snows, it is imperative that he regain his good health immediately. I thought fresh-baked bread and a no-fat lentil soup was just the thing to help him on the road to recovery.
This is a basic white-flour recipe. I pulled the biga out of the ‘fridge (left over from the Pan Siciliano), got it mixed with the yeast and the water and – exactly 6 cups of flour. I needed 7 1/2. I don’t think I’ve ever run out of flour before, but I have been doing a lot of bread-baking. I did another search to make sure there wasn’t a 5 lb bag hiding somewhere. I have whole wheat flour, I have rye flour, I have graham flour, I have self-rising flour. There’s even corn flour. No more white flour.
There was absolutely no way I was leaving the house. I added a cup and a half of whole wheat.
The dough came out great. Felt good, it had a great smell to it. Into a ball, into a bowl, and into the “proofing room” it went. (For those not in the know… I just open the heater vents in our powder room and it becomes the warmest and best environment for proofing bread.)
The recipe makes three good-sized loaves and I have generally been able to get them all to fit on one peel. Well… today, they seemed to have a bit more of a mind of their own than usual.
They got big. One was actually hanging off the side a bit.
I already planned to do two loaves in one oven and the third in the other, but as I was sliding the first loaf in, the second fell right off the peel and landed upside down halfway in the oven, laying across the heating element and the door.
I quickly slid the third loaf onto the butcher block and carefully picked up the fallen loaf. I got it into the bottom oven, slid the third one back onto the peel, and got it into the oven.
The loaf in the picture above is the one that fell. It came out pretty awesome. A bit misshapen, but awesome.
THAT is a forgiving loaf of bread.
- 1 packet dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 3 cups water; room temp
- 1 cup biga
- 7 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp salt
Proof the yeast in the warm water. Add 1 1/2 c water and the biga, mix till blended. Add flour and salt, mix till dough comes together and pulls off the sides of the bowl. Knead 3-5 minutes in a mixer, longer by hand. Dough will be very soft and elastic. Let rise about 3 hours, shape into 2 small round loaves or 1 big flattish one. If you have baking stones, place loaves on baking peel or on baking sheets sprinkled corn meal. Let rise about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 450°, and 10 minutes before baking flour the loaf tops and dimple them with your fingers. Bake 50-60 minutes for big loaves, 30-35 minutes for small. Tap the loaves to test for doneness (hollow=done) and cool on a rack.
And the biga. I would imagine it could stay in the ‘fridge and just keep adding to it as I used to do with my starters years ago.
- 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 1/4 cup water (room temperature)
- 3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Stir the yeast into the warm water and let stand until creamy – about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining water and then the flour, one cup at a time.
Mix with the paddle attachment on the mixer at the lowest speed about 2 minutes.
Remove to a slightly oiled bowl, cover, and let rise at cool room temperature for 6 to 24 hours. The starter will triple in volume and still be wet and sticky when ready. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
During all of this commotion, I was also making lentil soup. With French lentils. Lentilles du Puy. I’m brave. I’ll pair Italian bread with French lentils. Fancy restaurants would charge an arm and a leg and call it fusion.
I call it getting my driveway plowed.
I made two versions of the soup. I added cooked sausage and chicken to ours after taking out half for our neighbor. (I wasn’t being cheap. Gall bladder removal = low fat diet. Sausage is definitely not on his diet right now.)
The recipe is for making it all at once. I had a chicken breast in the ‘fridge that needed cooking, so I cut it up and added it to the sausage when I cooked it. You can make it vegetarian simply by omitting the sausage/chicken.
Potage de lentille du Puy
- 1 onion, diced
- 6 carrots, chopped
- 6 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb French green lentils (or other lentils)
- 10 cups water
- 1 sm can tomato paste
- 2 tsp Herbs d’Provence
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 lb sausage, sliced
Brown sausage, onions, carrots, cekery, and garlic together in soup pot. When cooked reasonably well, add water, lentils, tomato paste and seasonings.
Bring to boil and then simmer uncovered until lentils are tender and soup has thickened slightly.
Check for seasoning and add additional salt and/or pepper, as desired.
We’re not expecting any snow showers until next weekend.