A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to see an ad for a new cooking school in a city close to mine. (Provo, Utah) This is a wonderful business run by a very nice lady, Nesha who brings great gourmet chefs and teachers to
560 South 100 West Provo, UT 84601
Anyway, this class was taught by Lisa who is a great cook and has spent many years making bread and studying about how to get the best results!
She actually taught us a lot about the chemistry behind bread making. She really knows her stuff! All that sounds complicated,but when it came down to making the bread it was amazingly quite simple. I was surprised that it was actually one of the easiest bread making recipes I have tried! That was a double bonus! The samples of bread she brought were not only beautiful but tasted divine! I am really not exaggerating. I was so pumped to go home and try her methods. At the risk of making my results look bad, here are her samples of bread.
These tasted as wonderful as they look!
Just to show you how committed I am to spreading the joy of cooking, I took the class, came home and experimented with the recipe for weeks, and now, I will share them with you!
The first and one of the most important principles she taught us was how to make a poolish. The definition of a poolish is: "A type of sponge. Equal amounts of flour and water with an extremely small amount of yeast." This may sound intimidating but couldn't be more simple. The day before you want to make bread take a couple of minutes to mix 5 cups of water and 5 cups of flour in a bowl with a wisk. Then add a pinch of yeast and mix. This will make 4 loaves of bread. If your mixer won't hold that much or you don't want that many loaves just divide everything in 1/2. (The bread freezes well though)
Cover lightly and set it on the counter for 4 to 36 hours. See easy right? No big deal but it makes a huge difference of having bland bread and delicious bread.
So you wait (the longer you give it the better it will taste!). When it is ready it should look bubbly like this.
When you have about 2 hours that you know you will be home you can start making the bread. You won't be working all that time. In fact there is very little effort here but you do have to have time to let it rise twice. If you did your poolish in your mixer bowl you can attach it to the mixer and insert the dough hook. Add ingredients in this order:
begin with all of the poolish and add:
1 Tblspn. instant yeast
1 Tblspn. salt
1/2 cup sugar
7-12 cups flour (I usually use about 8 cups)
Mix until combined and remember to be flexible with the amount of flour. Only add flour until the dough comes together in a smooth ball on the dough hook. The dough should be tacky but not sticky. Now add:
1/4 cup butter (room temperature)
Mix until butter is incorporated. (1 to 2 minutes) Let this rise in the bowl (covered) in warm spot for about 30 minutes until doubled. It should look kind of soft and spongy. Spray the counter with oil and turn the dough out. Divide the dough into 4 parts and place in 4- 3 x 5 prepared (greased and floured) bread pans. I actually use a great spread that I make for the bread pans and even for the wedding cake I made that I will share with you in the next post. It works like a miracle and any batter or dough slides out like a dream.
Let the dough rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until doubled. Pre- heat the oven to 350. This is how high my dough was when I placed it in the oven.
Sorry it is a little dark but I forgot to take the picture until it was inside the oven! Bake the bread for 30 to 40 minutes. I test mine with an instant read thermometer. It should read 190-200 degrees when the middle is done.
See how easy that was? We really didn't worry about kneading all you do is make sure the ingredients are well mixed in and done in order. The poolish adds a spongy texture and flavor to the dough so it is light and stays soft longer than most bread recipes.
This is how I make regular sandwich bread and it is soooo delicious I can't even describe how good it is. We learned how to do some different toppings that you can spread on the bread before putting it in the oven that make them more gourmet, specialty bread but I will address that later. You can see examples of these in the pictures I took of her bread above. The toppings are great but I want this post to be about the basics.
There is one thing we need to talk about that is really important now. The fact is that after my class I came home so excited to make this wonderful bread. I got out my ingredients and baked some the next day. When I tasted it the flavor was really good but the texture just wasn't as good as Lisa's. It lacked the spongy, soft goodness that her bread had. It was a bit on the dry and compact side. It was a big disappointment.
So I kept trying and experimented with many different methods. I mixed it different ways, let it rise different amounts of time and everything I could think of. Finally, I contacted Lisa by email and she encouraged me to try the flour that she gets at Costco that comes for Lehi Roller Mills (Turkey Red Wheat) in Orem. It is a little bit more expensive and I always try to go for the good deals but I knew I wanted my bread to be as good as hers so I tried it.
This is a side by side comparison of the dough using the two different flours. The one on the right is an unbleached all purpose store brand and the one on the left is the flour from the mill near our home. Can you see the puffy texture of the mill flour?
Here is a close up of the crumb. The texture is out of this world soft!
WOW! What a difference it made. I was amazed. I had no idea that flour could cause such a difference. My dough was soft and puffy and just easier to work with all the way through...I wouldn't have believed it until I saw it myself. She explained that it is much fresher than most found in stores and they use a finer grit to mill it. I know some people reading this won't be able to buy this specific flour so I asked her for her advice for you.
She said "As for flour, the trick is to find as high of a quality as possible. Specialty mills, like Lehi Roller, Bob's, King Arthur, etc. pay close attention to the grains they use, as well as the handling of them
My personal feeling is the more local/fresh you can get, the better, no matter where you live. Better flour is more expensive, but worth it to me for the results. Cheaper flour is okay too if that is all that is available. My understanding is that those flours (store brand or less expensive) are made from older grain, and can be a mixture of species, depending on what is available to the company at that time of year. This ensures that they always have a product available, whereas sometimes at the end of a harvest of Turkey Red, Lehi will not have flour in stock for a couple of weeks until the new harvest comes in. They do not substitute or mix grains for Turkey flour."
This is my first experience using a better quality flour and boy am I sold on it. If you can't get Lehi Roller Mills flour I would definitely try the other kinds she suggests here that are widely available. You will love the difference!
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