Basic Bread Recipe – Part 2

This is the second half of my erudite elaboration on a basic bread dough recipe which I used for stromboli but is versatile enough for a crusty Italian bread, pizza dough or dinner rolls.

Chef Anne Mahle serves Stromboli aboard the Maine Windjammer J&E Riggin

These stromboli were made on the Riggin this summer in my wood stove.  They don’t last long, let me tell you!

When the dough is ready to roll out, preheat oven to 400°.  Place a cast iron skillet or other heavy oven proof pan in the bottom of the oven.  Dust a baking pan with corn meal.  Roll out the dough on a lightly floured countertop to about the size of a laptop.  Lay out ingredients over the entire surface and roll up snugly into a loaf, tucking in the ends and pinching the seam closed.   Place the loaf onto the pan dusted with cornmeal.  Oil and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again, about 1/2 hour.  When the loaf has nearly doubled, make three diagonal slashes on the top with a razor or very sharp knife.

Place the baking pan in the oven, throw 1 cup of water into the skillet on the bottom to generate steam and quickly close the oven door.  Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown and an internal read thermometer reads 210°.

‘When the dough is ready to roll out, preheat oven to 400°.  Place a cast iron skillet or other heavy oven proof pan in the bottom of the oven.  Dust a baking sheet with corn meal.’

  • Bread rises better and creates a better crust when the oven temperature is high.  Pizza is baked at 500° and it’s one of the factors contributing to the famed, crispy crust.
  • I’ve found in my home oven, after much trial and error and more than a few really big messes, that using a cast iron skillet to help create steam in the oven is the best way to go.  I have a skillet from my grandma in which I’ve placed lemon-sized rocks.  It just stays in the bottom of my oven and when I’m ready to create steam, I pour a cupful of water on the rocks.
  • Steam is important to bread making for two reasons.  One, the moisture retards the formation of a crust so that the bread can rise more.  Two, in the later stage of baking, it actually helps create a crisper, thicker crust.
  • Dusting with cornmeal is not 100% needed, but it does add a little texture to the bottom crust and make it easier to remove the loaf from the pan.  Although, if you’ve done a good job, the bread should be easy to remove from the baking sheet.

‘Roll out the dough on a lightly floured countertop to about the size of a laptop.  Lay out ingredients over the entire surface and roll up snugly into a loaf, tucking in the ends and pinching the seam closed.’

  • Dust the countertop as lightly as possible.  It’s even okay if the dough sticks a little bit because it helps anchor a corner or two when you are rolling it out.
  • If the dough really doesn’t want to roll out and you push and it shrinks, you push and it shrinks.  Don’t fight.  Just walk away for 5 minutes and then come back to it.  The gluten will have relaxed and it will be much easier to handle.
  • When you pinch the seam closed and then place it on the pan, the seam should be on the bottom.

‘Place the loaf onto the pan dusted with cornmeal.  Oil and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again, about 1/2 hour.  When the loaf has nearly doubled, make three diagonal slashes on the top with a razor or very sharp knife.’

  • When you lightly oil bread dough, you retard any drying out that might happen in the rising process.  Plastic wrap does the same work and it’s why a ‘dampened cloth’ isn’t something I use any longer.
  • The slashes help the bread rise and are for aesthetic purposes as well.

Annie
Write if you have more questions and if not, get baking!

Email thisShare on FacebookTwitterDigg This!Save to del.icio.usStumble It!