Cook the Book: Newfi Bread

Newfi Bread

This recipe is a favorite on many vessels in the windjammer fleet.
2 tablespoons (2 packages) dry yeast
1/2 tablespoon salt
8 cups white all-purpose flour
3 cups warm water
2 tablespoons soft butter
1 cup molasses

Combine the yeast, salt, and flour in a large bowl. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, reserving 1/4 cup water. Add more water if needed. Knead for 10-15 minutes. Oil the bowl and the top of the dough, cover, and place in a warm place to rise for 30-45 minutes, until doubled. Preheat oven to 375°. Grease 3 loaf pans. Punch down the dough, form three loaves and place them in the loaf pans. Cover and allow to rise again until nearly doubled. Place the pans in the oven, throw a cup of water over hot stones set in a pan in the bottom of the oven (or toss 3 to 4 ice cubes into a pan in the bottom of the oven) to generate steam and quickly close the oven door. Bake until deep brown (around 45 minutes).

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!

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Basic Bread Recipe

Bread dough is one of the most versatile things you can make in your kitchen AND one of the hardest to write a recipe for because it’s such a visual and tactile process.  It’s also intimidating if you’ve never done it.  The good news is that even if your first try is a complete flop (and that’s not a given), the ingredients, primarily flour, water, yeast and salt, are all inexpensive.

I’d like to try to take the mystery out of bread making, mostly because the results are so worth the effort.  But really, when a recipe reads  ‘cover and let rise 1 hour or until dough has doubled’ or ‘knead until smooth and elastic.’  What does that mean!?  These are all phrases that I’ve used in my recipes, but there are times when I just wish I could show people.  Well, most of the time I wish that.

Stromboli served on the Schooner J&E Riggin

These are the directions for a basic bread recipe that ran in the Portland Press Herald column this week.  I used it in a stromboli recipe and it’s  very forgiving.

Combine the yeast, salt, and flour in a mixing bowl.  With the dough hook attachment of the mixer, mix on low speed.  Add 3/4 cup of water and olive oil.  When the dough begins to form a ball, add more water a tablespoon at a time until the little bits of flour on the bottom of the bowl start to work into the dough.  Knead on medium low speed for 5 to 7 minutes or until the surface of the dough begins to be very smooth and the dough is elastic.

Oil the top of the dough, cover with either a plate or plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm, draft free place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

‘Combine the yeast, salt and flour in a mixing bowl.’

  • You combine the dry ingredients first so that you don’t end up with clumps of yeast or salt when the water is added.  

‘With the dough hook attachment of the mixer, mix on low speed.  Add 3/4 cup of water and olive oil.  When the dough begins to form a ball, add more water one tablespoon at a time until the little bits of flour on the bottom of the bowl start to work into the dough.’

  • Adding the water a little bit at a time towards the end is important.  Moisture content in flour will vary as will the protein.  Both affect how much water you should add.  It’s better to adjust the amount of water rather than the amount of flour.  More flour changes the ratio to yeast and salt, whereas more water changes nothing.  The dough should just barely come away from the sides of the bowl.
  • Here you could also knead the bread by hand.  It’s not that hard, but the technique is, again, easier to show than to write.  Once the dough has formed a ball in the bowl, transfer it to a floured countertop.  Pull the far side of the dough towards you and push it into the ball.  Give the dough a 1/4 turn and repeat.  If it sticks to your hands or the countertop, dust with flour.  Sing a song.  Keep going.  Sing another song.  Keep going.  It becomes rhythmic and aerobic as you work the dough into a smooth ball.  It should stop sticking to the counter top and your hands and the surface looses it’s mottled look and develops an unblemished surface.

‘Oil the top of the dough, cover with either a plate or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft free place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.’  Now this refers to how long the dough should rise of course, but there’s so much that ends up being left out of the recipe for the sake of brevity and so as to not put off 90% of readers who, if I added every single instruction, would quickly click to another recipe.  Anything longer than a page and it’s too daunting.  What the recipe could also include is:

  • Rising times may vary because of ambient temperature.
  • The reason you oil the dough is so that the surface doesn’t dry out and impede rising.
  • Draft free is important because significant air movement will lower the surrounding temperature and cause the dough to take longer to rise.
  • If it’s winter, you consistently wear three layers in your house and you are still cold (like in my 100 plus year old house), then you could turn the oven to 170 degrees and let the dough rise on the stove top.
  • When the dough has doubled in size, it will have a smooth, dome shape and the dough, when you poke it with a finger, shouldn’t bounce back.

This was only half of the instructions, I’ll post the rest of the instructions/comments tomorrow.  Hope this was helpful.  Write if it wasn’t.

Annie

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