Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bread With Coarse-Ground Pink Himalayan Salt

This is the first loaf of risen bread I have ever made, and I did it pretty much without knowing what I was doing. In other words, instinct and guesswork ruled the day! I'm not sure I did everything right, and the bread did bake for a frighteningly short period of time I thought, but in the end the crust was perfect (not burned!) and the inside was soft and fully-cooked. The bread was delicious! I chopped it in 4 pieces and served it with dinner. Because the bread is lean and has only 4 ingredients, I recommend using good water. Mine went through a Brita filter.

250 grams bread flour
150 grams filtered water
heaping 1/2 teaspoon fine-ground sea salt
1/2 teaspoon plus heaping 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast
extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
coarse-ground pink Himalayan salt (optional)

you'll also need:
sturdy mixing spoon
kitchen scale
thermometer that reads 100 F
microwave-safe measuring cup 
all-purpose flour for dusting
baking sheet
cooking spray
cling wrap
clean dish towel
wire rack
pastry brush (optional)

1. mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Measure the water into the measuring cup and heat in the microwave in 10 second bursts until it reaches approximately 100 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water is hotter than that, let it cool before adding the yeast or the yeast will die. Add the yeast to the water and let it sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. The stir thoroughly until no granules remain.
2. add the yeast water to the flour mixture, and mix with a spoon until the dough starts to form. Turn it out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead it until it's elastic and smooth. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle more flour on while kneading.
3. wash the mixing bowl thoroughly and dry it. Spray it with vegetable cooking spray and put the bread in. Spray the top of the bread (to keep it moist), cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise for 1 hour.
4. check if the dough is ready by poking a finger into it. The dough should not spring back (if it does, rise for longer), but it should also not feel flabby.
5. turn to dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and punch it down (press the air out), kneading until it regains its former consistency. Cover it with a clean dishtowel and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

6. shape the dough into a ball by rolling it back and forth, tucking bits under if necessary. Place it on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray and cover it with the towel again. Let it proof (rise) for another hour, until it's roughly doubled in size.
7. preheat the oven to 450 F.
8. brush the top of the bread with olive oil and sprinkle on the pink salt. With a sharp knife, cut an 'X' into the top of the bread to allow it to expand.
9. bake the bread for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 F. Check it after this step and frequently, because oven temperatures vary greatly. The bread is done when the crust is darkened and, more importantly, when the bread sounds hollow when you tap on it. My bread only baked for about 5 more minutes until it was done.
10. when it's done, remove the bread from the oven and place it on the cooling rack using oven mitts. Cool completely before slicing into wedges.

I made this bread using the book Ratio. It made one small loaf.

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