Saturday, May 19, 2012
I never get tired of the little burst of baking euphoria that goes along with pulling a smooth, golden, fully risen loaf of bread from the oven, especially when I've just tried out a new recipe for the first time. I just want to grab somebody and hug them whenever this happens. And I feel it even more so if I've fiddled with the bread recipe to suit my whim (always a risky practice, especially with a yeast recipe, but one that I am irresistibly drawn to repeat).
About this recipe . . .
I adapted this from a recipe I found on The Fresh Loaf --a remarkably helpful blog geared toward home bakers and focused almost entirely on bread. If the minutia of bread baking is what you're into, then you really need to check out The Fresh Loaf. It's a reliable repository of practical answers to every conceivable bread question I think I've ever had, and the community of bakers who contribute comments to this site are always kind and supportive. But I digress . . . back to the recipe.
Credited to artisan baker, author, and founder of Bread Alone Bakery, Daniel Leader, the original recipe required semolina flour exclusively, much more than I had on hand in fact. So, I made my own adjustments in that department, instead using a combo of semolina, bread flour, and unbleached all-purpose flour. I wasn't altogether sure this would work well since semolina is a very high gluten flour and I didn't have a lot of it. I was prepared for trouble, what with my changes, but by the end of the first rise, I felt confident everything would turn out fine. And it did. I also tweaked the mixing method a smidgen, doing what seemed to me to be required as I went along.
The olive oil adds a subtle aroma that's uniquely appealing, and it also obviously lends something special to the bread's beautifully textured crumb. As for the sesame seeds, I made the decision to add them on my own, but as you can see most or all of them fell off when I turned the loaves over to remove them from the pans. That was entirely my own fault: I should have wet the tops of the unbaked loaves with water, or brushed them with an egg wash, and then gently patted down the seeds to help them adhere. But I made the error of oiling the top of the loaves and simply scattering the seeds over that, and clearly, my method didn't work. Live and learn! The bread was just as good, though, despite those wayward sesames.
Made using the straight dough method (the easiest bread mixing method out there, hands down, where all the ingredients are basically assembled right at the start), I had two gorgeous loaves coming out of my oven in less than four hours, from start to finish. When I sliced a loaf of this bread open (it slices like a dream, by the way), I was greeted with the warmest, palest shade of butter yellow.
Eminently suitable for sandwiches or toast, this one is a keeper that I'm sure I'll make again.
Semolina Olive Oil Bread, with Sesame Seeds (or Not!)
(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)
Yield: Two standard size loaves
Generously grease two bread pans with vegetable shortening.
3 cups (liquid measure) of room temperature water (about 70-75 degrees)
2 teaspoons of instant yeast (If you need to use active dry yeast instead, use 25 percent more than the indicated measurement for instant yeast. Use a little bit of the warm water to proof the active dry yeast before using it in the recipe. Instant yeast does not require proofing--that's one of its best benefits!)
2 and 3/4 cups of semolina flour
2 and 1/2 cups of bread flour
3 and 1/2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of sea salt or coarse kosher salt
1/2 cup (liquid measure) extra-virgin olive oil
Into a large bowl, measure all of the dry ingredients and lightly whisk them together.
Into the large bowl of your mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, pour all of the water and oil. On the lowest speed, add in the dry ingredients about a cup at a time and mix until a loose dough forms.
Remove the paddle, scraping it off, and switch to the dough hook; knead the dough on the lowest speed for about five minutes. Conservatively add more flour as needed if the dough is really soft and loose, but keep in mind that if you add too much, it can negatively affect the texture of the baked loaves.
Dust your work surface generously with all-purpose flour, and dump the dough out onto it.
Flour your hands. Knead the dough by hand until it's smooth and elastic, perhaps five more minutes or so.
Place the dough into a large bowl, lightly oiled with olive oil or sprayed with vegetable spray. Turn the dough over in the bowl so it's oiled all over. Cover the bowl with oiled/sprayed plastic wrap, and cover that with a thin dish towel. Let the dough rise at warm room temperature until it doubles. Expect this to take at least 90 minutes or so.
Dump the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. (Try to use as little flour on your work surface as you can get away with at this point.) Deflate the dough by pressing on it with your closed fists or the palms of your hands. Divide the dough equally into two parts using a bench knife, a bowl scraper, or a very sharp knife. Pick up one piece of dough and round it gently by tugging downward; you are trying to create surface tension. Do this to the other piece as well.
Cover each ball of dough with the oiled plastic wrap and let the dough rest for about 12 minutes. Pick up one of the balls and shape it into a loaf. Be sure to tightly seal any bottom seams by pinching them closed with your fingertips. Place the shaped dough into one of the pans. Repeat with the other ball of dough. Cover the filled pans with the oiled plastic wrap. Turn on the oven to 375 degrees.
Let the dough rise at room temperature until it crowns above the rim of the pan about 1 inch at its highest point. This will probably take an hour or more. When the dough has risen, remove the plastic wrap.
If you're not using sesame seeds, simply brush olive oil on the top of the loaves, and then they'll be ready for the oven. If you'd like to add sesame seeds, brush the top of the loaves lightly with water (or just wet your hands and very gently pat the loaves to wet them), and sprinkle the seeds on top. Gently press the seeds into the dough, being very careful not to deflate the loaves. You can lightly spritz olive oil over that, if you like.
Before inserting your pans into the oven, quickly open the oven door a little bit and, using a mister, spritz some water into the middle of the oven (don't aim for the little oven light!). Bread likes a slightly steamy atmosphere when it first starts to bake.The humidity helps to prevent the loaves from bursting haphazardly when hit with that first big rush of heat.
Bake the loaves on the middle shelf of the oven. Check them after about 20 minutes. If they seem to be browning too quickly, lightly cover them with foil. Continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the crust is deeply golden all over. If you're not sure they're done, you can check them by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the center; the internal temperature for a fully baked loaf is typically about 190 to 200 degrees.
Cool the baked loaves on cooling racks, out of their pans, for about an hour before you try slicing them.
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