For the past few weeks, I am baking bread. I used to do it all the time, but then something happened, life changed and with it the habits. Anyways, I am back to that particular habit now and not only enjoying it immensely but also obsessed with it. On the one hand, it is a practice of mindfulness and patience. And I am in dire need of both. On the other hand, it’s an amazing and incredibly controlled process of transformation. You have to get it right. Just loving baking won’t actually produce a good loaf.
The most amazing thing about bread is that it is alive. Flour, yeast, salt, and water create life. And it changes. The minute you let go and forget about the time it gets out of control. It is sad to cut into a beautiful loaf only to find out it was over proofed. But regardless of technicalities, the process of creating this life-giving, one of the oldest foods on Earth is incredible. Starting with mixing the dough, then kneading it, then letting it rest and baking it. There is something incredibly grounding. Maybe it’s the smell, maybe it’s the physicality of kneading, or maybe it’s just the sheer magic of creating something out of simple things.
Recently I tried the refrigerator fermentation method. I found the elaboration of the process in this fantastic blog: http://www.abreadaday.com/the-overnight-ferment-method/. But the original recipe came from the Feast of Ice and Fire cookbook given to me by one of my best friends. We both are avid Game of Thrones fans, and my friend’s version of Cream of Mushroom and Snail soup is to die for. But I digress… The premise is you mix the dough (flour, yeast, salt, and water) and then put it in the refrigerator for the first rising (proofing). The longer it is in the fridge, the more fermented it is. Meanwhile, your whole apartment swells with the earthy aroma of ferment. Peace. You fall asleep to it, and you wake up to it. Amazing.
Here is the conglomerate of what happened:
- Put 6 cups of bread flour into a large bowl, make a crater.
- Mix 3 cups of warm water with 1.5 tablespoons of yeast and 1 tablespoon of sea salt.
- Pour the water mixture in the crater and start mixing it with flour until it forms a mush.
- Scrape the mush onto a lightly floured surface and start kneading (pull parts of the dough outward then fold it in then press turn clockwise and repeat the process) for about 10 minutes until it’s silky and does not stick to the hand. Oil your hands in the beginning and add more flour if necessary.
- Return the dough to the oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Make sure you have a very large bowl as the dough will double in size.
- Keep it in the fridge for two days.
- Take it out of the fridge and let it stand for about 45 minutes.
- Turn the dough onto the floured surface, cut it in half and make two rounds by folding the dough underneath in round motions.
- Put the rounds seams down on a baking sheet sprinkled with flour and let it rise for about 45 minutes until doubled in size.
- 30 minutes through the rising process preheat your oven to 425F.
- Put the dough in the oven along with another baking sheet filled with 2 cups of water below to make the crust crisp.
- 10 minutes into the baking take the water container out.
- Bake the rest for about 25-30 minutes.
- Let it cool and enjoy!