After two major blizzards dumped punishing amounts of snow on us and brought commerce, fun, and life as we know it to a screeching halt, everyone in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. has developed their own version of the Snow Story by now, myself included. You know the kind of stories I'm talking about - people getting stuck in the snow for hours, or not being able to find milk, or losing power, or having their roofs collapse from the weight of all that nasty heavy wet stuff.
And let's face it: You're sick of hearing about it, right? Well, we're sick of it too. But given that most of our streets still aren't plowed and most things are still closed and driving around is at worst hazardous and at best incredibly annoying, it's hard to stop talking about the snow and its aftermath. There's nothing else to do. Look, people, this isn't New England or Wisconsin or Canada! We aren't used to this sort of thing. So please, bear with us.
My Snow Story is about the fact that I haven't had a chance to bake anything in school for over 2 weeks because my culinary school -along with everything else around here - shuts down at the first sign of a snowflake. I am beginning to despair of ever learning to bake bread in a professional kitchen.
After the first storm, class was delayed, so all we had time for was a lecture and a demo, no hands-on stuff. So that weekend I baked a rustic rye bread - that's the loaf in the top pic. Then came the second storm. This one promised blowing winds and potential power outages (which we mercifully avoided). Class would be cancelled, without question.
So, partly out of frustration at missing class and partly out of some sort of primal terror at the thought of starving to death in a cold, dark house, I got prepared. I made whole wheat sandwich bread, I boiled eggs for egg salad, and I made pizza dough and Poppa Trix and I carbo-loaded on homemade pizza. Lest you are concerned that I have turned into a giant dough-y dumpling, let me reassure you: Shoveling snow burns a good 500 calories an hour, and I suspect breaking up ice burns even more. I have probably burned off several loaves of bread by now. Who needs a gym membership?
As I was hunting around for rye bread recipes, I noticed that a lot of people seemed to have a problem with their loaves not rising as high as they'd like. Granted, a rye bread is generally a dense affair, but I thought I'd try to get a higher loaf by changing the flour proportions I was seeing in a lot of recipes. I used bread flour, which is higher in gluten-forming proteins than AP flour, and I used more of it than is generally called for, and I decreased the rye flour amount proportionally. I think it worked, so maybe I've learned more than I think!
Rustic Rye Bread
makes 1 loaf
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup rye flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 package active dry yeast
1 tbsp caraway seeds
1.5 tsp sea salt
1/6 cup molasses
1 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup 100 degree water
1/8 cup cocoa powder
Combine the dry ingredients (including the yeast) . Combine the butter, sugar, molasses, oil, and warm water. Slowly combine the wet and dry ingredients. If it's too dry, add a bit more warm water; if it's too sticky, slowly add a bit more wheat flour. Knead for about 5-6 minutes - no longer, because rye flour is susceptible to over-kneading.
Next, place your dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled; mine took about an hour. Once risen, punch the dough down and shape it - I did a boule, but you could certainly do it in a loaf pan if you prefer. Allow to rise about 1 1/2 times its size - this took about 45 minutes. Next, slash the top with a very sharp knife:
Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes. For the first 10 minutes, spray the top of your loaf with water. You can also put a pan of hot water in the oven for humidity, or just spray the sides with water as I did. This keeps the crust from forming too soon and allows for greater oven spring:
Cool on a wire rack and DO NOT SLICE for at least 45 minutes, as it's still baking inside. My loaf had a very nice thick crust, and was soft and hearty on the inside. There was a bit of sweetness, but it was balanced by the caraway and nutty rye flavor. Next time, though, I want to do a sourdough rye.
Now for the whole wheat sandwich bread. I found this recipe on All Recipes, and I reduced it from 3 loaves to one. I usually prefer my bread with a really nice crunchy crust, but I did a soft crust here since its purpose was for sandwiches. It was incredibly moist and made the best vessel for egg salad that I've ever had!
Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
1 cup 100 degree water
.25 ounces active dry yeast
1 tbsp plus 2 1/4 tsp honey
1 2/3 cup bread flour
1 tbsp melted butter
another 1 tbsp plus 2 1/4 tsp honey
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup plus 3 tbsp whole wheat flour
2 additional tsp butter, melted
Mix the warm water, yeast, and honey. Add the bread flour, cover, and let sit for 30 minutes until it's big and bubbly. Mix in half of the melted butter, the rest of the honey, and salt. Stir in 1 cup of wheat flour and knead until it's a little sticky (about 8-10 minutes) adding more wheat flour as needed. Place in a greased bowl and let rise until doubled. Punch down the dough and put it in a greased 5 by 9 loaf pan, and let it rise, covered with plastic, until it's grown to about 1 1/2 times:
Bake at 350 degrees for about 25-30 minutes. Cool on a rack and brush the top with the remaining melted butter to create a soft sandwich-y top.
As for the pizza dough, I just followed the incredibly simple thin crust recipe at Robbie's Recipes. The timing was a little crazy, as I was doing pizza dough and bread simultaneously, but it worked. I am a fan of a classic (well, classic New York style) pizza: sauce, mozz, and maybe some fresh basil and a little fresh garlic. I don't know about you, but that's all I need!