Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Waiter There's Something In My... BREAD

A couple of months ago I decided the time has come for me to cleanse my body of last year’s dietary indiscretions so I subjected myself to a detox diet which (thankfully) allowed bread – but it had to be high in fibre, made with unbleached flour, low in salt and sugar, no fat, and preferably yeast-free. With such criteria to meet (and living in a city that is not so big on dietetic breads), I knew I would have better luck finding the necessary ingredients and making my own. Admittedly, I have never been too motivated to make bread but to give it up completely for a fortnight while I am being denied other foods I enjoy eating so much was simply a challenge I chose to avoid.

After a fruitless attempt (one attempt is quite enough, wouldn’t you agree?), I came to two conclusions: 1) The detox diet was silly and unnecessary and 2) I should get THE book on bread.

The diet lasted a whole 6 days (I plan on completing the remaining 9 days soon) and for the weeks following, I experimented with different pre-ferments, types of flour and hydration percentages and I must say, bread-making soon became a favourite past time for me. The appeal, I think, is partly the science behind it all, seeing a latent ball of dough transform into something so irresistibly, so gorgeously, unique and delicious is nothing short of anticipating and witnessing the miracle of birth (well, not quite, but I have come closer to understanding the “bun in the oven” metaphor).

I was so excited to discover that the theme for this month's Waiter There's Something In My... hosted by SpittoonExtra is: BREAD. After much deliberation, my entry includes 2 different types of bread: a rustic no-knead bread (adapted from a recipe by Jim Lahey written by Mark Bittman in the New York Times dated November 8, 2006... yes, I am slow to catch on) and two types of brioche; one basic and another studded with nuggets of dark chocolate and finely chopped orange rind.

no-knead bread featured here follows the same method described by Jim Lahey from New York's Sullivan Street Bakery. The recipe received mixed reviews ranging from soupy dough resulting in baked gummy pancakes to grand unveilings of the perfect golden-crusted loaf which really piqued my interest so I just had to try baking one myself!

I suppose I should have followed the original recipe before making modifications but look, I am pleased to say, despite the changes I have made, I still managed to contribute to the growing number of successful no-knead bread stories you can now find on the web.

So here is what I used:

150g bread flour
50g semolina
270g unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
10g grey salt
350g water at room temperature

The making of this bread is a true sensory experience and understanding the science helps with (though not completely necessary for) its success, but in all honesty, the method here is a real no-brainer, it does however require a little bit of planning ahead (12-24 hours) if you want to serve it at Sunday lunch or a dinner party. In my opinion, the most difficult part about making this bread is the long excruciating wait before you can actually tuck into it.

brioche I cannot explain why I love this bread so much. I know it is bad for me because I enjoy it in excess (it is partly responsible for my need to detox) but need I mention how often we are drawn to things that are damaging to us because of the pleasure(s) they promise?

I was told before, once I have mastered the brioche dough every other bread I attempt will be a walk in the park. It couldn't be more true. Making successful brioche dough is all about getting the temperature and consistency of the butter right. I have been concerned that adding cold eggs and butter to the dough would kill the yeast and thus jeopardise the textural outcome of the bread but after several successful attempts at making this dough, I have found that it is alright to use eggs straight from the fridge and butter that is still cool to touch (and soft to handle) because the dough does rise in temperature as these ingredients are kneaded through. Besides, the pre-ferment for brioche contains such a high percentage of yeast making it not only difficult to kill but also one of the most vigourous and lively doughs you will ever work with.

The recipe I followed actually yields 2 generous 9-inch loaves so after dividing the dough into equal parts, I added finely chopped rind from 1 large orange and 100g of roughly chopped dark chocolate (min. 70%) to one. In hindsight, a min. 55% dark chocolate would suffice as the brioche had a bitter aftertaste from the excessive cocoa mass in the chocolate I used. All the same, it tasted good to me and I am glad I tried this flavour variation and I am positive it could quite easily be used in a bread and butter pudding as the sweetness of custard would soften the bitter edge of the chocolate nicely. And although this may sound strange, I think this version of brioche could be enjoyed just as much lightly toasted and thickly smeared with sticky condensed milk.

As for the remaining "plain" dough, I opted to bake it in a loaf instead of a fluted brioche tin. The lighter and more feathery texture of this loaf is the result of a longer 2nd rise in the fridge and the absence of weighty chocolate nuggets retarding its upward progress. How else would you eat your brioche apart from savouring it in all it's naked glory - with Nutella and a bowl of warm malted milk of course!


Kristen said...

That last photo has me drooling!

Andrew said...

indeed, that last photo is lovely. Thanks for taking part in Waiter with such great recipes.

li said...

thank you for stopping by. i had to exercise considerable restraint while taking that last photo.

thanks for hosting the event. i enjoyed it very much. looking forward to the next WTSIM...

Helene said...

Well I can imagine your feeling, just a little bite .. or two. Thanks for your toughness doing the photo.