Friday, March 30, 2012

Soft White Loaf

When I first joined Facebook, it was because of peer pressure.  I resisted and resisted every overture and then, finally, I got an invitation from a friend who is creative, artistic, a super adaptable expat and mother-extraordinaire, but she is not what I would have called technologically adept.  Perfectly competent, but no whiz.  Well, unless that technology is her fancy all-knowing, embroidering, fancy-stitching computerized Bernina sewing machine!  She has that baby down pat.  Anyway, I figured if she could do it, I could too. 

In the 2009 format, Facebook had the ability to create discussion forums under Groups.  Almost immediately, I saw the potential of that and created a Recipe Exchange group and asked my few friends to join.  We posted favorite recipes or things we were making for dinner, divided into discussion topics like Soups, Sweet Things, Poultry and Vegetables.  It was great fun to see what friends were up to in their kitchens around the world and share ideas and recipes. 

One item under discussion was fresh yeast vs. dried yeast.  I had never tried fresh yeast, and this same friend was expounding its virtues.  (She is also a very good cook and baker!)  Ever since, I have looked for it at bakery supply shops and have even asked at bakeries (because I was told they will sometimes give you a piece if you ask.)  No luck.  Until yesterday.   Here in Providence, the day before I am flying back to Cairo, and should be packing.  Right at the local grocery store mere minutes from the place I am housesitting.  Well, I had to bake bread, didn’t I?  This was the lightest, most delicate crumb loaf I’ve ever made.  It disappeared in record time, served only sliced with a light spread of butter.  Now I will pine for fresh yeast because I know what I am missing.  Ah, to lose a new love so soon.  Tragic.

4 cups or 500g all purpose flour, plus extra flour for kneading and dusting
1 1/3 cups or 320ml warm water

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Olive oil

Put your flour in a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center and pop in your yeast cake, sugar and salt.  

Yay!  Little fresh yeast cake.  How long I have longed for you. 

Pour in half the water and mix with a fork by incorporating flour from the edges of the well little by little.  

When you have a very thick batter, add in the rest of the water and mix the whole lot.  

When you have one thick dough ball, knead it on a lightly floured surface until it is stretchy and supple.

  Put the tiniest amount of olive oil in the bottom of the bowl, spread it around a little, and put the dough ball in.  Sprinkle the top with flour, cover with a teacloth and leave in a warm place for 30 minutes. 

After half an hour, punch the dough down and knead it a little bit more, for just a minute or two.  

After half an hour - the first rising.

Shape into the form you want to bake it and put it in a greased baking pan.  Here in my housesitting house, a round springform pan was the only one I could find.  Use whatever shape you like.

With a very sharp knife, cut three shallow slits in the top of the dough and sprinkle again with flour. 

Cover the pan with your teacloth and put it back in the warm place for 30 minutes to one hour for the final rising.  I set my timer for 30 minutes and then started preheating my oven to 400°F or 200°C, putting the bread in when the oven was hot, after 45 minutes rising time.

After 45 minutes of rising in a warm place - over the radiator vent.  
Bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf is golden on the outside and sounds hollow when tapped with a knife.  (Just open the oven door and give it a couple of gentle raps before removing it.)


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