Monday, October 02, 2006

Bread Day

Years ago when I went away to college I made my first loaf of bread by hand. I had never actually seen anyone bake bread in anything other than a bread machine before and I was excited about experiencing the kneading process and anticipated the smell of my bread in the oven. For my first attempt I chose a baguette...I waited hours for it to rise and when it finally came out of the oven I was thrilled. I had managed to make a loaf of bread out of a few very simple ingredients. I have made many loaves of bread since then but I always remember how excited I was at that moment. As I started my baguettes today I thought back to that moment and smiled...I think my first year in college was the first time I veered away from my mother's kitchen and set out on my own. From there I slowly tried new things and developed my own repertoire of recipes and methods.
Today's batch of baguettes were sliced and toasted into little crostini, perfect for holding the topppings I had prepared today. Grilled mushrooms, pesto, and roasted red peppers were spread atop and made for wonderful crunchy bites.
As if two baguettes were not enough I added in some Naan, a Punjabi flat bread, which was new to me. I was interested in it because it reminded me of the bread my mother-in-law bakes and uses to dip into hummus, zatar, and baba ganoush. Earlier I had prepared hummus, roasted red pepper hummus, and some zatar spiced chicken and I thought this bread would go especially well with this meal. It is much different than the other breads I have made because it does not use water, instead it calls for milk. It is also formed into four tear-shaped loaves reminicent of the shape the dough would form as it was baking on the side of a hot tandoor - a dome shaped clay oven. These were easy enough to make and baked quickly under the broiler.
Once we sat down at the table we realized that we could pull the breads open and fill them with hummus and the spiced chicken to make sandwiches. We both noted that the array of dips, spreads, breads, and meat were fun to eat and we experimented with combinations as we went.

adapted from Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno

2 t dry yeast
1 c milk
4 c all-prupose flour
1 1/2 t salt
1 t sugar
3 T plain yogurt
2 T ghee or unslated butter, melted

1. Sprinkle the yeast into 1/2 c of the milk in a bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Mix the flour and the salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the dissolved yeast, sugar, yogurt, and ghee.
2. Mix in the flour. Stir in the remaining milk, as needed, to form a stiff sticky dough.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough until smooth, stiff, and elastic, about 10 minutes.
4. Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a dish towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 3-4 hours. Punch down, then let rest for 10 minutes.
5. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each piece to form a round, 6 inches across and 1/4 inch thick. Pull one side to form a tear shape; strech the dough until about 10 inches in length. Preheat the broiler on the highest setting.
6. Preheat a baking sheet for about 2 minutes. Broil the dough on the hot baking sheet in 2 batches for about 2-3 minutes on each side, until puffy and golden.
7. Stack the grilled breads on top on one another and cover with a clean, dry cloth to keep the crusts soft and to prevent from drying out.

I smeared one round with a little ghee and sprinkled on a bit of zatar before grilling and found that this variation was quite good.

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