Healthy Mediterranean Cooking at Home

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If yesterday’s post on how to bake authentic country bread at home wasn’t your “cup of tea” due to the many steps in the recipe, below is a recipe for the quick way to get a crusty country loaf of bread in a short amount of time. While you won’t have the crumb or flavor of Pugliese or Pagnotta bread, you will have a great crusty bread to dip in olive oil or use for sandwiches.  

You will need special equipment: a Cloche Clay Baking Pan. The cloche natural clay stoneware baking dish with domed lid will simulate a hearth oven in your kitchen.

The moist dough within the cloche creates the steam needed to produce a delicious bread with a crackly, golden crust and light crumb. It eliminates the need to spritz your bread or pour water in a hot pan to get the nice crust you are after.

Most cloches are sensitive to thermal shock, so you should never put a cold cloche in a hot oven. You should also avoid putting a hot cloche on a cold counter, as it may crack. Cloches should not be spritzed with water, either, as the sudden release of steam can cause the cloche to crack. To wash a bread cloche, wait for it to cool to room temperature and rinse it with water.

CRUSTY COUNTRY LOAF 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (100-110 degrees)
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Place the warm water in an electric mixing bowl. Add yeast and honey. Mix until yeast is dissolved.

Add the 4 cups of flour and sprinkle the salt on top of the flour

Using the dough hook on number 2 speed, mix the dough until a dough forms that holds together and cleans the sides of the bowl.

Continue kneading  for 7-8 minutes minutes, until dough is soft, but supple. 

Shape dough into a ball. Spray the mixer bowl with olive oil cooking spray and place the ball of dough back into the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double about 30-40 minutes.

Some bakers skip this step and place the dough directly into the bottom of the cloche pan for one rising.  I think the bread has a better crumb with two risings and the time for each rising is relatively short – 30 minutes or so.  This is a quick rising dough. It is your call, though. 

Do not grease or spray a cloche pan. 

Sprinkle the bottom of the cloche pan with cornmeal and turn the dough out onto the pan bottom.  Gently shape the dough into a round, if it becomes lopsided.

 

Cover with  greased plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.  Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes or more. See image below for how the dough should look after rising.

Put the lid of the cloche pan in the oven on the bottom rack and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.  Remove the other racks since the cloche pan is quite tall. Once the oven temperature reaches 500 degrees F. heat the cloche and oven for 15 minutes more. 

With a sharp knife or blade, make a cross slash in the top of the risen loaf, place the dish in the oven and put the Cloche lid over the dough.   

USE A THICK POT HOLDER BECAUSE THE LID IS VERY HOT!

 

Bake for 15 minutes, reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and remove the cloche lid. 

Bake 15 minutes minutes, or until bread is crusty and brown. Remove the loaf when done and place on a wire cooling rack.

Look at the sides of the bread. If the edges of the bread have pulled away from the pan, then your bread is done, especially if you have a dry-looking top along with the pulled-away edges. Once you have removed the bread from the oven, remove it from the pan and tap the bottom of the loaf to see if it sounds hollow. If there is no hollow sound or if the bottom of the bread is still soft, place it back in the oven and continue baking for a few minutes longer.

Stick an instant-read thermometer into the bread. If the temperature reads between 190 degrees and 210 degrees, then the bread is done. Instant-read thermometers can be purchased at any major grocery store or wherever kitchen utensils and appliances are sold.

What is Instant Yeast?

Instant yeast is an active strain of yeast that is similar to active dry yeast, but has smaller granules with substantially higher percentages of live cells. Instant yeast generally has a small amount of ascorbic acid added as a preservative.”

What is the difference between Instant Yeast and Active Dry Yeast?

Instant yeast can be added directly to the dry ingredients in this bread recipe. It does not need to be dissolved first, making it especially easy to use.  SAF Instant Yeast is a high potency, fast acting yeast that can be added directly to your dry ingredients without it having to be activated in water first. SAF Instant Yeast is more than twice as active as regular compressed yeast.

Active dry yeast requires that it be mixed in a bit of warm water to activate it, then it is added to the remaining ingredients. Unfortunately, using active dry yeast leaves room for error as the water temperature has to be just right in order to work. If the water temperature is too hot, the yeast will die. If the water is too cool, the active dry yeast fails to activate. Both scenarios often result in a bread dough that doesn’t rise very much.

How to store Instant Yeast ?                      

Instant yeast has no special storage needs, and can be kept on the cupboard shelf unopened until the expiration date, or up to 6 months. The yeast will stay fresh longer if stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator or freezer, or up to one year.                                                                                                                                



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