Bet you thought I forgot about my bread challenge, didn’t you? Well, considering that the last time I baked bread was in February, I don’t blame you for thinking that. But have a little faith in me! The 2012 goals were all chosen for a reason – mainly, to have me practice and learn to do a few different things well. So I’m hoping to accomplish them all, and then some!
I adored making this loaf of bread, and wish I knew how to make more bread-like products. I’m not positive, but for next year I’m considering a bread challenge to up the ante and let me practice bread-making skills. 40 loaves might be a bit high for me, so that number will take some playing, most likely. Stay tuned.
I’ve heard so much about this “X bread”, recipe by Pioneer Woman. She just calls it “The Bread, In His Words”, but its telltale feature is the large X you cut into the top, so the “X bread” name is more fitting. When I first saw the recipe, a while back, I was like: “Oh, it has yeast, too bad.” I used to always say that! I was fairly terrified of yeast. Like not in a “it’s going to grow and open the refrigerator door – it’s alive!!” kind of terrified. Just, I didn’t have the cojones to conquer it. NO LONGER. When I looked back at this recipe last week, I was amazed to find that it actually looked incredibly easy.
Gather: 1/2 cup melted butter, 4 cups bread flour, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp yeast, and 1 cup of water. Add chopped herbs (I used chives) to the butter. If you’re using active dry yeast (as I was), sprinkle it on the surface of the water so it can start working for a few minutes.
Add all of the ingredients together. Like so:
Looks cool right? Like there are flour mountains and islands amid seas of butter. My kind of world.
And begin mixing together by hand! At first, your fingers will be covered with sticky goo, but soon the dough will come together and your hands will be magically clean. Alternatively, you can use a fancy stand mixer with a fancy dough hook, but I, sadly, do not have one of those. I ended up kneading it for about 15 minutes (while listening to the sultry tones of John Mayer) by hand, which is a decent workout. Seriously. I kneaded it until I could do this:
It’s called making a “window pane”, and it means that you grab a small chunk of the dough and stretch it slowly and gently. If it can become somewhat transparent before ripping, it’s done.
Form it into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise for 1-4 hours until it’s “doubled in size”. I can never tell whether it’s doubled or just larger. Either way, I only had an hour to let it rise, and it turned out just fine! Preheat the oven to 450.
Place in a casserole dish/soup pot/oven-proof bowl. Coat the dough with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and cut a large, deep X in the surface so the bread can “bloom”! So much fun! At this point in the baking process, I was fairly giddy. Cover (with the lid of the dish, or some aluminum foil) and bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for 15-30 minutes. Mine needed only 15 after removing the lid before it was nicely golden brown and beautiful.
MMMMM. And smelled divine, too.
It tasted even better! I’ve been warming it up in the oven every time I want a slice, because it’s so delicious warm from the oven. This is a delicious, savoury bread that I would (and will) make again.
In fact, I’m off to eat some right now! Happy bread-making.