Monday, March 02, 2015

French Bread

Yeah, so my bread turned out a little wonky-looking. But it was otherwise successful, so I'm very happy!

As I've mentioned here before, I'm not big on bread baking. Not that I don't want to be a master baker (get your mind out of the gutter!), but I've had some bad luck in the past. The only bread that has come out successfully for me is the no knead stuff from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The recipes in that series of books is practically idiot-proof, and even my attempt at brioche came out spectacularly. But I don't necessarily want to wait for hours and hours or overnight to be able to make a loaf of bread. I want bread NOW.

Homemade bread isn't a NOW kind of proposition, but I did find a recipe that allowed me to produce a couple of loaves in less than two hours time. Because the bread was quick, it wasn't absolutely ideal - the crust wasn't hard and crunchy, but it did have some crispness. There were no air holes in the center, just fluffiness. But it wasn't tough and tasted pretty great with a smear of butter. And bone marrow. That's right - the whole reason I wanted the bread was to use as a base for a schmear of roasted bone marrow. Marrow and caramelized onions. Mmmm.

Easy French Bread

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 cup warm water (100°-105°F)
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups flour

Place yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and stir in half the water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes until yeast bubbles. Add the remainder of the water, the salt, and 3 cups of flour. Turn on the mixer to low speed and beat until dough starts to come together, scraping down sides as needed. After 3 minutes, turn the speed up to medium and continue to beat dough until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 4 minutes more. If it seems too sticky, add some or all of the remaining flour. (I didn't need any of the extra flour.)

Remove dough from mixer bowl and form into a ball. Place in another bowl, dribble with a tiny bit of olive oil, and move the ball around in the oil to coat it. Cover bowl and allow dough to rise for an hour, or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough and divide into two pieces.

Roll each piece of dough into an 8" x 10" rectangle. Roll up the dough, jelly-roll fashion, and pinch the seam closed. Place each on a parchment lined baking sheet dusted with a bit of flour or cornmeal. Cover dough and allow to rise an additional 30 minutes.

While dough is rising, preheat oven to 375°F. Place a second baking sheet on the center rack. Put a small baking pan off-center on the rack below it. After the second rising, remove cover and cut four diagonal slashes into the top of each loaf with a razor blade or very sharp knife. Slide the parchment from the baking sheet onto the hot sheet in the stove. Pour 1/2 cup of water into the small baking pan on the bottom rack to create steam.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when you thump on the bottoms. Or, take their temperature with an instant read thermometer - they should be done at 190°F.

Cool loaves on a wire rack.

Easy Bone Marrow with Caramelized Onions

1 large onion, diced
Olive oil
Marrow bones
Chopped parsley
Flaky sea salt

Cook the onion over medium heat in a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Once onion is softened, add a tablespoon or so of butter. Cook over medium low heat 30 minutes or so, until onions are very soft and brown. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place marrow bones on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove bones to a plate. Top with caramelized onions and a sprinkling of parsley. Serve on fresh bread with a pinch of sea salt on top.

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