Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Country Bread

How carefully you shaped the dough directly affects the interior of country bread. I didn't do a great job for this one, I know the holes could have been more, bigger, and evenly distributed. Anyway, the result is still terrific, can beat all of those from supermarkets (well, it isn't difficult), and rival to the excellent Italian bakery in my town (I live in a sort of Italian community). I've even planned out a wonderful menu on how to use my days-old bread... soup! Weeks ago I made Sher's butternut squash soup and Tuscan minestrone for my mother-in-law, they were so good that I couldn't resist; secretly kept some for myself! Then yesterday I was all geared up to assemble my "happy meal"... cored out the bread's center, and used that for home-made croutons (from Sher's as well). Opened the freezer looking for the soup... huh? Where were they? Called my husband *blushed*. "Oh, they're for Mom, aren't they? *blushed more* She enjoyed your soup a lot! I think you really made her very happy as she told me she's going to make you brasciloe! (Italian beef roll-up, see photo below)" Oh mine! My mother-in-law has stopped cooking something elaborated recently, so receiving her brasciloe is as difficult as receiving university's first honored degree!

Country bread recipe (Adapted In Nonna's Kitchen)

  1. Starter: 1/4 tsp active dry yeast, 1/4 cup lukewarm water, 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbps lukewarm water, 2 1/2 cups high gluten flour (I only recommend King Arthur' brand for those of you living in the States)
  2. Dough: 1 1/2 tsps active dry yeast, 1/4 cup lukewarm water, 2 1/3 cups lukewarm water, 5 1/2 cups high gluten flour, 1 Tbp salt


  1. To prepare starter: Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup water for 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining water and flour, 1 cup at a time, for 4 minutes if by hand. Place the starter in a large lightly oiled bowl, cover, let it rise at cool room (my temp is 40F) for 2 days.
  2. To make the dough: Dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup water for 10 minutes. Soak the starter in the 2 1/3 cups water, break it up into tiny pieces by hand. Stir in the yeast water. Stir in the salt and flour, 2 cups at a time.
  3. Knead the dough until silky and elastic, it's a fairy wet dough, but don't be tempted to add too much flour, otherwise your final bread will be dense and dry.
  4. First rise: place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let it rise until it has tripled (my room temperature is 75F), about 3 hours.
  5. Shaping and second rise: Don't punch the dough, all the bubbles are your buddy! The dough will be sticky, prepare flour. Divide into 3 pieces, moisten your hand (wet hands don't stick to wet dough), gently flatten each piece as square as possible, roll it up (about 1+1/2 rolls), turn the dough 90 degrees, roll up again. Shape each piece into a ball by rolling the dough between your cupped hands (don't over do it otherwise the bubbles in the bottom will be pressed), I say rocking the balls not more than 5 seconds.
  6. Place the round doughs on the back of large baking sheet (preferable dark colored). Cover with cling wrap (pre-greased), let rise until double (my room is 75F) about an hour. Place a baking stone in oven, preheat the oven to 500F for at least half an hour.
  7. Baking: Lower the oven temperature to 450F, throw in three ice cubes and shut the door right away. A minute later place the baking sheet directly on the baking stone. After 10 minutes, (do this step very quick), one hand holding a big spatula, the other hand open the oven door, lift up the baking sheet, push the bread directly on the stone with the aid of spatula, take out the the sheet, shout the oven door. Continue to bake until the bread golden brown. The total baking time is about 35 minutes. Cool on racks



Anonymous said...

Hi Gattina - Love the makeover that you've done to your blog! Bread looks perfectly crusty outside and soft inside - perfect to soak up all the goodness from the soup!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Your bread is so beautiful, Gattina! I really don't think you've done anything wrong!

I feel like making bread but can't decide which recipe to follow - yours is a good one!

Anonymous said...

gorgeous bread! One of this days I'm going to get serious about baking bread.

Mishmash ! said...

The bread looks soo beautiful and soft inside..I've never tried making a bread but after reading ur post, I want to bake one badly.But I dont have a baking stone.Is that a disadvantage?


Gattina Cheung said...

Monisha, thanks you! Yes, soup is really wonderful.

Sher, oh I'm sure yours same great! I don't make country bread often as the bakery here sells the very ones.

Pat, I know how you feel... just like me once step into a bread shop, I just want to have every single type of bread on shelves!

Veron, thanks for your kind words. Bread gives me no mercy, not practising for a while, all the skill been with me before will run away ;p

Shn, if you're novice in bread making, may I suggest you not trying this recipe. This type of bread is not too easy. I will make other breads which are equally delicious, will let you know later :D

FH said...

Looks great!! So light!! Want some soup now!!:))

Callipygia said...

Well I am now officially intimidated. The bread is beautiful but I am glad you steered one of your newbie-bread makers away... But this paired with Sher's soup. Yum.

Unknown said...

What a gorgeous golden loaf! I bet it beats many bakeries' loaves two hands down!

Anonymous said...

Love your bread!

How awesome you got your M-I-L cooking something special for you!


Anonymous said...

Your loaf definitely looks like it would beat many loaves available out there. Gorgeous!

Anh said...

Yummy bread! And Gattina, you deserve the first class honour for being an excellent daughter-in-law. ;)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Gattina this is beautiful bread to be proud of!! That must have been some wonderful soup you mother in law got! A grand compliment!

Saffron said...

this bread is amazing! You can open a bakery!

Bong Mom said...

That bread looks so hearty and homely Gattina. It's perfect.
So good that your ma-in-law was totally impressed, which she must have been by now anyway I guess :)

Sri said...

Gattina just perfect..Awesome snaps...Gosh! i wish i could have baked these bread but am a novice, and am not sure if i can do it right!!!
I am adding you to my blogroll.

Sia said...

i guess i should get serious about baking after seeing ur pics. but i don't have much confidence in baking. gattina, girl i need ur help... can u suggest me some recipes from ur blog which i try and impress myself(oh yes... donno abvout others;)

Lis said...

so pretty! I need your bread right now! Seriously.. bring me some, please? :D~~~ <-- drool

Linda said...

how beautiful. i'm trying this! i'm fed up with no knead bread ;)

im in love with your photography!

Pooja said...

My Internet was troubling me since last some days and couldnt get connection at some time, I think I missed avery very intresting post here, Just now got to see it. what a lovely dishes around here. Sometimes , I wonder how much you can cook in a day!
I dont have words to express here, lovely treat for my eyes.
thanks for sharing it.
Specially the ictures are wonderful , I always liked the way you take pictures of your dishes here.
thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, beautiful bread. As you know, I'm a fan of bread and yours looks amazing!

Katie said...

I have to get back to bread baking. Yours looks so wonderful and I miss the smell! I've just been making Irish Soda bread - really quick!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Why did I come to your site at 6:30 when I'm starving for dinner? Silly, silly, silly. Bread bowls make any soup more comforting--yours are beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful! I can smell it from here.

archana said...

I was caught up in a busy schedule and what i do i see here when i came back, fabulous pics and recipes as always !!

Gattina Cheung said...

Asha, thanks and hug!

Callipygia, soup and bread... juicy eggy sauce (from your pork chop post) and steaming rice... all these in my mind now.

Angie, it should be a tie only, hehee.

Paz, yes, I'm really glad.

Bea, thanks for your sweet words. I wish I could have practised more, but my bakery their bread is perfect, I lost incentive to make very frequently.

Anh, heheee, wish the record could mark on my cert too :)

Tanna, thanks! Really I was totally surprised, as I said, my mil only cooks at very special occastion :)

Simona, thanks! But I just want shopping, bakery leaves me no time for that :D

Sandeepa, yes, it's a truely lovely and hearty bread. Thanks for your compliment.

Sri, thank you so much for adding me in. For this recipe, I won't recommend novice to try. I'll post some other easy ones later.

Sia, *lol* you're so humorous :D I will I will try something easier, and will let you know :D

Lis, oh that drool is soooooooo cute!!!

Linda, no-knead bread... I'm still not thrill, there's something it just can't compare with the regular one (my humble opinion only). It lacks of layers and layers of gluten structure which I care sooo much. Thanks a lot of your sweet comment :D

Pooja, oh you're so kind!!! Don't worry! I still cracking my head about what to submit to love in the air entry, heheee.

Kristen, *high five* Open a bottle of wine, slice some goood bread and cheese, life is good!

Katie, I don't eat soda bread very often, yes, thanks for reminding me, I should bake more this good bread too!

Susan, thank you sweetie!

Glenna, thanks! Yes, the steam and the smell... lovin' it!

Archana, I'm thinking of you :)