Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Savory Cheesy Herb Bread: My Best Bread Yet

It's days like these that I know I will miss college when I am finally done with it.  I made pancakes this morning, baked bread this afternoon, and worked with gumpaste in between.  Everyone says grad school is a nightmare, but I don't agree.  You just have to make time for bread baking and it really goes quite smoothly.

In fact, I imagine life in general goes best when you make time for homemade bread. 

I may be addicted to hobbies.  I keep finding new things I want to try, and the same goes for recipe experimentations.  For instance, I hate to have my oven above 400.  I don't really go for that whole melt-your-face blast of heat when you open the door to pull bread out that is baking at 450.  Kind of a waste of makeup, if you ask me.

And makeup isn't cheap.  We don't waste that stuff here.  Seriously, foundation is about $10 per bottle.  Bread is about $.50 a loaf for homemade (if that). 

Regardless, I made it my goal to test out my no knead bread at a lower temperature.  Oh buddy, what a good idea that was! Prepare yourselves, how this happened is nothing short of an attention span malfunction.

-3 c AP flour
-1/4 tsp instant yeast
-1 1/4 tsp salt
-3/4 c lukewarm stock*
-3/4 c lukewarm water (may need a tad more if your dough is more dry, it should be shaggy and sticky)
-1 tsp basil
-1/2 tsp rosemary
Add In:
-1/4 of a regular block of cheese finely shredded
-Optionals: thin sliced cherry tomatoes, olives, whatever you fancy

Last night I made roasted chicken and veggies, which is one of my favorite "I really don't feel like cooking" things to do.  I like to toss in some chicken legs or breasts with whatever veggies I have in my freezer, add about 1/2-1c of water and a lot of different herbs and multiple pats of butter.  I roast it off for about an hour at 350, longer if I have not bothered to thaw my chicken and it has a bone because that takes a solid 20 minutes longer to get done usually, and it serves to create this DELICIOUS broth.  In fact, I just wasn't feeling the whole idea of any sort of food last night, so the broth is actually the best thing that came out of the dish.  You could also use chicken stock if you don't feel like roasting off chicken.  Just adapt accordingly.

Anyway, I got to thinking about what I could use the broth for.  I really wasn't interested in Chicken Noodle, I basically only eat that when I am sick.  Like the couple of days last year I had strep (or something) so bad that my throat nearly closed and I ate soup and Special K shakes for three days straight...yea that would exactly be why I have no desire to have chicken noodle any time soon!

I did some quick googling and saw all I needed to see: there were recipes that used stock in bread.  Did I read them? Of course not. 

But I did mix all of the ingredients above (except the add-ins) in my stupendous giant orange mixing bowl.  All at once, just toss them all in and mix.  I like to use spoonulas (silicone).

I sat it in my delightful gas oven, which I already hate the thought of leaving when I graduate (in 2014), overnight covered and let it raise.

I pulled it out of my oven this morning and floured my tiny countertop space, then turned the rather sticky dough onto the countertop. I like to flour the top of it a tiny bit and smoosh it out flat (ish) with my hands in lieu of rolling it out.

I am slowly becoming ok with the fact that the dough gets me sticky, because the result is completely worth it.

I used my small shredder and finely shredded a fourth of a regular block of colby jack cheese all over the loaf.

I completely attribute this to not eating breakfast before messing with the dough, but next thing I know I had sliced up cherry tomatoes thin and added a few into the mix as well....

Ok, so I am up to a chicken herb tomato cheese bread?  Like I said, I hadn't eaten yet!

Regardless, it turned out to be a fantastic idea.

I sat the dough in the loaf pan in the oven for 2 hours to rise again, took it out and used my favorite Rada to cut a slit along the top, and popped it in the oven for about 35-40 minutes at 400 degrees (until it was golden brown).

For the record, my Rachael Ray Oven Lovin' pan is the single best pan I have ever used in my short cooking experience.  I may not have cooked for years, but I can already tell it's a CHAMP.

You can see a picture of my delicious bread up there on my beautiful bamboo cutting board.

Hmm...I have a bamboo flash drive somewhere...I wonder where I put that now that we are on the subject of bamboo...

Anyway back to the bread.  What I like about cooking it lower is the crust is still crispy but it is not as hard and chewy as the no knead bread at higher temperatures.

Call me a weeny, I probably should talk to my dentist about it, but my jaw goes through periods where it just flat out hurts.  I am one of those notorious teeth grinders when I sleep, and usually wake up with my jaws clamped so hard I can only fathom I must have been dreaming I was an alligator.  Or a t-rex.  Regardless, whenever my jaw is acting up, it isn't exactly conducive to super chewy bread crust.

So cooking it this way gets me the best of both worlds- crispy crust that is much more jaw friendly.

And I daresay that bread is a GENIUS usage of leftover stock.  I cannot wait to toast it sometime and try it that way, but it will have to wait.  I have leftover pumpkin pancakes waiting for me for breakfast in the morning.

If you have been wanting to try to make some good homemade bread, I totally suggest this recipe at this temperature.  Even if you cut out the stock and just use equivalent water, cut out the herbs, and just make some regular white bread or some cheesy bread, it is fantastic.  It is such a versatile recipe that can take in a lot of fun additions.  And I do believe I will be baking all of mine at this temperature from now on  (until I see what 375 does some day when I am feeling shenanigan-ous again) because it really does offer that artisan taste without the OMG-I-CAN'T-EVEN-BITE-THROUGH-THIS worry.

I am really glad I have taken on this craft challenge.  It is so great to have a reason to force myself to take a break from grant writing, research, papers, and everything else.  I am only 71 days in (I think) and I definitely have days where I have absolutely no creative thoughts roaming my brain, but it has been a fun way to learn how to do other things.  A year ago, I would have been scared to even turn my oven to 450!

Now go make some dough!

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