April 14, 2011

Baking bread in a different world

If there is one thing I miss a lot here in Bali, it is a good, crusty, warm loaf of bread fragrant with the sweet smell and heady tang of yeast. I have been dreaming for a long time to build a bread oven but so far, it has remained only that, a dream.

Not only could I bake bread in it but pizzas and fruit tarts as well. Ahhhhhh, just the thought of it transports me back to the bakeries in France at noon, when all the baguettes, pains de campagne and other breads are still warm and ready to be nibbled on the way back home.
A few months back, I decided that if the bread oven was a dream, the bread itself could possibly become a reality. I went to the town next to our village, bought an electric toaster oven/rotisserie and started to develop some recipes which, if not on a par with French bread, are pleasant and edible.
So for all of us who do not live in a country where good bread is available at every street corner, there is still hope for a decent loaf of daily bread!

    Baguettes et Petits Pains 

will make 5 baguettes or 10 petits pains

4 cups of bread flour
2 packages of dry yeast
2 tsp sea salt (you can increase to 1 Tbs if you like)
1 Tbs natural sugar
1 1/2 cup spring water (not tap because of the chlorine in it)
Place the flour in a bowl, add the yeast, the salt and the sugar. Mix with your hands, add the water.  (I do not bother with mixing the yeast, sugar and some water together first). Continue mixing with your hands until the water is incorporated, add some flour if you feel the dough is too wet.
Turn on a counter and start kneading, pulling and stretching, tucking it under to incorporate air in it. It will be tacky at this point but continue, it will start becoming more elastic as you knead. You may add a little flour if you start to have more dough on your hands than on the counter! 
Do this for 10 minutes until the dough is elastic and feels alive.
Form the dough in a ball and let it rise for 2 hours in a bowl covered with a towel in a warm, not drafty place.
After that time, when the dough has doubled in volume, deflate it gently. Add a bit of flour and form it in whatever shapes you want. Place the formed dough in a towel or on the baking tray and let it rise for 15minutes.
Bake at 475ºF or 250ºC for 20 minutes. Voilà, warm, crusty and chewy bread!

Olive Oil Dough & Fougasse

This soft dough is basically the same as above with the addition of extra virgin olive oil, the proportions are slightly different. It makes tender rolls and a perfect base for focaccia.

will make 2 large focaccias or 10 rolls

4 1/4 cups bread flour
2tsp sea salt
2tsp natural sugar
5/6 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cup spring water
Follow the directions for the recipe above with the addition of the oil at the same time as the water.
This dough can rise longer and be punched down 2 times. I make a large batch in the afternoon, make rolls for dinner and keep half the dough for making focaccia for lunch next day.

Roasted Lemon, Onion & Garlic Focaccia

for the focaccia:
2Tbs extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Sprigs of fresh rosemary
A few basil leaves
1 ripe tomato, sliced thinly

for roasting:
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 garlic head, unpeeled
1tsp sugar
1Tbs olive oil
In a roasting pan, place the lemon, garlic and onion. Mix and rub the oil and sugar in. Roast 200ºC (375ºF) until  golden. Let cool slightly. Push the roasted garlic out of their skins. Cut the lemons in small pieces.
When the dough is rested, take half of it and turn it on a baking tray, push the dough to fit, from the center to the sides, but do not stretch it, poke it with your fingers and drizzle the oil. Cover with a dishtowel, let rest for 45 minutes.

When rested, poke the dough again gently, let rest 30 more minutes (you could skip this step if pressed by time).
Sprinkle the roasted garlic, onion, lemon and Rosemary sprigs on the dough. Arrange the tomato slices on top (you could add some cheese if you'd like), sprinkle some sea salt, grind some pepper on top and bake in a preheated oven at 250ºC (475ºF). Lower the heat to 220ºC (400ºF) and cook for 30 minutes.


1/2 batch of olive oil dough or 1/2 batch of white dough for baguettes
Preheat the oven at 250ºC (475ºF).
Place the dough on a floured counter and spread it gently in a rough square, let it rest 5 minutes. Divide the dough in three smaller squares. Be gentle in handling the dough, do not deflate it, you want to keep air in it.

Cut a large cut in the center and 2 smaller diagonal cuts on each side. Open wide the holes with your fingers as they will get smaller when the fougasse is baking. Sprinkle flour generously on the fougasse.
Place on a well floured baking tray in the oven. Cook for 15/20 minutes until golden.
Variations: After the dough has rested, mix in some good black olives, chopped anchovies and rosemary sprigs, knead a few times and let it rise for another hour, then follow the directions above for shaping and baking. Another good variation is to add some walnuts pieces and some blue cheese instead of the olives and anchovies.

I am still dreaming about my bread oven. Maybe one day....

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