06 February 2010

Crusty Artisan Wheat Bread

I have been in the mood for some good bread lately.  But I've been somewhat perplexed, a little at a loss, because as much as I know I'd love to sink my teeth into some warm-from-the-oven bread, I simply can't figure out what kind I am craving!  Last night I started dreaming through a bunch of options: from sweet brioche to salty rolls, from dark rye loaves to crispy French baguettes, from savory focaccia to saltless pane toscano (though the idea of panzanella was alluring)...eh, none of those quite hit what I was in the mood for.

When I came across a recipe that boasted a final product of golden, cornmeal-crusted rolls, I started thinking I might be on the right track.  I took the principle of that recipe and went on from there, ending up with this beautiful loaf of connected, crusty rolls that looks just like an ear of wheat.

Such a fun, whimsical loaf!  And the recipe is really forgiving.  I started the dough yesterday and then realized I was just too tired to finish it then and there.  (Ever feel like that on a Friday night?)  So, I stored it overnight in the refrigerator.  This morning, I shaped it up, popped it into my lightly-warmed oven, and the yeast started doing its thing again.  In no time, it was puffed up and ready for baking.  It felt like such a luxury to breakfast on freshly-baked bread this morning, and the feeling of indulgence was only compounded by what a cinch it was to make!

I'm so pleased with how the bread turned out--nice and hearty and lightly sweet, with a crusty exterior and soft, chewy interior, and a nutty flavor thanks to whole wheat and cornmeal.  Like a true artisan bread, this is a little more dense than most store-bought breads, but I think that's what gives it such great bite.  The presentation is beautiful, too, making it a perfect bread to share with guests at dinner or over brunch.  For the best experience, serve it fresh out of the oven!

Crusty Artisan Wheat Bread
Makes a loaf of 12 rolls

1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup warm water (105-115 F)
1 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal, plus extra for the baking sheet
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup water

In a large mixing bowl, stir together sugar and warm water, then sprinkle yeast over the top.  Let sit 10 minutes until foamy (if yeast does not become foamy, discard and start over with new yeast).

In a separate bowl, mix together the flours, cornmeal, and salt, then add to the yeast mixture.  (Note: for a lighter bread, substitute more all-purpose flour for the whole-wheat flour.)  Add the remaining 3/4 cup water and stir until well combined and dough forms.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes to develop an elastic dough.

Form dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat dough with oil.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.  (At this point, you may store the dough overnight in the refrigerator.)

Punch dough down and fold in thirds (as you would fold a letter).  Roll out into an 18-inch log and place on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with cornmeal.  Using kitchen shears, make 3-inch cuts into the log, alternating sides and at 1 1/2-inch intervals, keeping rolls connected at the center axis.  Gently pull rolls out to the sides to space them apart as much as possible while keeping them connected.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place 1 to 1 1/2 hours until doubled (I like to place them in a warm oven, between 80 and 100 F).  Preheat oven to 425 F.  Just before baking, remove plastic wrap and brush (or spray) with water.  During the first 5 minutes of baking, brush (or spray) with water 3 more times, to help form the crusty exterior.  Bake bread for about 20 minutes, until golden.  Serve warm.


Lauren said...

This is really beautiful, Erica. I have never tried baking bread, but this might win my first attempt.

Travel Eat Love said...

That is so pretty and looks delicious!

Post a Comment