Monday, October 16, 2006

World Bread Day: Crusty Boule with Braised Beef Shortribs

world bread day '06
Today, October 16, has been declared World Bread Day by the International Union of Bakers and Bakers-Confectioners. To celebrate, Kochtopf is hosting a bread baking food blogging event. Of course, since my deepest food passion is bread; both the eating of and baking of bread, I have to participate. This event also gave me the chance to use my newest kitchen gadget, a Brotform.

A brotform (also known as brotformen or banneton) is a breadmold made of cane that is used to form and shape artisan loaves during the proofing/raising stage. When you see those hearth style breads with indentations in the crust, they were raised in a brotform. I have always wanted one, especially since I bake a lot of sourdough starter based breads and what better excuse to buy one than to make it the ultimate souvenir from a visit to King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT during my recent vacation or BWOF (Big Week of Funness) as MBH called my week off from the salt mine.

The Baker's Store at King Arthur is overwhelming to say the least. Every flour they make is available in 3lb and 5lb bags with their most popular flours like the unbleached all purpose and whole wheat also available in 10lb, 20lb, and 50lb bags. I could have put one bag of everything on the wall of flour in my cart but knew that would also mean renting a box truck to get it home. Of course with such a selection not to mention an in-house bakery, I couldn't leave without purchasing a little bit of flour as well a little treat to snack on during the two and half hour drive home, a slice of Vermont apple pie with a super flaky, buttery crust.

Last night, I used not only used my brotform for the first time but also the King Arthur French Style flour. This is some of the most lovely flour I have ever had the pleasure of working with while making bread. It was silky and formed a dough that had a velvet feel after kneading. I used the recipe for French Style Baguettes on the back but since I was making a boule, I added a step to the recipe by forming a sponge first. I like the flavour that develops in breads by doing this extra step. Making a sponge normally adds about two hours to the whole making and baking process but is really worth it for the flavour and in the case of artisan breads, the texture that develops.

I served the boule with Braised Beef Shortribs, a recipe from Spice: Flavors Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun. The marinade was a bit heavy on the balsamic vinegar but the tamarind paste/dry white wine was flavourful (I'll cut back the balsamic vinegar from one cup to 3/4 cup next time).

As for the crusty boule? MBH declared it the best one yet...

Dinner Size Crusty Boule

(adapted from Baguette recipe on back of the King Arthur French Style Flour bag)

This recipe can be made in either a stand mixer or by hand.

5 oz of warm (75 - 85 degrees) water
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 Cup KA French Style flour

Combine ingredients in a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let raise for 2 hours

1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 Cup KA French Style flour

Add yeast and salt to proofed sponge, mix well. Add flour 1/4 cup at time, mixing until a shaggy dough ball forms. (If you are making this by hand, you may need to combine the last 1/4 cup of flour by hand). Turn out dough ball onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth (about 3-5 minutes), cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Knead relaxed dough for 5-7 minutes more or until very velvety smooth dough results or dough passes "windowpane" test. Place dough into lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise in draft free place for 2 hours or until triple in size. Punch risen dough down gently. Form boule and let rise again until double in size (use prepared brotform for 2nd raise, if using brotform).

Adjust oven racks so one is on bottom and other in middle position (if using baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, place on middle rack now as well). Pre-heat oven for one hour at 450 degrees. 45 minutes into pre-heat, place small baking pan (9 x 9 x 2) filled 3/4 way up side with hot water onto bottom rack. Very gently unmold boule if using brotform onto prepared baking sheet (lightly greased with dusting of cornmeal) or oven peel and slash if desired. Lightly spritz boule with water and quickly place into oven. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown. For extra crunchy crust, spritz boule again at 10 minutes into baking time.

Let cool for 1 hour before serving