Friday, July 4, 2008

Homemade Parmesan Herb Bread - with recipe

I don't bake bread.
Well, I didn't.

You may recall my somewhat edible sourdough post from April 2007. Weak attempt. I feared yeast. So, leaving a sourdough starter on the counter and feeding it with flour and water seemed like a plan. It went ok.

But, yeast.
Scared me.

A little backstory.
In February of this year my volunteer position at my church became a second job.
Which was so cool it's beyond words.

But, guess what the first task was?
Learn how to make the homemade pizza.
Whole she-bang.

That would involve... *gulp*

I'll tell ya, the great thing about doing something a BA-ZILLION times is that you either get really good at it, or you get fired. (Or, I suppose moved to another station.) And, when you are talking making dough - 50 to 100 pounds of it a week - it's an opportunity to learn a lot about yeast in a short amount of time.

Thanks to Alton Brown I already had an idea about how gluten is formed. I was ready to see what that mesh of gliadin and glutenin really looked like.

So, I watched.
And, listened. (The dough makes a swishing sound when it finally releases off the bottom of the mixer.) And, sniffed. Poked to see signs of life. Sniffed yeastie goodness. And, got the feel for how much flour it needed on any given day. (Humidity can drastically change the amount of flour a dough will absorb.)

And, I made strange comparisons.
Like a soft proofed ball of pizza dough when first rolled feels like the fuzzy ear of a puppy when you gently rub it. (Okay, my dough does. Your mileage may vary.)

Yes, I said that outloud at work.
Yes, they made fun of it.
I'm okay with that. ;)

It's been months now, and each week I actually look forward to making the pizza dough. There's something...amazing about seeing the dough rise. It's like growing a plant in fast-forward.

That's it!
It's like Chia Dough!

But, making bread at home.
Now that's another story.

All my fears came back.
But, they needn't.
I had the technology - a thermometer.
I could do this.
I could make dough without killing the yeast.

I dug out a recipe, gathered the ingredients, and temp'ed the water to 110.
I was off and running.
And, it worked.

Can you see the gooey cheese?
I made a homemade Parmesan herb loaf with some mozzarella and muenster inside. And, it was delightful. Not just because it tasted good. But, rather that it was a success.

I no longer have to fear yeast breads at home.
I know have the knowledge to make rolls and breads of all kinds.
It's a great feeling!

(Wow, did that sound like the old Perl Drops toothpaste commercial, or what?!)

Here's the recipe.

Parmesan Herb Bread

2 cups of water 110 degrees (use a thermometer)
4 1/2 teaspoons (2 packets) of active dried yeast
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 tablespoons sugar
4 cups AP flour
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In a small bowl, add the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Let stand for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, add the butter, sugar, salt, Parmesan, oregano, basil, and 1 cup of flour. Give a quick stir to these dry ingredients.

Give a stir to the yeast, which should be gently forming bubbles in the smaller bowl. Pour the small bowl into the large bowl and stir with a whisk for 30 seconds. Shake off the whisk and set it aside. Grab a spatula, (I found great results with a plastic pancake turner) and add 2 more cups of flour - one cup at a time. (So far we have used 3 cups.)

Do not over stir.
You do not want to produce a tight gluten which will give you a hard bread.

In this recipe we are looking for a VERY wet loose dough. The last cup of flour might be used, it might not. Today I used just 1/2 cup more - a total of 3 1/2 cups.

Cover the sticky mess in the bowl with a damp towel or a piece of plastic wrap and set in a warm place. It should double in about 45 minutes.

Preheat the over to 375 F.

Toss some flour onto a board and dump the sticky mess onto it. Dust it with just a bit of flour. Be gentle - use your fingertips. Fold the dough like a tri fold wallet 3-4 times, turning it a 1/4 turn each time. Shape into a loaf, folding it toward you, using your fingertips. If you wish, you can insert a layer of mozzarella (and I used muenster) in the middle and fold the dough over it.

Try to be sure the cheese doesn't have a way out.
If you let it, it will ooze.

Lay the less sticky - but not at all dry - loaf on a sprayed sheetpan seam side down. (You can also put it on parchment paper or a Silpat.) Take a serrated knife and slice 1/4 inch deep in a few places on top of the loaf. Cover again, and let rest for 10-15 minutes.

Uncover and place in the oven. After 10 minutes lower the temp to 350. Let it bake until the center of the loaf reaches 190 degrees. (Roll it over and temp through the bottom. If you pierce the end you will have a hole in all of your slices.

Let rest on a wire rack so the bottom can cool.
Enjoy. Pin It

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