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Bread Storage Tips & One Great Recipe

THE ART OF EXTRAORDINARY BREAD

 

 

by Peter Reinhart

Bread usually tastes best just after it cools down completely. It is at this point that the flavor-baffling warmth is gone, the moisture has evaporated, thus intensifying flavor, and the bread is still fresh so that it is soft and creamy on the palate. It is never difficult to advise people what to do with fresh bread: eat it and enjoy it. However, it becomes more problematic to advise what to do with the bread that is in excess of what can be enjoyed after that perfect bread moment passes.  

Bread Storage Doís

Lean, crusty breads are stored differently than soft, enriched breads. If you want to preserve the crustiness in lean breads, store them in paper, but they will become stale within a day and are best eaten on the same day they are made. If you want to preserve them for more than a day, cater wrap the loaves in plastic wrap (this means wrap them completely in both directions to prevent any air from getting to them). Then, either freeze or place them in a cool, dark place. You can also use zipper-style plastic bags, squeezing out all the air before sealing. When freezing, it is acceptable to preslice the loaf so that you can remove only what you need without defrosting the entire loaf. Snack-sized zippered bags are useful for individual slices.

Soft, enriched bread, such as sandwich bread, is always best stored in plastic and either frozen or kept in a cool, dark place (exposure to sunlight causes the loaf to sweat, creating condensation in the wrapper and, eventually, mold on the loaf). Presliced sandwich loaves are best for freezing, allowing the removal of only the slices you are planning to use (and they thaw much more quickly than whole loaves).

If you have a frozen unsliced loaf and want to thaw it, pull it from the freezer at least 2 hours before you need to use it. Do not try to accelerate the thawing by putting it into the oven or microwave. This will only dry it out. Of course, in an emergency, when you have to get bread on the table and have forgotten to thaw it in advance, you can quickly thaw it in the microwave or in a hot oven. The best way to prevent it from drying out is to place it under a wet towel. Heat the oven to 400įF, place the bread in a pan, and cover the pan with a towel that has been soaked in warm water and then wrung out. Check on the towel every 10 minutes to see if it needs rewetting. It should take 20 to 30 minutes to thaw out a standard-sized loaf, 10 to 20 minutes for a baguette. If you want to restore a crackly crust to the bread, remove the towel for the final few minutes and turn the oven up to 450įF.

Bread Storage Dontís

Donít store bread in the refrigerator. It dries out, even when packaged in sealed plastic bags.

Donít store crusty breads in plastic bags or in plastic wrap unless you plan to recrisp the crust in the oven.

Donít store soft, enriched breads in paper bags unless you intend to dry them out for bread crumbs or croutons.

Donít store any bread that you intend to dry for crumbs in plastic bags or plastic wrap. If the moisture cannot escape, the bread will eventually mold.

Donít store warm bread in plastic bags or plastic wrap. Wait until it has completely cooled down (no warmth at all), to prevent condensation from forming in the bag and thus accelerating mold development.

Cinnamon Raisin Walnut Bread

In Brother Juniperís Bread Book, I included a recipe for a variation of this bread, but I believe this version is even better, encompassing all the qualities one wants from a raisin bread. It is light, flavorful, loaded with raisins, and it has a wonderful finish, filling your mouth with the satisfying aftertaste of roasted walnuts. If you prefer not to use nuts, eliminate them from the formula without any further changes (you may also substitute other nuts, such as pecans or hazelnuts).

Makes two 11/2-pound loaves

31/2 cups         (16 ounces)      unbleached bread flour

4 teaspoons      (.66 ounce)      granulated sugar

11/4 teaspoon      (.31 ounce)      salt

2 teaspoons      (.22 ounce)      instant yeast

11/4 teaspoons      (.16 ounce)      ground cinnamon

1 large              (1.65 ounces)      egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons      (1 ounce)      shortening, melted or at room temperature

1/2 cup             (4 ounces)      buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature

3/4 cup             (6 ounces)      water, at room temperature

11/2 cups         (9 ounces)      raisins, rinsed and drained

1 cup                (4 ounces)      chopped walnuts

 

1.   Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Add the egg, shortening, buttermilk, and water. Stir together with a large spoon (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment) until the ingredients come together and form a ball. Adjust with flour or water if the dough seems too sticky or too dry and stiff.

2.   Sprinkle flour on a counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mixing on medium speed, switching to the dough hook). The dough should be soft and pliable, tacky but not sticky. Add flour as you knead (or mix), if necessary, to achieve this texture. Knead by hand for approximately 10 minutes (or by machine for 6 to 8 minutes). Sprinkle in the raisins and walnuts during the final 2 minutes of kneading (or mixing) to distribute them evenly and to avoid crushing them too much. (If you are mixing by machine, you may have to finish kneading by hand to distribute the raisins and walnuts evenly.) The dough should register 77į to 81įF. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3.   Ferment at room temperature for approximately 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

4.   Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces and form them into loaves. Place each loaf in a lightly oiled 81/2 by 4 1/2-inch pan, mist the tops with spray oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

5.   Proof at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the dough crests above the lips of the pans and is nearly doubled in size.

6.   Preheat the oven to 350įF with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Place the loaf pans on a sheet pan, making sure they are not touching each other.

7.   Bake the loaves for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking and continue baking for another 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the oven. The finished breads should register 190įF in the center and be golden brown on top and lightly golden on the sides and bottom. They should make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.

8.   Immediately remove the breads from their pans and cool on a rack for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 hours, before slicing or serving.

 

Bread profile: Enriched, standard dough; direct method; commercial yeast

Days to make: 1 (15 minutes mixing; 31/2 hours fermentation, shaping, and proofing;

40 to 70 minutes baking)

Commentary: An alternative to the method described here is to add a cinnamon swirl. To make cinnamon sugar, stir together 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon. When shaping the dough, roll out each piece with a rolling pin to a rectangle 5 inches wide by 8 inches long and approximately 1/3 inch thick. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over the surface of the rectangles and then roll up the dough into a tight sandwich-style loaf (page 81), pinching the seam closed with your fingers. When you slice the baked bread, there will be a cinnamon swirl that not only looks pretty, but will also add additional cinnamon-sugar flavor.

Another trick that adds flavor is to brush the tops of the baked loaves with melted butter as soon as they come out of the bread pans, and then roll them in the cinnamon sugar. When the bread cools, the top will have an additional sweet and crunchy flavor burst.

Bakerís Percentage Formula:

Bread flour      100

Sugar               4.1

Salt                  1.9

Instant yeast      1.4

Cinnamon         1

Egg                  10.3

Shortening        6.3

Buttermilk         25

Water               37.5

Raisins              56.3

Walnuts            25

Total                268.8

 

From The Bread Bakerís Apprentice. Copyright © 2001 by Peter Reinhart. Excerpted by arrangement with Ten Speed Press. $35. Available in local bookstores or call 800-841-BOOK or click here.


 

 


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