Baking Bread on a Sunday Afternoon

It’s Sunday and one of my favorite ways to spend the day is baking bread. Last month I bought a 50 pound bag of pizza flour and I’ve been blazing through it to see what kinds of bread I can come up with for this summer’s cruising season on the David B.

So far I’m totally in love with the thick chewy crusts I’ve been getting from this flour. It also makes darn good pizzas and bagels. I can’t wait until spring when we are done with winter outfitting and I can go back to baking on the David B’s wood cook stove instead of baking at home with my ho-hum electric oven. I’m not usually super excited about bread from my home oven, but so far I’m really happy with these breads and I know the bread I bake on the David B’s wood stove are going to be even better.

Bread made with Pizza Flour
Bread made with pizza flour

So why pizza flour? It turns out that pizza flour has a high protein content of 13-15%. The bread flour I’ve been using has a protein content of 12%. All purpose flour by contrast has about 11% protein and cake flour has very little protein in it, coming in around 8% which is why cakes are so delicate compared to an artisan bread. When liquid is added to flour, gluten is formed from two proteins called glutenin and gliadin. These proteins form strands and trap gases while the dough rises. When the bread bakes the gluten strands stiffen into place and become the structure of the bread.

I’m not very meticulous when it comes to measuring ingredients for the breads I make so this is an approximation of what I through together:

I started with Two cups or so of sourdough starter and mixed it with about two and a half cups of luke warm water. I then stirred the water and the starter together. Next I added a about a tablespoon of yeast and 2 1/2 tablespoons of sugar. I then mixed these together and added in a quarter of a cup of olive oil and one cup of whole wheat flour. Next I added three cups of pizza flour and 1 3/4 tablespoons of sea salt. I mixed all this together and then added about another cup of pizza flour before turning the dough out on  the counter for kneading.

While kneading the dough I continued to add pizza flour until I had a nice elastic dough that was smooth. When I felt it had the right consistency I gave it a gentle love pat and divided up the dough into three smaller dough balls. The first one I put into a greased bowl  and covered with a damp cloth to rise. The other two I put into Ziploc bags sprayed with some cooking oil. These two dough balls went into the fridge where I’ll look forward to baking them later this week. We’ll be taking the David B over to Seaview North Shipyard for our annual haul out tomorrow morning and it’s going to be a busy week. Fresh bread and soups will go a long ways this week.

The loaf that I planned to bake today sat out on the counter for about 2 hours. I then turned it out, shaped it into a boule and placed the boule on a piece of parchment paper and recovered the dough with a damp cloth. I next took a 1 1/2 hour long nap. It is Sunday after all.

When I woke up, I preheated my oven to 500 degrees F and put my pizza stone in the oven to heat up as well. In about thirty minutes I took out the pizza stone and lifted the bread dough and its parchment paper on to the pizza stone. I slashed the top of the dough and sprinkled it with a little flour, then turned the oven temperature down to 450 degrees and baked the bread for about 35 or 40 minutes until  it’s internal temperature reached 180 degrees.

The bread turned out great and the crust was dark, thick and chewy with loads of flavor. The inside was soft and moist. It was perfect with butter.

Last weekend we had some of our neighbors over for a big Cioppino dinner and I made a bread similar to this one. Instead of using water for the liquid I had some milk that was getting close to its expiration date. The milk was 4% non-homogenized from a local farm, Twin Brook Creamery. Since the dough already had fat from the milk I left out the olive oil. While I did end up baking it a bit too long, the bread’s crust was dark, and very flavorful. It was extra delicious dipped in the Cioppino.

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