Sunday, October 11, 2009
breadhead: the adventures of
Do you ever get in over your head? I do. I also start things I can't finish, bite off more than I can chew, and have eyes that are bigger than my stomach. If you add all of these things together, you'll realize that I get into a lot (a lot a lot) of trouble pretty much all the time. So when I find myself in the MOST trouble; sitting precariously astride the absolute pinnacle of trouble-having, when I cannot possibly get into any more trouble, I will always conveniently quarantine myself by doing something that is time-consuming and keeps me tied to my apartment all day. I hate laundry, so the thinking-persons solution is bread-baking. I bake bread all day. "Sorry, can't come out. The dough is rising."
Crusty Cornstalk Bread (c/o of Gourmet Magazine, RIP)
You Will Need:
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast (from a 1/4-ounce package)
1 1/4 cups warm water (105–115°F), divided
1 tsp mild honey or sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading and dusting
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon stone-ground yellow cornmeal, divided
Equipment: a spray bottle filled with water (or your hands, dipped in water)
Stir together yeast, 1/4 cup warm water, and honey in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)
Mix flour, salt, 1/2 cup cornmeal, and remaining cup warm water into yeast mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead, dusting surface and your hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Form dough into a ball.
Put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down dough (do not knead) and fold into thirds like a letter (dough will be soft), then gently roll into a 12-inch-long log with lightly floured hands. Sprinkle a large baking sheet evenly with remaining 2 tablespoon cornmeal and put dough diagonally in center. Alternating sides, make 3-inch-long diagonal cuts, about 1 1/2 inches apart, into sides of log using kitchen shears (ends of cuts should not touch; maintain a center “stalk”). Gently pull apart cuts to stretch dough, forming rolls that are separate (about 1 1/2 inches apart) but connected to center stalk. Cover with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Set a pan of water on the bottom rung.
Spray rolls with water, then bake, spraying into oven 3 times in first 5 minutes of baking (to help form a crust), until golden, about 20 minutes. Transfer roll to a rack and cool at least 20 minutes.