Erin introduced me to this bread and now we are forever hooked. You will be too, when you see how easy it is, how awesome it looks when it's done, and how delicious it is.
We love fresh bread in this house and I have relied on my breadmaker heavily to supply us with our sandwich bread and buns each week since I got my breadmaker in May. Erin got me on to the idea of never buying another loaf of sandwich bread or bag of hamburger buns from the supermarket again, and it has worked out quite nicely. It's been pretty liberating actually! It's one less thing I have to worry about running out of and I know I can whip up any type of bread we need or are craving in no time.
Plus, I love knowing exactly what's in the bread because I, myself, put it there. I can add ground flax seed, wheat germ, 100% whole wheat flour, organic oats, scale back the sugar, increase the amount of nuts or seeds...then just push a few buttons and go change a diaper or two! Start a load of laundry! Look over at the beautiful fabric I have picked out for matching "Me 'n Bug" aprons and then panic when I see the gibberish on the pattern. (I'm pretty sure it's written in Korean. What? What's that you say? It's English? Huh. Well, I'll be. Would someone then please care to tell me what a "true bias" is? "Inverted pleat"? Okay, how about "without nap". Oh wait, I know what that one means--Why are my kids cranky? They are "without nap").
No matter what I choose to do, my bread will be baked and ready to eat in a few hours! Oh yeah, baby, and when it's fresh from the machine, it's all crusty on the outside and chewy and warm on the inside. Slap on a little butter. Maybe some jam. Loooove it! (Imagine I'm saying that like Wheezie, one of the dragons of the double-headed dragon on Dragon Tales. DfS, so sorry, that was way uncalled for. I just irritated us both.)
But there are times I wish I could get my hands into some dough. Knead it. Smell it. But who has the time? This recipe is a fantastic compromise. Watch.
Start with 3 cups of flour. This is the first time I used whole wheat flour and it turned out great. Maybe a little bit more dense, but still wonderful. (If someone with mad bread skillz is reading, could you leave a comment on how to counteract this? Add a little vital wheat gluten? Yeah, that's right. I said skillz. Skillz up the skillet. Skillz to pwn the bills. Word.)
Add 1/4 teaspoon of rapid rise yeast.
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt.Steady....steadyyyy.... Mix all the dry ingredients. Then add 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of water. Then 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of mild flavored lager.
Erin recommends Budweiser, which is what I usually use. But today I'm using a Gordon Biersch smooth auburn lager. I'm not sure how the taste will change. I've read that you should be careful when cooking with darker or stout beers as the taste may bake up a little bitter? But beyond that, I think you could try all sorts of beers in this recipe to see how the flavor changes. Next time I think I'll try Coors. We've got lots of Coors in the pantry right now. Mmm hmm. You know it. I'm your resident red-necked blogger with a pantry full of Coors. Sheesh. Why do we have that in there anyway? All Jay drinks these days is Lost Coast Brewery anyway. Not that he's a beer snob, but Coors hasn't been in his repertoire since college I think. And you won't catch me touching the stuff, any of it. Bring me a cocktail, a glass of wine. I just prefer not to drink horse urine. But I understand that there are those of you out there who do, including my husband, so I'll remain respectfully yours, Elle.Anyway, beer in baking? I'm good with that. So lets add that 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons. COOL! It's getting all frothy. Now add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Sweet nectar of the gods! I was thinking about my love affair with vinegar. Balsamic is certainly my favorite, but I have a special place in my heart for all vinegars. And I think it stems from my childhood. Remember mixing the dyes for coloring Easter eggs and how vinegary it smelled? And you were excited because you knew a fun project was at hand and then a few days later a bunny was going to bring you candy? (This is, of course, in addition to the fact that Jesus died for us on that day, wiping out all our sins past and present, and making it possible for us to live out eternity in the lap of our Heavenly Father in paradise!) As a child, that kind of excitement and joy, and the smells that went with it, is something that gets burned into memory. I think that's why I like vinegar so much. It sparks a part of my brain that's associated with spring, family and love. Mix it all together. Oooo, the aroma of the flour, yeast, beer and vinegar is lovely! Sometimes this is what it will look like:
Sometimes it will look wetter. It's always different. It's like an adventure! A bread dough adventure! Living on the edge! Taking risks and never knowing how it will turn out! I always knew I liked extreme sports.
Then cover it up with plastic wrap and let it do it's own thang for 8 to 18 hours. (That's right. I said thang. As in "it ain't no".) This part's easy. See? Anyone can do nothing for 8-18 hours. Especially people with kids. Or jobs. Or aprons to sew with indecipherable patterns.
Here's what it looks like about 12 hours later. Now this is a little weird. Because most of the time it is much frothier than this. And maybe larger. My yeast might have bought the farm. But I'm going to continue on because I've changed things up a bit by using whole wheat flour and a different beer, so things are bound to change. Plus, why not just see what happens? This is an extreme sport, after all.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured plate and knead 10-15 times.
Then you transfer the dough to a skillet that is lined with a large piece of parchment paper sprayed with Pam. Loosely cover it with plastic wrap (preferably the wrap you used from the 8-18 hour step. The landfill says "thank you"). Let it rest for ~2 hours. I don't have a picture of this. The perfectionist in me (who rarely shows up, by the way) is having a hard time with this. What was I thinking? Where was I anyway? I went AWOL for this step or something?
About 1 1/2 hours into this 2 hour rest period, put your oven rack to it's 2nd lowest position. Turn on the oven to 500 degrees. Put an empty dutch oven with a lid into the oven. (We want to heat up the dutch oven before adding the dough to it). This is what I used. An enamel pot I use to make stew and soups.
Then, after the 2 hour rest period, lightly flour the top of the dough and score it. Remove the hot dutch oven from the oven and remove the lid. Pick up the dough using the parchment paper and lower it into the dutch oven. Put the lid on and place it in the oven.
Reduce heat to 425 degrees and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake the bread until it is a deep brown (or thermometer reads 210 degrees), about 20 minutes longer. Don't look at my dirty oven. You're looking. It's not nice to judge others. Especially based on their kitchen appliance cleanliness (or lack thereof). Are we still friends?
Transfer bread to a wire rack and cool for ~ 2 hours. Uh. Wait, stop. Do NOT do this. I repeat. DO NOT DO THIS. As soon as the bread is done, you yank that baby outta there and cut into it immediately!! It's gonna be steamy and chewy and divine! You do not wanna miss out on this bread's prime time. (To clarify: primetime tv is 8-11 pm. Primetime bread is NOW.)
Would you just look at how charming this is? For pete's sake, it looks like something you picked up at a bakery! All scored and floury. It's so cute and compact, you have to restrain yourself from throwing it up in the air like a football. Or carrying it around like a clutch purse. You'll really, really want to though.