Monday, February 7, 2011

Thunder Snow

It's the snowpocolypse here in Chicago! We got over 18 inches of snow last week, the third highest snowfall in Chicago on record. How did the people of Chicago deal with this? By freaking out, storming the grocery stores and clearing the shelves of meat, bread, and bottled water. Come on people, you live in Second City, put on your big-girl snow pants and walk the two blocks to the grocery store if you need more food.

Luckily I was prepared for the lack of groceries in the store, with a freezer full of homemade bread. I was hoping to pick up some steak and make some beef bourguignon before the blizzard hit, but all the crazies got to the meat case first. So I subsisted on bread and cheese and salami (tough right?).

This prosciutto bread ranks up there with some of the best bread I have ever had. I mean, a little lard, a lot of prosciutto, crispy crust, chewy moist insides? It doesn't get much better than that people. I cheated a little because I was able to use the big stone ovens with automatic steam in my pastry school kitchens, which resulted in an amazing crust, and a beautiful hard cornmeal-dusted bottom. But, if you are handy you can get close to the same effect at home with a pizza stone and a spray bottle of water.

Prosciutto Bread
from Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen

Yeast Starter:
15 oz Bread Flour
9 oz water
.03 oz fresh yeast (this is just a pinch of yeast, barely measurable)

9 oz water
.33 oz (1/3 oz) fresh yeast
1 lb bread flour
.33 oz salt
1 oz lard, softened
3.25 oz yeast starter
5 oz. Prosciutto, diced into very small pieces
cornmeal for dusting

In a small-medium stainless steel bowl, combine the .03 oz of yeast and the 9 oz. of water and mix gently to combine. Add the 15 oz. of bread flour, and mix to combine, using your hands to gently knead in the bowl a few turns until it comes together. Dough will be dry and shaggy, but that is ok. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 18 hours, or if you find a nice warm 80 degree spot, you can reduce that to 12 hours.

Once your starter is ready you can finish making the dough. In a large bowl, combine the .33 oz. fresh yeast with the 9 oz. water and mix to break up the yeast a bit. Add a bit of the bread flour and mix with a wooden spoon until you get a wet slurry consistency. You can now add the salt and fat. Mix to combine, if you have chunks of lard, it is okay, they will get kneaded in. Measure our just 3.25 ounces of your starter and break it up into smaller pieces and then add to your slurry. Begin adding flour a little at a time, until the dough comes together enough for you to handle it with your hands.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and begin kneading, adding flour as needed. You may not use all 9 ounces of your flour, but you will want to keep kneading and add flour until the dough is no longer tacky. Knead for about 8-10 minutes, until you can gently poke the ball of dough and it springs back almost completely. Gently knead in the diced prosciutto until evenly dispersed. Gather dough into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise for 1 hour at 80 degrees, or if your kitchen is cooler, until it has doubled in size.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface, and gently press all the air out of your dough. At this point it is time to portion and scale your dough, but I chose to make this into one large loaf, which made it great for sandwiches. If you would like to make two smaller loaves, weigh your entire dough, then portion it into two equal pieces. Gather your dough into a ball, pulling the bottom into itself to create a stretched skin on the outside of your dough. Let the ball of dough rest on your counter under a bowl or a damp kitchen towel for 20-30 minutes. This will let the gluten relax and make it easier to shape.

You can either leave it in a round shape, or gently roll the edges to create more of a football shape, called a battard. Sprinkle a generous amount of cornmeal on a parchment lined baking sheet (or on a pizza peel or an upside down baking sheet if you are using a pizza stone) and let proof at 80 degrees for 1 hour, or slightly longer at a cooler temperature.

Meanwhile preheat your oven to 425 degrees F, and if using, preheat your pizza stone. When your bread is proofed, take a sharp knife and make three long slashes diagonally across the top of your loaf, about 1/4 - 1/2 inch deep. Bake until loaf is golden brown, and has reached an internal temperature of  around 200 degrees F, about 40-45 minutes. Every 5 minutes for the first 20-25 minutes of baking, quickly open the oven door and generously spray the oven around the bread with cold water. When bread is done cooking, it should feel light for its size, and sound hollow when thumped with your fist.

This is important...make sure you cool your bread on a baking rack completely. This allows air to circulate all the way around the bread and prevents your bread from getting soggy. Store in a paper bag at room temp for up to 24 hours. If you are not not using it right away, slice and freeze wrapped first in plastic, then in aluminum foil.


Melissa Miller said...

Yum, Bria - that sounds amazing :) Glad you made it through the storm of the century! xo

UK said...

Thanks so much for all your great information. Congratulations on a fabulous website! It’s a great resource. Throwing Knives

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