Today I made bread using a crazy method and relying on total faith in the Bread Baking Babes and well, to be fair, also faith in James Beard. I mean, who would come up with the idea of wrapping bread dough into a towel and submerging it in a big bowl of water to proof? I guess that would be James Beard, in his book “Beard on Bread” from 1973 and I guess it would be Elle from Feeding My Enthusiasms who would choose it for this month’s bake along. Crazy I tell you. Crazy like a fox! The whole time I was just thinking what kind of a mess am I getting myself into? Yet there were the Babes telling me it could be done -so I did it. I recently asked to bake along with the Babes as a Buddy, but life has been one crazy ride this last year and this month is the first I’ve actually made it to posting. Thanks for letting me tag a long and thanks to Elle for choosing the adventure. You really can learn something new every day. This bread is delicious and light yet rich and buttery like a brioche. I think it’s brilliant and is a keeper. My towel even came clean.
I copied the recipe from Elle with her notes and added mine in red below:
Water-Proofed Bread from Beard on Bread, 1973 makes two loaves
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100 – 115 degrees F, approximately)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup warm milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
2 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour More flour for the tea towel
Rinse a 4-quart mixing bowl with warm water. Dry thoroughly. Put in the yeast, the 1/2 cup warm water, and the teaspoon of sugar, and stir until the yeast dissolves. Allow to proof for 5 minutes.
Heat the milk with the butter and 1/4 cup sugar until lukewarm, then add to the yeast mixture. Add the salt and stir to blend well. Add the eggs, one at a time, and again blend thoroughly.(Note from Elle: I actually added 1 cup of flour after the salt and before the eggs, just to give the mixture a little body. That seemed to work well. I added the rest of the flour after the eggs had been stirred in one at a time until well blended.) I followed Elle’s note and added the 1 cup of flour here.
Then stir in 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, to make what will probably be a very wet and sticky dough. Stir quite vigorously. (I used my Kitchen Aid with a beater blade and used the ”stir setting” then pushed it up to the highest for a few minutes- I think that made it a bit less like a batter and developed some gluten for the next phase.)
Spread out the dough on a working surface – a table, a piece of marble, or a board – sprinkled with the additional 1/2 cup flour. Use a baker’s scraper or large spatula to work in this last portion of flour and make the dough firmer. Scrape under the flour and the dough, lifting and folding inward. Repeat until the flour is well incorporated. When the dough is easy to handle, begin kneading by hand. (Note from Elle: I worked in another 1/2 cup flour here.)
Continue until the dough can be shaped. (The process of kneading first with the scraper and then by hand is very effective for delicate dough. In this case the dough will remain rather sticky, but don’t worry about it.)
Lift the dough, pat with flour, and place on a clean kitchen towel also sprinkled with flour. ( Use a stout tight weave
smooth towel )
Wrap it and tie it in the towel, just as you would a package, but very loosely
. Submerge this packet in a large bowl filled with warm water (about 100 – 115 degrees F, approximately). It will sink. Let sit for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until it rises sufficiently to float on top of the water. (Note from Elle: Took mine closer to an hour). (Mine took about 1/2 hour
). Lift the dough from the water and let the excess water drip off.
Un-wrap and turn out on a lightly floured surface. Again it will be quite sticky, so scrape off any dough that adheres to the towel. Be firm with your scraper and almost all of the dough with come off of the towel
. Don’t worry that the dough is slack it will recover!
Knead and shape into two loaves, using both dough scraper and your hands. Thoroughly butter two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans and place one loaf in each pan. Cover, put in a warm, draft-free place, and let the dough rise slightly above the tops of the pans, or until almost doubled in bulk.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the dough with cold water, and, if you like, make a slash in each loaf with a sharp knife. Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 30 – 35 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when rapped with the knuckles, top and bottom. When done, place the loaves directly on the oven rack, without their pans, to brown the bottom a little more and crisp the crusts. Cool on racks.
Please check out all the wonderful bread baking of the Babes:
Katie of Thyme for Cooking, our Fabulous Round-Up Babe Bake My Day – Karen Blog from Our Kitchen – Elizabeth Bread Experience – Cathy Girlichef – Heather Life’s a Feast – Jamie Living in the Kitchen with Puppies – Natashya Lucullian Delights – Ilva My Diverse Kitchen – Aparna My Kitchen in Half Cups – Tanna Notitie van Lien – Lien