Water-Proofed Bread, Who Knew?

interior crumb

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. 🙂

baked loaf

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 eggs
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.
proofed yeast
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.)
initial dough
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.)
on dish towel
 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.submerged
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! 🙂
prepare to scrape
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.
formed loaves
risen slashed loaves

finished loaves

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




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Remembering Elle

caprese ravioli salad

And so it is that another person who owned a space in my heart has passed away. She was part of the humor section, the daily chuckles, the space that created camaraderie through wit and wonder. As I was getting to know Elle (Lee Ann Ritchotte) of Elle’s New England Kitchen, her wise cracking sense of humor made me open up that reserved space to her. In one of our first conversations she made me snort coffee out though my nose -which, as most of us know, is the height of all comic aspiration. 😉

So a few of us who loved knowing her are cooking up a tribute recipe from her blog and posting it this weekend in memory of her at #ElleAPalooza.

I chose to make her Insalata Caprese with Fried Buitoni Ravioli as an appetizer for the birthday lunch I held for my two sisters this afternoon. I chose to use a Dungeness Crab Ravioli instead of the Buitoni Chicken Marsala. It was wonderful, inspired dress up of a standard- Caprese-so good! I wish I had the chance to let her know. I wish I could let her know the impact she had on the world and what a wrench it is to lose her too soon.


insalata caprese with fried ravioli

This last year has been one riddled with loss. I know it happens and I know that it is part of living but it sucks, it really just SUCKS!!! The philosophical part of my brain tries to talk myself out of the depression created by these senseless and unexpected losses (and of course even the ones I saw coming and thought I had prepared for) but the heart of me cries foul and its howling, raging, blubbering, stinging, searing hurt will not be salved by logic or balance. The only thing that helps is to hold the good memories closer than the pain. Sharing with others in the same space helps too – so thanks to the other Friends of Elle on Facebook. In the coming weeks there will be an auction for the benefit of Elle’s family, put together by Heather of He Cooks She Cooks. Thank you so much Heather!
Rick was kind and supportive enough to make two auction lots of a Hand Turned Flame Maple Rolling Pin and a hand made Flame Maple Spatula together in each lot for us to donate. Each piece is signed by him and branded with ELLE as well. He is teaching me to wood turn- but I am not the artist he is- so thanks to him for contributing many hours on this donation. Just makes me love him all the more. <3 Please support the auction if you are able. 🙂 There is also a fund set up at Paypal for the benefit of the Ritchotte family- if you’d like to donate it is here.

I am sorry that most of my posts here in the past year or so have been about loss. That is not balanced and not what my overall life is about. Elle makes me think of so many good things: friendship, laughter, passion for life. She made beautiful jewelry- I am lucky enough to have one of her bracelets. She was obviously a wonderful wife and mother leaving behind a family who I am sure will never stop missing her. I know that I will not- there will be funny things and my reflex will be to think of her and wish I could share- wish I could still read her squeal about a pig on a leash and Patriot passion and Corgis and Kitties and Kids. Thank you Elle for the laughter and the inspiration- it was a gift to know you.

Other Blogs Participating in #ElleAPalooza


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Tribute to The Queen of all Daring Bakers, Lis

baked pretzel


Occasionally, if you are lucky in life, as I am, you meet someone whose unique qualities create a whole new color in the crayon box of your life. Lisa Cifelli was that sort of a person for me. Her humor, kindness and humanity were amazing. She could also swear you into a whole new dictionary- which, I think, made me love her even more. 🙂

Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice co-founded the Daring Bakers (which eventually expanded and morphed into Daring Kitchen) in November of 2006 more on that here. They challenged each other to make a Hot Buttered Pretzel recipe and then post about it, and the rest, as they say, is history folks . After that they invited a small circle of bloggers to join them and soon all the rest of us were begging to be let into the group. I became a member of Daring Bakers in September of 2007 with the Cinnamon/Sticky Bun challenge.  I came for the baking and walked away with a whole new group of friends. Some of the people I still love and admire most are those I met through DB. My most reposted picture is my Mikado light opera cake from the opera cake challenge. So yes, Lisa and Ivonne and all the other DBs changed my life. Eventually the group got too big for me and I moved on, but I will always have wonderful memories of those days.


Now I’m not saying I was one of Lis’s best friends – I was way out on the edge of her orbit, but she was a blogging friend and she also got me started in Farmville on Facebook. She was always sending me virtual gifts… fruit trees, cows, barns, countries. I finally had to just stop or I would have been required to participate in farm subsidies. 🙂 Ok I might exaggerate a bit. BUT she always showed up with a bit of love and support when I needed it- always ending her messages with numerous xxxoooxxxoooxxs. I will always love that about her!

Here is a message she left on the cheesecake challenge for me- one I will always cherish: (I made what I called Bee-Bop Cheesecake Pops.)


  • Lisa says: 2008/04/27 at 11:31

    You did not just make wee bubblebees out of the cheesecake!  YOU DID!!  I heart them so very muchly!!!

    Okay so far.. you win most creative use of cheesecake, chocolate coating and lemon drops. :D



 Lisa says:
2008/04/27 at 11:32
or some (normal) people call them BUMBLEbees.. not BUBBLEbees.. *sigh*

Earlier this week, as I read the note from my friend Kelly at Sass and Veracity telling us that Lis had passed away unexpectedly that morning, the tears came rushing out in a torment. I could not make any sense of it all. I cry all over again every time I think of it. How could someone as vital and wonderful as Lis be gone?! Hadn’t she just had a birthday? Hadn’t she just sent me kind words of love and support when my mother-in-law passed away on  November 1st? Why was I not a better friend to her? How do you lose a color out of your crayon box and still paint the world the same way? Truth is you can’t. I will never see life the same way both because I was lucky enough to know Lis in this crazy new world of internet friendships and because we suffered her loss together redrawing us all back into the community we once were. Daring Bakers forever.

And so today in tribute, I baked the pretzels that started it all. (recipe here) and I listened to her beloved Cher and to AC/DC and I mourned the missing color of Lisa’s brilliance.

mise en place


pretzel dough

dough divided    wash and saltprebake

baked pretzel
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