Bread. What can I say, I love it the most of all foods. I love the simplicity of the ingredients and how from those very simple ingredients, you can create an amazing array of very different types of bread.
I first made this bread last year and I was quite excited with the results, as well as the small amount of work involved. It’s a crusty bread with a soft interior. It sits for a while in the fridge so it gains a lot of flavor while it’s fermenting.
I decided to make up a batch of this again after being inspired by something I bought at a supermarket bakery not too long ago. I was craving good, crusty bread and spotted a bag of goodness that would surely hit the spot. They were called breadsticks but were fatter…more like the mini baguettes that this recipe makes. They had hunks of roasted garlic and while the bag did say that it had olive oil and sea salt also, I didn’t notice how either was incorporated into the bread. It was that garlic that made this bread memorable.
So it was to be. I knew the recipe had to be a crusty, chewy type of bread. I poked through cookbooks and everything was a 2+ day process. I wanted bread now. However, since I knew the wait would be worth it, I sucked it up and started the Pain a l’Ancienne.
I had roasted the garlic in anticipation of replicating the bread I had bought and decided to put the whole heads in the freezer just to help preserve them. Turns out, it was a good idea for another reason too. As anyone who has roasted garlic knows, the end result is a soft clove that easily squeezes out of the bulb. Kneading this fragrant, mushy loveliness into the bread would have been a mess so I was thrilled that I was a step ahead of myself without even knowing it. I generally am not so keen to thinking ahead like that.
I will post the recipe next however, as to how to do the garlic…I can only tell you what I did. I had 3 small-ish to medium-ish heads of garlic. I cut off the tops and drizzled some olive oil over them, making sure some got down in the cloves. I then wrapped the cloves in a double layer of foil and baked them. I used a moderately hot oven…I think it was about 400 degrees…and just let them cook till they seemed to be done. These were not huge cloves so it took maybe 30-45 minutes. I would say roast your garlic for about 30 minutes then peek inside your packet and see if the cloves are looking brown and poke at them to see if they have softened.
Another note on the garlic, even though I did freeze the cloves after they had been roasted, some did still “mush” into the dough instead of staying as whole cloves that could easily be seen in the bread. I am going to experiment next time and unwrap all the cloves from the head, toss them in a mix of olive oil and salt, then roast them on a pan at a high temp for shorter time to hopefully get that great carmelization going without mushing them too much. We’ll see how it works out…this is a work in progress!
Roasted Garlic Pain a l’Ancienne
adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart (an awesome book!)
6 cups bread flour
2 1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp instant yeast
2 1/4 cups plus 2 tbsp-3 cups of ice cold water (40 degrees)
roasted garlic cloves, amount depends on your garlic tolerance-the 3 heads I used worked out nicely (seen notes above)
In a mixer bowl, combine the flour, salt and yeast. Add 2 1/4 cups water and continue to mix. You want the dough to be sticky yet not too sticky. It should pull away from the sides of the bowl but be stuck to the bottom. This is where you start to use your best judgment and add water if you feel it’s needed. Once you get the right consistency, knead the dough in your mixer for 5-6 minutes.
The dough will now ferment in the fridge overnight. Put it in a large, oiled bowl then spritz the top of the dough with non-stick spray and cover it with plastic wrap.
I made this in the early afternoon so after about 3 hours in the fridge, when the dough was a little more firm from being cold, I kneaded in the garlic. Put the dough on lightly floured surface, or you can even work it in while it’s in the bowl if you don’t mind the awkward work. Knead small amounts of your garlic cloves in at a time until you have them all in there and evenly distrusted. Put the dough back in the oiled bowl, spray the top again, cover it and throw it back in the fridge.
After the dough has risen in the fridge overnight, take it out and let it rest at room temperature for a few hours. The dough should be doubled from its original size- the size it was before you put it in the fridge.
At some point while the dough is warming up to room temperature, you will want to get your oven preheated. You will need to use a pizza stone for best results as well as some steam. The oven needs to be at least 500 degrees, or as high as your oven will go…mine goes to 550. Preheat your stone for a while, the better part of an hour. Your oven may get to the set temperature but you want the stone to be heated through and from what I’ve read, that takes longer than the oven to preheat. As for the steam, there is a lengthy section in the book as to how to duplicate a steam oven that a bakery typically has. I forgo most of this. Would my bread maybe turn out better if I followed every last detail? Yeah, it probably would. However, when I have tried to follow it all, I’ve not noticed enough difference to warrant the work. What I do is put a heavy duty sheet pan filled with hot water on the rack under my stone. I place this in the oven, very carefully, shortly before I am about to put the bread in…about 15 minutes. You will just want to keep an eye on the pan to make sure that the water does not evaporate away completely.
When you are ready to bake, you will want to work with this dough very gently so that you do not deflate it any more than possible. I have a hard time with that, I usually don’t have the patience but I try my best and work quickly but as gently as I can. Divide the dough into 6. Although I don’t have the patience for gentle handling, I do for even portions so I weigh the whole amount and divide it by 6 then portion it out that way. Shape the dough into baguettes. The book does not give a length; mine were about a foot long. Put a few slashes in the top of the loaves with a very sharp knives so the sides don’t blow out as the expand in the oven. As for how to get these onto the stone…I use a pizza peel and parchment paper. I have had too many things stick to my peel no matter how much flour or semolina I’ve used so I now automatically use parchment on the peel and slice it all onto the stone. Be careful, of course. You are working with a very hot oven, steam and paper. It could be a recipe for disaster if you don’t take your time and be cautious! I bake 3 loaves at a time just for ease of maneuvering.
Bake these for 8-9 minutes then take a look at them. If they are not browning evenly, very carefully rotate the loaves. If you’ve used parchment this is fairly easy to do, just turn the whole lot of them on the paper. Continue baking these for another 10-15 minutes. You want the internal temperature of the loaves to be 205 degrees…check it just like you’d check a roast. It takes the guess work out of whether or not it’s done.
Cool these and then enjoy. We had some as-is with dinner last night and tonight we are having shaved steak sandwiches with them. There are fresh tomatoes from the garden and marinated mozzarella in the fridge just waiting to turn these loaves into yummy sandwiches.
If you can bear anymore blather from me, here are a couple notes about the ingredients used:
As always, King Arthur is the brand that I used.
I buy my yeast in bulk at BJs. Its SAF brand and it’s SO much cheaper than buying those little packets. The yeast keeps wonderfully in the freezer. Once I open the vacuum packed bag it comes in, I dump it into a freezer zip bag then put that bag into another freezer zip bag just to keep it as fresh as possible. I’ve had luck with yeast keeping for a very long time like this, at least a year or more.
I found organic garlic at Trader Joe’s. I didn’t really think I’d find organic but was very happy that I did. It was not that much more at all than the non-organic. I think it was about $0.50 a pound difference. The package was way less than a pound and while I did not do all the math, I know it was a minimal difference in cost between the two.