Molasses Country Bread
Contributed by: Chris WebAdmin. of RecipesNow.com
The comforting American foods of our childhoods-stews, soups, roasts, garden vegetables, pies, cookies, and cakes have been revised and updated for the modern kitchen.
Christopher Kimball, the founder and editor of Cook's Illustrated magazine and author of The Cook's Bible, has spent thousands of hours testing and perfecting his recipes to guarantee that they are both foolproof and delicious. In The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook, he brings us the best methods for making timeless American country dishes, from baked beans to macaroni and cheese, applesauce cake to strawberry ice cream. There are also contemporary versions of recipes from long ago, including Pepper Slaw, Summer Creamed Corn, Sweet Potato Casserole, Crisp and Crunchy Fried Chicken, as well as desserts such as Blueberry Boy-Bait, Chewy Pecan Bars, Black and White Cream Pie, and Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. Master recipes, complete with variations, detail how to prepare chicken and rice, bean soups, baked potatoes, fruit pies, cheesecake, American layer cakes, and other classics. In more than one hundred illustrations, Kimball demonstrates techniques for coring apples, making a pie, choosing cuts of meat, and more. Equipment has been tested just as thoroughly as the recipes: from electric mixers to baking sheets to inexpensive knives and saucepans, you will learn which brands are best.
Kimball also shares fond memories of growing up on a small farm and charming stories of life in a rural town. You will meet Junior Bentley, who still plants and harvests with a team of horses; Rob Woodcock, who was known to harvest a Christmas tree with a shotgun; and Marie Briggs, the town baker, who cooked for her neighbor Norman Rockwell. You will be invited to the town's annual ox roast, share in the pleasures of making homemade apple cider and beekeeping, and learn about tending to an orchard and milking cows.
Christopher Kimball has compiled the foods whose tastes and smells will transport you to the country kitchen where he learned to cook as a child. The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook provides not only a rare glimpse into the charms and idiosyncrasies of a small rural town, but recipes that bring alive its unique flavors and memories.
The choice of flour for this bread is not crucial - bread flour is best - but you do have a few alternatives. Regular supermarket bread flour has a protein content of 12 percent to 13 percent, whereas the flour I prefer to use is closer to 14 percent.
If you wish to use this high-protein flour, increase the water in the dough from 1 1/3 cups to 1 1/2 cups, and I recommend that you knead the dough by machine. Hand-kneading with such a hard flour is quite difficult.
You might also try making this recipe with King Arthur all-purpose flour by decreasing the water from 1 1/2 cups to 1 1/4 cups. The results are good, although I find the bread to be a bit tougher in texture than I like.
- The Sponge
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast (not rapid-rise)
- 1 cup cool water
- 1 cup bread flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
Dissolve yeast in water in a medium-sized bowl. With a rubber spatula, mix in flours to create a stiff, wet dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let sit at room temperature for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight.
- 1/2 cup rye flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour (whole wheat graham flour preferred)
- 1/4 cup wheat germ
- 1 1/3 cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 2 teaspoons table salt
- 2 1/4 cups bread flour, or as needed
- Coarse cornmeal for sprinkling on peel (optional)
If you are kneading by hand, place the sponge and all dough ingredients, except the bread flour and cornmeal, in a large bowl. Stir mixture with a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Using the spoon, work in reserved bread flour and turn dough out onto a floured surface.
Knead for 10 minutes, adding flour in l tablespoon increments only when absolutely necessary, being careful not to incorporate more than 1/4 cup of additional flour. The dough will remain sticky but become smooth. Transfer dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise until tripled in size, at least 2 hours.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly dust hands and top of dough with flour. Lightly press dough into a disk. Fold all four sides toward the center, overlapping edges slightly. Transfer dough, smooth side down, to a colander or basket lined with heavily floured muslin or a tea towel. Tent loosely with a large sheet of aluminum foil; let rise until almost doubled in size, at least 45 minutes.
As soon as dough begins to rise, adjust oven rack to low-center position and arrange quarry tiles to form an 18 x 12 inch surface (or larger). (You can also use a pizza stone.) On lowest oven rack, place a small baking pan or cast-iron skillet to hold water. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
Liberally sprinkle cornmeal over entire surface of a baker's peel (or place a large sheet of heavy-duty parchment paper on the baker's peel). Invert risen dough onto peel and remove muslin or tea towel. Use scissors or a serrated knife to cut three slashes on top of dough.
Slide dough, with a quick jerk, from peel onto tiles. Carefully pour 2 cups hot water into heated pan or cast-iron skillet. Bake until an instant-read thermometer, when inserted in bottom of bread, registers 205 to 208 degrees and crust is very dark brown, 35 to 40 minutes, turning bread after 25 minutes if not browning evenly.
Turn oven off, open door, and let bread remain in oven 10 minutes 1onger. Remove from oven and let cool on a cake rack to room temperature before slicing, about 2 hours. To crisp the crust, heat in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes.
© 1998 by Christopher Kimball © 2000 by Time Warner Bookmark
Serving Size: Makes 1 Large Loaf