When I was still living with my parents, fresh bread was served with the every meal. You could eat it or not but you knew it will be there. I guess it’s common in any Portuguese table and all over Europe and other parts of the world. What about bakeries? I believe Portugal has a bakery on each street. If it’s not exactly like that, I’m sure it’s pretty close. The smell of warm bread in the morning and at certain hours, right out of the oven, ready to eat. Is that something better than spreading butter on a warm bread and watch it while it melts? I would love to find a good bakery like that close to our house, but then it might be a problem to keep me from going there. Anyway, if you know of one or more around this area please tell me, I never heard of any in the vicinities.
In the meantime, I tried my own bread. I used whole wheat, because I like dark breads with different kinds of grain. This recipe is enough for two loaves of bread. In the first day, I did a chapata (or ciabatta) style, which rendered me two elongated ones, instead of one large loaf. I like the chapata, as we call it, because it’s rustic, has a very light and airy interior and a crispy crust. It was a delight to be able to do this bread at home. I would be able to make it more similar to the traditional one if I didn’t use the whole seed mixture, but I’m already happy with the result.
On the second day, I made a regular loaf, more dense. This one was great to slice it and taste the soft but rich crumb inside. We were able to savor more this last loaf. Why? Because the chapata kind disappeared too fast.
I enjoy bread with butter and different fruit preserves. I also like it with cheese and marmalade. I won’t say no to a grilled cheese as well. How about you? How do you enjoy your bread?
(adapted from here)
- 5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 Tbsp (2 packets) granulated yeast
- 1 Tbsp sea salt
- 4 cups lukewarm water
- 1 Tbsp of dried herbes de provence added to the water (optional)
- Cornmeal or parchment paper
- 1 to 2 Tbsp whole seed mixture for sprinkling on top of the crust: sesame, flaxseed and oatmeal
- Mix together the flours, yeast and salt in a large bowl.
- Heat the water to about 100 degrees F. Add to the dry ingredients in the bowl and mix without kneading using a stand-mixer with a dough attachment, until everything is uniformly moist without dry patches. This should take just a few minutes.
- Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap (loosely) and allow mixture to rise at room temperature for about two hours or until it flattens on top (it’s ok to let it rise overnight too).
- Then refrigerate the dough for at 3 hours or overnight (it’s normal if during the refrigeration the dough shrink a little). Don’t punch down the dough. It’s important to retain as much gas in the dough as possible.
- Prepare a pizza peel and sprinkle it with cornmeal (or line it with parchment paper or a silicone mat).
- Dust the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour.
- Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough, using a serrated knife or kitchen shears.
- Dust the surface of the dough enough to don’t get stick to your hands.
- Stretch the surface of the dough and tuck in under.
- Elongate the dough enough to make a chapata loaf.
- Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest on the pizza peel for 90 minutes.
- 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450F with a baking stone or a cookie sheet turned upside down placed in the middle rack.
- Just before baking brush the top of the dough with a little water.
- Sprinkle with the whole seed mixture.
- With a serrated bread knife, make parallel cuts across the top.
- After the 30 minute preheat, slide the dough of the pizza peel onto the preheated baking stone or cookie sheet.
- If using a parchment paper or silicone mat just place it on the stone.
- Quickly, pick a broiler tray and pour 1 cup of boiling water and place it on other rack that won’t interfere with the rising bread.
- Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is firm to the touch.
- If you used parchment paper, a silicone mat, or a cookie sheet under the loaf, carefully remove it and bake the loaf directly on the stone or an oven rack when the loaf is about two-thirds of the way through baking.
- Store the remaining dough in the container inside the fridge and use it for the next couple of weeks. The time in the fridge improves the flavor and texture of the dough, taking on sourdough characteristics.