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Monday, May 16, 2011

Artisanal Garlic Bread

We enjoy trying different kinds of bread. I will often pick up a different kind of bread in the grocery store. The local bakery sells a large variety of artisanal bread from the ever fragrant rosemary bread to a spicy jalapeno bread. The last time I was in, they had a bread tasting and I was able to taste the variety they offer. One of the breads that I tasted (and ended up buying) was a beautiful garlic bread. It had cloves of garlic embedded in it and it was just delicious. Since I have been enjoying baking breads off late, I decided to make the garlic bread. I had seen a recipe on a local tv show and thought I would try it out.  I must say it turned out very good.  This is a wonderful bread recipe.



Homemade bread or a bottle of homemade jam is a wonderful gift idea.


Ingredients
1 bulb garlic
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
about 2.5 to 3.5 cups bread flour
1 tsp to 1 tbsp salt (to taste)
some corn meal (optional)


Method
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice one end of the garlic so that the cloves are slightly exposed at their base. Do not slice the stem end of the garlic bulb, else all the cloves will separate out. Pour about 2 tbsp olive oil over this. Then wrap the garlic bulb in some aluminium foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Towards the end of the baking process, bake the garlic bulb uncovered for about 5 mins.The cloves will be lightly browned, soft and will have a sweet flavor to it. Once the garlic cools down, squeeze the cloves out.


Dissolve 1/4 tsp of yeast in one cup of warm water and keep aside for 10 minutes. The water will become slightly frothy.

To this water, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and salt. Now, add a little bread flour at a time till the dough comes together. The resultant dough should be smooth and not sticky. It should also not be too dry or tough. When I made the bread I ended up using about 2 and 3/4 cups of bread flour. It will vary based on how dry the atmosphere is.



The most important part in bread making is the kneading process.  So, the easiest method is to use a food processor with a steel blade (used for chopping) to mix and knead the dough. Or you can use a stand mixer with a dough hook. This will take just a couple of minutes to knead the dough till it's smooth and gets a shine.


However, you can also knead the dough by hand. If so, knead it for about 10-15 minutes and form a smooth ball. Then, coat the entire dough ball with a little olive oil and keep aside in a bowl. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and set aside. Allow it to rise till it doubles in size. This may take a couple of hours depending on the ambient temperature.

After it has rise to twice the size, punch down the dough and knead the dough into a smooth ball. Insert and fold in the baked garlic cloves into the dough randomly as you shape the dough into a ball.  Then, let it rise again so that it is double in size. This will take about 45 mins to an hour.  Before baking, sprinkle some cornmeal on the pizza stone or baking sheet. Then transfer the dough ball onto the cornmeal.  Make a couple of slashes (in a plus sign) on the top of the bread before baking it. This will prevent it from spreading sideways during the baking process. 







Bake the bread on a baking sheet or pizza stone for about 20 minutes, till it is well browned.  To check if the bread is done, tap on it. It will sound hollow when completely cooked.






Tips
The temperature of the water should be around 110 F or lower. Do not over heat the water else the yeast will die. The easiest test is to dip a clean finger into the water and if you can easily hold it in the water for a couple of minutes without scalding your finger, then the water is at the right temperature. Even room temperature water is okay. It may take a bit longer for the yeast to develop, however it will not kill the yeast. Sprinkling corn meal on the baking sheet or pizza stone will help in getting a crisp crust on the base of the bread. It also makes it easy to slide the dough onto the baking sheet and slide it off when it's done.

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