Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread with Peter Reinhart!

Good bread is hard to find. Especially here in Florida with humidity and it’s challenges. My family, one day tired of my constant whining, challenged me to bake a ‘decent’ bread. In all honesty, I am pride myself for being a cook not a baker. Now that is taken care of, be it sourdough, croissant, challah, brioche, ciabatta, or just a plain pizza dough, I absolutely adore a freshly baked loaf bread.

Baking, especially bread making is a science, that I choose to leave to the experts. In this case, baking guru –  Peter Reinhart. I swiftly purchased Peter Reinhart’s book – The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. In case you haven’t yet discovered Peter Reinhart, he is the Co-founder of the legendary Brother Juniper’s Bakery, author of the landmark books Brother Juniper’s Bread Book and Crust & Crumb, and distinguished instructor at the world’s largest culinary academy (Johnson and Wales), Peter Reinhart has been a leader in America’s artisanal bread movement for over fifteen years.

My two arsenals in the kitchen are Peter Reinhart’s cook books and King Arthur Flour.  Every recipe that I have tried from his books is flawless. His slow/cold fermentation adds another dimension and deep flavor. Even a novice baker like myself has  achieved successful results repeatedly by following his directions to the T. True baking might seem arduous, but there’s nothing like a freshly baked warm loaf of bread to bring a smile to your face.

Today I am sharing the recipe for his Focaccia which I made this past weekend. For all other recipes depicted in this post, shoot me a comment or purchase his books on-line. It’s one recipe book that will be your to-go for all your baking needs.

Focaccia with Herb Oil

This focaccia is unbelievably easy to make. Delicate and airy, infused with herb oil, it will disappear even before you have tasted your first bite. Yeah! it’s that good!

Focaccia with Herb Oil

 Ingredients:

  • 5 cups unbleached King Arthur flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups water, room temparature
  • 1 cup herb oil (1 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs like basil, oregano, tarrragon, rosemary, thyme or dried herb-de-provence)

Directions:

  1. Stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the oil and water and mix low speed with paddle attachment until the dough is smooth. Switch to a dough hook and mix on medium speed for 7 minutes.
  2. Sprinkle flour on the counter and transfer the dough on to the counter. Let the dough relax for 5 minutes.
  3. Coat your hands with flour and stretch the dough from each end to twice it’s size. Fold it, letter style, over itself to return to it to a rectangular shape. Mist the top of the dough with spray oil, loosely cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Repeat the stretch and fold process and let rest for 30 minutes two times more, total of 3 intervals of 30 minutes.
  5. Allow the covered dough to ferment on the counter for 1 hour.
  6. Line a 17 by 12-inch baking sheet pan with parchment process. Transfer the dough on to the sheet pan while maintaining the rectangular shape. Spoon half of the herb oil on to the dough. Use your fingertips to dimple the dough and spread it to fill the pan simultaneously. It doesn’t need to fill the corners as the dough relaxes and proofs, it will spread out naturally. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight.
  7. Remove the pan three hours before baking. Drizzle additional herb oil over the surface and dimple it in. Again cover the dough with plastic wrap and proof the dough at room temperature for 3 hours.
  8. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with the oven rack on the middle shelf.  Place the focaccia in the oven. Lower the temperature to 450 and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for an additional 10 minutes till the dough is golden brown.
  9. Allow the focaccia to cool for 20 minutes at least before slicing. Serve warm!

Peter Reinhart’s croissant recipe is precise, yielding exceptional results. Its soft, flaky, buttery, and mouth-melting tender.

Croissants

 

The braided Challah is so beautifully flavored that it doesn’t make an appearance only on special  meals. It’s a bread I make at least once a month if not more.

 4 Braids Challah

 

Another staple at our brunch table are the incredible Sticky Buns. Tender cinnamon laced dough that is just sweet enough,  kissed with lemon extract, and studded with raisins and walnuts – it can be devoured any time of the day.

Sticky Buns

 

The one recipe which stole my heart and won my loyalty was the one and only Brioche. Glorious golden-brown bites of brioche brimming with butter, the Rich Man’s Brioche recipe is pure decadence!

Brioche

Mille grazie (thousand thanks) to Peter Reinhart for converting a novice baker like myself into a fear-less baker. Armed with his cookbooks I am ready to tackle on any baking challenge! All you foodies out there, take out your trusted mixer and Peter Reinhart’s cookbook, YOU and your family too can enjoy the pleasures of home made warm breads.

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