Drum roll, please…
This post officially inaugurates the new kitchen in The Little Apple! What better than a loaf of bread to start things on a nice track? So, let me share with you a golden bread perfumed with the special saffron I received as a gift from our friend Steve. The bread looked like a blast of sunshine sitting on the black granite, and it made nice cracking noises as it cooled, the promise of a nice crumb underneath a hearty crust.
GOLDEN SAFFRON & FENNEL LOAF
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by Flo Makanai)
125 g sourdough starter (at 100% hydration)
250 g water (divided)
large pinch of saffron
375 g bread flour
7 g salt
1 tsp fennel seeds
Heat 50 ml (no need to be precise) of water in a microwave until almost boiling, add the saffron and let it sit until it cools to almost room temperature, stirring every now and then. Strain the saffron water through a fine mesh colander, and add to the rest of the water for a final volume of 250ml. Reserve.
Add the active starter to a large bowl, mix it with the water until it dissolves more or less smoothly. Add the flour and the fennel seeds, and briefly do a few kneading moves to form a shaggy mess. Cover loosely with plastic wrap for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle the salt over the dough and incorporate by kneading lightly and folding the dough on itself. You can keep the dough in the bowl, or transfer to a surface. After 20-30 seconds of kneading/folding, cover the dough again and let it sit for 40 minutes (total rising time up to this point: 1 hour).
Repeat cycles of quick kneading/folding two more times, spacing them 40 to 50 minutes. After the third and final kneading cycle, let the dough sit for 20 to 30 minutes, shape it as a round or oval loaf, and leave it at room temperature 30 minutes longer. Total rising time from beginning to end: about 3 and a half hours. Place it in the fridge overnight.
Remove the dough from the fridge 2 hours before baking (see my comments). Heat the oven to 450F. If using a clay pot, place it in the cold oven as you turn it on. Bake the bread covered for 30 minutes, remove cover, and allow it to fully bake (reducing the temperature to 425F if the bread seems to be browning too fast) for 12 to 15 minutes longer. Remove to a rack to cool completely before slicing.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: It’s been a while since I baked a loaf of bread that made me as happy as this one! I’d been refreshing my starter for weeks in a row, but placing it back in the fridge, unable to squeeze bread baking in our crazy schedule. My cookbooks are not unpacked yet, so I decided to go with the simple but very efficient method devised by Flo Makanai years ago: her famous 1, 2, 3 recipe. One part starter, 2 parts water, 3 parts flour. You can adapt and use any liquid or flour, but that’s the basic formula. I wanted to incorporate saffron in the dough, and fennel seemed like a good match too. Considering that it was not a tried and true recipe, and that it would be my first time using the oven in our new home, I admit I was pushing the envelope. Interesting expression, by the way, I learned its origin not too long ago, and was a bit surprised. No Post Office material was used in its making. Live, and learn.
Live, learn, and bake!
To add a bit more emotion to the adventure, I could not find my banettons to proof the dough after shaping. I actually have two, one round, and one oval, but they are both MIA, probably hidden inside one of the unpacked boxes. I ended up using a copper colander, lined with a white cloth.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
I pushed the envelope once more by removing the dough from the fridge only 30 minutes before placing it in the 450F oven, trying to minimize the time our kitchen would be exposed to such insanely high temperature. Still, the bread had an impressive oven spring, and the beautiful, golden open crumb I hoped for. It would be amazing with paella or a bowl of bouillabaisse, but until the weather cools enough for those dishes, we’ll enjoy it with fresh, juicy tomatoes and a sprinkle of Maldon salt. Simple pleasures. Golden pleasures.
A final remark: I wish I could take credit for the title of this post, but my beloved husband was the genius behind it… Sorry, ladies, he’s mine, all mine!
I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting.
ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2011
TWO YEARS AGO: Heavenly Homemade Fromage Blanc
THREE YEARS AGO: A Perfect Sunday Dinner