I know, I know, the probability of an ACTUAL zombie apocalypse is slim to none but it never hurts to be prepared. That is why this post is about making bread, you didn't think that Wonderbread was still going to be in business did you? No no no my gentle reader, in case of zombie apocalypse you should be prepared to make your own bread or else the other survivors at the mall may decide to oust you from the compound!
They say the first step to getting over a problem is to admit that you have it, I have bread issues. Serious bread issues. It can't be genetic, my mother makes wonderful bread, she was a baker even! Her mother made good bread, and her mother before her, all the way back to when they kicked my ancestors out of Scotland for stealing horses (popular family rumor has it that way anyways). I however, cannot make bread. I have bad bread hands, they are cold and that lowers the internal temperature of the dough meaning that it doesn't raise as well as it should. We did a week of bread at school, and I took a separate weekend bread class with Chef Corey in March but alas while I can braid the heck of out of loaf of challah I still can't make a good loaf of white bread unless I soak my hands in hot water before I start. Laugh all you want, but this is an issue! We make bread three days a week at the restaurant and bake it every day. Chef Corey once claimed that the dough knows I'm afraid of it and thus mocks me. Stupid dough and it's stupid mocking, like the Coyote I refuse to let this road runner defeat me.
To make good bread at the restaurant we need a starter, one we make after every batch at the restaurant so that we have it ready when we make bread again. 5, 3, 1.5. Five pounds of bread flour to 3 pounds of tepid water to 1.5 pounds of starter. This makes a heck of a lot of bread. Now I realize that most people don't have a thing of starter in their fridge, so there is a basic recipe you can follow.
Take a glass or plastic jar with a tight fitting lid, avoid metal at all costs. Into it place one cup of flour (bread flour preferable) and one cup of tepid (70-80 degrees F) water. Mix, cover, sit on your cupboard. In twenty four hours, throw half of it away and add another half cup of flour, half cup of tepid water. Wash, Rinse, Repeat until your starter has lots of bubbles and smells vaguely like beer. You can just set it on the counter while it does this, your starter needs to stay warm, but not to warm (nothing over 90 degrees F) or you will kill it. I encourage you to talk to it if you want, I have taken to saying " IT'S ALIVE!" a lot and generally cackling at mine. Once it reaches the bubble stage you can safely refrigerate it until you need it. It will have grown to fill pretty much the entire container is another way you can tell it is done...it might even have erupted over the sides.
At the restaurant our bread making recipe goes like this:
20 pounds of bread flour
10 pounds of tepid water
2 tbsp yeast
5 ounces salt
7.5 pounds of starter
Mix this at low speed in the big mixer for ten minutes, then at a medium speed a bit longer. Empty half of it into a hotel pain, that is the white bread. To the remaining half add three boxes of raisins and one half bag of walnuts. Mix till combined This makes out other bread...the walnut raisin loaf. Empty that into a hotel pain and stick both hotel pans in a proofing oven (basically turn on your oven light, stick your dough in and shut the door) until it has almost overgrown it's container. Take it out and weigh it into 1.65 pound loaves, then get ready for the hard part.
You have to shape it for proofing, I will be honest, this is where it falls a part for me. Basically you have to hold the dough in both hands, keeping them close together and not stretching the dought too much. You want to form it into a sphere, but by stretching the dough on itself, not digging your fingers into it but not letting it flop all over the space. I swear I am two steps away from making a video of the restaurants chef doing this and putting it up on YouTube because I suck at it. It makes me want to cry and as you know...there is no crying in pastry!
Once you prayed to every God in the pantheon that you don't destroy the bread doing this, you place it on floured cookie sheets andcover it (we use large plastic bags) so it doesn't form a skin. Let it sit at room temp for an hour or so, basically until it has grown, then we shape it again. Place it on cookie sheets lined with cornmeal and bag it again, letting it sit for about hour or so. You should have 9 loaves of white bread, and 9 loaves of the raisin walnut. Two sheet pans of this ( one of each kind) we put in the cooler and bake the next day, the rest gets baked in a 450 degree F oven for 22 minutes after we slit the top with a razor blade.
And voila...bread, or in my case you get to the first shaping, the chef gets upset because you suck at bread and doesn't let you go anything after that except pull it out of the oven. Which is fine...bread may have won this battle but I will win the war!
In the meantime, hopefully my many other useful skills will keep me alive when the zombies come. Bread is over rated right?