Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Martha Challenge

The Martha Saga continues.

I know I said she was dead to me, but I just couldn't walk away from her Pullman Bread recipe without conquering it. I made Peter Reinhart's Soft Sandwich Bread recipe from Artisan Breads Every Day a couple of times now, but it's just not doing it for me. Not like Martha's sandwich bread. Evil woman.

Reinhart's sandwich bread is tasty and has a great shelf life (especially in my handy Tupperware bread keeper). But it's delicate and tears easily when I try to spread it with peanut butter or even just butter. And it doesn't toast as evenly and thoroughly as Martha's denser, heartier sandwich bread. Plus it's a bit too sweet for my taste. So I decided I'm not going to let this she-witch with the minions and the bad instructions conquer me. I'm going to conquer her Pullman Bread recipe if it's the last thing I do.

So I made it again this weekend. I took notes on how long I baked it and how I covered it. Because I'm still working without a real Pullman loaf pan with the cover, I'm having to finagle the instructions (which Martha's minions lied about being accurate) to get it to come out right. Here is my latest result:

Not as pretty as I would like, but not horrendous either. It's taken some serious effort to try to modify Martha's instructions to work with a loaf pan sans lid, though, and I'm not quite there yet. It's tastes magnificent, though, and has a beautiful dense texture that toasts beautifully. The Big Guy and I made grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner with it tonight. Delish!

Here is where The Martha Challenge comes in. I challenge all you bakers out there to try this recipe also - with or without the requisite Pullman loaf pan with lid - and let me know your results. Are you up for the challenge? Here's the recipe.

Pullman Bread
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook

Total time commitment: about 4-1/2 hours

"Makes one 12-inch loaf. If you prefer a loaf with a rounded top, you can bake the dough without the lid in place; the baking time should be the same." (Famous last words, Martha.)

1-1/2 lb (about 4-1/2 cups) bread flour, plus more for dusting
3-1/2 tsp instant yeast
1-1/2 Tbsp coarse salt
1-1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1-3/4 cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)
Spray oil, for bowl and pan

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, dry milk and butter. Add the warm water and beat on low speed until the dough is smooth, elastic and uniform in color, about 5 minutes.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and finish kneading by hand, about five times, making sure all ingredients are fully incorporated and the dough forms a smooth ball. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough in bowl. Pull the sides into the center. Invert the dough in the bowl so that it rests smooth side up. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour more.

Generously spray a 12" Pullman loaf pan with spray oil (or brush with vegetable oil), making sure to coat the underside of the lid (if you have one), as well as the bottom and sides of the pan. Set aside. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Roll out the dough to a 12" x 8" rectangle, with the long side facing you. Starting at the top, roll the dough toward you, gently pressing as you go to form a tight log. Tuck the ends in to make even. Gently roll the log back and forth to seal the final seam. Place the loaf, seam side down, in the prepared pan and slide the lid three-quarters of the way closed. (If working without a lid, cover with plastic wrap.) Let rise in a warm place until the dough is almost touching the lid, 45-60 minutes. (If working without a lid, your dough will rise in a rounded fashion about a half inch above the top of the pan.) Meanwhile, preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Close the lid completely (or cover completely with foil) and bake, rotating pan halfway through, until loaf is light golden brown, about 45 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 350F, re-close the lid (or re-cover with foil) and continue baking another 30 minutes. [NOTE: These are Martha's instructions. My times were as follows: 30 minutes at 425F, then 29 minutes at 350F, checking it every five minutes in the last 15 minutes of baking. My oven tends to bake fast (fancy Whirlpool AccuBake(R) technology), so your results may vary. Let me know.]

Martha says to let pan rest of wire rack for 10 minutes, but I always just dump my bread right out onto the wire rack immediately after removing from the oven. Crust should be a deep golden brown and bread will sound hollow when tapped. Let cool completely before slicing. Bread can be wrapped in plastic (or stored in your handy-dandy Tupperware bread box) and kept at room temperature for up to 4 days.

This is The Martha Challenge. Are you in? Post your results below! Happy baking!

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