So much to say – Shepherd’s Bread

red roses

I can’t believe myself it but I managed to bake this month’s Bread Baking Babes bread and I loved it. I really must get better on that front because it is such a great way to discover new breads and to share it with you so that you too can bake them! But first I have some other things to tell you.
  First of all I know that there have been and still seem to be issues with accessing Lucullian, a redirect problem that I haven’t managed to find a real solution to but yesterday my old mentor (he was the first one who encouraged my photography and pushed me to move forwards) suggested that there might be a template problem so I have now changed to a Blogger template and there is a lot to clean up and change but that will have to be done next week because tomorrow I’m off to the UK and the Plate To Page Somerset workshop. And I have also changed the country redirect url that Google/Blogger has started with lately (thank you so much for your help and support Greg!) to see if that makes any difference. So I would like to ask you a favour, if you have had problems but now manage to read this, could you please take the time and tell me that in a comment so I see if the changes are working. Thank you!
  Next on the list is that if you read Italian and love Italian cooking you can now buy the cookbook Ricette per bene, a project in which 40 Italian bloggers have contributed with recipes and photos for free to help with the rebuilding of Genoa after the horrible floods last year which means that if you buy a copy, either in pdf format or as an e-book, you too help the people of Genoa to get back on their feet. It is already selling well but please make it sell even better, it costs only 5 euros and it is packed with great recipes and photos; I have participated with a photo for a a very tasty recipe indeed!

Shepherds Bread

Now on to the bread! This month my dear friend Karen from Bake My Day! is the boss, she is a treasure of a friend and one great baker too so I just had to bake the bread of her choice, Shepherd’s Bread. The fact that the recipe is created by one of my favourite bread book authors Beth Hensperger (her Bread Bible is my most baked from bread book (great English I know) ever) did help a bit too. Now I obviously didn’t listen to my wiser Babes and didn’t divide the dough in two when I put it in the terracotta pot I was using. And that despite I knew that there was going to be a considerable oven spring to the dough once in the oven – the vastness of my stupidity is immense. I had to cut the ready bread in the pot to force it out so that we could eat it, I was lucky it came out at all I think. Anyway, the terracotta pot worked perfectly but I lined it with parchment paper just to be sure it wouldn’t stick. And how was the bread? Good, very good with a fantastic crust, the whole family loved it and crowned as one of the best breads I have ever made. Personally I would reduce the sugar a bit but that has been completely vetoed here so I will keep on baking it following the recipe, though I will add some whole-wheat flour and experiment with how it comes out in a bread tin too. If you want to bake Shepherd’s Bread (and you should) and want to be a Bread Baking Buddy (who wouldn’t?), steer over to Karen’s blog to get all the details. And if you want to see the breads of the rest of the Babes, do because you might get some good tips, here is the complete list! 

P.s. I know the photos aren’t the best but I just had got my new Lensbaby Control Freak lens that very same day and just had to try it out!

Shepherds Bread-2

Shepherd’s Bread
{Bread for all seasons by Beth Hensperger}
makes 1 large loaf

Sponge (takes 2 hours)
2 tsp active dry yeast or 3/4 oz fresh yeast
2 cups tepid water (460 ml)
2 cups unbleached ap or bread flour
1/2 cup sugar (90 gr)

Dough (first rise 2-3 hours, second only 15 minutes!)
1 tsp active dry yeast or 1/4 oz fresh yeast
1 cup warm water
1 Tbs salt
1/2 cup olive oil
5.1/2 to 6 cups unbleached ap flour or bread flour

1/4 cup unbleached ap flour or bread flour

1. Prepare the sponge: In a large bowl mix yeast plus 1 cup of the flour and the sugar using a large whisk. Add remaining cup of flour and beat hard until very smooth, 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temp until soft, spongy and pleasantly fermented, 2 hours.

2. Prepare the dough: Using a wooden spoon, beat down the sponge. Alternatively, beat down the sponge in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. In a measuring cup, stir the yeast into the warm water to dissolve. Add the yeast, warm water, salt and olive oil to the sponge and beat well. Add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating vigorously until a soft dough is formed that just clears the sides of the bowl.

3. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead about 5 minutes until a smooth dough is formed. Will be firm yet springy and resilient. Adding only 1 tbs flour at a time to prevent sticking. Place the dough in a floured deep container, dust the top with flour, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at cool room temp until tripled in bulk, 2.1/2 – 3 hours.

4. Shaping: Again turn out the dough on a clean surface. It will be slightly sticky from the long rise. Knead in about 1/4 cup more flour to make a firmer dough, about 1 minute. Shape into a tight round ball. Pull the ends tightly to the center of the loaf to form a smooth bottom and sides. Mist the surface with water. Using about 2 tbs of flour, heavily coat the top surface.
Using a serrated knife, slash the top surface decoratively, no more than 1/4 inch deep to allow steam to escape and to allow room for the dough to expand.

Cloche instructions:
Sprinkle the dish with flour and place the dough ball in the center of the dish. Move the dough around to cover the bottom and up the sides a bit with flour.
Cover with the cloche dome/bell  and let rest at room temp 15 minutes. Before placing in the oven, rinse the inside of the cloche bell with water, draining off excess drips.
Place back over the bread and place in the preheated 425F oven.
Bake 10 minutes. Lower thermostat to 400F and bake a further 25-35 minutes. Remove the bell after 30 minutes of baking to allow the loaf to brown thoroughly.

Remove and cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

If you’d like to use your bread baking stone or tiles; let rise a second time for 35 minutes then use same oven setting but don’t lower the temp. and bake until the bread is golden brown, crisp and sounds hollow when tapped.

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