Thursday, April 21, 2011

Black Bean Bread

...while blowing bubbles bicycling backwards.  This is really good!  I know it sounds weird, but seriously...The beans give it a really nice texture, color, and flavor.

Here is what you need:

Flour (probably about 8 cups)
Black Beans (you didn't think I posted the recipe for nothing did you?)
1 Tablespoon yeast
2-3 teaspoons salt (depending on how salty your beans are)
Black olives*


If you've never made bread before, it's not that hard, especially if you have a Kitchenaid.  If you don't you should go buy one immediately.  Mine is my best friend.  Of course people have been making bread since the dawn of time so it's not strictly necessary, but quite beneficial.

To begin, take a few scoops of black beans out of your pot, making sure to get plenty of the liquid (please don't use canned beans for this) and put them in some kind of container where you can smash them.  Alternatively you could put them in a food processor or a blender, but I didn't think of that until now.  Anyway, measure the amount that you have and add whatever water is necessary until you have 4 cups of a rich black bean soup, which by the way, is also very good.  I'll have to post that sometimes.  Anyway, your bean/water mix should be luke warm.  If it's above ~105 degrees F when you put the yeasties in the poor things will die a miserable death and your bread will turn out ideal for making adobe huts with.  Put the yeast on top of the liquid and put a scoop of flour on top.  The amount doesn't matter.  Right now we're just trying to wake up the yeast.  Give it a little stir and let it sit for 20 minutes.  It should start to look like this.

A happy, thriving, yeast colony
In case you're curious, yeast eats up sugar and spits out carbon dioxide and alcohol.  We're not brewing beer here, so we're interested in the carbon dioxide.  As you know, it's the same thing you're breathing out right now.  Once we get the dough nice and kneaded it will act like a big starchy net that not only feeds the yeast but traps the gas from the yeast.  If everything goes well this symbiotic relationship will produce a nice puffed up lump that will make a delicious sandwhich after being baked.

Once the yeast is awake, add the salt and some flour and mix it in.  If you have a Kitchenaid this process is great fun.  Just put your dough hook on and keep dumping in flour while the hook mixes it.  You'll see it go through the pancake batter consistency stage, the cookie dough consistency stage, the biscuit consistency stage, and so on.  If you're doing it by hand it's not nearly as fun because you actually have to do work, and by the time it gets just past the cookie dough consistency stage you'll be mixing it and kneading it with your hands and making a big old mess. 

The dough will eventually start to pull itself off the side of the bowl.  Don't be shy about adding flour either, it takes a lot.  I dump in four or five cups right off the bat and let that mix in.  Once it is nearing the proper amount it will knead without sticking itself to the side of the bowl.  At this point keep it kneading for a few more minutes.  You'll still have to dust it with flour, but don't add substancial amounts.  If you're in doubt, stop kneading and pinch the dough.  It should be smooth and offer some resistance.  If it's gooey and sticks to your fingers when you pinch it, you haven't added enough flour.  If you're kneading by hand, give it eight to ten minutes.  Don't sweat it too much, you're bread will still turn out either way.  If you put in too little flour chances are it will have a cakey texture and if too much then a tough, dry texture.  It'll still be better than storebought though.  I always knead it by hand for a few goes at the end so I can get a feel for the dough.  It should be smooth, elastic, and not overly sticky.

Kneaded and Ready to Rise

Here's mine after kneading. 

Once you begin adding the salt and the flour the whole process of preparing the dough should only take 15-20 minutes.

By the way, turn the oven on to 400 F right now.

Next you need to let it rise.  This will give it some time to develop flavor from the yeast as well as make your dough light and palatable.  Just find a nice large bowl, smear it with olive oil, and throw the dough in there.  Cover it and set it in a warm place.  If everything goes well it should start growing.  In 25-45 minutes it should double in size.  Once this happens we'll have to shape it into the loaves and let it rise again.  Here is the dough pre and post rise.

After it's all puffed up you need to take it out of the bowl, put it on a lightly floured counter, and beat it down.  Punch it with your fist until the gas escapes.  If your dough didn't come out well you can really put some emotion into it too.  Once it's deflated you can choose what kind of loaves you want.  You can use bread pans, make dinner rolls, make french bread, whatever.  I like to make boules.  That's a small round loaf. 

This recipe can make two enormous loaves or three nice size ones.  I weight it and then divide it into three equal pieces.  The whole dough gob usually weighs between 5.5-6 lbs.  You can just eye it.  Whatever form you are using the dough in, you want to shape the piece you're working with back into a single dough mass.  If you need to, pinch the loose ends together.  You're going for smooth.  I roll mine around in a circle on the cutting board for awhile. 

Put some oil on whatever pan you are using and put the dough in it.  The nice thing about bread pans is that after the second rise you can throw it straight into the oven.  For boules I use small wicker baskets that I have dusted with flour. 

Set your dough aside once more, cover it, and let it rise a second time.  This rise is more important than the first one.  If you let it rise too little your bread will shoot through the roof once you put it in the oven.  Too much and it will deflate like an old balloon and give you sub par results.

Check it after twenty minutes.  Touch the dough with your finger.  If the dough springs back vigorously it needs to rise longer.  If your finger makes a dent that just stays there looking back at you that means it's overproofed.  You want it to have resiliency but still leave a trace of your fingers indent.  Twenty minutes most likely will be too early.  Twenty five should be good.  Thirty might be okay, but I find it's usually too long in this state.

At this point your reward begins.  Put the bread into the preheated oven and wait for the delicious aroma to infuse your house and cause your neighbors to begin unwittingly salivating upon themselves.  For boules you'll need to turn them upside down, which is actually rightside up, onto a floured cutting board and slip them into your oven onto your preheated baking stone, or barring that, turn them out onto a cookie sheet and slip that into your preheated oven.  Before you do though, make a 1/4 inch deep slit with a razor blade in an arc from one side to the other.  This is to take care of the "oven spring", that last gasping cresendo of the yeast before it breathes its last.  Your bread will then look nice when you take it out as opposed to a giant lopsided hamburger bun.


By the way, these were slightly overproofed because I went jogging during the second rise.  Otherwise the oven spring would have been more substantial.  You can see the purpose of the arced cut though, right?

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