After reading this, I was really freaked out, but determined. After all, the Lean Dough recipe seemed simple enough- only 4 ingredients: bread flour, instant dry yeast, water, and salt. Well, the recipe in the book makes 8 pounds of bread dough. And the measurements are in pounds and ounces. Sooo, I quarted the recipe (to make just 2 loaves of bread), but had to use the google measurement converter to figure out how much of everything to put in (and had some really weird measurements, like 13.667 ounces of water...). I was a little weary of how it would turn out due to the weird measurements. And the fact that my trusty red KitchenAid mixer seemed to not like mixing up bread dough so much. I had to kind of keep shoving it back in the bowl, but alas, I had a dough that was mixed to the "improved stage of gluten development" (which is a smooth dough that sticks together, but when you go to stretch it, it tears).
Next, I had to let the dough "bulk ferment" (rise) for 30 minutes. Then fold it. Then let it "ferment" (rise) for another 30 minutes. Then fold it again. Then let it "ferment" (rise some more) for another 15 minutes. Getting impatient here....
Then it was time to divide the dough into two loaves and preshape it into two large rounds (I actually did that pretty well, I think!). I then had to let the dough "rest" (rise some more) for 30 minutes. Then I had to shape the dough rounds into boules, which was kind of a weird concept the way it is explained ("Using your thumbs, push the dough away from you in an arc to the right, keeping a small piece of dough between the table and the edges of your palms. Using the edges of your palms as a guide, pull the dough toward you in an arc to the left."--huh?), but I think I winged it well. Well, then I had to let the loaves "proof" (rise some MORE) for another hour.
Now comes the confusing part. The recipe said to "presteam" my oven at 460 degrees. My trusty Google failed me here, as did my backup, ask.com. No one could tell me what in God's name it means to presteam your oven. Apparently, large restaurant/bakery ovens have this function. My little oven does not. Well, a call to Aunt Peggy solved the problem. She told me that when Granny made homemade bread, she let it rise in a warm oven with a pan of boiling water in the bottom. Perfect! So, while my oven pre-heated to a scorching 460 degrees, I just put a cake pan full of water in the bottom of the oven and let it boil! I had to steam the bread for a whole 3 seconds (ummm, okay...?) and then pull the pan of water out (I guess...).
Soooo, my house then starts to smell AMAZING! I was told to bake the bread for 25-30 minutes "...until the crust is golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom." Oh, and I had to vent it the last 10 minutes of baking, which I suppose meant opening the oven door.
I really thought this was going to turn out to be an absolute disaster. But this turned out to be absolutely AMAZING. The loaves sounded perfectly hollow when I thumped them! They smelled amazing adn turned a beautiful golden brown! After they cooled a little, I pulled one loaf open, and the crust is perfectly flaky and crispy and the inside is deliciously fluffy and doughy!!!! It's like the warm bread they serve at Bonefish, but even BETTER! I must admit, I'm very proud of myself, and I don't know if there will be any left for my guinea pigs to sample!!! (Nothing like freshly baked bread for an almost-midnight snack).
So I'm extremely pleased with my very first success! This is essentially the thing I love most about baking: being able to make something so delicious out of a few simple things. <3 Here are some pics of my Lean Dough Bread....enjoy! Up next, BAGELS! (If I can find the weird ingredients it calls for...hmm. Anyone know where to get Diastatic malt syrup?)