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Toward Better Bread

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

From bread expert Mark Furstenberg and Chef on Call columnist and former chef David Hagedorn:

· A bell-shaped clay baking cloche (available at kitchen stores such as Williams-Sonoma) creates a perfect steam-oven environment for baking bread and a really nice, crisp crust. It is soaked in water for about half an hour before use.

· The best way to store bread is cut side down on the counter, uncovered. It will last that way for several days. The crust doesn't soften; no mold grows. The end piece may be a little dry, but nothing else will be. Then you just toast the end piece.

· For deeper flavor in a rye sponge/starter, use dark rye flour. White rye flour, which is refined, is hard to find in stores, but several brands are available through online purveyors.

· If you have diastatic malt powder, add a small amount (no more than 0.5 percent of the weight of the flour used) to the sponge/starter or to dough that you want to keep in the refrigerator for a long time; it will add life to the dough by giving the yeast something to feed on. Barley malt syrup also may be used.

· Clean dough from used bowls with a rubber spatula. Scrape off any hardened dough with a knife. Keep it away from your cleaning sponge; once dough gets on a sponge, the sponge is ruined.

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