October 23, 2011 – Community Oven

So it’s sad when you reach a point in your life when you are proud to have stayed awake beyond 9:00PM.  This was our weekend – we had celebratory drinks at a friend’s house on Friday night and went to bed at midnight.  Impressive.  Saturday night there were six of us for dinner at a friend’s house and we went to bed at 1:00AM.  Amazing!  And then last night, exhausted from our “party weekend,” we high-fived because “Babe!  We made it to 10:00!”  There was a period in my life, as in most people’s lives, when this would have been considered pathetic.  But in the here in now, we were rock stars!!

Despite my desire to curl up with a blanket and watch a few movies on Sunday, I powered through the exhaustion and headed for the kitchen.  I had been anxiously anticipating this day for a month… there was another community oven bake that evening and I had breads to make.  The three I chose to make this time:  again, my Great Grandfather’s amazing Oatmeal Molasses Bread; a Seeded Molasses Bread; and a Russian Black Bread.

The bake was preceded by the debut of Baking Bread!*, a documentary chronicling the construction of the oven, and a tribute to both Jean Laberge**, the bread oven maker from Québec who oversaw the project, and the many people who cheerfully came to volunteer their time.  It was fascinating to see how this thing was constructed – it made me want an oven of my very own… but unless I go commercial, just how much bread can one person consume?!  At this point I have enough to last me the next six weeks, including one remaining loaf from the previous community bake.

All my bread turned out beautifully: the aroma, intoxicating; the crust, ragged and rustic and a deep amber color; the interior, soft and dense; and the taste can not be beat.  My quest, however, will have to continue for a true old-world Russian Black Bread recipe.  This one was good, but if you have ever had the real deal from the Russian/Jewish neighborhood of Brighton Beach down in NYC, then you would know that this recipe was not even close.

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Recipes

Great Gramps Oatmeal Molasses Bread
I apologize, but this is one of those special recipes I keep for myself.

Seeded Molasses Bread
Yield: 2 loaves

1 1/2 cups warm milk, 105° to 110° F
1 cup warm water, 105° to 110° F
4 Tbs. butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
4-5 cups all purpose or bread flour (I used all purpose and it was fine)
1/8 tsp. ascorbic acid (this will help the dough rise – I used diastatic malt powder instead – to help the rise)
1 Tbs. instant yeast (or, active dry yeast will work)
1 Tbs. salt
3 Tbs. sunflower seeds
3 Tbs. poppy seeds
3 Tbs. sesame seeds
3 Tbs. flax seeds
1/2 cup molasses

Blend together the milk, water, melted butter, molasses, yeast and salt.  Add ascorbic acid (or diastatic malt powder), wheat flour and 2 cups of the white flour in a bowl.  Mix in the seeds.  Add the remaining flour gradually until the dough has formed a smooth ball

Remove dough to a floured surface and knead for 3-5 minutes until smooth and elastic.  Coat with flour, place in a wooden bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Punch down the dough and knead for 3-5 minutes.  Divide dough in half, shape into balls, coat with flour, place in wooden bowls, cover with towels and allow to rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

I baked mine in the community bread oven, but the recipe calls for the following.  Preheat oven to 375° F and place a baker’s stone on the center rack in the oven.  Place dough on the stone and bake 40-45 minutes or until the crust is amber in color and the bread sounds hollow when you knock it with your knuckle.  Remove loaves from oven and cool on a wire rack.

Russian Black Bread
Yield: 1 loaf
This is good bread, but it’s not the old world taste I was looking for.

1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
2 Tbs cider vinegar
2 1/2 cups all purpose or bread flour
1 cup rye flour
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 Tbs dark corn syrup
1 Tbs. brown sugar
3 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. instant coffee granules
1 Tbs. caraway seed
1/4 tsp. fennel seed (optional)
2 tsp. instant or active dry yeast

Mix together water, vinegar, salt, butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, coffee granules and yeast.  Add white and rye flours, cocoa powders and seeds.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead 3-5 minutes.  Coat with flour, place in a wooden bowl, cover with a towel and allow to rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

Punch down the dough and knead for 3-5 minutes.  Divide dough in half, shape into balls, coat with flour, place in wooden bowls, cover with towels and allow to rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 – 2 hours.

I baked mine in the community bread oven, but the recipe calls for the following.  Preheat oven to 375° F and place a baker’s stone on the center rack in the oven.  Place dough on the stone and bake 40-45 minutes or until the crust is crusty (hard to tell color on this dark bread) and the bread sounds hollow when you knock it with your knuckle.  Remove loaf from oven and cool on a wire rack.

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*Baking Bread!  Directed by Winnie Lambrecht and Peter O’Neill. Produced by Todd DeGarmo and Winnie Lambrecht.

**Jean Laberge has a great website (in French):  http://www.fourapain.ca/index.php

P.S. – Also mixed into this weekend was a family garage sale at my brother’s house.  Scott and I did not have much to sell, but I decided to participate.  I gathered up a few things, including a few bigger items, and thought I could make $100.  I was sadly mistaken.  Gross proceeds:  $26.  Net proceeds:  $0 because I split the loot with Scott and burned a ¼ tank of gas to and from the sale.  And had my mother actually accepted the $10 I offered her before driving away – my portion of the three-day newspaper ad – I would have been down -$10.  I hate garage sales… but as mom pointed out, I did have the pleasure of their company.  🙂

P.P.S – October 21, 2010 – Here is a link to an Amy Halloran article in Metroland about the bread oven.  I have taken many better images, but I received photo credit from the last community bake: http://metroland.net/2011/10/20/bakers-square/

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5 thoughts on “October 23, 2011 – Community Oven

  1. I am very proud of you! those look GREAT! we have a freezer with ~24 loaves of bread it in right now…. so year, it’s easy to overbake 🙂

    we had a garage sale this weekend too! Did ok ($186 total!) AND we stayed up past 11 on sat night as well! and, we too, were proud of ourselves!

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