The innkeepers took a break from the Northeast cold and snow and spent last week in Napa and San Fransisco, CA. It was amazing! Overwhelming! Inspiring! There was just so much to try and so little time… we came home equipped with all sorts of new knowledge about food and wine and some ideas to try for the inn.
Bouchon Bakery is a gorgeous spot for bread and pastries in Yountville, CA. While we don’t have their fabulous kitchen (or world famous bakers!) this spot inspired us to bake some of our own bread to serve with breakfast here at the inn.
This recipe for French Bread with Beer – shared by our guest and new friend Kathy – was a great way to start. And bread baking on a cold, snowy day was a lovely way to take my mind off of the 65 degree temperatures that we left behind in sunny CA! The finished product is beautiful and tastes like a dense, flavorful baguette… perfect to eat with a beef stew or with a smear of herb-y soft cheese.
French Bread with Beer
1 1/2 cups beer or ale (I used Pabst Blue Ribbon)
1 tbsp dry yeast
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp light oil (I used canola oil)
2 tsp salt
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour or stone-ground cornmeal (I used a combination)
Heat the beer until it’s warm (not hot), pour into a large mixing bowl, add the honey and yeast, stir and let sit until the yeast is dissolved and bubbling (about 30 minutes).
Add the maple syrup, oil, salt and white flour and beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Gradually add about 2 cups of the whole wheat flour (simply hand mix at this point, with a heavy wooden spoon) or as much as it takes to make the dough pull away from the sides of the bowl and form a blob.
Plop the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic. Sprinkle on more whole wheat flour if it is too sticky.
Put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat on all sides and cover and let rise until dough has doubled in bulk (I waited over an hour).
Punch the dough down and press out any air bubbles, plop it again onto a lightly floured surface and cut it in half. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
Butter a large baking sheet and dust with cornmeal. Use a rolling pin to roll each half into a rectangle-ish shape (I continued sprinkling flour on the counter, dough & rolling pin throughout this process). With your fingers, roll up each rectangle along the long axis to create something like a tight jelly roll. Pinch the ends of the rolls and tuck them under a bit. Transfer the rolls onto the prepared baking sheet, seam side down. Make several diagonal slashes along the top of each roll with a sharp knife. Brush the tops with melted butter, cover with the kitchen towel and let them rise until almost doubled (I put the pan in a warm spot, which seemed to help!).
While you wait, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, fill a spray bottle with clean cold water and have a large cup of water handy (near the oven). Just before you put the loaves in the oven, spray them a bit with water and splash some water onto the floor of the oven (to create a cloud of steam). Pop the pan in and quickly close the door.
Repeat the splashing/steam cloud creation again after 5 minutes and then a third time after 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes or until the bottom of the loaves sound hollow when tapped (total baking time approximately 25 minutes).
Cool on a rack and try a slice with some salted butter as soon as they are cool enough to handle!
Happy Bread Baking!
Kate & Joe