Thursday, July 8, 2010

Canvas Dough-Proofing Sheets and Baguettes

I hope my regular readers will forgive me yet another post about bread and baking paraphernalia.  Jim Lahey's bread recipe, the subject of an earlier post, requires a floured, non-terrycloth dish towel for the dough to proof in.  Since I have been making bread about two times a week, I decided (for the sake of my kitchen towels) that it was time to make some heavier duty canvas sheets, to be used solely for proofing dough.  I bought 3/4 of a yard of 100% cotton canvas.  First, I pressed the fabric and evened up all of the edges.  I cut the sheet in half, width-wise, making two slightly rectangular pieces of cloth.

With the first piece, I cut a 1" square from each corner.  Then I folded the edges of the squares down to form right triangles (see photo).  Once all of the triangles had been created (eight total, two at each corner), I folded the entire length of each side down 1/2" and pressed these folds.  Once all four edges were folded down 1/2," I folded the edges down another 1/2."  This creates mitered corners and hides all of the raw edges.  Essentially, you are making a giant canvas dinner napkin.  I stitched down all of the edges and corners.  Once I had completed the second sheet exactly like the first, I washed them both and pressed them again.

I baked bread today using the no-knead method.  When the dough had gone through a first rise overnight, I divided it and placed each piece on my well-floured canvas sheet to rise again.  Also, after I realized how obsessed I was becoming with his recipe, I followed Lahey's lead and purchased several Romertopf bakers.  Essentially, they are pieces of unglazed terra cotta (lead-free and cadmium-free, of course) that help food retain moisture as it cooks.  Like the cast iron dutch oven in the basic recipe, the terra cotta bakers help mimic a steam-injected professional oven.  The bakers are soaked in water for 10 minutes before they are heated.  Because they are sensitive to dramatic changes in temperature, the bakers are placed in a cold oven and allowed to heat with it.  Once my dough had risen (the canvas sheet worked like a charm), I baked two baguettes using the Romertopf French/Italian bread bakers on a pizza stone base.

I plan on using my canvas sheets whenever I am proofing dough.  This  method could also be used to make table linens, such as napkins and tablecloths.  I hope you will consider purchasing fabric and tailoring your own linens for your kitchen and dining needs.  Be creative and enjoy!