Bread baking in Iqaluit

I’m in Iqaluit for a January internship! Somehow, this has translated into cooking up a storm (though I can’t be held responsible for the blizzard that blew through on my 5th day here / 2nd day at work). Between aimless internet rabbit holes and late night classes (and much to the boy’s chagrin), my fall semester was very much not full of kitchen adventures (though: turducken. Which is a back-burner blog post to come).

I decided to make bread, a two fold challenge: 1) I can count on one hand the number of loaves I’ve ever made (the boy is the baker) and 2) I would have to mix the dough by hand (our Kitchen Aid is one of my favourite kitchen acquisitions). Mixing dough by hand gives me pause in appreciating generations past – grandmothers and wives who made bread for years without gadgets.

Below chronicles my very exciting Friday night / Saturday morning. Following that is the recipe the boy’s instructions – let me know if you decide to give it a go!

Feb 17, 11:54PM: By this point, my roommate had gone to bed. I’d been kneading this for about 20 minutes, after my panicked phone call to the boy to troubleshoot the dough. He chastised me for not using water that was “cold as balls.” I subsequently replaced the lid on the pot (there are no mixing bowls here), put this in the fridge, and crossed my fingers.

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Feb 18, 6:30AM: my alarm goes off, and I groggily make it to the kitchen to take the dough out. (Since I failed at the cold-as-balls-water part of the instructions (see below), the boy suggested I delay the bread overnight, giving it 3 hours to rise before baking).

Feb 18, 6:33AM: promptly fall back asleep

Feb 18, 9:45AM: baking! I’d say the whole thing was pretty darn successful.

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Single rise / quick overnight bread, per the boy’s instructions (and my annotations)

6 cup flour
2 1/4 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp yeast

2 1/4 cup to 3 cups of ice cold water (probably closer to 3 cups, if not more… the dough is a liquid-y/sticky one). Ice cold water = water that has sat with a handful of ice cubs for a while. You might even want to stick the water in the freezer for a bit.

Mix the dry ingredients together so they’re evenly distributed. Add water (start with 2 1/4 cups.. move up if necessary). Mix in water. Knead the dough until it passes the window-pane test (here’s a good explanation of the window-pane test).

2 options arise: 1) make the dough at night, and leave it on the counter overnight to bake in the morning, or 2) put the dough immediately in the fridge (for up to a few days), and take it out later to bake. Option 2 will take about 3 hours. The dough will approximately double in size.

Degas as little as possible when handling the dough. The goal of shaping the dough is increasing surface tension of the loaf. (Check out this clip for dough shaping techniques).

You can let the dough hang out / relax a bit after shaping it (or not – I was lazy and didn’t). I made 3 medium sized loaves – you could easily make 4 to 6 little ones, or 2 bigger ones. It really depends. Cooking time will depend on size, too.

Oven needs to be SUPER HOT (technical term): 550 degrees F. Then you can embark on the steam-in-the-oven-trick (here’s a good description of why steam is awesome) — be careful! — I just poured a cup of water directly onto the bottom of the oven. It does indeed produce a great deal of steam, so if you can hold the cup of water with an oven mitt, that would be a safer option than bare hands. Right after the steam water trick, turn the oven down to 500 for the remaining duration of the baking.

The bread should cook quickly – around 15 or 20 minutes (estimated timing for if the batch was split into 2 loaves). The bread will turn a lovely deep reddish brown colour. Because I’m a fairly tentative baker, the boy advised me to cook this for longer than I’m comfortable with — as you can see above, the loaves become a lovely deep reddish brown when they’re done.

They’re done when they sound hollow to the tap / internal temperature is around 190 degrees (here’s another take on when bread is done baking).

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