Water-Proofed? Seriously, what that mean? When I read that Elle, from Feeding My Enthusiasms, decided to choose a recipe from James Beard’s “Beard On Bread” my first thought was good on you for going back to the classics. But this is no classic; this is pure inventive thinking. Could Elle be serious about this “method”? I immediately went looking for my old 1974 edition and sure enough, on page 142, Water-proofed bread. “The bread is called “water-proofed” because the dough is submerged in a bath of water for the first rising”. How is this even possible and what in the world made him think of even trying this? And it works… I wish that he would have embellished on this method since it says nothing about it in the book and I couldn’t find anything on the internet about the origins of this. Anyone out there have any clues? If so, please fill me in. I guess all that matters is that the end result is light, airy and delicious.
Please make sure to head over to Elle’s site for the original recipe since the recipe in the book immediately following water-proofed bread is water-proofed egg twists, which is what I made. Same concept, different shape. The recipe calls for rolling the dough in sugar and chopped nuts while shaping and since I had some hazelnut praline on hand I thought this would be a nice way to use it. You will need a large bowl to fill with water that will be able to hold your dough, and a clean kitchen towel to wrap the dough in. The towel will get quite messy since the dough will want to stick to it so I would recommend a tight weaved cotton towel so no fibers get picked up by the dough.
there are a few interpretive questions I had about the recipe and it’s methods. It calls for 3 1/2 cups of flour but he only mentions 3 cups in the recipe. You will need all 3 1/2 cups. It calls for 1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces. The length of kneading was sketchy to me so I just used my standing mixer and kneaded for about 10 minutes. Like I said, the end result was delicious.
This was a really interesting method to making bread and I am toying with the idea of trying it with a different bread recipe just to see if it works with something like rye bread or an olive loaf. In the meantime, Bake On!
Water-Proofed Egg Twists
makes 18 buns (they also freeze beautifully after baking)
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1/2 Cup plus 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 Cup warm water (no hotter than 110 f)
3 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 Cup (4 oz) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 Cup warm milk (no hotter than 110F)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, or the seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
1/2 Cup finely chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, or pecans
Mix 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and the chopped nuts; set aside
Proof the yeast with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in the warm water. Put 2 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl and add the salt and butter. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles course meal. I pulsed it a few times in my mini food processor instead. Add the milk and the yeast mixture, and beat well. Add the eggs, vanilla, and the remaining flour and beat until springy and airy. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 1 minute. I added everything at once and kneaded, using my standing mixer and dough hook, for 10 minutes.
Okay, now for the fun part. Get a large bowl and fill it with tepid water (about 90F). Spread a clean, cotton kitchen towel on the counter and flour it liberally. Place the dough into the center and wrap it up just like a present.
It will sink like the Titantic.
Let it sit for 40 minutes and it will magically float to the top.
Remove it from the bowl, letting the excess water drip off, and unwrap the dough. Scrape the dough from the towel (it will be pretty messy) onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball, kneading in a little flour since it will be quite sticky. Make 18 pieces. I used a scale and weighed them out in 50 gram increments.
Spread your sugar nut mixture out and roll the dough pieces in it, rolling the dough out into 8 inch logs. Pinch the ends together and then twist into a figure eight.
Place onto a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with lightly greased plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise for another 30-40 minutes. I like to put my pan in the cold oven, on the middle rack, with a bowl of hot water placed onto the bottom rack. I then in keep it in until I preheat the oven.
Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool before eating.