Sunday, February 15, 2009

James Beard's Cuban bread

After turning to my sole baking book, Paula Peck's classic The Art of Fine Baking, for a little education, I decided to try the recipe for Cuban bread popularized by James Beard. It's a water bread (no fats) which means that it won't keep for more than a couple of days, but it freezes well.

It's a simple yeast bread: yeast, salt, sugar, water, and flour. The dough is kneaded until smooth and rises for about 40 minutes in order to double in volume. Then it is punched down, formed into three long thin loaves, and placed into a cold oven which is then set to 350. The loaves rise a bit more before baking for a total of about an hour. So, it's a pretty quick and easy operation.

The loaves are brushed with water before baking, so they look a little slimy.

I was very pleased with the result. Nice crispy crust, soft interior, and a mild flavor. A bit saltier than necessary. It's good plain, but very good with butter. I didn't make very uniform or attractive loaves, obviously.

The next day I took a foil-wrapped loaf to Dan & Sandy's for our belated post-snow Christmas. The crust was no longer crispy, but it perked up bit upon reheating and still tasted great. It was well-liked and worked very well for sandwiches of assorted meats and cheeses.

This photo is of the first loaf I sliced, which was both the smallest and not fully cooled, so it's a bit squashed. The larger loaf was a good size for small sandwiches when diagonally sliced, and had a slightly more open structure.

I believe this would be the proper type of bread for Cuban sandwiches although it does seem from this and other recipes I've seen that it should contain some lard.

No comments: