It seems that Andrew Whitley, in his book Bread Matters , also mentions having come across this method for proofing bread in some Russian cookbook written in the late 1800s where the dough was put into a bucket of water. The instructions apparently call for immersing the dough in water of the temperature of river water on a summer day (whatever that is in Russia) and is also why this method of proofing is also why some bakers refer to it as the Russian river bread floating test. James Beard describes this bread and making it - “Although the dough in this recipe is fairly difficult to handle, it makes a very delicate, brioche like bread with a rich, buttery, eggy taste. It is extraordinarily good, ideal for tea or for eating with butter, jam and marmalade, and toasts extremely well. It can be wrapped in plastic and frozen for 3-4 weeks. The bread is called ‘water-proofed’ because the dough is submerged in a bath of water for the first rising.”
While I like brioche and who doesn’t, “eggy” didn’t sound very promising to me. We don’t particularly mind eggs in breads so long as they keep themselves disguised without announcing their presence to us. I had originally planned to make half the recipe, but many of the Babes said the recipe made two small loaves, so I decided to make the full recipe but with some changes based on suggestions from those who had already baked the bread. A rather severe bout of viral fever and tonsillitis meant that I haven’t even been cooking let alone do any baking. Even though I had very good intentions of getting this bread made and posted in time for the 16th of the month deadline, that didn’t quite happen. Still as they say, better late than never.
I chose to make this bread a little less rich than suggested but please feel free to use the butter and eggs suggested in the original recipe.
I used two eggs instead of three, half the salt, cut down the butter to 75gms and used half the yeast suggested as we don’t like yeasty smelling/ tasting breads and 4 1/2 tsp of yeast seemed like way too much for about 4 cups of flour, even though it was for a rich dough!
I used water from the tap (filtered, not cold, and not warm) for the first rise since it didn’t make sense to me to use warm water for two reasons.
The first reason being, that using a water bath for this bread dough to rise suggests the need for a comparatively slower rise than at room temperature.
The second reason is that with the average daily temperatures here being around 34C, yeasted dough would rise pretty well on its own without the assistance of “warm” water.
A note on what to use to wrap the dough during its underwater rise. The suggestion in the recipe, is to use a cotton kitchen towel. I used a towel with a very close weave and found that not much of the risen dough (evn though it was a bit wet on the outseide when unwrapped) stuck to the wet towel.
This is probably because the close weave of the towel trapped the flour that was dusted on it and also prevented the wrapped dough from getting too soggy. So I would suggest using a towel with as tight a weave as you can find.
I also just loosely wrapped the dough well (my towel was large enough) and didn't tie ithe parcel to allow the dough enough space to expand. Of course, it is important to warp this well, so that the dough doesn't leak out!
If you do plan to make this bread, be prepared to work with very sticky dough, and wash one very messy towel with dough stuck to it. All this takes is soaking in some water, a couple of rubs by hand under running water to remove the dough and then a thorough wash and it should be clean. Also, do take a look at the original recipe before you plunge in (pun intended)! Would I bake this bread again? I think I would because this recipe makes some pretty good bread – very soft and brioche-like without being too rich. However, I would choose the less exciting method of letting the dough rise without all the water-proofing business. I don’t see how dunking the dough in water and then scraping dough off the wet tea towel, and then having to take the trouble of washing it out, really makes all that much of a difference to this bread.
The Bread Baking Babes are:
Bake My Day – Karen
Bread Baking Babe Bibliothécaire – Katie
Blog from OUR kitchen – Elizabeth
Feeding my enthusiasms – Elle
Girlichef – Heather
Life’s A Feast – Jamie
Living in the Kitchen with Puppies – Natashya
Lucullian Delights – Ilva
My Kitchen In Half Cups – Tanna
Notitie Van Lien – Lien
Bread Experience – Cathy
Elle at Feeding My Enthusiasms is the Kitchen of the Month . If you'd like to join us baking this bread as a Bread Baking Buddy, see the recipe for the Water-Proofed Bread and bake away (adaptations are allowed). Then post about it on you blog before March 29th, and send Elle your link (you can find the details on her blog).
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