After a morning with chef Aaron Anderson and sous chef Jason Rosenberg in Harlow’s Kitchen, my cooking mind was still engaged as I wandered over to check out Marbella Farmers Market in the same San Juan Capistrano center. (Pretty nice store, by the way.)
There’s just a whole lot of start-from-scratch cooking going on at Harlow’s, like smoked tomato marmalade that starts with tomato concassé—tomatoes painstakingly blanched, peeled, quartered, seeded—smoked in batches on the stovetop before being cooked down and seasoned with salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar gastrique, itself a separate preparation of vinegar reduced to a thick syrup—seriously reduced. What had been a full pot was less than an inch deep. All this for a condiment to dress the Harlow burger, a special sirloin-brisket grind Anderson specifies from his meat supplier. Even though the marmalade is also used on Anderson’s short-rib flatbread when it’s on the menu, that’s a lot of preparation for a single component.
But it was the bread I was here to see. As a bread baker, my interested is always piqued when I hear about a restaurant making its own. Great bread can be delivered to a restaurant’s door—and Harlow’s uses Dean Kim’s excellent OC Baking brioche burger bun for the aforementioned burger—though the mystique of fresh, house-made bread is undeniable.
Harlow’s makes dough for its seasonally-changing flatbreads (the bases get their start on the grill where they develop appealing bubbles and spots of char) and loaves baked in individual Staub cocottes. Soft ovals with a thin, chewy crust, the loaves are sent to each table warm—and this is definitely where I should mention that the beautifully creamy, salted butter alongside is also house-made.
Anderson and Rosenberg were happy to share their bread recipe, sized down for home kitchens. Sadly lacking a set of Staub cocottes, I made six mini, 4-inch-by-6-inch loaves, but it could be baked in two 1-pound loaf pans or shaped into rolls. Just add butter.
Harlow’s Kitchen Bread
(Makes 6 mini or 2 larger loaves)
2 ¼ tablespoons (1 packet) active dry or instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ cups water, about 105 degrees
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
Additional flour as needed
Nonstick baking spray
1 egg yolk whisked with 1 teaspoon water
Note: If using instant yeast, do not proof—just combine all ingredients and mix. Harlow’s uses King Arthur Flour’s all-purpose flour, which is higher in protein than other brands. If using a different brand, more flour may be necessary to make a smooth dough.
Proof active dry yeast by combining with water and sugar. Set aside 5 minutes before continuing.
In bowl of stand mixer, combine yeast mixture, salt, butter, and 4 cups flour. Mix until shaggy dough forms, then knead with dough hook 6 minutes, adding up to 1 cup additional flour as necessary to make smooth dough.
Form dough into ball, place in large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with baking spray if desired. Allow to rise in warm place 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray loaf pans with baking spray. Gently deflate dough and shape as desired. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise until ½-inch over top of pans.
For mini loaves, bake 20 minutes. Remove from oven, brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt, then bake 2 to 3 minutes more.
Remove from pans and cool on rack.