Sunday, March 18, 2007

Staff of Life

My brother Bobby sent me a recipe for artisan bread that was completely uncomplicated regarding ingredients, but did take almost 24 hours from start to end of baking. It's a gorgeous loaf of bread -- see for yourself! I haven't tasted it yet, but I'm sure it's going to be lovely and crusty. Here's the recipe, verbatim from Bobby. My added comments are in []:

3 cups bread flour
1/4 tsp rapid rise yeast [yes, that is *just* 1/4 teaspoon]
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tbls tepid water

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add water and stir until blended. Dough will be shaggy and very sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours but preferrably 18 hours [mine took even a bit longer than that], at warm room temperature. Mine did fine at a lower temp, about 64 that we keep our house. Dough is ready when the surface is dotted with bubbles.
Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface; sprinkle dough with a little more flour, and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest about 15 minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surfaces or your fingers; gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously dust a cotton (not terry) kitchen towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. I used flour and it stuck to the towel but I peeled it off with no ill effects. [I used cornmeal with no sticking whatsoever.] Put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour. Cover with another towel and let rise for 2 to 3 hours. Dough should about double in size. [Mine didn't seem exactly double, but I didn't think it would go any further at that point.] At least 30 minutes before dough is ready, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put a heavy covered pot (cast iron,enamel, pyrex or ceramic -- 4 to 8 qrts) in oven as it heats. I used an enamel pot, Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot [me too]. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn dough over into the pot, seam side up. It may look like a mess, but thats ok. [Mine wasn't messy at all -- the dough had kind of gotten a 'skin' all over it.] Shake pan once or twice if dough is distributed unevenly. It will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is nicely browned. [I baked covered for about 26 minutes and then just maybe 5 minutes uncovered as it was already pretty brown.] Cool on rack. Don't eat until cooled, at least the first loaf. [I assume this is to get the full effect of the crust...]

Thanks, Bobby! I can't wait to eat it!

UPDATE: It's perfect! So good!

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