Another five minutes' work this morning, and there's fragrant fresh bread for lunch. Not a smooth round ball, because I'm cack-handed. But who cares, when it's gone in minutes? This is a good daily loaf, achieved with very little effort (see previous posts for details).
It takes a little more salt than I usually use in my bread, but that is both to preserve the dough in the fridge and to keep fermentation in check (a couple of months ago I posted at length about the role of salt in bread dough).
If you like, you can replace some of the white flour with wholemeal, but not too much, or you'll lose the lightness.
This type of baking originated in the US: Jim Lahey's no-knead bread swept the blogosphere a couple of years ago; around the same time Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois published Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Peter Reinhart is currently testing recipes for a second book on the subject. These notes are based on a recipe in Hertzberg and Francois's book, which I have adapted for a European kitchen.* Americans cook and bake using cup measures, which are in some ways very freeing. But with bread, I like to know what I'm doing so that I can do it again, and that means weighing. I use a very cheap scale, the sort you can re-set to zero between ingredients. Perfect for weighing water, yeast, salt and flour into a box - no washing up. And if you like the taste of sourdough, no need to wash it up between batches.
Dough to make four loaves over a fortnight
5 litre food-grade plastic box
650ml cups of water
15g tablespoons dried yeast
20g tablespoons Maldon salt
780g cups strong white flour
cornmeal / flour for dusting
- Weigh the water into your box. Add yeast and salt, then the flour. Mix with a spoon until there are no more lumps of flour. You should have a shaggy mess. Cover the box loosely, and leave for 2-5 hours. I use water straight from the tap and leave for four or five hours; if you use water warmed to no hotter than blood heat, this stage could take as little as 2-3 hours.
- When the dough is smooth (see yesterday's photo if in doubt), put it in the fridge. You could use it straight away, but after 2-3 hours, it will be easier to handle (and this is a material consideration).
- When you are ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour over the dough, then pull off roughly a quarter (do it by eye). You will probably have to cut it with a bread knife, and you should flour this first. Stretch the dough, pulling it out as if you were playing an accordion. Then, on a floured board, tuck the ends underneath four times, giving a quarter turn each time. This will give you a boule (the smoothness of which will be related to how well you played your accordion). Put this on a floured peel - just a flat metal baking sheet in the absence of anything fancier. Leave it to rest for half an hour.
- Put a stone in the oven and switch it on to very hot: 220C - more, if you can. Flick the dough** from the peel onto the stone***, shut the door, then add a low baking tin with a little water into the oven. Half an hour. You might finish it upside down if it's not quite ready when you check. Cool it on a rack.
* These notes should be enough for an experienced baker to follow. If you're having difficulty, email me and I'll try to help out. Better still, buy the book, as it's full of wonderful variations on the basic doughs. But if you're European, you'll also need a set of US measuring cups.
**This is tricky, and I suspect there are demos on YouTube. But however mis-shapen your loaf is when you deposit it onto the stone, it will rise magnificently in the oven. And it will still taste good. (This dough is first cousin to the NY Times loaf that hit the blogosphere a couple of years ago, and would therefore, I suppose, bake well in a hot covered Le Creuset pan instead of free-form on a stone.)
***You can spend a lot of money on this, or you can buy a paving slab at the builders' merchant.
Daily bread 2
Six seed rolls
Bread knots - another simple way to make beautiful and delicious rolls, using this dough, or your default dough
Yeast starter for bread - and the bread make your own sourdough starter
No-knead bread the famous NY Times recipe
Speeded-up no-knead bread and a different take on it
Yoghurt bread fabulous, easy, TRY IT
Quick oat loaf
Spelt bread - it's getting easier to buy this highly-flavoured flour
Anti-oxidant tea bread - I made this for my husband for a pre-surgery boost - delicious, too!
Yeast conversion - fresh/dried/quick
Things to do with stale or leftover bread
Herb stuffing for roast chicken
Grilled trout with rosemary stuffing