Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime. Give him ramen noodles, and you don’t have to teach him anything.
- Lawrence Downes
Sorry to be trendy, but I was so excited about this bread that I went out and bought a new enamel cast-iron Dutch oven for the occasion (a cheap one, but still). This recipe is from the New York Times, Mark Bittman's column. You can find comments from other bakers here. I tried it, and it came out pretty well - nice structure - but I left the oven temp at 400 because that's what the directions on the pot said to do, and I also didn't leave it in quite long enough. My crust came out chewy rather than crisp, and the lower temp could explain that. A blog commenter noted that 1 1/2 cups of water works better than the specified 1 5/8.
Re. the yeast - I bought three packets, and poured them all into a small jar for the fridge, since I was only going to use 1/4 teaspoon this time. It was as well nice to have homemade bread, for once, that didn't taste strongly of yeast.
I do hope that someone will come up with some variations, such as rye or challah.
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 [Note: 1 1/2 is plenty, unless you are using a large proportion of whole wheat flour] cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; 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 beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.