Sunday, November 12, 2006

Bread Recipe

I've been baking bread a good bit lately, and I was pleased to find that this very simple and easy recipe (via Will Baude) works wonderfully. The distinctive features: Mix up the flour, a tiny bit of yeast, water, and salt the day before you want to have fresh bread. Then let it rise for 18 hours or so. No kneading. After a second rise, cook it in a covered pot of some sort.

I doubled the recipe so as to make two loaves. I only had one covered cast iron pot, which is maybe half the size that the recipe calls for:

Cooking the loaf in that enclosed environment is what allows the water in the loaf to create steam, which is essential for a nice crust.

I cooked the other loaf on a baking stone:

I read somewhere about the suggestion to put a brick at the top of the oven to reflect heat downwards, but I can't tell that it made any difference.

Here are the two loaves:

The loaf cooked in the cast-iron pot is at the bottom of the first picture, and the left of the second picture. That loaf turned out to have a much more interesting look, a better crust, and a lighter crumb. Absolutely delicious.

UPDATE: A lot of food bloggers have also been having very good results: see here, here, and here for just a few examples.

I should add that I used a half-and-half mixture of King Arthur unbleached bread flour and Bob's Red Mill stone-ground whole wheat flour, with three tablespoons of wheat germ mixed in.

Finally, I had just bought several books about artisanal breadmaking. I had tried various techniques, such as one recipe that required you to add in the flour a handful at a time while beating the dough with a wooden spoon for 50 strokes after each handful (results: good, but a lot of work). And now it turns out that the New York Times was about to print an even better and easier technique for free?


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