Thursday, June 14, 2007

The best bread ever

I've been making the lion's share of the bread consumed in whatever household I've lived in for the past 17 or so years. Having children 10 years ago brought the first bread machine into my life (a good machine, it lasted me through every-other-day use for about 7 years). Our old machine packed it in a while back and Mom and Dad gave us theirs, which they didn't really use. It's a great machine and very serviceable (it's been in heavy use since it came to reside with us), but sometimes I crave the well developed crumb of a thrice-risen loaf and will make our bread the long way, the old fashioned way.

About 9 years ago, when Oldest was very small, I had a recipe for traditional French bread. It was a marvel of crusty wonderfullness, and somehow, through time, I misplaced the recipe and had no luck finding anything that came close...until now. I found this recipe while tripping around the web the other day (if it comes from your blog, let me know! I want to give you credit!) and thought it sounded about right:

  • 3 C all purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 5/8 C warm water
  • Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 C water, and stir until blended. The 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.

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.

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 on towel and dust with more flour (or whatever you're using) and 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.

At least half hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6 - 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 - 30 minutes until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Makes one 1 1/2 lb loaf.

I started the dough yesterday at about 3 pm, and had it out of the oven at around 8:30 this morning. It's wonderful. No sugar, as the yeast has long enough to work on the wheat gluten and make a delicious, light, well developed crumb. Simplicity at it's finest.

I'm heading out of town here early tomorrow morning, to a quilt show in Grand Forks. It runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and I'll be there in my booth with a selection of the fabrics that are in stock right now. I look forward to seeing many ladies I've not seen in a while. If you're in our neck of the woods, pop in and say hi!

Until next time,



Debra Spincic said...

You never cease to amaze me!

Quilt Nut said...

that looks very tasty! hope you had a great time at the show

Mama Koch said...

I printed this out and will let you know how it works at my house.