The wonderful thing about bread recipes is how versatile they are. For years I’ve made what some countries call “hot water bread” which is a quick French bread with a simple cake-like center and a nice crust. You can make that kind of bread in about three hours and use different kinds of flour, seeds, herbs, etc. One of my favorite breads has onion and dill seed in it.
Nowadays, chewy, crusty artisan breads are all the rage with a stringy interior and a lot of lovely, large holes — the more the better. Recently I came across a recipe that makes it quite easy to create this kind of bread at home. You will need a large Dutch oven with a lid that can be placed in the oven — I have a Le Creset knock-off which works great. The main ingredient in making this style of bread is time. I leave the dough fermenting in a bowl on my pastry table for up to 24 hours, although you can bake the dough any time after 12-14 hours. Here are the ingredients:
- 4 cups all-purpose flour (or sometimes I use 3 all-purpose and 1 whole wheat)
- ½ scant teaspoon dry yeast granules
- 2 teaspoons salt—not scant!
- 2 cups tepid water
I use a medium-sized glass mixing bowl and I first mix the three dry ingredients together and then pour in the water. I stir the dough together with a rubber spat until it forms a ball — no kneading necessary. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and as I said just let it do its thing for 12-14 hours, or even longer. When you’re ready to bake the bread, place the Dutch oven inside the oven at 500 degrees for 20 minutes. (I use a convection oven at 470 degrees.) The Dutch oven must be very hot. On a surface lightly dusted with flour and bran or flaxseed meal, carefully scoop out the foamy dough and pat it gently into an oval about 1 inch thick. Fold in each side then fold the top over the bottom to make a sort of envelope. Pinch the top fold together and turn the dough upside down and get as much bran or flaxseed around the dough as possible. Open the oven and take the lid of the hot Dutch oven and place the dough, folded side up, into the pot. Cover with the lid. Bake 30-35 minutes with the lid on and another 10-15 minutes with the lid off. You’ll be amazed at the quality and crusty goodness of this bread — try it soon — I mix the dough at night before I go to bed and bake it the next day when I get home from work. Bon Appétit!