european peasant bread
the girl recently surprised me with a copy of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, a book that aims to simplify the process of making fancy high-quality bread. i definitely recommend it, even if i had trouble believing that the authors could pull off the concept before tasting it myself. the basic idea is that you can make bake great bread that tastes like you spent much more time on it than you really did – no starters or kneading necessary. that’s right, no kneading.
with most of the recipes in the book, an overly wet dough is quickly mixed together and allowed to rise in the bowl straight away. it is then quickly shaped into loaves after a few hours of rising. for those few seconds that the dough was actually in my hands for shaping, i was tempted to start working it on the counter to get a consistency i was more comfortable with, but the whole point is to let the ingredients do their job.
restraint definitely pays off with these recipes. i know mark bittman’s no-knead bread was all the rage, but the rising time for the original recipe is 12-18 hours. this peasant bread rose for 2 hours, and then another 40 minutes after it was shaped and as the oven warmed up. the crust and crumb were delicious, and as the smell of this bread filled the apartment, it made me want to grab a loaf and have a picnic in the park with a block of cheese and a cheap bottle of wine.
since my kitchen is about 40 degrees most mornings, there’s only more incentive this season to fire up the oven and bake a fresh loaf of bread every day or two. join me, won’t you?
european peasant bread
makes 4 loaves (so this recipe can be easily halved). from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tbsp instant yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5 1/2 cups flour
1. mix the salt and yeast with the water in a large bowl. mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading. the dough will be very wet. cover with a towel and allow to rest at room temperature for about 2 hours.
2. at this point you can use the dough or refrigerate (it will keep for about 2 weeks). if you are going to make the bread right away, it’s still a good idea to refrigerate the dough for an hour or two so it is easier to handle.
3. cut off a section of the dough (1/4 if you make enough for 4 loaves), and dust it with flour. quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered baking sheet. while the dough is rising, heat the oven to 450 F and place an empty broiler tray (i used a small casserole dish) on the lowest rack in the oven. if you are baking on a baking stone, place it in the oven to heat up with the oven.
4. when the oven is ready and the dough has risen, sprinkle the loaf liberally with flour and make a few 1/4 inch deep slashes on the top using a serated bread knife (a cross or tic-tac-toe pattern both work). leave the flour on top of the loaf during baking.
5. place the baking sheet into the oven (or slide the dough onto your baking stone). pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, quickly close the oven and bake for about 35 minutes. the top should get a good hard crust and will be deeply browned. allow to cool on a cooling rack and brush off excess flour from the top of the loaf before slicing.