created: 2007-02-04 02:41:53
This is from Mark Bittman in the New York Times, who says he adapted it from Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery. I love fresh bread, but before seeing this recipe, I rarely made it because of the hassle. The kneading puts a lot of people off, but that doesn't bother me; for me it's the rising. You mix the ingredients, wait for a few hours, punch it down, wait another few hours, form a loaf, wait another hour, and then half the day is gone and you're still in your pajamas, and you swear never to bake another loaf of bread again. This recipe does away with all that; most of the rising takes place overnight. There's an additional rise of a couple of hours after that, but, let's be honest, it takes many people about that long to wake up in the morning anyway. I've even skipped that additional rising step a few times and it came out fine. The other unusual thing is that the first part of the baking is done in a covered pot, which traps moisture around the bread, so the bread is moist under the crust. (Professional baking ovens inject steam to get this same result.)
Ingredients: 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting. 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast 1 1/4 teaspoons salt cornmeal or wheat bran as needed [I usually use half white, half whole wheat. Also, rather than keep bread flour around, I use regular flour and add 3 tablespoons of wheat gluten] 1) In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add 1 5/8 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. [I have skipped this "resting" and it came out fine.] 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 OK. 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 1 1/2 pound loaf.