Please go to Shan's place for more What's Cooking Wednesday participants.
Unless you don't read the news, or unless you have a personal shopper for groceries who doesn't want to bother you with the petty little details of how much things actually cost, you probably can't help but notice that the price of certain basic items are skyrocketing. Dairy products, grains, and oils, in particular, have been shooting up, and with grain prices rising, bread costs have also risen tremendously. Since I have a
Judy Thomas came to the rescue with her "Mother's Miracle Bread," which you can read about here. I love that bread, and so does my family, but it's relatively high in fat and calories, and I wanted to find something lighter. The Week came to my rescue with not one, but two, simple recipes under the title "The World's Two Easiest Breads". Now, I don't know about those folks in The Week, because the first recipe includes 20 hours' rising time, and if you're like me, that much planning ahead is a deal breaker. The second recipe however... ahhhhhhh..... perfect, crusty bread every time. It's truly baguette-like in consistency - crusty chewy on the outside, and soft and light on the inside. And easy-peasy.
The recipe looks complicated, but once you've done it the first time, you'll see how easy it is. This recipe makes four, small loaves - each one perfect for 2 - 4 people at a dinner or over a day's usage (unless you have a teenage boy in the house). I think I'm going to try to mix whole grains in the next time, but for this first series of loaves, they've been perfect.
I also found a wonderful English Muffin bread recipe which is equally easy, and I shall post that one next week. But for now, Nick Fox's New York Times article, as reprinted in The Week, gives us Dr. Jeff Hertzberg's recipe for:
Simple Crusty Bread
Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francis
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
4 cups water (yes, bread-makers, you read that right)
1 1/2 TBS yeast
1 1/2 TBS kosher salt
1. In a large bowl, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose (this is an UNDERSTATEMENT - the dough will be very, very sticky and unlike usual bread dough. Just forge ahead anyway.) Cover, but not with an airtight lid.
2. Let dough rise at room temperature at least two hours (and up to 5). Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. Here's a picture of half the dough after being in the fridge for a couple of days:
3. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on the dough. Tear off about a grapefruit-sized piece (it will be VERY sticky) and form it into a sort-of ball. Drop it onto a parchment paper or wax paper or silpat-lined surface sprinkled with LOTS of cornmeal. It will not be pretty. It will look something like this:
(If you're skilled at the art of using a pizza peel, not to mention if you have a pizza peel, use that as the rising surface and then slide dough onto baking stone. I do not have a pizza peel, and can't imagine trying to slide this sticky dough in any case, so I used the technique that I mentioned above.)
4. Let it rest for about 45 minutes if it hasn't been refrigerated, and maybe an hour to an hour and a half if it has been refrigerated. While dough is resting, put a pizza or baking stone or other surface that can stand a LOT of heat on the middle rack of the oven. Place a broiler pan at the bottom of the oven (or if you have bottom coils, then place it on the lowest position rack). Turn the oven to 450 F. After oven has preheated, make sure the stone or pan has 20 minutes to heat up. The set up should look something like this:
5. Okay, here's the one tricky step of the whole thing: Once everything is rested and heated, prepare one cup of hot water. Dust the resting dough with flour and slash the top three times with a serrated knife. It won't really slash, but just do it anyway - it will work during baking. Grab dough off surface and sprinkle baking surface with lots more cornmeal. Plop dough on baking surface. Pour water in broiler pan and close oven door as quickly as you can. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes. Crust will be a deep brown, like this:
6. When timer goes off, turn off oven and open oven door. Leave bread like that for 10 more minutes and then remove it from baking surface, if you don't do this step, it might stick to the baking stone. And finally, let it cool thoroughly before cutting. If you want to tear it off, have it warm. Enjoy!