Just five minutes before I head to bed, then a few moments’ prep in the morning, and we have a yummy loaf with a crisy, crackly crust and a very tender crumb. And only FOUR ingredients–but lots of add-in options!
I love that it’s very crunchy on the outside and very tender inside. Once I bag it, it becomes a bit chewier outside, still tender inside. And only four ingredients, but lots of add-in options!
The Basic Recipe:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use half white/ half whole grain)
1 ¾ teaspoons salt (I use RealSalt)
½ teaspoon instant yeast (yes, it’s really only one-half teaspoon!)
1 ½ cups warm water
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour with the salt and yeast. Add warm water. Mix well to make a soft, shaggy dough (like a biscuit dough). Cover with plastic wrap and leave out 5-12 hours (I just leave overnight).
To prepare to bake:
Gently dump dough onto a floured counter or parchment and GENTLY nudge into a ball. (Don’t deflate it.)
Put a heavy covered Dutch oven or stoneware baker into the oven. Preheat oven to 450F for about 30 minutes (yes, you are preheating the pan, too, so be sure the lid is oven-safe).
Gently drop dough into hot pan or lower into pan with parchment strip (remember – hot – use mitts!) and bake covered in oven for 30 min. Then uncover and bake about 15 more min. Cool on rack.
If you don’t have a covered baker, you can use a pizza stone for the base and cover the dough with a heavy oven-safe pot. The key is to cover it — the cover creates steam which makes the crispy crust.
It’s SO simple. I just stir it up before I go to bed, then bake when I get up. Just remember: When it’s risen in your bowl, you want to sprinkle with a bit of flour and use floured hands and try not to deflate it. It’s not going to rise again, other than a bit of oven spring.
You can add whatever you want to the dough before it sits overnight — fruit, cheese, herbs, etc. I’ve added seeds and nuts (chia, hemp, sesame, walnuts, sunflower, etc), or cheese and herbs, etc. You could add nuts and soaked raisins for a fun breakfast bread. (I’m holding out for chocolate chips.) But it’s awesome plain, dipped in some good EV olive oil with some pesto stirred in! And I’ve made pbj on it (even on the herb and cheese one — I guess that sounds a bit desperate?). Cut it thin; it’s a chewy bread.
Most sites actually advocate 12+ hrs, but it can work in less (but I’d keep it at least 5 hours). The parchment is not a necessity; some folks just dump it in the pot, no greasing, etc. I like a parchment strip so I have a way to pull the bread out of the pot. I am not strong enough to dump my cast iron pot and keep the bread from going somewhere I don’t want (such as the floor!).
If your oven runs hot or if your pot is very dark, you may need to turn down the temperature. The first 30 minutes are to bake it well, while the last 15 brown it nicely. You can always check for doneness by temp — 190-200 F is done for bread.
It will FEEL hard as a brick at first — it is a very hard, crispy crust…but the inside should be soft and tender and holey like a good artisan loaf. I’d pay attention to how brown it is. Mine is between golden and light brown. And if you have add-ins such as honey to sweeten for a sweet loaf, it will brown faster but not bake faster.
And for cleaning up any flour on the counter, the white mesh Norwex dish cloth is indispensable! All the other ways I bake, I use an oiled counter; this is the only time I flour my counter, and the Norwex dish cloth gets all the flour up in a jiffy, with no gummy flour mess!
[ INSPIRED by Janet at http://www.simplysogood.com/2010/03/crusty-bread.html ]