When I was growing up in the 70’s and 80’s I wasn’t really a big fan of bread. I would eat sandwiches and, if I was really hungry, I might eat the bread you got at restaurants before the main course was served.
That all changed when my girlfriend and I settled into Seattle and I decided to start baking our bread. We found a book called “The Breads of France” that had a recipe similar to my girlfriends favorite bread from Bread Alone in Woodstock, NY. The end result was bread I could eat because it tasted good and my body said “Ooooooo Yeaaaaa! That’s it!”
The recipe below, however, is not a bread from the book. It is a simple bread based upon several different recipes and is quite pleasant in its form. The size makes it easy to take along for a treat on a special picnic or to make your lunch at work special. The crust is solid but not hard. The crumb (the center part with the air spaces in it) is firm. I have been able to slice it 1/8th of an inch thin without it falling apart which gives you a wide range of possibilities in making meals or hor d’eouvres.
It toasts great. Even at 1/8th of an inch it can be toasted for 3 1/2 minutes and will be crispy and not burned.
- Oven Baking Stone is recommended
You can find baking stones in a lot of places. I am familiar with products from Bialetti , All-Clad and Sassafras . All of them make quality products. We use All-Clad and Sassafras products and I have been impressed with the products Bialetti has to offer.
- Stand Mixer
If you don’t have one I highly recommend them. I own and use KitchenAid , however, if I were in the market I would seriously consider a Viking (has a little more power, larger bowl and has some attachment possibilities that don’t exist for K-A). You don’t need one for this recipe but it makes the mixing easier.
- 4-51/2 cups unbleached flour (I recommend Bob’s Red Mill or any local stone ground flour)
- 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 21/4 tsp yeast (I recommend SAF brand yeasts but have not been able to find anyone who carries it consistently)
- 2 cups hot water (110°F hot tap water)
Place the flour, salt and yeast in the mixing bowl and, using a wire whisk, give a quick stir to more evenly distribute the ingredients. Attach the dough hook, start the mixer and add the hot water quickly, but not all at once and leaving 2-3 TBSP out just in case the dough may need it. As soon as the dough becomes smooth, elastic and separates from the bowl stop the mixer.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and clean the mixing bowl. Knead the dough with a push, fold turn motion for about 2 minutes. Using olive oil grease the bowl, put the dough in the bowl and brush the dough with olive oil. Cover the bowl and place the dough in a warm 80-90°F, draft free spot and let rise until it has doubled in volume.
Note: Allow two hours for the dough to double. In the meantime set the time for an hour and a half and go do something fun!
After the dough has risen turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, knead again for 2 minutes and return it to the bowl to let rise again until it is doubled. See the note above.
Once the dough has doubled in size again turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and cut into quarters. Take each quarter and turn it so the round edge is on the surface and the point is up in the air. Gently press the point down and shape until it is about 2 hand widths long and about 3 fingers high.
Place the loaves on a flour sack towel and cover with a damp towel. Return to the warm spot and allow 1/2 hour for the loaves to double in size again. While the loaves rise place the baking stone in the oven and preheat to 425°F.
Before you place the loaves in the oven score them three times diagonally with a sharp knife or razor blade. When the loaves are in the oven place a pan of boiling water in the oven to keep the crust from drying out. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
Recipe makes 4 loaves.