I’ve finally got it down…warm delicious hearty rustic white bread with the perfect crust and chew…simple…basic and sooooo good that I don’t feel like experimenting with anything else right now (though I promised my husband I’d activate the 150 year old SF sour dough starter). I enjoy passing it out to the neighbors..going down on the Boulevard and dropping some off to business owners right out of the oven with a stick of butter or a creating a compound butter to go with it….doing a balcony toss…infact…I might just have to start the bread toss…want a ½ loaf….get ready for the toss… What a fun, inexpensive and satifying way to create pleasure for myself and those around me.
I’m going to stress those three elements; FUN (always!!), INEXPENSIVE (in these times….let’s face it…that helps) and SATISFYING (a must!!). I’m not even going to include that it has to be DELICIOUS, because for me, flavor is a given.
ANYONE and I mean ANYONE can make this bread…it does not take a brain surgeon and it does not take a lot active time…just a lot of waiting….in less than 5 minutes, you’ll have a bowl or two of dough mixed and ready for rising. That’s the hard part! With a few key elements…let the pleasure begin.
First off, I buy all my initial supplies (and gifts for others) at Breadtopia.com…Eric & Denyce Rusch are lovely people and very attentive to their customers needs. They’re the main source for LA CLOCHE, which is the KEY to creating incredible infallible loaves of bread providing you get the dough right.
The recipe is simple and will take you less than 5 minutes to put together; just remember 4,3,2,1!! To start, you need a big bowl, a wire whisk, a danish whisk, a measuring cup, a tsp, Food Grade Plastic Wrap, a linen dish towel. Use a ceramic clay baker for the best results (I really like La Cloche) and a wire cooling rack. More about flour at the end of this…
Ingredients: 4 cups flour (plus a little extra…I prefer the BLUE King Arthur bread flour..but it’s up to you what you use..experiment) 3 tsp salt (of your choice…I like a fine kosher salt) 1 tsp INSTANT yeast (not the packets in the store) 2 cups water (not tap..the chlorine kills the yeast)
Making bread is a tactile experience…so allow the sensitivity in your hands to grasp the concept of how you prefer your dough to be. I like mine on the wet side to start…I find that the flavor is better…and then I add a little more flour for the 2nd rising in the proofing basket.
I know you’re supposed to weigh the flour…pastry/baking is supposed to be an exact science…but I’m just not an exact science sort of person…I like to do it by feel. You have to find what is right for you..my method might not be…but it’s worth a couple of weeks of trying to see if its right for you. I also know you’re supposed to take the flour in one cup and pour it into the other because the actual cup of flour can vary if you just shove it in the flour and pull it out…but..again..I’m all by feel.
So…here’s what I do. I have a big bowl…….I add 4 cups of flour and the 3 tsp of kosher salt..and with a regular old whisk…I mix it up. Some people will say…I should be doing the whole thing with the danish whisk..I don’t agree. Salt prohibits the yeast from rising..so I want to make sure all the dry ingredients are well incorporated and I find a regular whisk does a better job. Once that’s done, I add the yeast and again, using the whisk, mix it until it’s all incorporated. Then..I just pour in the 2 cups of FILTERED water..and stir with the Danish Dough Whisk until ALL the flour is mixed in and forms a sort of wet ballish glob. I cover the bowl tightly with food grade plastic wrap and leave it for 18-24 hours. That’s it….just walk away.
It’s the next day and time for the 2nd proofing (rising)…I take the proofing basket….spray or brush it with my favorite oil..in this case it’s a Sicilian olive oil we were given as a gift while in Ragusa, by Olive oil producer, Fausti Occhipinti… or most often I use Mandranova Oil that I have flown in from Sicily by olive oil producers Silvia e Giuseppe Di Vincenzo.
Now it’s time to remove the plastic…and toss it in the trash. Take your bread scraper and scrape down the sides of the bowl..give the bread a couple of little punches and leave it for a couple of minutes.
IF the dough is wet..I have more flour ready to scatter over the dough as I start to fold it and punch it in a couple of times until it’s no longer sticky.
Then, holding it in my hands I turn the outer edge under and continue to keep folding the outer edge under until I have a nice smooth ball and place it smooth side down into the basket. It’s going to get those nice rings on it. I cover it with a white towel and leave it for another 2-4 hours.
By this time…our mouths are watering, anticipating it’s only another 50 minutes before we get to indulge ourselves.
I take the La Cloche Ceramic Baker (your preference whether you want the round or the rectangle…I prefer the round), and flip the proofing basket over placing the dough in the base and then covering it with the domed top. I lightly sprinkle it with Fleur de Sel.
It goes into a COLD oven (unless this is your 2nd loaf…) at 475˚F for 15 minutes. Turn the temp down to 400˚ for 30 minutes. Remove the dome (make sure you put a towel or a pot holder over it so someone doesn’t come by and touch it..that burn is NOT fun!)…and close the oven for another 10 minutes. You can smell when it’s ready….it’s heavenly!
Place the dough on a wire rack. Now, it’s SUPPOSED to be on that rack for 2 hours..as the cooking process continues until it’s completely cooled. You try to tell anyone that they have to wait for a piece of hot crusty delicious bread smothered in butter or olive oil…or a piece of gouda from a local cheese maker.
To repeat the baking process for another loaf…obviously then the La Cloche is hot and can go into a hot oven….
If you have all the tools…you’ll see how quick and easy this is..truly. Jerry asked me to make him some bread a few days ago…we were going to watch a tv show…so I asked him to give me 5 minutes…ran down…mixed up a batch of bread and was upstairs ready to go in less than that. You know the first time with anything is the hardest or the scariest…and once you do it…you wonder why you were worried.
Notes: As for Flour…for a basic bread recipe…that gives it a slight sour dough taste, I use King Arthur Blue Label. If you have the option of using locally grown wheat…go for it…it’s so delicious and you can play with the bread. Sometimes you need to use a little more water (if you find the dough is VERY dry…add a little water in at a time…better it be on the wetter side than the dryer side so it will rise properly…you can always add in a little more flour later on.
In some of my darker breads…I add in honey and during the SECOND rise, I use nuts, sunflower seeds…whatever you desire…be playful and experiment.
Lastly…a little bit about FERMENTATION, the method of making bread by mixing the dough and refrigerating it overnight or longer which is also supposed to develop the enzymes more efficiently. I use it for a different reason. Sometimes, I just don’t have time to make bread on a certain day but I want to have plenty of dough ready in case I’m having company or doing a bread toss. I leave the dough out for 24 hours and then I take the tightly covered bowl and pop it in the refrigerator. I leave it for up to 3 days before I’ve got to get it out for the 2nd proof and to bake. Try it.