I adore bread. I even enjoy baking it. You may have noticed that I frequently discuss my escapades related to bread baking. This is because I firmly believe that home made bread is superior to any other kind (except for this loaf which we should really never speak about again). The smell of freshly baking bread is an aroma I would like to follow me around through life. But I settle for it filling my apartment every now and again.
I also have a “thing” for cookbooks. But the problem is, I like the ones that are 15 pound anthologies with full-bleed spreads of mouth-watering, mind-transporting food photography. Those tend to be kind of pricey. Consequently, I don’t own many cookbooks. I do own Jim Lahey’s My Bread, which has become indispensable for creating round loaves of perfection. Really – flawless. Every time I follow one of his recipes, I get a perfectly-risen, flavorful load of bread. You just need a little time, a cast-iron pot, and you get this:
What follows is Jim Lahey’s recipe for a fool-proof loaf of bread. I modified it slightly by using 1 cup of whole wheat flour. Just for fun. Cuz isn’t whole wheat fun? The answer is yes.
What You Need:
2 cups (430g) flour
1½ cups (345g or 12oz) water
¼ teaspoon (1g) yeast
1¼ teaspoon (8g) salt
olive oil (for coating)
extra flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal (for dusting)
Two medium mixing bowls
6 to 8 quart pot with lid (Pyrex glass, Le Creuset cast iron, or ceramic)
Wooden Spoon or spatula (optional)
Two or three cotton dish towels (not terrycloth)
What To Do:
Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add water and incorporate by hand or with a wooden spoon or spatula for 30 seconds to 1 minute (I actually used my food processor and that worked nicely). Lightly coat the inside of a second medium bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12 hours at room temperature (approx. 65-72°F). It should look something like this when you uncover it – the next day:
Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. Let the dough rest 15 minutes in the bowl or on the work surface. Next, shape the dough into ball. Generously coat a cotton towel with flour, wheat bran, or cornmeal; place the dough seam side down on the towel and dust with flour. Cover the dough with a cotton towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size. At this point, you will uncover a magnificent blob of flour like this:
Preheat oven to 450-500°F. Place the pot in the oven at least 30 minutes prior to baking to preheat. Once the dough has more than doubled in volume, remove the pot from the oven and place the dough in the pot seam side up. Cover with the lid and bake 30 minutes. Then remove the lid and bake 15-30 minutes uncovered, until the loaf is nicely browned.
A few tips/tricks/antics:
DO: Leave your dough to rise overnight. It does take the full 12 hours (you can leave it for up to 18), so have a nap while the yeast does its thing.
DON’T: Be alarmed when after the first rise your dough is all gooey and hard to manage. It’s supposed to be like that. I swear.
DO: Wear oven mitts to handle that hot cast iron pot. Please.
DO: Call me when it’s all done so I can come over and help you eat it. I’ll bring butter. This kind.