This is the only bread recipe I’ve ever tried that I like better than the No-Knead bread recipe from the New York Times.
I like it because the flavor develops over time, and each time I make a loaf, it has a slightly different flavor. And, it’s just as good if I don’t let it sit in the fridge for a day or two. You end up with four loaves for your efforts, instead of one. Four loaves that don’t have to be baked at the same time.
The recipe comes from a book, entitled Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. I don’t have the book, but the website has been interesting. Apparently you can deviate from the basic recipe in an endless number of ways to create all sorts of artisan tasting breads and pastries.
Preparation time: 15 minutes to prepare enough dough for four loaves, to be baked over four days to a week. Each daily loaf will average 5 minutes of active preparation time. Makes four 1-pound loaves
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour
Cornmeal for the pizza peel. (I actually let mine rise on parchment paper, and move the paper to the baking stone)
In a 5-quart bowl, mix the yeast, water and salt. Add all the flour, then use a wooden spoon to mix until all ingredients are uniformly moist. It is not necessary to knead or continue mixing once the ingredients are uniformly moist. This will produce a loose and very wet dough. (Note: I mix mine in the Kitchen Aide)
2.Cover with a lid (or loose plastic wrap). Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse, about 2 hours, but no more than 5 hours.
3. After rising, the dough can be baked immediately, or covered and refrigerated up to 14 days. The dough will be easier to work with after at least 3 hours refrigeration.
4. On baking day, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent the bread from sticking when you transfer it to the oven. Uncover the dough and sprinkle the surface with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough (serrated knives are best). Store the remaining dough in the bowl and refrigerate for baking at another time.
(Note: I don’t use a pizza peel. Actually, I have no idea what one is, so I stick with the age old parchment paper. I also don’t sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, esp. if it’s been stored in the fridge. It seems like that would dry it out too much.)
5. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick. Create a smooth ball of dough by gently pulling the sides down around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. While shaping, most of the dusting flour will fall off. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out during resting and baking. Shaping the loaf this way should take no more than 1 minute. (Note: I don’t worry about getting the ball smooth. And I try to add the bare minimum of extra flour.)
6.Place the dough on the pizza peel. Allow the loaf to rest for about 40 minutes. It does not need to be covered. The bread may not rise much during this time.
7. Twenty minutes before baking, place a pizza stone on the center rack of the oven. If you don’t have a baking stone, use another baking sheet. Remove any upper racks. Place a broiler pan on a rack below the pizza stone or on the floor of the oven. Preheat oven to 450 F.
8. When the dough has rested for 40 minutes, dust the top liberally with flour, then use a serrated knife to slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top.
9.Slide the loaf off the peel and onto the baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour boiling water into the broiler tray and close the oven door.
10.Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Allow the bread to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack.