I love this idea of a free-form loaf. I’m also kind of parcial to the idea of cooking bread in a Le’ Crueset Dutch oven. I decided to try the Sullivan Street Bakery recipe. I take my total lack of breadmaking skills and get started.
It’s super simple. Flour, water, yeast, salt. Combine it and let it sit for 12 hours at room temp. Here’s my first difficulty. When do you start a bread that you have to let sit at room temp for 12 hours? 7:00 in the morning? Then you’ll need to let it rise another couple of hours after you shape it and then cook an hour. So, 10:00 that night I’ll have some bread? The whole timing thing really worked me. I started it at 7:30 at night so that the dough will be ready at 7:30 in the morning. That makes it a bread that I can only make on a Friday or Saturday night since I would normally be at work at 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning when it’s time to cook it. See how this is already more complicated than it should be?
When I get up in the morning, the dough, and I use that term loosely (pun intended), is more oozy than a “form a ball” dough. I’m supposed to put it seam side down in the pot when it’s time to bake it. There ain’t no seam. It’s a big, oozy, sticky mess. I have to fold in more flour to even be able to handle it. Once it’s slightly manageable I’m supposed to generously flour a cotton (not terry) cloth for it to rest on. I heavily flour it. I put down semolina on top of that. Two hours later the “ball” of dough has failed to rise. Instead it has spread into a annoyingly flat, sticky disk. I’m scraping it off the towel with a bench scraper. I’m hating on the bread dough.
I throw it in the heated Dutch oven. Literally sling it into the pot. Who cares? Put the lid on and to hell with it! If it sucks, it sucks. My only concern is that I’ll have sandblast it out of my pot. If it sticks, I’m seriously going to be pissed.
It’s brunch time. I’m having a glass of wine and wait for the 30 minutes to pass until I take off the cover and cook it another 30 minutes. When the time comes, I’m shocked. It actually looks like bread. It even rose a little, though there’s only 1/4 of teaspoon of yeast in the recipe. I thought that was kind of strange when I started this project.
We took the loaf to dinner at a friend’s house and everyone raved about how good it was. It did look kind of artsy. But, you know what? I’m not fighting with that mess again. I still need a good artisanal bread recipe.
What about “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Hertzberg and Francois? I have the book. My friend Jill says it’s great. The reason I’ve never made this bread is that it calls for so much stuff. I have a pizza stone but it’s spent most of it’s life on the grill. Do I want to cook bread on that? I don’t have a pizza peel to built my loaf on and slide onto the hot pizza stone. I’m supposed to let the dough rest overnight in a big food-grade container that doesn’t seal too tightly in case it wants to explode. Forget all that.
I may fail. But, I’m trying it after the dough has rested in my biggest bowl (thanks, Slade!) covered with plastic wrap in the fridge since yesterday. Good thing about this recipe. They say the dough will last in the fridge for up to 14 days. That takes the timing issue out of it. Today I’ve pulled off a piece of it the size of a grapefruit, cutting it loose from the rest of the dough with a serrated knife. I flour my hands and the board. And I’m actually able to shape a ball by turning the edges in on themselves. They call it “cloaking” instead of kneading. And it really is not anything like kneading.
So, now the ball is resting on my chopping board which is covered with semolina and a little flour. I’m going with the Dutch oven instead of the pizza stone. So far, this is a much better experience. When the time comes, I’m going to pick that baby up and plop it into the Dutch oven. No pizza peel. No pizza stone. I’m living dangerously, I know. Maybe this dough isn’t wet enough to work in the Dutch oven. I guess we’ll see!
Smells really good…
Maybe not quite as dark as I would like. But, it’s pretty, isn’t it? And I’ve got truffle butter in the fridge. I think I just might be on the right track…