04 February, 2009

The scent of baking bread.

There is more than one way to seduce. I sometimes do it with flour and water.

Please banish any notion of toil. This is laughably simple to make though it may seem, at first blush, to be complicated due to the lengthy, precise instructions...If you have never baked bread before, yes indeed, this is the recipe to try.
No-Knead Farmhouse Bread

(as adapted from recipes to be found at http://www.recipezaar.com/)

If you would like to serve this fresh from your oven to go with dinner, begin the night before, at 9.30 pm, give or take. You will need the following:
  • 3 cups of white bread flour, or all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of instant, active dry yeast, or 1/4 cube of fresh compressed yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
  • 415 ml of water

  • A cast-iron pot or pan with a lid
Lightly grease a large mixing bowl. Add the dry ingredients and combine well (crumbling the compressed yeast up into fine bits, if you are going that way). Add the water, mixing until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap (grease it in case the wet dough rises very high) and at least three kitchen towels.

Allow this to rest a full 18 hours. This brings you into the following afternoon, after returning home from your labors.

Using a floured, flexible spatula, scrape the swollen, bubbly dough from the edges of the bowl and fold it over into the center, pressing slightly down. The dough will meekly, if messily, collapse. Cover it with the plastic wrap and towels, and again set it aside for 2 hours.

1 1/2 hours after you've put it to rest that second time, preheat your oven 220C (450F) and put the empty cast-iron pan in. When the dough's two-hour slumber is up, carefully take out the very hot pan. Grease the bottom and sides with some butter. Holding the bowl over the pot, scrape all the still wet and sticky dough evenly into the pot. The dough will sizzle a bit upon contact with the hot butter. Shake the pot a bit to even it out further, clap the lid on and pop it in the oven. Bake, lid on, for half an hour. Remove the lid and continue baking until it's a beautiful golden brown. This can take anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes.

Your eyes will go wide at the texture of crust and crumb. Your self-esteem will rise, much as the dough did. You will start making plans for next time, when you'll add a handful of seeds or grains or grated cheese or nuts or herbs or dried fruits (chopped figs go so very nicely with the cheese course...) And you'll delight everyone with the heady scent and taste of your own, homemade bread.

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