This is one of my favorite bread recipes. I love rustic, crunchy bread with butter… and this bread fits the bill exactly. And it’s so easy to make. Now, granted, it does take up to 24 hours for this bread to rise, but don’t let that fool you. The texture and flavor will rival any bakery in your area.
Be adventuresome and give this delicious bread a try. This original recipe is adapted from Jim Lahey, founder of the Sullivan Street Bakery.
- 3 cups bread flour (400 grams by weight)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt (8 grams)
- 1/4 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast (1 gram)
- 1 1/3 cups cool water (300 ml)
- Wheat bran, cornmeal or flour for dusting
- In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt and yeast. Add the water and using a wooden spoon (or your hand) mix until you have a very sticky dough – about 30 seconds. Make sure its really sticky to the touch. If it’s not, add another tablespoon or two of water. Cover the bowl with a plate, tea towel or plastic wrap. Let it sit at room temperature, about 72°(F) out of direct sunlight, until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size. This will take a minimum of 12 – 18 hours. Be aware that this slow rise (fermentation) is the ultimate key to flavor!
- When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough onto the board in one piece. When you begin to pull the dough away from the bowl, it will cling in long, thin strands (gluten) and it will be quite loose and sticky. Do NOT add more flour. Use lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula to lift the edges of the dough in toward the center. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.
- Place a cotton or linen tea towel (not terry cloth) on your work surface and generously dust the cloth with wheat bran, cornmeal or flour. Use your hands/bowl scraper/spatula to gently lift the dough onto the towel, so it is seam side down. If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal or flour. Fold the ends of the towel loosely over the dough to cover it, and place in a warm, draft-free place to rise for approx. 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gently poke it with your finger making an indentation about 1/4″ deep, it should hold the impression. If it doesn’t let it rise for another 15 minutes or so.
- Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475°(F) with a rack in the lower third position and place a covered 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 quart heavy pot in the center of the rack.
- Using potholders, carefully remove the preheated pot from the oven and uncover it. Unfold the tea towel, lightly dust the dough with flour, lift up the dough and quickly but gently invert it into the pot seam side up. (Caution: pot very hot!) Cover and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove lid and continue baking until bread is a deep chestnut color but not burned… 15 to 30 minutes more. Using a heat proof spatula, carefully lift the bread out of the pot and place it on a rack to cool. Do not cut or tear into the bread until it is completely cooled, which could take up to an hour.
Yield: One 10″ round loaf, approx. 1 1/4 pounds