I recently paid $9 for a loaf of bread – it was really beautiful, but it didn’t taste like a $9 loaf of bread. But this one sure does! I’d even bump that up to an $11 loaf.
AND . . . it is so easy to make! You just mix up the flour, salt, yeast and sugar the night before and leave it to do its thing The next day you do one more quick step a few hours hours before baking, and in the end you get this beautiful, delicious, and inexpensive bread. It has a thick dark crust, and a moist and tender inside, and the smell as you’re cutting it and taking that first bite is heavenly.
For this recipe you need a lidded baker; the trapped steam helps to develop a crust. I use a Romertopf clay roaster (see special instructions) which helps to create an excellent crust because of the moisture stored in the clay. I have also used a lidded le Creuset pot, but I would imagine you could use a tall cast-iron pan covered with foil… I’ll let you know when I try this out!
What you need:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 & 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 & 1/3 cups water, room temperature
What you do:
- In a large bowl combine the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and stir just until it comes together. It will look a bit shaggy, but it’s fine.
- Loosely cover the bowl with a lid, plate or plastic wrap and leave in a room temperature spot for 12 to 18 hours. Eighteen-ish hours is preferable, especially if it’s a little cooler in your place. In winter it can be helpful to put the bowl in a warmer spot, like on top of a fridge.
- About two hours before baking time, generously flour a tea towel (not a terry cloth one, as the dough sticks too much). Use a spatula to coax the dough out of the bowl, and then use floured hands to gently form it into a loaf, and place it seam-side down onto the floured towel. Sprinkle with a little more flour, then gently place another towel over the top. Allow this to sit for about 2 hours.
- About 1/2 an hour before baking turn the oven to 450°F/ 232°C. (If using a Romertopf/clay baker, make sure you have pre-soaked it, and then placed it in the oven BEFORE turning the oven on.)
- When the oven is ready gently place the dough, seam side down, into the lidded baker. Use a sharp knife to make a few slashes a few centimetres deep into the top of the bread.
- Place the lid on the baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. After that time remove the lid and bake for 15-25 minutes. The crust should be dark, and the bread should sound hollow when you tap it.
- Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack for about an hour. When it is hot it will be too sticky inside to but, but after an hour there should still be some warmth.
For this gorgeous loaf I made a few minor modifications to my stand-by European style bread recipe. This time I coated the outside of the bread with oil, giving it a crisper crust, and baked it in parchment paper. It contains 1/3 whole wheat flour. It’s still made using the same method, mixing the dough the day before and letting it sit for 12-18 hours – this slow fermentation is what gives the bread so much flavour. Very easy, very delicious, and economical too.
This loaf was served with salty butter, brie cheese, and some creamy duck pâté.
For this recipe you will need a large container with a lid. I use a le Creuset oval pot or a Romertopf clay baker. You also need parchment paper and plastic wrap.
What you need:
- 1 cup whole wheat bread flour
- 2 cups white flour
- 1 & 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoons yeast (I used Fleischmann’s active dry yeast)
- 1 & 1/2 cups water
- canola oil for coating the bread
What you do:
- Combine the flours, salt and yeast in a bowl. Add the water and mix; add more water if needed until you have a wet, sticky dough.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid, and let sit for 12-18 hours in a warm-ish place, and out of direct sunlight. The dough should double in size and become dotted with bubbles. If your house is a little on the cool side you will likely need the longer rising time.
- Cut a large piece of parchment paper and lay it on your kitchen counter. In the bowl, coat the top of the dough in oil, then turn it out onto the parchment paper. Coat the top of the dough in oil, using your hands. Cover with some plastic wrap, tucking it in loosely around the edges. Let the dough sit for 1-2 hours, until it has doubled in volume.
- About 1/2 hour before you want to put the bread in the oven, set the temperature to 475 F and place your baking pot on a rack in the lower third of the oven. Let the pot heat up, and when the oven has reached 475 F, remove the pot from the oven. Remove the plastic wrap and pick up the dough by gathering together the corners of the parchment paper. Carefully (remember the pot is smoking hot!) place the dough in the parchment paper into the pot, as in the photo of the baked bread above.
- Put the cover on the pot and bake for 30 minutes while the bread forms its nice thick crust. Remove the lid from the pot and continue to bake for 15-20 minutes more. The bread should become a deep brown when it is done, and if you tap on it, it should sound hollow. Remove the pot from the oven, lift the bread out of the pot, remove the parchment paper, and place it on a rack to cool. It needs to cool for about 1/2 an hour before slicing.
- This bread has no preservatives, so if you don’t use it up of the second day, it should be frozen.