Radiator heat – drying, inconsistent, uncontrollable. Mercifully cheap. It was one of the selling points of my apartment. Renting points. Whatever. I don’t have to pay for it, that’s the main thing. Sometimes it’s underwhelming. At others, overmuch. If I’m lucky, when I’m in the shower, it will kick on and warm my towel for me.
But it’s lousy for controlled bread making. This recipe sort of depends on having a kitchen that’s about 72 degrees. You can compensate by longer rising times, but it’s hard to gauge because this bread is so wet, if you tried to poke it, it would simply stick to your finger. It’s ok. Even if you don’t have the perfect rise, you will get above-average bread from this recipe. And if you live in a climate controlled environment, where you can keep your kitchen at a comfy 72, well, you can have superior bread. With pretty much no effort whatsoever. Five minutes. Total. All you need is water, salt, instant yeast, flour, and time. A cast-iron pot is a big plus, but any large pot with a lid should be alright.
I start my bread at 1 p.m. on days where I am working nights the next day or off, because here’s the recipe/timeline for Jim Lahey’s famous bread:
1 p.m. – take
1 1/4 tsps salt
1 tsp instant yeast**
15 ounces of flour
and mix them together in a large bowl with my hand for like 10 seconds. I add
13 ounces of water
and stir with my hand until everything is evenly incorporated. I cover the bowl with plastic. I then go about my business for the next 18 hours.
**for sourdough, replace 1/4 tsp yeast with 1/4 cup sourdough starter, reduce the water to 12 ounces and add the starter to the water instead of the flour, and then mix as I would.
7 a.m. – just coming in from my first walk with the dogs. I turn my dough out onto a floured surface.
I put flour on my hands to keep them from sticking. I pat the dough lightly until smooth. I fold the top half to the center. I fold the bottom half towards the center. I fold the sides towards the center. I pinch it shut. I heavily flour a long sheet of plastic wrap and lay the loaf down on it, folded side down. I douse that sucker with more flour, loosely drape more plastic wrap over that, and go about my business until 8:30
8:30 a.m. – I turn on my oven to 450. (Actually, mine runs hot so I turn mine to 425, but you get the idea). I place my 3 qt. dutch oven with the lid on in the oven.
9 a.m. – I carefully retrieve my pot. I carefully remove the lid. Use your thickest towels or pot holders, because that pan should be evil hot. It’s important to work as quickly as you can without endangering yourself to obtain optimum results. Don’t stress – it’s not a race. Just don’t remove the pot and then answer the phone, is what I’m saying. Remove top sheet o’ plastic wrap. Get your hand under the bottom sheet o’ plastic wrap. Gently overturn the dough into the hot pot. Watch the fingers.
Pop the lid back on. It’s still super duper hot so use your towels/pot holders. Put that sucker into the oven for 30 minutes. Remove lid. Cook for another 10-15 minutes. Remove pot from oven. Carefully turn bread onto counter. Walk away for 1 hour – (the crust is still forming).
10:45 a.m. – Attack.
For those of you who prefer video, the man himself –
I am now experimenting with longer fermentation times to see what works for my kitchen. I’m going to start at 20 hours, and 3 hour second rise times, and go from there. Do what works for you.
Once I have slathered the coveted end piece with butter and gobbled it, holding the slavering dogs at bay with my feet (don’t worry, they’ll get a piece later), sometimes, I make this –
Egg in a basket with Fontina, Marinated tomatoes, and Basil
1 piece bread with hold in center cut out with cookie cutter or biscuit cutter
1/2 -1 tablespoon of butter
salt and pepper
1 slice of fontina cheese divided into two pieces
1-2 marinated tomatoes, small dice (I like Pomadoracio when I don’t make my own.)
a couple of fresh basil leaves, rough chopped
Heat pan to medium. Butter bread. Cut out of bread (if you have already done this, butter the bread hole).
Add bread, with piece in to pan. Once toasty and brown on one side, flip to other side and lower heat to low. Remove bread hole and move it to another section of the pan to continue to brown. Lay cheese slices on each side of hole. Add a teensy bit more butter in the hole. Once it’s melted, crack an egg into the hole and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until the underside is browned and the egg is set. You can use the bread hole to check browning level. Place on plate and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with marinated tomatoes and basil.
Eat. Ignoring the begging of the dogs. Use the bread hole to sop up uneaten egg.
Feed the dogs the last of the sopped bread hole because you love them. Lots.