Last week we woke up to temperatures in the 40s, seemed a good reason to bake a loaf of hearty bread. This earthy bread is a snap to make using the recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Once you’ve mixed up the dough (in about five minutes), you’ll have enough dough for four loaves; it keeps in the refrigerator for two weeks.
Here is the recipe from the book, along with my “tweaks:”
European Peasant Bread
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 ½ tablespoons granulated yeast
- 1 ½ tablespoons salt
- ½ cup rye flour
- ½ cup wheat flour (I use 1 cup)
- 5 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour (I use 5 cups because I used more wheat)
- Cornmeal for the pizza peel (when you bake)
- Mix the yeast and salt with the water in a 5-quart bowl, I use my stand mixer bowl. Mix in the remaining ingredients (not the cornmeal) without kneading either by hand or in a heavy-duty mixer with a dough hook (which is what I use). Mix until all the flour is incorporated into the dough but do not knead the dough.
- Cover dough and allow to rise at room temperature until it rises and collapses, about 2 hours (I let mine go about 2 ½ hours at this elevation). The dough can be used immediately after rising, but it will be very wet; it’s easier to handle after being chilled overnight. Refrigerate in a lidded (but not airtight) container and use over the next two weeks. I use a 5-quart ice-cream pail and leave the lid cracked.
- On baking day, dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut off a 1-pound piece (about the size of a grapefruit). Dust with more flour and shape into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn each time. Allow to rest on a cornmeal-covered pizza peel for 40 minutes (I have left mine for an hour at it’s still great).
- Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone placed on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray (a metal cake pan works just as well) on any other shelf that won’t be in the bread’s way. Sprinkle the loaf with flour and using a serrated knife, slash lines, a cross, or a tic-tac-toe pattern on the top of the bread. Leave the flour in place for baking, but you can tap it off before eating.
- Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the into the broiler tray/cake pan and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is deeply brown and very firm. It’s better to go longer on time than shorter since this is a fairly wet dough; it’s easy to underbake but very hard to overbake. Allow to cool before slicing.