I’m sure you have all come to a point in your life, that so much change happens that you hardly know yourself or your life. That has happened to me in the past year. I know I have not updated in a long time, but I have shifted so much in my life and business. People come, people go and a lot is learned… this is know as the circle of life. This blog started out as a foodie blog that was going to morph into a site to tell you about the development of my “kitchens for lease concept”. But, with the down turn in the market in 2008, my concept was shelved. It was not what I wanted at the time, but in hind sight it was the best thing that could have ever happened. I have moved out of food preparation into doing social media management for restaurants. Talk about a huge jump & learning curve for me. I am loving it, but still hold my dream of the “kitchens for lease” close to my heart.
Now that you a very brief overview of my life, lets talk food. I have been flipping through a lots of different Thanksgiving magazines. A recipe caught my eye, it was for a Crusty White Bread in the Food and Wine magazine. The picture was gorgeous and the bread was baked in a dutch oven.
The next morning when I was putting the pre-ferment together, I scanned the recipe and was shocked to realize that the original recipe made two “HUGE” loaves. The recipe called for approximately 15 cups of flour. This was about four normal size loaves and was not going to work for my small family. I made a quick decision and cut the pre-ferment in half. The next step called for letting it ferment for 10 to 14 hours. After 10 hours, I had lost interest in making bread, so I left it on the counter and went to bed. The next morning when I check the pre-ferment, it looked the same and smelled sweet. I was so excited!! On to step two, but at the same time remembering to halve the recipe. Eight and half cups of flour later, I had a perfect dough.
This is a very forgiving dough, because it only has a quarter of a teaspoon of yeast. When a dough is completely dependent on traditional yeast, it has a certain window of raising time and then the yeast dies. With this recipe, the fermentation processes helps the dough develop its own yeast base. I have made this recipe twice. The first time I forgot the dough out on the counter, an extra four hours, during its finally rise. It was fine. The second time I punched it down after it first rise, put it in the refrigerator and left it overnight. The next day I took it out, shaped it and let it rise for 6 hours. Again, beautiful loaves. So, until I decided it’s time to experiment again with a different type of bread, this will be my go to recipe.
(The original recipe was in Food & Wine Magazine November 2010 issue. I have made many changes.)
Crusty White Bread
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water
1/8 teaspoon dry granulated yeast
1 1/4 flour
2 3/4 cups warm water
1/8 teaspoon dry granulated yeast
8 to 8 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt dissolved in 1/4 cup of warm water
all purpose flour, for dusting
corn meal, for during baking
1. Prepare the Pre-ferment: In a medium bowl, mix the water with the yeast and stir until the yeast is dissolved. Stir in flour. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 10 to 24 hours.
2. Prepare the Bread dough: In your stand mixer, combine the warm water with the yeast and pre-ferment: mix until the pre-ferment is broken up and mostly dissolved. Add 8 cups of flour and mix until a smooth dough forms. Let the dough rest while you mix the salt and the 1/4 of warm water together.
3. Mix in the salt water and mix until most of the water is absorbed by the dough. Add the additional 1/2 cup of flour until you have a smooth, slightly tacky dough. You may need a bit more than a 1/2 cup of flour to reach the desired consistence. Cover the dough and let stand for 3 to 4 hours.
4. (At this point you can either continue with the recipe or you can punch down the dough and chill it until the next day.) Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and cut it in half. (Each half will weigh about 2 1/4 pounds.) Gently shape the dough into 2 rounds, folding the dough under itself as necessary.
5. Line 2 medium size bowls with kitchen towels and generously dust the towels with all-purpose flour. Transfer the loaves to the bowls, rounded sides down. Cover the loaves with clean towels and let rise for 4 to 5 hours. Alternatively, let the dough rise for 1 hour at room temperature, then refrigerate the loaves overnight. Let the dough come to room temperature before baking. (Again, this is very forgiving dough and if you rise it a bit longer than the suggested times, it is not going to complain.)
6. Put in your 2 large enameled cast-iron casseroles or cast-iron skillets with lids and preheat your oven to 490 degrees. Once the oven is to temperature, remove the cast-iron pans from the oven and dust bottoms with cornmeal. Turn the loaves, gently, into the cast-iron pans, rounded side up and score the tops with a sharp, thin knife. Reduce the heat down to 450 degrees. Cover the cast-iron pans and bake the bread for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat, again, to 400 degrees and bake 15 minutes longer. Remove the lids from the cast-iron pans. Continue baking until browned and the crust just begins to smell like toast, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the bread to a rack: let cool, if you can, before slicing. (When you first place the bread on the rack it with make snapping and crackling sounds, this will let you know that your bread is baked through. I love these sounds.
(I do not have two large enameled cast-iron casseroles or cast-iron skillets with lids, I do the above directions twice. I just wipe the cornmeal out of the hot pan, and put it back in the oven and pre-heat it to 490 degrees and do the process again.)