I love bread. Pretty much all kinds.
But the best kind....
...is crunchy and crusty on the outside and moist and tender on the inside.
This is probably the easiest recipe that gets those results that I have made in a long time. The original recipe uses a dutch oven or any sort of covered dish; I don't have one, so I used a cast iron pan. Whatever you use, make sure it has a thick bottom to prevent burning. I know it looks like a lot of instructions, but there really aren't that many steps. I added some things that I did, and things that may help you. I'd suggest reading through it once first, just so you know where you are heading. I want to make it again, but this time add spices or herbs or cheese or something... If you experiment with it and have any success, comment and let me know!
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 1/4 teaspoon yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups flour, plus some for dusting
- Corn meal for dusting
1. Mix water and yeast till yeast is dissolved. Add flour and salt and stir till dough looks shredded and kind of sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for at least 8 hours, preferably 10-12. Go to work. Or bed, whichever time frame you'd like.
2. There should be lots of bubbles when you return, and it should smell a bit fermented. Scrape the dough into a ball and turn onto a floured surface. Fold it over a few times (don't work it too much) and let sit for another 15 minutes.
3. Gently shape it into a ball. I do this by pulling all the edges into a little clump; flip it over so that that seam is down on a non-floured surface, and then use your open/cupped hands to turn it in a circle. If it sticks right, the circular motion will pull the dough together and "screw" it into a nice round loaf. Generously dust a clean dish towel with cornmeal, and place the dough there seam-side down. Dust the top with a bit more cornmeal and let rise for 2 hours. It should have doubled in size
4. 20 minutes before the dough is ready, pre-heat the oven to 475*. I know, it sounds really hot, but no, it's not a typo. Place your dutch oven/ceramic dish/cast iron pan in the oven.
(I do not own a dutch oven, so I improvised with a cast iron pan and a make-shift tin foil cage which worked GREAT. Just be careful that you crinkle the foil edges together to seal off as much as you can, and that when you are assembling the cage on a hot pan, you are careful not to burn yourself.)
5. When the dough is ready, pull out your pan and turn the dough seam side up into it. Shake it a bit if it gets too disfigured. Cover with a lid (or enclose it in a tin foil cage), and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove lid/tin foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes, till brown. Let it cool before slicing.
I found this recipe here: there is an interesting article about this method of baking bread, and the ideas behind it. Enjoy!