Putting the Oven back into Dutch Oven
Thanks to Jim Lahey, owner of the Sullivan Street Bakery in NYC for sharing this technique. It is super simple and very consistent. I own a nice Kitchen Aid stand mixer so kneading does not bother me. The finished product is what excites me. This bread is phenomenal.
I have to wonder how much of the bread's quality comes from the slow rise and how much comes from the Dutch Oven? The DO certainly makes for a steamy environment which promotes the development of an excellent crust.
Mark Bittman's adaptation of Jim Lahey's recipe.
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.
Really good bread is hard to come by in a rural area and I'm stoked to be able to make this myself. It is by far the best European style bread I've ever pulled off.
* After watching the video again I think Lahey poured some olive oil around the dough before letting it rise. I have not done this but plan to do so on the next batch. It is great in pizza dough and I see no reason why it would not improve bread as well.
Thanks to Urban Chick Goin' Hillbilly for making me aware of this style of baking.