I have found The New York Times to be a phenomenal wealth of cooking knowledge. But it’s not just filled with the frou frou selection of recipes only the elite could stomach that you might expect. Actually, I’m quite impressed with the back-to-basics they tend to feature. Anything from a good old fashioned pot roast to broiling fish in the oven, what they suggest makes sense and sounds good!
One fine morning I came across this featured recipe for home-made, super-duper easy, artisan bread. I share it now with you, dear reader, because no one should be deprived of this little piece of heaven.
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours rising
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
1 5/8 cups water
(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.
And really, this is much easier than it looks! It does takes a little planning ahead to make but it is so worth it. My white Pyrex dish isn’t quite 6-quarts, so I just cut the fully risen dough in half and make two loaves to prevent the bread from popping the lid off. Baking it covered makes the crust so incredibly crunchy while the inside is soft and light… perfection!