And our problems will crumble apart, the soul blow through like a wind, and here where we live will all be clean again, with fresh bread on the table.
― Pablo Neruda
The first snow/sleet of 2015. A great muchness. Mind-maulingly intense.
That means there’s an extravagance of time to make bread. Julia would so approve. My favorite (sans bread machine) is one of the most popular recipes the NYTimes has ever published, courtesy of innovator Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery.
It requires no kneading. It uses no special ingredients, equipment or techniques. And it’s effortless, time does the work. You do need 24 hours to create the bread, but there’s plenty of leisure/lolling time built in. The dough ferments, ever so s-l-o-w-y.
It. Is. A. Perfect. Loaf. Every. Time.
INGREDIENTS for 1 and 1/2 lb loaf
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1 ¼ teaspoons salt Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jim Lahey. You wow me.
May there always be fresh bread on your table.