Taking on a homemade pantry is an art of dedication, vigilance, and time management. When I first started working at the bakery, and we had very little money, I was probably the most committed to it that I've ever been. A couple of dollars any given week could mean the difference between overdrawing my account or not, so it was driven as much by necessity as it was my own interest and determination. But it was also a welcomed outlet and incredibly rewarding. When you take the time to make something right, food from scratch will always beat out something processed- in flavor, in texture, and in satisfaction. Well, as you could imagine, I wasn't making any bread at home when I was working for the bakery. I made bread all day in a kitchen with a big strong mixer, ample fine ingredients, and a massive steam injection oven. Today I'll take home and Asiago cheese loaf, on Monday a cranberry walnut... I was spoiled to death as far as bread was concerned. And when I stopped working for the bakery, I just about stopped eating bread. Nothing could compare! And bread from the grocery store? Stuff in bags? No. No no no. No thank you. That's not bread. If the crust is only noticeable by a slight change in color and the interior has no signs of air bubbles, I am not interested. And I was too lazy/busy/distraught? to be regularly baking my own loaves, so bread just started fading out of my life.
(Based on a recipe from Jim Lahey)
THE FIVE MINUTE (OVERNIGHT) LOAF
Rest Time: 12-15 hours
Bake Time: 40- 45 minutes
Yields: 1 very large loaf
1/2 tsp active dry yeast. 1/2 tsp sugar, 3 cups very warm water
6 cups flour ( I like using 3 cups white, 2 cups rye, and 1 cup wheat), 1 TBS salt
Whisk together the yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Add the water and whisk to combine. Let the yeast activate for about 5 minutes (you should see some bubbling at the top, but probably not as much as you are used to, as the yeast content is quite low relative to other breads).
Meanwhile, whisk the flour and the salt together. When the yeast mixture is ready, give it a quick stir and pout it into the flour mixture. Mix with a spatula (or a mixer with a dough hook, if you have one) to combine the ingredients. The dough will be quite wet and loose. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place to rise slowly, for 12-15 hours*
Place a dutch oven** on the center rack, and preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Get a peel (or wooden cutting board) dusted heavily with a flour and semolina or oat bran, if you have it. When the oven is ready, turn your dough onto and oiled surface
Oil your hands and a spatula or dough scraper (this dough is quite sticky). Using the spatula, fold one side of the dough towards the center, then repeat with the other four sides. This should tighten the amorphous dough blob into something more... morphorous . Then repeat this process with the "corners", pulling each into the center to provide a bit more structure . Working quickly with a well oiled spatula, transfer the dough, seam-side down, to the edge of the peel
Open the oven, carefully remove the lid to your dutch oven, and slide the loaf in
Re-cover and bake for about 30 minutes, until the loaf is just lightly golden
Remove the cover and cook for 10 - 15 minutes more, or until the color is well developed
When you turn out the loaf and tap the bottom, it should sound hollow
Remove the loaf from the dutch oven to cool
This part will be difficult, but let the loaf cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into it- it's still cooking!
*I recommend this bread as an over-nighter. I prepare the dough just before or after dinner and in the morning, I do the bake.
**If you don't have a dutch oven, you can substitute with a cast iron pot, or even a deep-set cast iron pan, as long as the dough will fit! Just keep in mind that this will alter your cooking time significantly. Additionally, you may want to set some boiling water in a pan on the bottom rack of the oven when you put the loaf in. This will generate steam (which is what a covered dutch oven does as well), which is crucial to the formation of a crunchy crust!