Monday, November 15, 2010

‘Ralph & Bill’ Bread

Makes 1 loaf
This is one of the easiest bread recipes out there.  And one of the most delicious easy-bread recipes too.  The only tricky thing is you’ll need a Dutch oven, one of those heavy duty enamel-coated cast iron pots.  (This is a great brand, but very expensive.  There are many good less expensive options out there too.)  Aim for a size of about seven quarts or so, but a little smaller or bigger would be okay.  Either round or oval shaped will work.
Hot out of the Oven
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups water
extra-virgin olive oil, for coating the bowl
wheat bran or wheat germ, for dusting
The night before:  Grease the insides of a medium-sized mixing bowl with olive oil, and set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast and salt.  Add the water and incorporate by hand, making just a few turns of the wrist until everything is combined.  Transfer the dough to the greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest for at least 12 hours and up to 18 hours at room temperature.
The day of (about 3-4 hours before you want to serve the bread): Remove the dough from the bowl and fold it over once or twice, deflating it a bit.  Let it rest for 15 minutes, either on a clean work surface or back in the greased bowl. 
Spread a clean, dry cotton towel on the countertop.  Generously coat it with wheat bran/germ.  Place the dough, seam-side down (although there’s really not much of a ‘seam’ so don’t worry about it) on the towel and dust very lightly with flour.  Cover the dough with another cotton towel.  Let rise 1 to 2 hours at room temperature.
After about an hour or so of rising, preheat the oven to 475°F.  Place the a large Dutch oven (about 7 quarts, either round or oval shaped) with its lid into the oven, and let it heat for at least 30 minutes. 
Remove the pot from the oven, and remove the lid.  Lifting the dough by the cotton towel, flip it into the heated pot, seam-side up.  Cover with the lid and return to the oven.  Bake with the lid on for 30 minutes.  Then remove the lid and bake 10-20 minutes longer, until the loaf is nicely browned and firm to the touch.
Remove the loaf of bread from the pot, and allow it to cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes before slicing.  Can be kept at room temperature in an air-tight container for up to a day without decreasing in quality too much.