Friday, March 2, 2012

Rustic Crusty Bread

I was inspired by Mel's Kitchen Cafe (once again) and decided to make this recipe for Rustic Crusty Bread. Even the name sounds delicious. You can't go wrong here...

In an effort to be thorough, I baked half of this the same day I made it (which was Sunday), and half on Thursday night after it had been stored in the fridge for 4 days - that way I could tell if it really tastes phenomenal both ways. :)

So how did it fare? The first loaf was phenomenal fresh out of the oven, and it was still good even when I finished the last of it 4 days later. I suspect it will start to taste a little dry after that point, but since you can make these loaves as big or small as you want, you can adjust the size so that you make about as much as you'll eat in 3 days and save the rest of the dough (or bake it all into smaller loaves and freeze all but one).

The second loaf probably could have risen longer than an hour and a half. Maybe my kitchen is on the cold side, but that dough was still really cold when I popped it in the oven. As a result, I don't think it rose as much as it could have, so it was a little denser (and it also got lopsided in the oven, but that's beside the point). It also was still doughy in the middle after baking for 26 minutes (a fact I lamentably did not discover until it was too late). So I personally would recommend baking all the dough right away and freezing the loaves you aren't going to eat immediately. If you do decide to refrigerate the dough, find a warmer spot for it to rise right before baking - maybe put it in a warm oven instead of on the counter (or don't try it in winter with a cold kitchen).

I think next time I will try making smaller, 1-2 serving type baguettes because those would be awesome with potato soup or something similar.

Anyway, here's the recipe in case you don't want to click the link above. (But you should. Because she posted pictures for each step, which I'm not copying over, and also instructions on what to do if you don't have a baking stone.)

Rustic Crusty Bread

*Makes 2-4 loaves of bread

1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast (I used about 2 Tbs active dry yeast and let it proof about 5 min)
1 tablespoon salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting dough
3 cups lukewarm water

In a large bowl mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover lightly with a kitchen towel but don’t seal the bowl airtight. Let the dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).

Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered in an airtight container, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife (I have only ever made two loaves out of the batch of dough so I just divide the dough in half to form my first loaf). Turn the dough in your hands to lightly stretch the surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put the dough on a piece of parchment paper set on a pizza peel or a rimmed baking sheet turned upside down. Let the dough rest for 40 minutes for room temperature dough; if you have used the dough out of the refrigerator, let it rest for 1 1/2 hours. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

Place a broiler pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Place a baking stone on the middle rack and preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat the stone at that temperature for 20 minutes before baking.

After the dough has rested and is ready to bake, dust the dough lightly with flour, slash the top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide the dough (with the parchment paper) onto the baking stone. Pour one cup of hot water into the broiler pan and shut the oven quickly to trap the steam. Bake the bread until well browned, about 24-28 minutes. Cool completely.