Oh, the smell of fresh homemade bread baking in the oven. Nothing like it. Imagine that cup of coffee and the warm, delicious bread with butter melting over the slice just sitting on the plate waiting for you to enjoy it.
But running to the bakery just doesn’t fit into your schedule and making it from scratch is well, way too hard. Right? Wrong!
The Chef from the cookware manufacturer, Le Creuset, shared this amazing recipe with me. It is so easy to make. Plus, once you make it the way the recipe says the first time to get the hang of it, you will find yourself being creative and adding herbs/seasonings/fruit like rosemary, basil, garlic, tarragon, cheese, cinnamon, or raisins to your next adventures.
If you are not already familiar with Le Creuset cookware, you should check it out. Made in France, Le Creuset has been around for more than 85 years. They are known for their colorful, cast iron Dutch ovens with the white enameled interiors. The beauty of working with cast iron pieces is the metal’s ability to retain heat to allow for long, slow, even cooking. This is particularly good when braising meat, slow-cooking a casserole, bean dishes or dense sauces. But, it is also great for baking bread due to the heat distribution. The cookware works well on all heat sources including induction and can go from stovetop to oven to table where it will keep the food warm due to the cast iron center.
So, if you are fortunate enough to have a Le Creuset Dutch oven, you should try this recipe. If you don’t have one (yet), any heavy bottomed, aluminum stockpot will work.
Note that I made this in a large oven that is almost 9 quarts (thus the small size of bread in the picture). You could use a 5 1/2 quart oven and should be fine with measurements in recipe.
Adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1 ½ hours plus 14 to 20 hours rising
3 cups all purpose or bread floor, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups (13 ounces) of 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 (I use a Silpat) or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) or a piece of parchment paper 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 two 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, preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 5½ to 8 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron works best) in the 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 ok. Shake pan once or twice is 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 rack.
Yield: One 1½ pound loaf
If you want to make an herb butter to top off your warm bread, try this:
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
2 tablespoons fresh herbs
Combine butter, salt, lemon zest and herbs in a bowl with a fork. Roll into a log on wax paper. Refrigerate till firm and ready to use.
Le Creuset can be found in many kitchen and department stores as well as online. There are also outlet stores should you have the opportunity to visit one. Try signing up for their email list to be notified of special promotions and/or sales. Be aware that colors may have exclusivity to specific retailers should you be looking for one particular one.
Happy bread baking! Share your masterpieces with us too.