Seems like ages ago, the BW and I are schlepping our entire bedroom furniture into the living room, so we can remove the laminate “wood” flooring. My BW is allergic to the floor and wakes up each day sneezing with itchy eyes, so we acquired these ceramic tiles (boy are they heavy) for the floor.
Right afterward, BW gets sick with the flu. And then I join her malaise. So we’re in our pajamas 24/7 each day and I don’t feel too much like eating, but my BW has to eat, because her diabetes requires a certain blood-sugar level.
Having time all over my hands, I was reading a recent Mother Earth News magazine article about bread, one of my favourite foods. I am intrigued by the concept of not kneading the breads. This is something I need. I read the article and decide to bake a Crusty White Bread loaf. William Rubel wrote this article and stressed “wetness” in the success of the finished loaf.
I make this bread (it is very easy, but you have to start the night before), and it was so satisfying, my beloved and I finished it within an hour after it cooled.
Crusty White Bread
1 pound (455 grams) unbleached flour. I used “bread” flour.
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
11/3 cups (320 ml) water
Baking stone or cookie sheet
Pizza peel or sturdy piece of cardboard
· Put the flour, yeast, salt and enough water in a large bowl and mix them to form a soft, sticky dough. I mixed it with wet hands.
· Let it sit covered at room temperature overnight.
· In the morning, wet your hands, lift dough onto flat, wet surface, then gently stretch it and fold it in half four times.
· Return dough to bowl, cover and let it rise till doubled in size in a warm place (about 70F, 20C).
· Line a bigger bowl with a clean cotton or linen towel and dust it heavily with flour.
· When the dough has doubled, gently turn it out to a work surface.
· With wet hands and a dough scraper (or spatula) stretch, fold and turn about four times until the dough begins to stiffen and assumes a ball shape.
· Put the ball into the lined bowl, cover and let rise till almost doubled, about one hour.
· Preheat oven with the stone inside to 500F (260C).
· Turn dough onto a well floured pizza peel or cardboard. I usually sprinkle cornmeal on the peel. Put a couple of slashes with a sharp knife on the top of the dough.
· Slide onto the baking stone and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. At the beginning, I placed a big 13”x9” pan of hot water on the lowest oven rack; this makes the crust very crispy.
· Let it cool at least 2 hours before slicing. I didn’t want to, but did.
Some folks are maybe put off by this, starting in the evening etc., but you could use a timer and go about your business. I know speed and convenience is the norm nowadays, but for thousands of years, bakers have relied on the live yeast to work the dough and I respect that. If you are undecided, I urge you to try it just once; if you don’t think it is worthwhile then forget about it. If you actually enjoy baking, maybe you could interest a neighbour, bake an extra loaf for them, and get something in return, maybe a jar of pickles or jam or whatever. Or just give it as a kind gesture with no expectations.
Years ago I used to bake a kind of “Cuban Bread” where you added a pan of water to a cold oven and then turned the oven on. Some of my co-workers didn’t like the crisp crust, the water pan can be omitted if you prefer. But it’s wonderful bread.