Dearest Cozette gave me this amazing white bread recipe from the New York Times, November 8th 2006 and adapted from Jim Lahey, Sullivan Street Bakery author of My Bread. Crazy crusty on the outside and light as a feather on the inside, this bread is a total kick to make.
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups cool water (55 to 65 degrees)
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 1/3 cups 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.
2. 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.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, 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 2 hours.
When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in 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 O.K. Shake pan once or twice if 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 minutes, or just until loaf is beautifully browned.
Cool on a rack.
I can’t wait to show this trick to my daughters! Who knew you could make restaurant quality bread without any oil? The only, and I mean the ONLY hard part, was remembering to start the bread almost a day ahead of time. The schedule that worked for me was to mix together the flour, yeast, salt, and water at 7:00 p.m. The next day, (18 hours later) at 1:00 p.m. I added a bit of flour, rolled it into a ball, and let it rise for another 2 hours. At 3:00 I put into into the hot pan and preheated oven. One hour later we had a beautiful freshly baked hubcap ready to serve with some homemade ham and bean soup.
I can’t even remember the last time I had something baked (other than my trusty Seven Minute Whole Wheat Bread) actually turn out. The directions scared me at first but honestly this recipe was silly-simple to prepare and took maybe a total of 10 minutes of actual work. I just LOVE big results with little effort. Bad that way.