Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Boule (Artisan Free-Form No-Knead Bread)

This bread dough does not require any kneading and will last in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.  Measuring and mixing the dough takes less than 15 minutes.  When you want to make a loaf, just cut off a hunk of dough, shape it and bake it.  It will take less than 5 minutes.  The longer this dough is stored in the refrigerator, the more it will take on the taste of a sourdough bread. This recipe makes four 1-pound loaves. However, I usually make two loaves out of the recipe because I like a larger loaf.  Lightly toast a piece of bread and drizzle with olive oil for the perfect accompaniment to a hot bowl of soup.  It is also great made into a Panini sandwich.  Don't let the length of my 'wordy' recipe scare you.  It's mostly explanation.  This bread will really be the easiest bread you have ever made! Really!

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 TBS granulated yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 TBS kosher or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
Cornmeal for dusting your pan

Warm the water slightly, to about 100 degrees.
Add the yeast and salt to the water in a 5-quart bowl, or a large plastic food container.  Don't worry about getting all of the yeast and salt to dissolve.

Add all of the flour at one.  Mix with a wooden spoon, a high-capacity food processor (14 cups or larger) or a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Mix until the mixture is uniform.  If mixing by hand and it is becoming too difficult, wet your hands first and just mix with your hands.  However, do not knead the bread.  Kneading is unnecessary.  You are done when everything is uniformly moist, without any dry patches.  This mixing process should only take a couple minutes.

Cover the bowl or container with a loose fitting lid. It should just sit on top.  It should not be air-tight.  Allow the bread to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours.  Longer rising times, up to about 5 hours, will not harm the bread.  You can now use a portion of the dough after it has finished rising.  Or you may place the covered bowl in the refrigerator for when you are ready to make your bread.  It will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.

When you are ready to make a loaf of bread, sprinkle the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour.  Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (about the size of a grapefruit) piece of dough, using a serrated knife.  Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't stick to your hands.  Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.  Most of the flour will fall off, that is o.k.  The flour doesn't need to be incorporated into the dough  The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten when you bake the bread.  The top of the bread ball should be fairly smooth. This entire process should take no more than 30 to 60 seconds.

When I make my bread, I use half of the dough recipe and I bake it in a 1 1/2 quart oval or round casserole dish.  You may also bake it directly on a cookie sheet, pizza stone or any size casserole dish depending how much dough you are using. You should first sprinkle your baking surface with a little cornmeal to prevent it from sticking.

Let the dough rest on your pan (or in your casserole dish) for about 40 minutes.  Depending on the age of your dough, you may not see much rising during this period.  That is o.k. as it will rise during baking.

About 20 minutes before you are ready to bake your bread, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Dust the top of the bread dough with flour and make a few 1/4 inch deep slash marks diagonally on top of the dough with a serrated knife.  Your oven may not be up to 450 degrees yet, but go ahead and place the bread dough in the oven.  Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust in nicely browned and firm to the touch.  I bake my bread for 20 minutes, gently remove it from the pan and bake directly on the oven rack for the remaining 10 minutes so the bottom of the loaf gets crusty as well.

Let the bread cool completely on a wire rack.

Store the remaining un-used dough in the refrigerator in your lidded (not air-tight) container and use it over the next 14 days.  You'll notice that even one day's storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread.  This maturation continues over the 14 day storage period.  When you have used up all your bread dough, you don't even need to wash your container.  Just mix up another batch of dough and you will have bread whenever you need it.

Variations:  You may add 1 tsp dried thyme (2 tsp fresh thyme leaves) or 1/2 tsp dried rosemary leaves (1 tsp fresh) to the water mixture.  I think next time I might add some roasted garlic to my bread dough.  Yum!

Experiment with different size loaves and pans. You really can't mess up this bread...its so easy.  I sometimes pull and gently stretch my bread dough to make a long 12 to 14 inch loaf that is a couple inches in diameter.  Have fun with it!

Makes 4 one-pound loaves

Source:  Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day - Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and Zoe Francois


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