One of my favorite memories from childhood at my grandparents house is that of bread baking day. The smell of hot bread wafting all through the house teased my nostrils, I could hardly wait for the loaves to come out of the oven. Grandma let them cool just enough to cut into thick slices then she would slather each slice with salty butter and homemade jam. My siblings and I sat on the back stoop with the butter melting and dripping through our fingers and down our arms. We could eat a whole loaf that way, so she made a point to make enough to save for lunches for the rest of the week. My grandmother kept a very set routine so she baked once a week, always on the same day. I think of her now when I punch down the dough, which is what she used to let me do. She was a sturdy farm women and watching her knead it into submission never ceased to amazed me...how could you do that so long without your arms falling off? After becoming a baker and owning a bakery, I have been ever grateful for the machines we have to help with that process.
In the past few years I have been experimenting more with wetter doughs and after writing the ciabatta post for Michael Ruhlman's Blog which had me making like 5 different batches at home, I realized the same could be accomplished without the addition of the long starter. I use this method when I forget to bring bread home from work...which is surprisingly often. I like to bake this as a rustic loaf, but you could fit it into a loaf pan for more uniform slicing. You can also fiber it up by swapping in a cup of whole wheat flour to the mix or add a handful of cracked rye berries or even cheese or herbs or whatever. Think of it as a blank slate of deliciousness. With it's crispy crust and lacy interior, it also makes the most excellent toast!
For two approximately 1.5# loaves:
3 cups/ 24 oz/682 ml Warm Water
11/2 teaspoon/.25 oz/ 7 grams ACTIVE DRY Yeast (NOT instant, which you can use, but you won't get the same great interior texture)
1 1/2 teaspoon/ 3 oz/ 9 grams Sugar
2 Tablespoons/ 2.5 oz/ 10 ml Olive Oil
6 cups/ 1lb 14 oz / 853 grams Unbleached all purpose White flour
1 1/2 teaspoons/ 3 oz/ 9 grams Salt
In a large bowl dissolve the yeast and suger in the water, add the oil.
Mix in about 5 cups of the flour and let the mixture sit for 5-20 minutes.
Add the last bit of flour and the salt
Mix together until all the flour should be absorbed, it will look pretty rough. Don't be scared.
Cover and let sit 30 minutes. Fold dough in the bowl scraping the sides into the center as you turn the bowl. Cover and let sit another 30 minutes, Fold and rest 2 more times.
By the last fold, it will be poofy and firmer, but still not like a dough you would actually knead. Turn it out onto a well floured surface.
fold the sides into the center
And turn it over
Cut in half
Fold each half together into a rough loaf
place on a floured baking sheet or parchment paper
Preheat oven to 450-500 degrees
place a shallow pan of water in the oven
(gas-right on the bottom, electric-top shelf)
Cover loaves and let rise 45 minutes
Dock lightly with fingers and bake 25 minutes or until loaves reach internal temp of 200 degrees F
Cool well before slicing, or you could just rip it apart and eat still warm with butter and jam...be sure to hide a loaf for later!