Back when I was first experimenting with cooking, I used to regularly try to make bread. But bread is more an art than a craft, and with no one actually to show me how to do it — the right look, the right feel — it never came out as something I’d want to eat.
The recipes I tried were a tremendously time-consuming, labor-intensive struggle against the ingredients, and I never quite won.
So when the NY Times’ Minimalist column came out last Wednesday, I kept it aside for future reference. Well, this time I’m a winner.
The almost miraculous thing about this is, it only takes about ten minutes. It’s ten minutes spread over a day-and-a-half, but that’s really just fine. The schedule is very flexible. The basic idea of the recipe, without violating copyright, is this: mix 3 cups of flour, about a teaspoon (a little less) of yeast, a teaspoon of salt, and 1 5/8 cups of flour in a bowl. Mix to combine, cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 18+ hours. Roll it out onto a floured working surface, dust a little more flour on it, and roll it into a ball. Put it on a cotton dishtowel seam side down, sprinkle it with cornmeal or more four and put another dishtowel over it. Let it rise another two hours.
Take an ovenproof casserole — I used an 8-quart La Creuset dutch oven — and put it in the oven and preheat it all to 450. When the oven’s ready, flip the bread into the casserole seam side up, cover it, and bake 30 minutes. After that time, take the lid off and give it another 15-30 minutes, until it’s browned on top.
The results were outstanding. A nice thin crackly crust with a meltingly soft inside. Next time I’ll try adding a little extra virgin olive oil, or some semolina flour. Piece of cake.