I’ve gotten to the point where I refuse to buy bread. If there was a nice bakery in the area, I think I’d be okay with buying bread there, but, even though I generally love my grocery store, I know that I can make better bread than they sell. Plus, it gives me a chance to bake something that isn’t horribly unhealthy.
I decided I needed to deviate from the two bread books I have, which end up being the only sources I use for bread recipes. I’d heard that King Arthur Flour had a nice variety of bread recipes, so it seemed time to give one a try. I was looking for something rustic to go along with the chanterelle and Speck salad, and I wanted to avoid recipes that were already on my list to try from other sources (like ciabatta; I’ve been itching to try Peter Reinhart’s since I got his book several years ago). I chose European-Style Hearth Bread because it sounded like a good, basic rustic bread.
Except I’m not sure I really made European-Style Hearth Bread, since I didn’t use the European-style bread flour that the recipe calls for. I’m finding that the King Arthur website is all about the product placement in its recipes; I guess that’s the price you pay for such an extensive list of recipes available for free. But hey, at least I did use King Arthur regular bread flour!
The bread is just a little easier than most of Peter Reinhart’s recipes, because while both recommend making a pre-ferment the day before the bread is baked, this one doesn’t require kneading, while most of Reinhart’s do. The rest of the recipe is fairly straightforward, although the rising times are a little longer than most.
In fact, I think the rising times may be off a bit. The recipe calls for essentially the same amount of yeast as most other bread recipes, but somehow calls for much longer rising times. That doesn’t make sense to me, and indeed, my loaves reached the required “three-quarters of the way to doubled” in far less time than the recipe indicated.
In the end though, this made some very good bread – chewy and flavorful and very attractive. I’m finding that I have just as little self-control around freshly baked bread as I do around cookies.
European-Style Hearth Bread (from King Arthur Flour)
Makes 2 small loaves
Bridget note: I found that the second rise took only about an hour instead of the 2 hours recommended in the recipe. I baked my loaves on a pizza stone. I did not cool the bread in the oven; I don’t usually like a super crisp crust.
⅓ cup (2⅝ ounces) cool water (about 65F)
½ cup (2⅛ ounces) European-Style Artisan Bread Flour
1/16 teaspoon (a pinch) instant yeast
All of the poolish (above)
¾ cup (6 ounces) cool water, about 65F
2½ cups (10 ¾ ounces) European-Style Artisan Bread Flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
The poolish: In a medium-sized bowl, combine all of the poolish ingredients, mixing just till a cohesive dough forms. Allow the poolish to rest, covered, for 12 to 16 hours at room temperature. When the poolish is ready to use, it will be filled with large holes and bubbles.
The dough: Add the water to the poolish, and mix till smooth. Add the flour, mix till just combined, cover the bowl, and allow the mixture to rest for 20 minutes. This rest period (autolyse, in French) allows the flour to absorb the liquid and the gluten to start its development, making kneading easier and more effective. Add the yeast and salt, and knead the dough till it’s fairly smooth but not necessarily elastic, about 5 to 7 minutes by hand, 5 minutes by electric mixer, or 5 to 7 minutes in a bread machine. (The gluten will continue to develop as the dough rises, so you don’t want to develop it fully during the kneading process.)
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise, at room temperature, for 1 ½ hours. To help develop the gluten, distribute the yeast’s food, and expel any excess carbon dioxide, turn the dough every 30 minutes during the rising time: gently fold all four sides into the middle, and turn the dough over.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, divide it in half, shape each half into a rough log, cover them, and let them rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Again, this gives the gluten a chance to relax. Shape the logs into batards (shorter and fatter than traditional French baguettes) or Italian-style loaves – tapered ovals about 12″ long. Place them on a lightly greased or parchment-covered baking sheet, cover them with an acrylic dough cover, or gently with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow them to rise, at room temperature, for about 2 hours; they should rise about three-quarters of the way to doubled. If they rise too much they’ll lose their shape in the oven, so be sure they don’t over-rise.
Using a sharp knife or razor, and holding it parallel to the dough*, make four slashes in each loaf. These should be more nearly vertical (running down the loaf) than horizontal (running crosswise), each stretching about one-third the length of the loaf. Spray the loaves with warm water.
Preheat your oven to 425F, making sure you give it plenty of time to heat; this bread needs to go into a HOT oven. Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, or until it’s a deep, golden brown. Note: European-style loaves are generally baked longer than American loaves; if you’re uncomfortable with a very dark crust, reduce the baking time a bit. Turn off the oven, crack the door open about 4 to 6 inches, and allow the bread to cool in the oven; this will help it retain its crunchy crust.
*The blade shouldn’t descend into the dough at a 90° angle; rather it should slice under the surface at about 10° to 20°. This will allow the loaf to rise in a more attractive fashion as its baking.