With the Covid-19 shelter in place, I have decided to make my bread again. A few years back, I was baking bread with my starter. This time I have decided to go the easy way and use commercial yeast. Also, I wanted to make bread with as little kneading as possible.
Professional ovens have a system to regulate the level of humidity. Kitchen ovens vent to lower the level of moisture, so it is difficult to keep enough steam inside to make fluffy bread. To solve that problem, I use the dutch oven technique. This technique traps humidity inside of the cooking pot. Fifteen minutes before the end of the baking time, I remove the cover to get a nice brown crust.
The following recipe is the result of a medley of several recipes found in books, on the internet and through experiments.
For the ingredients, I use the professional bakers' weight percentage rule:
- 100% bread flour
- 80% of water
- 2% salt
- 1% fresh yeast
This rule will allow you to make any size bread. Make sure the quantity of dough you make will fit in your cooking pot. To bake my bread, I use the following proportions:
- 600 grams of all-purpose flour or bread flour
- 475 grams of lukewarm water between 32º/45ºC (90º-110ºF)
- 15 grams of salt
- 6 grams of active dry yeast
80% of 600 grams is 480 grams of water. I use 475 because it is always easier to add than remove water.
Stir the yeast into the warm water and allow the yeast to bloom. After 5 to 10 minutes, a light foam should appear on the water.
While the yeast is blooming, thoroughly mix flour and salt in a large bowl. Once incorporated, create a small well in the middle and pour in the "water/yeast" mixture.
Using your hand, mix until the mixture forms a rough dough. If the dough is too sticky, add a little bit of flour. If it is too dry, add more water. Be careful not to add too much flour or water. Use no more than one tablespoon at a time.
Wet your working hand before mixing, so the dough doesn't stick to your fingers.
Once the dough has come together, cover your mixing bowl and let the dough rise for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Now the dough should have doubled in size. Tap the dough with your finger. If the dough has risen properly, your fingers should leave an indentation, and the dough should slowly deflate.
Use a rubber spatula to fold the dough inward. Turn the bowl until all the dough has pulled from the sides of the container.
Cover your bowl and let the dough rise again for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. The dough should double in size again.
Gently move the dough onto a floured surface. Flour your hand and sprinkle a small amount of flour on the top. Fold the dough under itself to form a ball. Join the seams together underneath.
Take a new bowl, coat it with olive oil and flour. Place the dough seam-side down inside this bowl.
Cover and let the dough rise for 1 hour.
Before the dough has finished rising, take a dutch oven or a heavy cooking pot large enough for the quantity of dough you have prepared. Make sure your dish as an oven-safe lid.
Place the pot with the lid, inside the oven and preheat to 450ºF/230ºC.
The next step deals with a VERY HOT pot. Please be careful!
Remove the cooking pot from the oven and place on a heat-safe surface.
Put the dough (seam side on top) on a lightly floured parchment paper. With a sharp knife, draw a cross on the top of the bread.
Carefully place it inside of the pot. Cover with the lid and return the container to the oven.
Bake at 450ºF/230ºC for 30 minutes.
Remove the lid and continue to bake for 15 more minutes.
Remove the bread from the pot and let it cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Resist the temptation to cut the bread when it is still hot. By slicing your bread too early, you will allow the moisture to escape.