Cold Weather Farmhouse-Style Bread
I don’t make bread often – I find I’m usually disappointed with the results – but sometimes cold lazy days just call for a steamy loaf of homemade bread. A while ago, I read through the bread chapter of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking v.II and remember thinking I should try some of those ideas, and thought they would work with the recipe I had. I didn’t want a French-style bread – I was looking for something more substantial, so I used a kind of farmhouse bread recipe that I sped up with fast-rising yeast. I used Julia’s water misting/steam bath technique to get the kind of crust I wanted. The result was a dense, crumby loaf with a crisp crust that was perfect for toast with butter, or dunking into hot winter soup. I seem to have misplaced the recipe I ended up using so I don’t have the exact amounts/ratio that I used – but any good bread should really just be unbleached flour (8-9% gluten), water, salt, and yeast.
The bread should be allowed to rise at least twice, with the dough roughly doubling in size each time. Depending on whether you use a standard or no-knead recipe, and regular or fast-rising yeast, you are looking at at least 8 hours of time from mixing the ingredients to baking the bread, if not more. Many of Julia’s French Bread techniques involve rising over night.
I found that the best results (crust-wise) came by baking the loaves on a silpat dusted with flour, and (instead of a steam bath) spritzing the loaves at the beginning and again at about halfway through the baking process. Use a standard spray bottle with fresh room temperature water. My loaves stayed best (about 2 days) when just the cut ends were covered with tin foil, and the whole loaf was placed in a paper bag on the counter for storage. Good luck!
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