Have you ever noticed this strange thing about bread? I have..
3 Cups of Flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 Teaspoon of dry yeast ( or a 1/3rd of fresh yeast cube) , 1.5 Cups of water and time (12 hours of it at least) … mix all the ingredients roughly with a fork and leave covered overnight to rise
It seems to me that regardless of how accomplished one feels about cooking, when it comes to baking bread, even the bravest shy away from the challenge.. there seems to be something different about baking bread that feels almost like a mystical, unreachable quest only a chosen few can achieve. Yet, it is not.
Though it is true that, in its bizarre simplicity, the process in itself feels magical, and even unfair, every time… It is incredible that without any intensive labor and just by merging a few staple ingredients with sufficient time would allow for such a whole, indecent perfection to be born.
Now, for the dirty secret… this bread takes 5 minutes to assemble… (though it will take you a full night of raising, but who cares, while the yeast is hard at work.. you should be sleeping the anxiety off!) the only “work” part is to ensure that first you have a dutch oven (mine is a traditional Finnish cast-iron pot from Iittala Sarpaneva, but anything is fine as long as it has a lid and can handle hot temperature) and to heat your oven sufficiently to create the perfect condition for the bread to rise and form the mandatory air bubbles & crust.
Prepare your dough the night before or in the morning… then 8 hours minimum( but i like to follow the “12 hours or more” philosophy), simply preheat your oven with the pot already in (trust me, it will save you time) … once the oven has reached the 230C mark, take out the pot and drop the dough directly into it, cover with the lid and place it back to the oven. After 30 minutes, uncover the pot and leave to cook for an additional 15 minutes.
This is the basic recipe for a French loaf to which you can add rosemary, thyme, olives, walnuts…. if you heart so desire; mine just longs for the simpler version, with butter and coarse salt melting on top.