It's bread baking season; the time of year when I crank up the O'Keefe and Merritt and warm the kitchen with yeasty scents. I've been playing around with the simple crusty bread recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007). My adaptation includes whole wheat flour and flax meal that not only assuages white flour guilt, but adds a chewy texture that's great with a slab of cheese or toasted with butter. The no fuss technique cured me of bread making phobia and I also love that the unused portion of the dough can be stored covered in the fridge for up to two weeks. That means you can pull off a lobe of dough at your leisure and fresh bread is just a forty minute wait. So go ahead, break some bread.
Simple Crusty Bread
Time: About 45 minutes plus about 3 hours' resting and rising
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground flax meal
1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.
4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.
Yield: 4 loaves.