Rose’s Basic Hearth Bread
Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum, The Bread Bible, W. W. Norton & Company, 2003
This is the recipe as it appears on the back of the flour bag but with a few additions, variations and lots of tips!
Makes: About 1-3/4 pounds of dough: An 8 inch round loaf, or a 9 inch sandwich loaf, or 16 dinner rolls, or 12 hot dog buns, or 8 hamburger buns
3 cups/1 pound Harvest King flour (measured by dip and sweep)
1/4 cup/1.25 ounce whole wheat flour
1-1/4 teaspoons rapid rise, bread machine or other instant yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1-1/3 cups/11.25 ounces room temperature water
1 teaspoon mild honey, such as clover
Optional for soft crust for sandwich bread or buns: 1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the bread flour, whole wheat flour and yeast. Then whisk in the salt. Stir in the water and honey (and optional oil). Using a mixer with a dough hook or by hand, knead the dough until smooth and springy (about 7 minutes, or 10 minutes by hand). The dough should be soft and just sticky enough to cling slightly to your fingers. If it is still very sticky knead in a little flour. If it is too stiff spray it with a little water and knead it.
Set the dough in a lightly greased bowl and lightly spray or oil the top of the dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot. Allow the dough to rise until doubled, about an hour. (Stick a finger into the center of the dough and if it keeps the indentation it’s ready.) If baking it the following day, press down the dough and set it in a large oiled zipper type storage bag, leaving a tiny bit unzipped for the forming gas to escape, and refrigerate it. Remove it to room temperature 1 hour before shaping.
When ready to shape the dough, set it on a very lightly floured counter and flatten gently with your fingertips. Shape into a round ball or football. Set it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or lightly sprinkled with cornmeal or flour. Cover with a large container or oiled plastic wrap and allow it to rise until almost doubled and when pressed gently with a finger the depression very slowly fills in.
While the dough is rising, set the oven rack toward the bottom and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it. Set a cast iron skillet or heavy baking pan on the floor of the oven or on the lowest shelf. Preheat the oven to 475F. for 45 minutes or longer.
With a single edged razor blade or very sharp knife, cut one or more long, 1/4 inch deep slashes into the dough. Mist the dough with water, quickly but gently set the baking sheet on the hot stone or hot baking sheet, and toss 1/2 cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath. Immediately shut the door and bake 10 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 425°F. and continue baking 20 to 30 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. (An instant read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 210°F.). Halfway through baking, turn the pan halfway around for even baking.
Remove the bread to a wire rack to cool completely or until just warm.
Processor Method: Refer to the instruction booklet for your model to determine the maximum amount of flour allowable. Chill the water. Place the whisked flour mixture in the work bowl fitted with the dough blades. With the motor on, add the cold water and oil if desired. If the mixture doesn’t come together after 10 seconds, scrape down the sides. and scrape the dry part into the moist part. After the mixture comes together, continue processing for 1-1/2 minutes until a smooth elastic dough is formed. If it does not clean the bowl, pulse in a little extra flour. Remove the dough to a counter and knead it for 10 seconds to equalize the temperature.
Optional Seed Variation: Add up to 3/4 cup of mixed seeds such as cracked flax, sesame, poppy, sunflower or pumpkin to the flour mixture. (The sunflower and pumpkin seeds have the best flavor if toasted at 325F. until just beginning to color—about 5 minutes.)
1) Mix the dough first thing Saturday morning or as late as 1:00 in the afternoon and it will be ready for dinner at 6. or
2) Store the baked cooled loaf in a paper bag and reheat it for Sunday dinner in a 350°F. oven for 5 to 10 minutes to crisp the crust and warm the crumb. or
OR Refrigerate the dough until Sunday morning. (This will give it a more open crumb.) Shape and bake it for Sunday dinner OR
If desired Double the recipe. Slice the second loaf. Place it in a freezer weight zipper lock bag and freeze it for week day lunches
* To measure the flour, dip the measuring cup with unbroken rim into the flour and with a straight edge such as a metal spatula or knife, level it off.
* Flour should be stored in an airtight container in a cool area. It will keep for about a year, and much longer if it is stored in the refrigerator or freezer. Old flour will not smell bad but it will lose it’s ability to provide good structure to the bread.
* Whole wheat flour will become rancid after about 6 months unless it is stored in the refrigerator or freezer where it will keep for over a year.
* Instant yeast will stay fresh for as long as 2 years if stored in an airtight container in the freezer after opening the package.
* If you have a recipe using active dry yeast, replace each teaspoon with 3/4 teaspoon of instant yeast.
* If adding seeds to the dough, taste them first to be sure they are not rancid and store any leftover seeds in the freezer.
* If adding grains such as polenta or bulgur to the dough, they should be soaked for at least 4 hours.
* Basic rustic bread dough can accommodate grains, seeds and nuts up to as much as 60% of the flour without becoming crumbly. My preference is between 10 to 33%. The addition of seeds and grains to bread dough adds excellent flavor and texture in addition to providing fiber.
* Add salt after the yeast is mixed into the flour. Avoid direct contact with the salt and yeast.
* If water is cold when added to the flour, it will take the dough longer to rise (except if using a food processor to mix the dough). The water can be slightly warm but hot water will kill the yeast. Cold tap water takes about 30 minutes to reach room temperature.
* If you are kneading the dough by hand, use a bench scraper to move the dough and add only as much extra flour as needed. During kneading, the flour absorbs the water evenly and as the gluten develops the dough becomes less sticky on its own.
* When shaping the dough, it helps if it clings a little to the counter so use flour only if it sticks to the counter.
* If there is no warm area in the house you can put the shaped bread in a microwave (NOT turned on) or cover it with a large container along with a cup of hot tap water to speed rising and maintain a moist environment. Change the water after 30 minutes to keep it hot. Alternatively you can increase the yeast up to a total of 2 teaspoons.
* For a rustic appearance, you can dust the surface of the loaf with flour before slashing it.
* A baking stone (or quarry tiles) is ideal for evenly retaining the oven’s heat after the door has been opened and produces the best rise.
* Keep the oven door closed during the first 15 minutes of baking.
* An instant read thermometer takes the guess work out of telling when the bread is baked fully.
* If the crust is getting too brown before the inside is baked, tent it loosely with foil.
* Burned bread is bitter but a deep golden brown crust is more flavorful than a pale golden one.
* The bread is continuing to ‘bake’ during cooling. For the best texture, allow the bread to cool completely or until just warm before cutting into it.
* For an extra crisp crust, return the cooled bread to a 350°F. oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
* For a sandwich loaf, before shaping, press the dough into a greased loaf pan. It should come no more than 1/2 inch from the top. Cut off any excess dough (use scissors or a knife—don’t tear the dough) and bake it as rolls. Roll or press the rest of the dough into a rectangle and roll it up tightly, pinching the seam with your fingers. Set it seam-side down in the lightly greased pan. Let it rise until almost doubled. Slash if desired. Bake the loaf at 375°F. for 40 to 50 minutes A lower temperature forms a thicker crust which supports the higher sides of the loaf.