How to Make Fabulous Bread

by Claire Morgan

It takes two days, but you've got the time.

Supplies

  • 2 Pounds Bread flour
  • 1 Ounce Fresh yeast
  • 1 Liter Expensive fizzy water
  • 1 Bunch Kosher salt
  • Instructions

    Step 1

    This is what we are after today- crunchy bread that is full of holes. It's salty and yeasty and, fabulous. If you are looking at this and thinking , I'm going to add some sprouted wheat berries...

    Step 2

    close this and go to Epicurious.

    Step 3

    Oddly, my recipe is based on one from this cookbook ...that I changed. But only so you don't have to. Nancy is a great baker and you should buy her book because Bernie Maddoff stole her money.

    Step 4

    Get out a big Tupperware with a lid, and all ingredients. And your scale. You don't have one? You're going to need one because this is one of the last times I'm going to let you use measuring cups.

    Step 5

    Put 2 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbls. flour (12 oz- I did the math and wouldn't it be easier to just weigh it?) into the tub.

    Step 6

    I use this water because it's the only bottled water I keep around. It doesn't have any chlorine in it which the tap water does. While I'm happy to have chlorine in the pool killing a bunch of gross

    Step 7

    stuff, I don't want it killing this good yeast. And having started using fizzy water, I always do. There's no reason to think bubbles in the water make for bubbles in the bread, but they might.

    Step 8

    Put this much yeast (1/4 of 2 oz package or, 1/2 oz. if you had a scale) into the tub.

    Step 9

    This is what measuring cups are for. Liquids! Pour 12 oz. of that fizzy water into the flour and yeast and mix it around. We're going to call this mix a "sponge" because that's what Nancy calls it.

    Step 10

    It will look like this. I probably should've mentioned that the sponge has to hang around your kitchen , covered , for 12 to 18 hours. Sorry, I hate when that happens.

    Step 11

    Next day, bubbles! Into your standing mixer, put the sponge, 1/2 oz. yeast, 1 1/2 lb (or, 4 3/4 cups plus 2 Tbsp. ) flour and 18 oz. fizzy water. With the dough hook in place, turn on mixer to low.

    Step 12

    After 2 minutes, scrape down the bowl to get the stuff off the bottom . Then add 4 tsps kosher salt, because Nancy said so. I'm not the bossy one- she said kosher, so I use kosher. If you forget to

    Step 13

    add the salt, as I have done, more than once, you will end up with a totally inedible doorstop. No croutons, no Melba toast. Compost.

    Step 14

    Mix on low for2 minutes, medium for 2 ,then medium high for 2. The directions for your mixer may say not to do bread at med high, but they're alarmists. You'll be fine. Dough will look like this.

    Step 15

    Phew ! Hildegard is back! And she's covering the counter with flour. See how she has the dishwasher open?

    Step 16

    Here's why the door is open- you can sift flour to the edge of the counter without sifting directly on the floor. Later, you'll push the dough into the bowl over the open door. Genius.

    Step 17

    Action! Dump out the dough onto the counter

    Step 18

    Using the bench scraper, fold it onto itself. You only need to do it 3 or 4 times. Just until it's all covered in flour.

    Step 19

    When it looks like this, you are ready to put it into a

    Step 20

    Clean bowl, which you have sprayed with

    Step 21

    This! A truly essential product for all bakers. You could bake a cake in a shoe if you used this stuff.

    Step 22

    Now, open the dishwasher, hold the bowl under it and scrape the dough in. If you had the impression that this method would keep all the flour off the floor, I apologize . No way.

    Step 23

    But, you'll keep this much flour from hitting the floor. Do what I do and always make bread the day before the floor gets mopped, hopefully, by someone who isn't you.

    Step 24

    Cover the bowl with useless plastic wrap that won't really stick to it because it only sticks to itself. No matter. Leave it on the counter for 45 minutes.

    Step 25

    Generally, on bread day, my assistants use the 45 minute resting periods to return calls and check emails. But, after the week Hildegard's had, what with putting out fires in NY and getting caught in

    Step 26

    the polar vortex, she's ready to chill out with a good book . And I'm just that kind of boss.

    Step 27

    Same with Hadley. The gov't levied more fines on her banker client this week. And it's because of Bernie Madoff. Again. Dedicated lawyer that she is, her fiction of choice is written by a lawyer.

    Step 28

    While the dough rests, prepare the counter again. Scrape the counter and re-sift the flour onto it. There may be bits of dried dough- toss those. Add flour, as needed to cover.

    Step 29

    After 45 minutes, the dough will have risen slightly. Turn it onto the counter. Here is an example of something you don't want in your bread- a lump of Pam soaked flour. Pinch that right out.

    Step 30

    Fold the dough in the same way but this time, look for those wads of flour as you fold. Whack the dough to get that flour off. This will definitely get it on your floor. Sorry.

    Step 31

    Same deal. Dough back in the bowl. You can use more spray if needs it . Cover the bowl. Set the timer for 45 minutes.

    Step 32

    Sometimes, Hadley does yoga to de-stress.

    Step 33

    Repeat folding and whacking. For the third rise, the dough goes in the fridge. Not sure how this started but it was probably an emergency tennis game, as my friend Leland might say. And like the

    Step 34

    fizzy water, if it works, keep doing it. So, leave it in there for an hour, but not two. It could take over. Your refrigerator, I mean.

    Step 35

    After the third rise, the dough will be pretty big. Put it on the counter and repeat the steps.

    Step 36

    For this rise, let it sit for an hour , no matter what this timer says. The dough was cold, after all.

    Step 37

    Hildegard is reading Vanity Fair- the book- not the mag that has been giving her fits. Big fan of 19th century English satirists. And Swift, of course.

    Step 38

    This is a baking stone. If you want bread with a perfect crust, you have to have one. So, get one, put it in the lower third of your oven and set it to 500 degrees. The last rise takes about as

    Step 39

    Long as it takes my oven to get that hot. About 30 minutes after you shape the loaves.

    Step 40

    Isn't this beautiful ? Dump it on the counter.

    Step 41

    Here, Hildegard shows how to cut the dough into 3 equal pieces.

    Step 42

    Hadley takes a turn. They don't have to be equal, as you'll see, because my oven heats so unevenly. Sorry Thermadore. The bread closest to the fan bakes way faster.

    Step 43

    Sprinkle flour on the sticky spots of dough. We don't want it to stick to the counter when the slapping starts.

    Step 44

    Yes, I said slapping. Hildegard demonstrates how to slap the dough between your hands, back and forth. Most bread requires punching and kneading, but not this. Slap10, 20 times.

    Step 45

    While you're slapping, turn the dough over to look for excess flour. Shake the dough to get it off. You don't want those wrinkles to be full of flour and you can shape the loaves right on the paper

    Step 46

    Put paper on a cookie sheet and shape the loaves. This dough is pretty soft- so don't worry about shaping them on the counter. They'll be pretty close but don't worry about that either. You'll see.

    Step 47

    Hadley and Hildegard get some paper towels wet. I use the good kind so don't blame me if your cheap ones fall apart. You could also use a tea towel, but I don't.

    Step 48

    Put the towels on the bread, comme ca. I know they don't cover every bit. I don't like to be too neurotic about stuff like this. Just leave them somewhere for 30 minutes.

    Step 49

    When 30 minutes have passed, and the oven is 500 degrees, throw this many ice cubes in the oven- not on the stone. Remove towels, then carefully slide the loaves, and the paper, onto the stone.

    Step 50

    This part is hot and steamy so work quickly and wear goggles, maybe. If some of the dough hangs over the side, push it right back . Everything will be alright . Close the door and turn oven to 450.

    Step 51

    Don't open the oven! For at least 20 minutes. Then you can, but put on those goggles because you're going to get a face-full of steam. If the loaves are attached, cut them apart with a long knife.

    Step 52

    The loaves are ready at 30 minutes, usually. Perfectly baked bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Use an oven mitt and a knife to check. You'll know it when you hear it. Trust me. This ..

    Step 53

    loaf came out first because it was closest to the fan, Thermadore, and it was slightly smaller than the other 2. Plus, it was burned, which I like. You don't have to burn yours, though.

    Step 54

    you can always do that in the toaster. This is Very Important ! Do not attempt to slice this bread until it is completely cool! You'll be sorry. The police will come

    Step 55

    I can't tell you how long it takes to cool because it has never been an issue. I have self control, for heavens sake. Clean your floor or something and enjoy the way your, kitchen smells- like heaven

    Step 56

    Worth the wait? Yes! Look at those holes, and that crazy strand of gluten! I think it's gluten but I don't really know. You could look it up. Next, we'll fill the holes with butter!

    Step 57

    A good time to talk about butter. Eat butter! I didn't bring you all this way to dunk this bread in olive oil. You know that restaurants do that because it's way cheaper than butter?But you knew that

    Step 58

    because you read " Kitchen Confidential". So, if you find yourself in a restaurant , facing a bowl of green oil, ask the waiter for butter. He won't spit in your food because he will respect you.

    Step 59

    Foie gras is a good thing to put on this bread. After you butter it. It covers the holes nicely.

    Step 60

    To recap, in case you lost track: there are 4 dough rises, 3rd in the fridge. The loaves rise for 1/2 hour, bake for 1/2 hour. Don't slice warm bread. Don't dip it in olive oil.