Rustic Bread

This bread recipe using a unique technique of creating a steam oven. In this recipe, we will do so by filling a 9×13 baking dish or broiler pan with water, and place it on the bottom rack underneath our bread. In the first five to ten minutes of baking, the steam helps to keep the crust soft, which allows the bread to expand more freely. After the steam subsides, and the bread stops expanding, the sugars on the surface of the dough dissolve, which gives your the golden, crispy crust!

Servings: Makes 2 loaves

Prep Time: 20 minutes
First Rise: 2 hours
Second Rise: 45 minutes
Baking Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 3.5 hours

Ingredients:

  • 1½ tablespoons instant dry yeast
  • pinch of sugar
  • 3 cups lukewarm water (100°-110°)
  • 7 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups hot water

Recommended Tools:

  • Pizza stone
  • Broiler pan or 9×13 baking dish

Directions:

  1. Proof the yeast with 1 cup of the warm water and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl or a 1-cup measuring cup. Allow to sit until foamy, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, mix 2 cups of flour and the salt. Add the remaining two cups of warm water, and stir until well combined, using a wooden spoon or a stand mixer. Stir in the yeast mixture.
  3. First Rise: Add some of the remaining flour, about ½ of a cup at a time, until the dough clears the side of the bowl. Turn out onto a well-floured work surface and knead, adding flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and firm yet still lightly tacky. Place in a greased, deep container and cover with a damp towel. Allow to rise for approximately 2 hours.
  4. Second Rise: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, punch it down, and divide it in two. Slightly flatten the dough into a thick circle. Bring the edges into the center of the circle and pinch the seam to form a round loaf, pulling the edges of the dough tightly into the seam to help the loaf keep its shape. If using a pizza stone, place the shaped dough on a baker’s peel (or rimmed baking sheet turned upside down) dusted generously with cornmeal. Otherwise a simple baking sheet on the middle rack should do. Allow the dough to rise another 45 minutes to 1 hour before baking. Do the same with the second half of the dough or place it in a sealed container in the refrigerator.**
  5. Preheat the oven to 450° with a broiler pan on the bottom rack and the pizza stone on the middle rack, and allow both to heat up in the oven for 15 minutes at full temperature before baking. Dust the dough with flour, slice the top of it with your preferred design with a serrated knife (no deeper than a ¼ inch) and slide it onto the pizza stone. Pour 1 cup of the hot water into the broiler pan and quickly shut the oven door to trap the steam inside. This process makes the gorgeous crust we all love! Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the bread is a dark brown color. Allow to cool completely before eating.

 

To make a whole-wheat version: substitute the 2 cups of flour used in step 2 with 2 cups of whole-wheat flour.

To make a rye version: substitute the 2 cups of flour used in step 2 with 1 cup of whole-wheat flour and 1 cup of rye flour.

**If refrigerating the dough, shape and allow to rise for an additional hour upon removal from the refrigerator.

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