Boule (Basic Bread Recipe)

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This recipe is my basic bread dough recipe, and comes from a fantastic and beautiful book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francis. It really is what it claims to be – a book of quick and easy bread recipes. All the recipes require prior planning – you mix on one day, bake on another – but if you do plan ahead, the time spent is as little as it seems.

Also, most of the bread recipes in the book are merely variations of this basic recipe – meaning that once you master this, you can easily make any number of other, more exotic-sounding loaves.

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Ingredients:                                                                     *makes 4 one-pound loaves.

   3 cups lukewarm water
   1 1/2 T (2 packets) granulated yeast
   1 1/2 T kosher or coarse salt
   6 1/2 cups unsifed, unbleached all-purpose flour
   additional cornmeal or whole wheat flour to dust
   additional white flour to dust loaf – OR – olive oil to brush loaf

Directions:

1. In lukewarm water (just above body temperature), stir together yeast and salt.

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2. Add the flour and mix in with a spoon, no kneading necessary. If mixing with a spoon becomes to difficult, you may have to use your hands to mix at the end. I really like this part – there is something very enjoyable about such a tactile relationship with food. Make sure you get your hands nice and wet before diving in there, but even so, it’s going to stick all over you. The dough should be fairly wet.

3. Allow to rise, covered but not airtight, for about 2 hours. Once dough has risen, refrigerate before baking so that shaping is easier.

4. On baking day, cut a grapefruit-sized piece and…
a. for a thicker, crunchier crust: coat dough with flour and shape into a ball. Place on a pizza peel covered in whole wheat flour or cornmeal, and dust liberally with flour.
b. for a thinner, crispier crust: coat hands with olive oil and shape dough into a ball. Place on a pizza peel covered in whole wheat flour or cornmeal, and
Allow dough to rise for 40 minutes on a pizza peel (or if you don’t have one, a cutting board) covered in whole wheat flour or cornmeal. For option (a), dust the dough with more flour if necessary, or for option (b), brush more olive oil over the dough – so that the dough is lightly covered by either flour or oil on all exposed surfaces.

5. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F with the baking stone in the oven, as well as a broiler tray in a place that will not be in the way of the rising dough. (The broiler tray can be anything oven-safe: a large, high-lipped cookie sheet, a baking pan, etc.)

6. When dough has risen, move from pizza peel onto the pre-heated baking stone, pour 1 cup of water into the broiler tray, and close the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, until crust is browned and crispy. (Don’t be nosy while it’s baking – don’t open the oven during those 30 minutes. You want to keep the steam trapped inside the oven, it is what gives the crust that satisfying crunch.)

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7) Eat!

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