Despite the warm temperatures and general reluctance to turn on the oven at any point, I had issued a challenge to myself... I was going to bake all of the bread for my household. Or, at the very least, I would bake the majority of the bread required (or desired) for myself, boyfriend and bread-loving cat, Wally.
I have sung the praises of my Momma and her intuitive bread making abilities. I too wanted to create wonderful, yeasty presents and be revered by all who taste it. hahah. Well, maybe that is a bit lofty. That said, I truly do want to hone this skill and become one of those people who can manipulate four simple ingredients (and sometimes a few more) into a wonderfully satisfying, tastes like home, loaf of happy.
As a starting point, I have looked to build my confidence with Jim Lahey's (Sullivan Street Bakery) No Knead Bread. I kneaded (hahaha) some wins before I embarked on some more challenging (or even seemingly challenging) loaves. This was a great starting place.
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour (plus more for dusting)
*I used 2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1 cup of spelt flour
1 5/8 cup water (room temperature/luke warm)
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
Need: A French or Dutch oven, cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, etc... something to cook the bread in that will create a much hotter mini-oven within your larger domestic oven.
Grab yourself a large bowl. While the recipe linked here says to combine the flour, yeast and salt from go, I took a bit of direction from the Breaducation night that I attended. One of the tips passed on to us was that salt arrests the activity of the yeast. As such, you can amend your baking strategy to mix only the flour and yeast together at the beginning, then mix in the salt after you've added the wet ingredients and let everything hang out for a bit. Your call! Or, you could always try it as originally written, then try with this adapted strategy.
Add your water and stir until blended. Dough will be a shaggy and sticky mess. Don't dismay!
If you chose to wait on adding your salt, you can leave your dough mixture for about 20-30 minutes on your counter before adding the salt in, then mix it in. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
Leave the dough to rest at least 12 hours (preferably 18, according to the recipe) at warm room temperature. I've left it for roughly 24 hours, just by virtue of timing... I figure no harm, no foul.
Fast forward to baking day... lightly flour your work surface. Scoop your dough onto this surface and lightly flour the top of the dough. You aren't going to work this flour into the dough; you just need it to be easy to work with and not get completely stuck to your hands! Fold the dough on itself once or twice. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest for 15 minutes.
Shape your dough into a ball. Now, grab a clean and lint free kitchen towel and generously sprinkle the fabric with cornmeal. Place your dough ball onto the towel (seam side down). Dust the top with more cornmeal. Cover with a kitchen towel. Time for another rest... this time for roughly 2 hours. The dough will double in size and be a bit firmer. (The kitchen towels allow the gases released by the yeast to escape, rather than be trapped by the plastic wrap.)
About an hour and a half into this final resting period, you need to prep your oven. Heat oven to 450 F degrees and put your French/Dutch oven/pyrex or whatever covered cooking pot into the oven. At the end of the rest period/final proofing, move your dough over to the oven... place your pot on top of the oven, then flip your dough into the pot (slide your hand underneath it and give it a quick flip). It might look a bit rough at this point but it will pull itself back together. Shake the pot a bit if you need to distribute the dough a bit more evenly. Then cover the pot with the lid and get it back into that hot oven.
Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15-30 minutes. My oven seems to run a bit hot, so I go for 30 minutes with the lid followed by not much more than 15 minutes without the lid. Just watch for the colour that you would like to see.
Remove the pot and loaf from the oven. Be careful, everything is really hot! Cool the loaf on a wire rack.
Listen! Mine is singing to me! (That's a stamp of approval on a good crust... music to my ears!)