The Amazing Bread recipe I posted here a few years ago has mutated over time (as recipes do). Compared to that earlier version, I’m now using half the ingredients, mixing them in a different order, and ending up with a better result.
You will need:
- 3 cups plain flour (or 2 cups plain + 1 cup wholemeal, or 2 cups plain + 1 cup rye)
- 1 + 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon dry bread yeast
- 1 + 1/2 cups warm water
- A large bowl
- A wooden spoon and probably a spatula
- A cast iron pot or moderately deep casserole dish with lid
- Cling wrap
- Baking paper
- An oven
- One day’s worth of patience
Here’s what you do:
- Put the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl, and stir briefly with the wooden spoon.
- Add the water and stir until it’s all mixed evenly and is irritatingly sticky. You don’t need to knead it, just get it all nicely mixed up. This only takes a few minutes. Use the spatula to scrape excess sticky dough off the sides back into the middle. If it’s not irritatingly sticky, you didn’t use enough water. It’s even OK for it to be somewhat sloppy.
- Cover the bowl with cling wrap (the cling wrap should not touch the dough) and leave it in a warmish place for 18-24 hours. It needn’t be right by the fire or anything like that; a room that doesn’t get too cold will suffice.
- Clear some kitchen bench space and sprinkle out a bit of flour to make a circular area. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the floured bench, and gently push/pull it out so that it covers about twice the area it did in the bowl. Fold it back on itself four times, i.e. grab the top third and fold it to the middle, then fold the bottom third up over the top third that you just folded in, then do the same again with the left and right thirds.
- Wash and dry the bowl, then put a sheet of baking paper in. Carefully pick up the ball of dough, turn it over so the bit you just folded is on the bottom, and place it on the baking paper in the bowl. Cover the bowl with cling wrap again, and return it to the warmish place for two hours. Do not accidentally leave it for several hours, you really want to keep this stage around the two hour mark.
- Put the pot in the oven with the lid on, and preheat to 250°C, or as close to that as you can get if your oven won’t go that high.
- Once the oven and pot are up to temperature, take the pot out of the oven, pick up the sheet of baking paper with the dough on it by the corners, and transfer it to the pot (i.e. the baking paper ends up in the pot, under the dough). By using the baking paper to move the dough, we don’t risk the dough deflating which it would do if we wrangled it with direct hand/spoon/spatula contact. Put the lid back on the pot and return it to the oven for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes take the lid off the pot, and leave the pot in the oven for another 15 minutes. This finishes the baking and gives the bread a nice crust.
- Take the pot out of the oven, lift your amazing bread out, get rid of the baking paper, and let the bread cool on a drying rack. Some like to eat it immediately at this point with butter and delicious jam or marmalade. I prefer to let it cool for at least half an hour as I think that makes for a slightly better texture, but, whatever, it’s great either way.
- Return to step 1 and start a new loaf, so you’ll have fresh bread for tomorrow.
Fruit bread variant:
- Add 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar to the dough (this is easiest if dissolved in the water, rather than mixed with the flour/salt/yeast).
- Instead of pushing the dough out a bit and folding it back onto itself four times, push it out lot, but gently, as if you were making an impressively large pizza base, then cover the dough with cinnamon, nutmeg, powdered ginger, sultanas, currants, diced apricots, hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds and whatever else you can think of.
- Roll everything up as if you were rolling up a carpet, then make the resultant dough log into a spiral shape, so it becomes a round thing that you can transfer to the baking paper in the bowl, then continue the standard procedure (leave it for two hours then bake for 30 minutes with lid on plus 15 minutes with lid off).
- Bonus: right before baking, brush with an egg glaze and cover with poppy seeds (brushing with milk works fine too, you just need something that will make the poppy seeds stick).