Rustic Peasant Bread

rustic-peasant-bread

The main course for our dinner was to be a Tuscan Pork Stew with Polenta, with an Italian Panzanella, or bread salad, for an opening course.  For that, of course, we were going to need bread!  The solution?  This meal cried out for a rustic peasant bread, and we found the perfect recipe on a blog called Pete Bakes!  Pete took this from a book called “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day“, and it was good enough that I’ve since purchased the book as well.  I have to laugh at the irony:  I went to a blog written by a fellow in Washington D.C. to find a recipe from a book written by two authors in Minneapolis.  It’s so often true that we have to travel the world over to find something that’s right in our own back yard!  I’m glad I did, though.  Pete has a nice blog, and it was a fun read.  As for the bread, it’s easy to prepare, and the results were just terrific.  Now that I have the book you can expect a number of bread-related postings.  For tonight, enjoy a crusty, brown loaf of rustic peasant bread!

Makes 4 1-lb. loaves (so this recipe can be easily halved).

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 5 1/2 cups flour

Preparation:

Mix the salt and yeast with the water in a large bowl.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading.  The dough will be very wet.  Cover with a towel and allow to rest at room temperature for about 2 hours.

At this point you can use the dough or refrigerate (it will keep for about 2 weeks).  If you are going to make the bread right away, it’s still a good idea to refrigerate the dough for an hour or two so it is easier to handle.

Cut off a section of the dough (1/4 if you make enough for 4 loaves), and dust it with flour.  Quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.  Allow to rest and rise on a cornmeal-covered baking sheet.  While the dough is rising, heat the oven to 450 F and place an empty broiler tray on the lowest rack in the oven.  If you are baking on a baking stone, place it in the oven to heat up with the oven.

When the oven is ready and the dough has risen, sprinkle the loaf liberally with flour and make a few 1/4 inch deep slashes on the top using a serrated bread knife (a cross or tic-tac-toe pattern both work).  Leave the flour on top of the loaf during baking.

Place the baking sheet into the oven (or slide the dough onto your baking stone).  Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray, quickly close the oven and bake for about 35 minutes.  The top should get a good hard crust and will be deeply browned.  Allow to cool on a cooling rack and brush off excess flour from the top of the loaf before slicing.

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