Friday, December 7, 2012

Tom's Excellent Bread

When Tom Eblen walks into the house for Cornbread Supper, he often carries a beautiful, warm loaf of bread. When he leaves after Supper, I've never seen him take any bread home. Regardless of other foods on the table, people gravitate to this delicious round loaf, and systematically reduce it to nothing but a few crumbs.

Tom generously shared the recipe, which he first got from his daughter Mollie, and has tweaked a little. Thank you, Tom.

Good & Easy Crusty Bread

2 cups lukewarm water
1 T dry yeast
1 T sea or kosher salt
4 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

Mix water and yeast in a large bowl. After about five minutes, stir in salt, then gradually stir in flour with a wooden spoon until the dough is uniformly moist. Cover the wet dough with a lid, but not airtight. (I usually set a pizza pan on the bowl.)  Let it rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse — at least two hours and no more than five hours.  You can bake after that, but I often find it is better to cover the bowl (again, not airtight) and put it in the refrigerator for at least three hours. It will keep for a week or more. Because the dough is very wet, it is easier to form into balls for baking when it is cold.

When ready to bake, prepare a pizza peel board with some cornmeal. Divide the dough in half; I usually bake one half and leave the other for another day. Dust the dough lump with a little flour to keep it from sticking to your hands and form it into a ball about the size of a grapefruit by pulling the sides down around the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go.  Put the dough ball on the cornmeal-covered pizza peel and let it "relax" for about an hour, uncovered. Using a serrated knife, cut a tic-tac-toe pattern in the top, about a half-inch deep, then sprinkle the ball liberally with flour.

Heat oven to 450 degrees with a pizza stone on the upper rack.  Put bread on the stone, then put a broiler pan with a cup or two of water on the lower rack. Cook for about 30 minutes, until the bread's crust is nicely brown and firm to the touch. Remove bread and cool on a wire rack.  (If you don't have a pizza stone, you can put the bread in the oven on a cookie sheet or pizza pan and it will work almost as well.) 

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