I’ve got to say, nothing feels better than taking a fresh loaf of bread out of the oven and hearing that crackling sound as you cut into the crust
Total Cooking Time: 16 hours
I have been trying to make bread for years. But no matter what I tried; I could never get it to a place where I wanted to it be. Then I discovered cooking with a cast iron pot and the book “Flour Water Salt Yeast” by Ken Forkish, and it changed by bread making life! Not only did I gain a fantastic recipe and methods, but I also learned the proper techniques for working with dough. Armed with this knowledge, I have been able to approach many other recipes with far more success than before.
When starting off in the work of making bread, it’s best to start with the basics. And that also means a recipe with very few ingredients! This is probably the simplest recipe I have with only four ingredients: bread flour, salt, yeast and water.
The process of making bread doesn’t have to be labor intensive and can be a fairly hands-off process. I adore this because, I can do most of the work in the evening, wake up and pop the bread into the oven for some fresh made goodness in the morning. This recipe relies on a wet dough which builds gluten on its own and doesn’t require a loft of energy to do build the gluten.
To begin the process, we start by mixing the flour and water together. The water is going to need to be a certain temperature so it’s best to have a thermometer on hand. I like measuring the ingredients by weight rather than cups just because it’s easier to make the recipe consistently. Everything in this recipe is done by hand and I will admit, it does get a little messy. This step is probably the worst. You want to mix the ingredient together until just incorporated, then let rest for 30 minutes. This process will allow the flour to absorb the water and adjust to the consistency perfect for bread.
Once the 30 minutes has passed, it’s time to add in the salt and yeast. I like to mix the salt and yeast together before pouring it on top of the dough. I’ve never had adverse reactions from the dough with this method, but I know many people say that salt can kill yeast. The salt and yeast is then folded into the dough until fully incorporated. You can wet your hands before doing this step to prevent the mess of dough sticking to your hand. You should not longer feel the grains on yeast or sand when working with the dough.
Over the next hour and a half, it’s good to gently turns the dough two to three times. This step is to help build the tension within the dough and is like kneading the dough without taking it out of the bowl. Then all the dough has left to do is rest! This process can take around 12 to 14 hours. It’s best to leave the dough cover with a wet cloth somewhere warm. This allows the dough to grow big. So much dough.
The last step before shoving it in the oven would be cutting and shaping. This recipe makes 2 full loafs of bread so we’ll cut the dough in half, pull the edges over to make ball, and then place in a proving basket for another hour. During this hour of proving, the oven should be preheated with cast iron pot inside to bring it to temperature.
The dough will then be plopped into the oven and cooking for about 45 minutes. The first 30 minutes will have the lid on. And then we have delicious, mouth-watering fresh bread!
The Importance of Water
Water is an extremely important part of baking bread as it’s the only thing bringing in moisture and essentially holding the dough together. Depending on where you live, you may have hard water or soft water. Hard water contains a plethora of dissolved minerals while soft water is treated making the only mineral in the water sodium. Either way, these minerals will influence your dough. I do advocate filtering your water if possible because this will allow better control over the dough and more consistency between batches.
Watch Your Arms
When working with a cast iron pot from a 450° F oven, it’s important to watch where you’re arms and hard are when putting the bread into and talking the bread out of the pot. You don’t want to end up with a nasty burn. Trust me, I have the battle scars and I don’t want to get any more.
- 7 ½ Cups Bread Flour about 1000 grams
- 3 Cups Water between 90° to 95° F, about 750 grams
- 1 ½ Tbsp Fine salt about 22 grams
- ¼ Tsp Dry Active Yeast about 0.8 grams
- Mix together flour and water. Fully incorporate and let rest for 30 minutes.
- Fold in salt and yeast until fully incorporated.
- Over the next hour and a half, turn the dough 2 to 3 times to build up tension and gluten within the dough.
- Let rest for 12 to 14 hours while covered.
- Split dough into two loafs, shape and leave to prove.
- Preheat oven to 450° F with cast iron pot inside of the oven (should be heated for about an hour)
- Carefully put one loaf into the cast iron pot and cook for 30 minutes. Remove lid and then cook for another 15 – 20 minutes
- Let bread cool for about 10 minutes.