Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bethany's Peasant Bread

From my sister, Bethany. So easy, and so delicious. My favorite variation is to rub butter on top of the loaf when it comes out of the oven and then sprinkle it with some garlic salt and serve with soup or spaghetti or salad--really it can go with almost anything. Or try some herb butter. That's really good too.

Bethany's Peasant Bread

1 1/2 Tbl. yeast
1 1/2 Tbl. coarse kosher salt
3 cups warm water
6 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

1. Add all ingredients to large mixing bowl in order listed. Stir with wooden spoon or mix in stand mixer until mixture is uniform.  Cover and let rise 2 hours or until dough begins to collapse.

2. You can use any portion of the dough anytime after this point. The rest can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

3. When ready to bake, prepare pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent your loaf from sticking when it slides into the oven. I'm still trying to figure out how to do this without making a mess of my oven. Sometimes I sprinkle a cookie sheet with cornmeal and put the loaf right in the middle before letting it rise and baking it right on the cookie sheet to contain the cornmeal mess.

4. Sprinkle the surface of your dough with flour, and cut off a grapefruit sized piece using a serrated knife. Hold dough in your hands and add a little more flour as you shape it into a ball. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends but it will flatten out.

5. One or two loaves is about right to fit on your peel and pizza stone. It doesn't work as well or look as pretty when you try to cram three on there and they are all touching. Rest loaf and let it rise, covered with a loose towel, for 40 minutes while your oven heats to 450 degrees with pizza stone on the center rack. Place an empty broiler pan on the rack below.

6. Slash the top of the loaf about 3 times with a serrated knife. Transfer loaves to hot pizza stone (or bake it on a cookie sheet). Quickly pour 1 cup hot water into the broiler pan and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for 30 minutes.

Like I said, my favorite way to serve this is to rub butter over the hot loaf right out of the oven and sprinkle it with garlic salt. Or you can also try out this recipe for herb butter.

Herb Butter

1 cup butter, softened
2 Tbl. fresh minced parsley
1 Tbl. minced garlic cloves
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Or, to simplify, sometimes I just use this butter.

*For an Italian loaf, try mixing 2 Tbl. of Italian seasoning into your dough in the first step.