When I was interviewed for the Washington Post about In Search of the Perfect Loaf, I actually didn't have a recipe on hand that would work for the paper. Most of the recipes in the book are made with sourdough, the ingredients are measured by weight, and I explain them in detailed steps that run several pages in some instances. So what to do for a newspaper with limited space?
I came up with this recipe, which still uses whole wheat, whole rye and white flour--classic components of the pain de campagne loaf. I also knew I wouldn't be able to use sourdough, because I wouldn't have space to explain the technique. So I substituted a minute amount of yeast instead and added fermented cider for flavor. Risen overnight, then baked in a covered pot the next day, the loaf has a marvelous and mild taste.
Here's the full recipe as described in the Post. (At the link, there's also a nifty calculator to increase the size of the loaf if you want).
Washington author Sam Fromartz has been making sourdough variations of this yeast bread for years. Here, he adds fermented cider for flavor. A mild beer may be substituted; an IPA would be too bitter. The loaf is sized to last a few days.
The optional tablespoon of water is to compensate for the variable absorption of the rye and whole-wheat flours.
You'll need a colander, a pastry cloth or clean dish towel and a covered cast-iron or enameled cast-iron pot.
Make Ahead: The dough needs four 20-minute rests, plus an 8-to-24-hour stay in the refrigerator and a final 1 1/2-hour rise.
Storage Notes: Store the cooled loaf in a paper bag for a day, and store in a plastic bag for a few days after that. Do not refrigerate.
Tested size: 10-12 servings; makes one 11-ounce loaf 10 to 12 slices
- 1 1/4 cups (160 grams) white bread flour, plus more for dusting
- 1/4 cup (38 grams) stone-ground whole-wheat flour
- 1/4 cup (32 grams) stone-ground whole rye flour
- 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast or bread machine yeast
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 cup (55 grams) dry fermented cider (may substitute Pilsener beer; see headnote)
- 1/2 cup (120 grams) lukewarm water (80 degrees), plus an optional 1 tablespoon
Whisk together the flours, yeast and salt in a mixing bowl. Combine the cider and water in a liquid measuring cup.
Add the liquid to the flour mixture; use a spatula or bench scraper or your hand moistened with water to blend them for about a minute. The dough should be shaggy yet cohesive. Cover the bowl with a towel; let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
Moisten your kneading hand. If the dough seems stiff, add the optional tablespoon of water. Stretch one edge of the dough (still in the bowl), then press it into the center of the bowl. Repeat this about a dozen times, moving clockwise to catch all sides of the dough. (This should take 1 or 2 minutes.)
Turn the dough over so the seams are on the bottom. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. Repeat the clockwise stretching and folding two more times, with 20-minute rests after each. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. The dough should have doubled. If it hasn't, leave it on the counter until it does.
Lightly flour a work surface. Use a pastry cloth or clean dish towel to line a round colander. Dust the cloth with flour.
Transfer the dough to the floured work surface. Fold the edges toward the center to create a round shape, turning it over so the seams are on the bottom. Let it rest for 5 minutes, then transfer to the colander, seam side up. Cover with a towel and let the dough rise for 1 1/2 hours.
Thirty minutes before baking, place a cast-iron Dutch oven (lid on) or enameled cast-iron pot with a lid (on) in the oven; preheat to 475 degrees.
Carefully remove the hot pot from the oven.
Turn the dough out onto the counter so the seams are on the bottom. Use kitchen scissors to make 8 snips on the top of the dough in an evenly spaced spoke pattern, each about 1/4-inch deep. Lift the dough and carefully drop it into the hot pot. Immediately cover with the hot lid. Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the heat to 450 degrees. Uncover and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until the crust is dark brown. Try to minimize the amount of time the oven door is open.
The bread is done when its internal temperature registers 205 degrees on an instant-read thermometer and the loaf sounds hollow when knocked on the underside.
Transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool for at least 1 hour before cutting.
From Sam Fromartz, author of "In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey" (Viking, 2014).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.