There are bread recipes, and then there are bread recipes. This is one of the latter. The breadâ€™s taste, texture, crust and even recipe, strike the perfect balance between complex and simple. It is something in between sandwich bread and a rustic country loaf. This recipe has a lot of steps, but it is pretty much fool-proof. You will end up with something tasty, if not pretty!
This breadâ€™s secret is the pre-ferment (or biga) you make the night before and place in the fridge. The pre-ferment gives the bread its flavor and helps out the texture. Using a pre-ferment gives you many of the benefits of a sourdough, but is a ton easier.
The recipe may look a little complicated at first, but really it is pretty easy. Here is a quick overview:
- Mix the pre-ferment â€“ flour, yeast and water, together in a bowl with a spoon
- Refrigerate the pre-ferment over night
- Mix the pre-ferment together with remaining items for the dough (salt, water, flour and yeast)
- Let the dough rise for 2-3 hours, turning every hour
- Shape into a loaf, and let rise for an hour
Here are some good things to have for this recipe, but you can live without:
- A plastic bench scrapper â€“ These are about $2 at Sur La Table or other kitchen stores. You can get away with a large spatula.
- Parchment paper â€“ Parchment paper is non-stick, silicon coated paper, that is oven safe and make it easy to transfer to loaf to the oven.
- Pizza stone â€“ Helps get you a great crust. Unglazed quarry stones from Home Depot could also work. If you donâ€™t have either of these, just use a baking sheet.
(I traced the illustration from the recipeâ€¦ I canâ€™t draw this good!)
Turning the dough:
Slide plastic bench scraper under one side of dough; gently lift and fold one third of dough toward center.
Repeat step 1 with opposite side of dough.
Finally, fold dough in half, perpendicular to first folds. Dough shape should be a rough square.
Shaping the dough:
After delicately pushing dough into 8- to 10-inch square, fold top left corner diagonally to middle.
Repeat step 2 with top right -corner
Begin to gently roll dough from top to bottom.
Continue rolling until dough forms a rough log.
Roll dough onto its seam and, sliding hands underneath each end, transfer dough to parchment paper.
Gently shape dough into 16-inch football shape by tucking bottom edges underneath.