Bread is an amazing food that comes in so many shapes and types. We find the spongy white bread so common here ins the United States lacking in flavor and structure, what is more we are convinced that its high sugar and yeast content needed for its fast mass production leads to a product that is not good for our diet. So we have been making our own daily bread with just flour, water, salt and naturally occurring yeast. Once you have eaten this artisanal bread you will never want to go back.
The ingredients are so easy to remember:
300g of plain (unbleached) flour
100g of whole wheat flour
300g of sour dough starter or Levain
300g of water (warm)
7g of rock or sea salt
Now this is not a quick process but once you have a healthy starter you can have the best bread you have ever tasted in about 8 hours.
Firstly the starter or Levain. This you will need to make several days in advance but because it is natural yeast once you have it you can simply feed in more flour and water and use it time and time again.
So to make it take equal parts flour and water, we use about a cup and a half each time. Mix together and leave uncovered to allow the yeast to do its thing.
Once it begins working you will see bubbles of gas appear and it will take on a fresh yet sour odor. At this point add a little more flour and water then use it or place in the fridge until you need it. (In the past I have, when going away for several weeks, frozen my starter and once thawed it came back in a couple of days).
So back to the bread………
Add all the ingredients except the salt to a mixing bowl then let to sit for 10 mins.
Using the dough hook attachment begin to kneed the dough, at this stage add the salt. Initially it will appear too wet but don’t worry as the gluten develops it will begin to come together.
Once the dough comes away clean from the bowl it is done.
Remove the hook and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave until it doubles in size (this will take several hours).
Carefully turn the dough out onto a well floured bench.
Using a bench scraper gently lift, stretch and fold the dough.
Divide the dough in two.
Roll into Baguette shapes then place onto a baguette tray (if you don’t have one then floured tea towels work well).
Let the dough rise again (about double) again this can take several hours.
Set your oven to 450f and place a tray of water in the bottom. The steam helps the bread to rise. Then slash the top of the bread with a sharp knife. Bake the bread for about 30mins until it forms a lovely crust and the base sounds hollow when tapped.
Avoid the temptation to cut into the bread as soon as it is out of the oven. Let it rest for at least 10mins then go ahead and enjoy!
The only problem with our family is that there is never enough.