Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Miracle Boule

Your ingredients
Recently, after watching French Food at Home on the Cooking Channel, Laura, the host, made a ridiculous claim that she had a bread recipe that was "easy." Bread making is typically something I leave to the experts who have special yeasts and scales for the weight of each ingredient, and magical leprechaun ovens that only produce rainbows and perfect baguettes. Having none of these things, and only a few times having limited success with a bread machine (tons of fun... but after losing a recipe book it's kind of useless), I've generally felt terribly intimidated by breads and equally justified in purchasing better products than I could ever produce from A&J King's Artisan Bakers in Salem. But this one time, on her claim that the bread was easy to make, and watching as she produced something picture perfect, indubitably through the magic of television, I took up her challenge. I'll try her "Miracle Boule," as she called it.
The recipe was easy enough to remember, but if you need it, it's also online here. There are only four ingredients:

3 cups of ordinary all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups of water
1 1/4 teaspoons of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of instant dry yeast

Sticky, gross-looking dough, after
mixing the ingredients to combine
To start, I combined the dry ingredients in a large bowl with a regular whisk. Then I added the water, in quarter cup batches, and stirred each time with a spatula to produce an incredibly sticky wet dough.  Now, all it takes is time. As instructed, I covered with a tea towel, set it over my stove, which is usually the warmest part of my kitchen, and let it sit overnight. 
Little air bubbles after the
night-long resting
In total, I got to it a little later than I thought I would, and it sat for about 16 hours. Upon raising the towel, the dough had expanded and settled nicely into the bowl, producing little pockets of air bubbles up near the surface.
At this point, I floured a large cutting board liberally, and with a spatula, carefully dumped dough from the bowl onto the floured surface. You are instructed to fold over once or twice, so I went for the two-fer, also at this time removing any little patches that looked dried out... not sure if it matters, but it can't hurt either. I kind of loosely molded the blob into a circular shape, floured the top well, and covered with a tea towel again. Time for the dough to sit for 15 minutes.
Fifteen minutes past, and again the dough needs to be re-plopped (not kneaded at all, surprisingly). So, Laura says to heavily flour a tea towel to prevent the dough from sticking. Check. Next, shape the dough loosely into a ball, and plop onto the tea towel. Finally, add flour again to the top, and cover with a tea towel. Another two agonizing hours of resting, and the dough will grow quite a bit in size.
Dough, all rested, plopped into
the dutch oven and ready for baking
After an hour and a half of resting, you'll want to turn on your oven to 450 degrees to preheat. Stick a heavy dutch oven into the oven while it preheats so that it can also come up to temperature.
Are your total 2 hours up? When mine were, I removed the dutch oven from the oven, dumped the dough inside, seam side up, gave it a quick shake to have the dough fall as much into the center of the pot as possible, and covered. Back into the oven with the dutch oven.
Half an hour having passed, I removed the lid, which allows the bread to brown a bit. Fifteen minutes after removing the top, what you have is a lovely golden brown crust, speckled with flour, and smelling heavenly. Time to remove from the oven. Having removed the pot, I proceeded to take a spatula and another wooden spoon and gingerly removed the bread so that it could cool on a cutting board. 
Finished boule
Soft, fluffy center - perfect crust
This is the prettiest bread I've ever made. It was, indeed, very easy, though you do need to have your timing worked out, since there's a lot of resting, followed by a teeny bit of resting, followed by a medium resting, and finally a small bit for baking. The bread's crust is flawless. It's crunchy and has depth and flavor like a great crispy pizza crust. The center doughy bit is light and airy, with just enough chew and pull. It's so satisfying to bite into. Crunchy crust, light pull apart center, and that touch of yeasty sour flavor as well. If you think bread is too high a mountain for you, you need to try this recipe.
PS - I went skiing today, and this bread served as the perfect platform for a BLT sandwich... you know it's good when everybody in the lodge who walks by looks a little pissed off at their PB&J or turkey sandwich on wonderbread. 

No comments:

Post a Comment