Today, I am going to do something uncharacteristically naughty. I'm going to share a recipe that is not mine to share, but I am not giving it in order to make a publisher or an author irate, nor am I doing it without a fair amount of hand-wringing, rather, I am giving the recipe for the bread you see above in the spirit in which the wonderful Alice Hart offers it to her readers,
Let no-one tell you that making your own bread requires some kind of talent or special culinary gift. With a little patience (the resting time is long, but it gives this bread its lovely flavour) a chewy and characterful sourdough will be yours with barely a knead.
This is the bread every non-baker dreams about being able to present; it is everything Hart says it will be and I - a woman who has decided that $7+ is about $4 more than she ever wants to pay for a good loaf again - want you to understand that if I can find time do this, so can you. My mate Shula once said, "Y'know, I really hate shitty bread. But excellent bread is so expensive that I was obliged to take matters into my own hands."
Take matters into yours. I used to make Mark Bittman's no-knead bread, but Hart's recipe is far more reliable, and its simplicity is the chief reason I've been making most of our bread for the past 6 months. Kathryn put me onto this, as she does most things food these days, and if I do only one thing today that is worthy, I hope it's to send you out looking for a copy of Hart's brilliant Vegetarian. I use it all the time, think it a Modern Classic, and know that you will too.
Alice Hart's No-knead sourdough loaf
Mix together 250g (or 90z) of wholemeal flour, 250g (9oz) of strong white bread flour, 1/4 teaspoon of dried (fast-acting) yeast and 1 1/2 teaspoons of fine sea salt into a capacious bowl. Slowly add 375ml (1 1/2 Australian metric cups) of warm water mixing with a wooden spoon until you no longer can. Roll up your sleeves and form into a sticky dough with your fingers. Don't overmix - Hart says it should look "shaggy". Cover the bowl in either plastic wrap or, as I do, bound up in a plastic supermarket shopping bag kept solely for this purpose. Leave in a wam place* for 15-18 hours.
Lightly flour a board, and lightly flour your hands. Tip the dough out, and fold it over itself. Brush a sheet of plastic wrap with oil, lightly cover the dough (oiled-side down) and leave for 15 mins.
Tear a sheet of baking paper, fit it to a baking tray or a board (whatever you'll be proving the bread on), and lightly flour the paper and your hands. Shape the dough into a ball, place on the baking paper, cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place for 2 hours.
You'll need a 2 litre (2 quart) capacity lidded casserole dish for baking. About 40 minutes before you begin, heat the oven to 220 C (425 F) and put the casserole dish in to heat up at the same time. When the oven is ready, take out the hot casserole dish, slide the dough in from the baking paper (this is the only hairy bit of the process, but things come out right even if you think you've fuqed up), clamp the lid on tight, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and return the bread to the oven for a further 15 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
*Warm place. Not always easy where we live in the country, which is why, in part 2, I'll show you the other bread I make which takes far less time to rise, i.e., can be made in 6 hours if there's sun to be had somewhere in the yard.