In which we make a "wet bread". Despite its somewhat hideous (but nonetheless apt) name, this excellent loaf is the bread I want when I've either forgotten to start things off the night before, or when I just know that the creeping cold will halt any possible yeast activation while we sleep. Of the determinedly early to bed, early to rise tribe, our fire, no matter how raging before bedtime, dies down at about 1am and, sometimes, you wake in what feels like a supermarket chill room. Those nights aren't worth even trying Alice Hart's no-knead bread on, so, I simply wait until I'm up early, hope for some sun, then get cracking on Sam and Sam Clark's Wet Bread from Casa Moro. (You should buy Casa Moro, too - one of the best cookbooks I own, with so many clever ideas.)
Once again, I am going to quote the authors in an effort to assuage any doubts I have about paraphrasing a recipe,
Here is a very simple recipe that any beginner can successfully make. We believe that anybody can make a loaf in 10 minutes (excluding proving and baking), with little mess.
I don't quite buy the last few words (scattering semolina is a messy business) but they seem eager to make bakers of us all. If people are coming for lunch, I make it exactly as is, but this one is a work in progress for me, and I'm learning new things about what I can do with it constantly. As the dough is practically liquid, you tend to get a very flat loaf - which is fine - but it's not, shall we say, exactly toastable which, for Peter, makes it less appealing. See below for how I play around.
Sam and Sam Clark's Wet Bread
1. Place 600g (1lb, 4oz) of strong bread flour into a very large bowl and mix in 1 1/2 teaspoons of fine sea salt. Dissolve 1 level teaspoon of dried (fast-acting) yeast in 1 tablespoon of warm (not hot) water. In a jug, measure 450ml (sorry, no imperial equivalent comes to this mind) of warm water.
2. Pour the dissolved yeast in to the flour on one side of the bowl. Add a little water where you added the yeast and, using a whisking action with your fingertips, mix it with a bit of the flour until it feels smooth. Repeat this action, adding small amounts of water at a time, to the same "puddle" you are building. You can add more water and flour each time as the dough increases in size, but starting small helps things to be smoother. Using a beating action with your fingertips, break up the lumps that appear. As the Clark's say, "this also kneads the dough at the same time" which is a kind of genius, but expect mucky fingernails. When all the water is mixed in, keep beating with those fingertips for a further minute or so. It will look impossibly wet, but that is correct if a good crust and open-texture is be achieved. Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 4-6 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 220 C (425 F) and place a large baking sheet in the oven to heat up. When the oven is ready, take the baking sheet out of the oven and sprinkle liberally with a handful or two of semolina (or cornmeal/polenta). This seems a fuss, but it's not - it stops things sticking and adds a certain something to the texture of the end result.
4. Gently, but fearlessly, pour the dough on to the tray and dust the top with more semolina. Pop the bread into the oven for 15 mins, then reduce the heat to 200 C (400 F) and bake for another 30 minutes.
5. Lift the bread from the sheet - you may need to get a knife or a spatula in there to loosen it up - then place back in the oven, directly on the middle rack, right side up. Bake for another 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the oven door ajar for the bread to cool completely.
To make this into a loaf, I do everything in points 1 and 2 as is, then, when I get to stage 3, I lightly oil a medium-sized loaf tin with sunflower oil and dust it heavily with semolina, tipping and shaking so as every nook and cranny is coated. I put the baking sheet into the oven as it heats (as instructed, but without dusting), pouring the dough into the prepped loaf tin then following the remainder of the instructions (oh, and DO sprinkle the top of this loaf with semolina). I have, successfully, used half wholemeal/half white flour and had great success, and even part rye/mostly white flour works. The loaf version is just as dense and chewy, but it doesn't rise in the oven a great deal, hence my choosing a medium-sized tin. It's not quite as charming as the poured flat bread, but it does go in the toaster, and that makes Peter (and yep, me, too) happy.