Dialing in on the perfect at home loaf of bread

I’m in between projects and feeling a bit down today so I decided to compare the old pot I was using to make the loaf of bread to new one we just purchased. I don’t know why, but the kitchenaide roaster might be twice as heavy and double the size of the cuisinart pot which, on paper was the perfect size for a three cup of flour loaf, but I don’t know if it’s that the roaster was thicker or the larger size allows for more steam, but the roaster is far, far, far better.

Don’t get me wrong, the pot’s bread was golden brown and delicious. Wrapped up in a clean dish towel the slice of bread I had for breakfast was as good as the slice of bread I had for dinner the night before. When Harry the Fifth came out of the oven today, I was a littl disappointed. There was nothing golden about his crust. He was just brown.

But my goodness, opening him up was amazing. He had the crumb of a really good high end ciabatta. The crust was crisp and crunchy but thin as a sheet of paper between the chewy, airy bread. As much as it hurts to sacrifice the ability to melt butter over the bread from the internal heat, allowing a bread to cool down to room temperature without slicing it open allows the starch to cool without going gummy and underbaked. A small bun may be sacrificed without damaging the rest of his batch to melt butter, but to slice open a loaf while still hot is how bread gets gummy.

So this batch was done in the yogurt contained that had remnants of the last batch of dough in it. I left it sitting out beside the fireplace for eighteen hours then put it in the unheated mudroom sealed but for an air hole for three days.The recipe was three cups of water, 1 3/4 cup of water, 1 1/2 tsp of sea salt, 1/2 tsp sugar and 1/4 tsp of yeast. I mixed Harry up until all the flour was wet and then let him rise.

When it was Harry the Fifth’s time, I brought him back inside where it was warm for an hour, again by the fire. When I degassed him, I floured his surface and I stretched him out with a knife. I don’t know how to decribe it but I pulled the dough up as far away from the container as I could. He stretched just under two feet.. Then I put a parchment paper down on a non-stick frying pan and plopped him down into it and floured the top. I put a second sheet of parchment paper on top. The top sheet gets rolled back up and becomes the bottom sheet for tomorrow’s baking.

After an hour and a half proofing, I put the roaster and the lid in the oven and crank it to 475 for thirty minutes. When that timer goes off, I snip a cross into Harry’s top, gather up the edges and plot him (gently) into the hot roasting pan, cover him up, and let him steam for 30 minutes. Then the lid comes off and I pull the parchment paper away and let him finish cooking for 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

The crust is crispy from the steamy bath of his own cooking. There’s no oil in the recipe at all. All told, there’s about 10 minutes of work for the three hours of prep time. The longer he sits in the cold room, the better the flavor. The 1/2 tsp of sugar isn’t in the original recipe and the longer he sits, the more sweet his bread is, but for three cups of flour you can hardly taste the additional sugar.

You don’t get bread better than this. I can’t wait for my sourdough starter to come, but for right now I’m loving the simplistic nature of the final product. I have a big bowl that’s up to day three that I’m going to turn into pretzels and make a beer mustard to go with it. It’s going to be amazing.

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