Dec 30, 2014

Kimberly's Overnight Crusty Bread

Kimberly's Overnight Crusty Bread
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Hawaii is in love with sweet bread, like they bake here on Moloka'i at Kanemitsu's Bakery. Sweet bread is great, but I spent many years in San Francisco, Ca., and got a taste for crusty bread. They call it "Artisan" bread now, but crusty bread is crusty bread, and as everybody knows who have been to San Francisco, the bread is crusty, whether sour dough or sweet, and is to die for. Here on Moloka'i, the only way to get crusty bread is to visit Moloka'i Wines & Spirits where they sell par-baked frozen bread shipped here from where else, San Francisco. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with this bread, it's actually pretty good, but it's still not as good as made from scratch crusty bread. 

My wife Kimberly and I bought an old cast-iron Dutch oven years ago at a garage sale. It turns out that you can make a decent crusty bread right in this iron pot (see photo above). Kimberly took it upon herself to develop a recipe that really works here in Hawaii, and we're going to share it with you. This recipe makes an almost peasant type bread that is very crusty on the outside, with sweet white bread on the inside, with lots of little holes in it. It's great for sopping up gravy in a good beef barley stew which you can make in the same pot. Here Kimberly's Overnight Crusty Bread recipe:

Overnight Crusty Bread
Lodge 5-Quart Pre-Seasoned Cast-Iron Dutch Oven
$48.39 & FREE Shipping from Amazon.com
Ingredients:
15.75 ounces all purpose flour (3 cups)
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
Cornmeal

Special Equipment:
Kitchen scale
Large ceramic bowl
Pastry scraper
Flour sack towel
Iron Dutch oven with lid
Instant read thermometer

Procedure:
In a large ceramic bowl, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Add water and stir until blended; the dough will be shaggy and very sticky. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles, 12 to 18 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle with a little flour. Using a pastry scraper fold over onto itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Generously coat a cotton flour sack towel with cornmeal and drape inside a ceramic bowl. Do not use a terry cloth towel. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or your fingers, gently and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Put the dough, seam side down, on the towel in the bowl and dust with more flour or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise until the dough is more than double in size and does not readily spring back when poked with a finger, 2 to 5 hours depending on room temperature.

It's important to heat the Dutch oven first before putting the dough in it, therefore, put a 2 3/4 quart cast-iron or similar pot in your oven and preheat to 450˚F.

Carefully remove the pot from the oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over, seam side up, into the hot pot. Shake the pot once or twice to help distribute the dough if necessary. The dough will rise as it bakes. Cover with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking until the loaf is browned and reaches an internal temperature of 200˚F - 210˚F, 15 to 30 minutes more.

Transfer the pot to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Using oven mitts, put the pot on its side and gently turn the bread, it will release easily. Makes one 1 1/2 pound loaf.

Note: You should use a ceramic bowl rather than metal. The ceramic bowl will help the yeast retain the heat it's generating and make more air bubbles in the bread. Weighing the flour has resulted in a more consistent loaf for me, however most recipes call for 3 cups of flour. If you have leftover bread and you want to use it again later, simply put it in a zip-lock freezer bag and freeze it. To reheat it, preheat the oven to 425˚F and bake for 15 minutes.
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