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rustic-bread recipe

Date: Tue, 19 Aug 1997 07:04:13 -0700
 From: Susan Lehman (lehman@physics.unc.edu)
 My new favorite recipe comes from Cook's Illustrated magazine 
 (interesting magazine, but very meaty and high-fat).  They describe the 
 bread as "the kind where the first bite hits you with a heady burst of 
 crackle and chew, an inspired whiff of yeast and a hint of sourness.  I 
 didn't want a tea party sandwich loaf; I wanted peasant cooking, the kind 
 of bread that, when sliced and stuffed into a basket at a 
 white-tablecloth restaurant, looks like Hercules at a tea party."
  From that description (and the fact that I made it without a mixer, 
 stirring for 15 minutes, while Hercules: The Legendary Journeys was on 
 TV) comes my nickname for the bread.
 Note: the recipe calls for no hand kneading, since the wet texture of the 
 dough gives the bread its texture.  I don't have a mixer, so I stir it 
 with my wooden spoon, and it turns out fine.  It also should be baked on 
 a pizza stone, which I do have (and highly recommend) so I'm not sure 
 about any substitutions there.  
 Rustic Country Bread (Hercules Bread)
 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (not rapid rise)
 1 C. tap water
 4 1/2 C. bread flour, divided
 1 C. whole wheat flour
 1/2 C. rye flour
 1 1/3 C. tap water
 2 Tbs. honey
 1 Tbs. kosher salt (or 2 tsp. table salt)
 Coarse cornmeal for sprinkling on the peel
    Dissolve yeast into 1 C. tap water in a medium-size bowl.  Mix in 
 1 C. bread flour and the whole wheat flour to create a stiff, wet dough.  
 Cover with plastic wrap; let sit at room temperature for at least 5 
 hours, preferably overnight. (Can be refrigerated, but return to room 
 temp before continuing recipe).
   Mix remaining 3 1/2 C. bread flour, 1/2 C. rye flour, 1 1/3 C. water, 
 honey, and the sponge with rubber spatula [**I used a wooden spoon] in 
 the bowl of an electric mixer.  Knead, using dough-hook attachment, on 
 lowest speed until dough is smooth, about 15 minutes, adding SALT during 
 final 3 minutes [**don't forget--I did once].  Transfer dough to large 
 bowl; cover with plastic wrap and let rise until tripled, at least 2 hours.
   Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Lightly dust hands and top 
 of dough with flour.  Lightly press dough into a large disk and fold the 
 edges into the center, overlapping edges slightly.  Transfer dough, 
 smooth side down, to colander or basket lined with heavily floured 
 muslin.  Cover loosely with large sheet of aluminum foil; let rise until 
 almost doubled, at least 45 minutes.  As soon as the dough begins to 
 rise, adjust oven rack to low-center position and arrange quarry tiles or 
 pizza stone on rack (minimum size 18x12). On the lowest oven rack, place 
 a small baking pan or cast-iron skillet to hold water.  Heat oven to 450 
    Sprinkle coarse cornmeal liberally over surface of peel (or rimless 
 cookie sheet).  Invert dough onto peel and remove muslin.  Use scissors 
 or serrated knife to cut three slashes on top of dough.  Slide dough from 
 the peel onto tiles.  Wearing oven mitts, carefully add 2 cups of hot 
 water to the pan or skillet.  Bake until an instant-read thermometer 
 inserted in bread registers 210 degrees [**I don't have one] and crust is 
 very dark brown, 35 to 40 minutes, turning bread around after 25 minutes 
 if not browning evenly.  Turn oven off, open door, and let bread remain 
 in oven 10 minutes longer.  Remove from oven, then let cool to room 
 temperature before slicing, about 2 hours.
 [**I just estimate when it's done, since my thermometer doesn't react to 
 the temperature change fast enough.  I know the recipe looks long, but 
 it's really very easy (especially if you have a mixer!).  I love this 
 bread--I've been looking for this type of bread with the chewy texture 
 and large holes for a while.]
 kwhoney honey