My gmail ads today proclaimed, “rice cakes have changed!” I don’t know whether to be disappointed in gmail for not understanding my need for spice and flavor and variation, and thus, suggesting a sub-par, bland snack; or disappointed in myself for not resonating culinary interest enough. I may need to re-evaluate.
To combat perceived boring-ness, I give you fancy bread! Breadmaking can be extremely scary–yeast and gluten and numbers of times to knead, but this bread is affectionately called “no-knead bread.” It is easy. I promise. You can also call it “70-cent bread” because that is about how much it costs. Scooch yourself over to Whole Foods and you’ll pay $4 for this baby. It’s crusty on the outside, and soft and airy on the inside. This bread makes for a good start to a panini, and it great toasted for crostinis or bruscetta.
Anyways, I don’t have much time today, so I will give you a quick recipe for bread that tastes like it comes from a fancy Italian cafe on a side street in Napoli. It’s quick (because maybe you, too are short on time) but but people will think it took hours of perfecting.
Rustic Italian Bread
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.