This bread made me want to square dance. So good—5 stars. Happy Random Act of Kindness Day. Bake this and put it on your neighbor’s porch. Even if you don’t know them.
Hearty Country Bread
Adapted from Baking Illustrated
Makes 1 large loaf.
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup room temperature water
1 cup bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
Combine in a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 5-24 hours.
2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rye flour
1 1/3 cups room temperature water
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
Mix all but salt in mixer at lowest speed for 15 minutes; add salt during last 3 minutes. If dough looks dry after salt is added, add water in 1 tablespoon increments until a smooth consistency is reached. Transfer to very lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, let rise 2 hours or until tripled in size.
Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface, lightly flour your hands and the top of the dough with flour. Lightly press dough into a round by folding the top, right, bottom, and left sides of the dough into the center. Transfer dough, smooth side down, to a colander or basket lined with heavily floured muslin or linen (I used one of those straw paper plate holders and a cloth napkin). Cover loosely with aluminum foil or a dry cloth, let rise until almost doubled in size, at least 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and put a baking stone in the oven, if you have one.
Bake for 30-45 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 210 degrees F. Leave oven open for 10 minutes before removing loaf. Crust should be dark and crispy.
The 50% hydration of the sponge makes it a bit more dry and crispy. I was amazed to read about “autolysis”—the process at work whenever a recipe asks you to let your dough “rest.” When gluten is activated by the combination of flour and water, the molecules, pencil-like, are at first in disarray. Imagine your pencil box dumped out on the floor. The process of autolysis is like an OCD child (enzymes) picking up the pencils one by one and placing them back in the pencil box in perfect lines. Gluten, only at rest, is worked on by enzymes aligning the molecules so that when you get to kneading the dough, the gluten fibrils are in lines that can more easily tether to one another and structure the dough. You had no idea bread was so expert, eh? I wish I had those enzymes in my personal life.