Many of you have written in asking where I have disappeared again and to prove that I am still alive and kicking, here’s a long overdue but quick post on a recipe that used to be my favourite in the good old gluten friendly days. With a crunchy, crusty outside and a lovely soft inside, this is the perfect bread for dipping in flavoured oils, topping with your favourite cheeses, roast fruits or even just slathering with butter and honey. And of course, many of you know my partiality for grated dark dark chocolate, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling on lemon zest and some flakey sea salt.
Called Pain Ordinaire or the ordinary bread, this is a dough meant for everyday bread or the basic bread loaf. Appropriately enough, I have also successfully used it for pizza and even foccassia by adding some olive oil while kneading, flavouring as my heart desires and some more olive oil drizzled over before baking. Have even managed to make this dough into a pita by rolling it out thin roti like rounds and baking at a high temperature. Any which way, this is a fantastic dough and yields some great breads.
3 cups bread or unbleached flour, approximately
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (120-130 degrees F)
1 teaspoons each salt and water
1. Make the batter – Place the water in a bowl. Add in enough flour (1.5 – 2 cups) to make a whiskable thick batter and add the yeast. Whisk till smooth. Now beat with 300 strokes till the mixture become smooth and elastic. Now dissolve the salt in the water and add to the batter. Blend well.
2. Knead (10 mins.) – Add additional flour to the beaten batter, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring first and then cutting and folding with a spatula or your hand till the dough is shaggy but a solid mass. Turn onto a work surface and begin kneading with an aggressive push-turn-fold motion. If the dough is sticky, sprinkle just about a tablespoon of flour at a time and keep going till you have a elastic dough that springs back when pressed with a finger. Break the kneading rhythm occasionally by throwing the dough down hard against the countertop to encourage the development of the dough.
3. First Rising (1 – 1.5 hours) – Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave at room temperature for 1-1.5 hours till tripled in volume.
4. Optional Second Rising (3/4 – 1 hours) – Turn back the plastic wrap and turn the dough onto the work surface to knead briefly, about 3 minutes. Return the dough to the bowl and re-cover. Allow to rise to more than triple its volume, about 3/4 hours.
5. Shaping (10 mins for 2 loaves: small sandwhich + Baguette/round) – The dough will be light and puffy. Turn it onto the floured work surface and punch it down. Don’t be surprised if it pushes back, for it is quite resilient. Divide the dough into as many pieces as you wish loaves. Half of this recipe will make a small baguette. The recipe can also make 2 small sandwich loaves or boules or one medium sized one.
6. Third rising (1 hour) – Cover the loaves with a cloth, preferably of wool, to allow air to reach the loaves and to form a light crust and leave at room temperature until the dough has risen to more than double its size, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees towards the end of this rise- Place a cup or 2 of hot water in the oven to generate steam.
7. Baking: (450 degrees F/25-30 mins.) Make diagonal cuts down the lengths of the long loaves and cut into epis or make tic-tac-toe designs on the boules. Bake.
The loaves are done when a golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Turn one loaf over and if the bottom crust sounds hard and hollow when tapped, the loaf is done.
Flavouring Options to throw in just before shaping -
Basil + black olives
Rosemary + garlic
Bacon + caramelised onion(+ arugula +feta)
Onion + roasted bell pepper
Pesto + roasted tomatoes
Herbs – rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley