With apologies to my blog readers who have seen this bread before, but after several years, what I find interesting is how the weather affects my bread baking. I can’t get a decent loaf to work for me in the summer when it’s hot, but when my kitchen goes back to it’s usual 65-70 degrees, I can make a bomber loaf of bread.
This is the no-knead bread I’ve been making for years now. Three cups flour (this is one cup each of King Arthur bread, all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, with a nice sprinkling of Bob’s Red Mill Dark Rye for flavor), 1 tbsp salt, 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast, 1.5 cups sourdough starter and about a cup of water. Mix until you have a “shaggy dough” as the original recipe noted, cover with plastic wrap and let rise overnight. In the morning, dump onto a board, knead a few times and shape into a boule (here’s a link to an instructive video with a slightly dopey voice over: http://youtu.be/I5t-1sJwzFs). I don’t have one of those fancy baskets, but I use a collander lined with a floured dishtowel.
So, I don’t bake when it’s 90 degrees out — and after languishing in the back of the fridge for a while, the sourdough starter takes a few batches to get it’s mojo back. But beyond that, the bread just doesn’t work when it’s warm out. It winds up weirdly flaccid, or it rises too fast, or something. I’ve made probably three or four loaves since the worst of the heat broke, and this is the first one that worked. You could feel it in the dough this morning when I went to shape it. The bad loaves, you couldn’t really get a “skin” on it like you wanted. The dough just felt “dead” in some weird way … this dough, it rose overnight but didn’t seem overly foamy. When I dumped it out on the board, it kept some shape, and it had a little pushback when I went to knead/shape it. How to explain? It just felt like bread.
My kitchen stayed in the high 60s/low 70s all day, and by about one, the bread had risen to the point where when you poked it with a finger, a slight dimple was left. So I cranked up the oven to 425 (which is the temp I like — it springs, but the crust doesn’t get overly caramelized) with the dutch oven inside. When everything came to temp, the bread went in the pot, I scored it a couple of times with a sharp knife, and put the lid back on. It cooks for 30 minutes with the lid on, 20-25 with it off.
And voila! My first fully-sprung, fully-risen lovely bread of the season. Yet another reason to be glad the dog days of summer are over.