What’s That Bread?

Perhaps a couple of you wondered that looking at yesterday’s oven photos. In fact it was my version of Peter Reinhart’s pain à l’ancienne. There’s a lot of interest in this bread in the baking community. Or should I say there has been, ever since he first published the recipe eight years ago in his wonderful book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. In fact several of you have asked that I make it for the blog. I haven’t since a) I don’t like publishing other people’s recipes and b) several bloggers have already done this — with photos. However since Mr. Reinhart has just published an entire book based on this excellent technique (Peter Reinhardt’s Whole Grain Breads, which I own and highly recommend), several bloggers have put up the recipe already, and it just so it happens to be a good illustration of what I’m talking about this week…I’m gonna do it. My version of the formula goes like so:

1 lb., 11 ounces bread or high-gluten flour
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 lb., 5 ounces ice water

My version of the procedures go like this:

Day 1

Make sure your water is very, cold. Which is to say combine it with plenty of ice and stir it well. Next, combine all ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 1-2 minutes, until all the ingredients are moist and a loose dough begins to form. Switch to the dough hook and knead for five minutes on medium, until the dough becomes smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl (but not the bottom). Promptly scoop the dough out (it will be very wet and sticky) and put it in an oiled dough rising container. Put the container on the bottom shelf in the back of your fridge, overnight.

Day 2

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let it rise until doubled (it may have already risen some in the chill chest, that’s OK). The full rising takes almost exactly three hours in my universe, you’ll want to set up your oven and start it pre-heating to 500 degrees Fahrenheit after about two. When the dough has fully risen, turn it out onto a very well-floured board. Without working it too much, pat it into a rough rectangle and cut it in half with a bench scraper. Cut each half into three strips, then lay them out, three at a time, on pieces of parchment paper set on the back of sheet pans or cookie sheets.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Score it if you can (or want to), since with a dough this wet, it isn’t easy…or really necessary. When you’re ready, slide the first batch of three loaves, paper and all, onto your baking stone. Steam the oven as directed the post How to Make Your Home Oven More Brick Oven-Like. Bake for 10 minutes, until the loaves begin to take on color, then rotate and bake for 10-15 minutes more. Repeat the process with the next pan of three loaves. Cool on a wire rack.

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