When we were making the latest batch of fig preserves, I was asked about my bread recipe. More of a method than a recipe, this is super easy and just requires a little planning and a heavy lidded casserole size pot. I have a 5 qt. Lodge cast iron dutch oven dedicated to bread. You could also use your enamel cast iron ware, such as Le Creuset, but the high temperatures will mar the finish. I am not willing to sacrifice my pieces to that cause, valiant as it is, thus the cast iron route. Also thanks to Simon and Mimi, who gifted me with some whole wheat flour from a bulk purchase. Waiting to hear from Torie Beedle of Community Grains, up in Oakland Ca.
3 c flour (white or 2 c white and 1 c whole wheat)
1/4 tsp. yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 c water
Mix these ingredients briefly (I use my stand mixer with the dough hook), and expect the dough to look very shaggy and wet. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 8 – 12 hours. I do this first thing in the morning, and it is ready to bake for dinner.
Preheat your oven to 500 F.
>>I bought unglazed clay tiles (pavers) at the chain hardware store, an investment of about $3, and lined the bottom of my oven. It has functioned like a first class pizza and baking oven ever since, keeping the temperature even and high.
Get the butter out of your refrigerator to soften to room temperature while the bread is baking.
Put a little bit of oil in your baking pot. Turn out the dough onto the counter and briskly form into a ball, working quickly. Put the dough ball in the pot, slash a couple of times with a sharp knife, and sprinkle with a scant amount of water. Put the lid on and place the pot in the preheated oven, then reduce the heat to 475 F. Bake 20 minutes at 475 F, remove the lid, reduce heat to 450 F and bake an additional 20 minutes. The loaf should be nicely browned by now, and please use care in taking this out. This is a big heavy super-heated pot! Wait an interminably long 10 minutes or so for the loaf to cool before you slice it.
Get out a jar of Co-op preserves with the plates and butter, and self-effacingly accept praise from your family and guests.