Yup, you read that right. Saturday bread baked on Sunday. By now you’ve probably figured out that I really enjoy baking and I really, really enjoy baking bread. I bought a new cookbook last week titled Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish. I’ve seen this book many times at the bookstore but never gave it a thought until the other day when I picked it up and starting thumbing through it. Needless to say, I was intrigued. All the bread is baked in a 4 qt. Dutch oven, every single loaf, well, except the pizza and focaccia. I knew I had to have this book. Plus, all the mixing and kneading are done by hand, no mixer at all. Just you and a 12 qt. dough bucket. Yes, 12 qt. It’s rather large.
What I really like about the book is the story of how Mr. Forkish got into baking. Really fascinating and I admire his perserverance. This book isn’t really about recipes but rather the technique involved in getting a wonderful artisan loaf of bread using a slightly different method. He talks quite a bit about baker’s percentages and stresses more than a few times the importance of getting a digital kitchen scale because you weigh everything. The step by step photos of the process are really helpful too. Like I mentioned everything is baked in a Dutch oven which makes total sense because the pot acts like its own mini oven so the bread gets a little steam from having the lid on and the crust is crazy good. You really need to get the book and read it for yourself.
I decided to jump right in and do the first recipe which is what he calls a basic bread. No starter or levain, just straight mixing, by hand in that giant 12 qt. bucket. I was skeptical at first but it didn’t turn out as messy as I thought. The first recipe is Saturday Bread. He called it that because you can start it on Saturday morning and have fresh baked bread by dinner time. First off, you had to mix just the flour and water together, which is called “autolyse”. That helps the flour soak up the water before adding the yeast and salt. The autolyse time is about 20-30 minutes.
That’s what my mixture looked like. A sticky mess and my hand looked like a club from mixing. Notice how big the bucket is?
After the autolyse time is up, it’s time to add the yeast and salt.
Now the fun part! You have to work in the yeast and salt into the dough by pulling and folding the dough several times working your way around the dough bucket. Then you have to pinch the dough several times (which acts like a mixer’s dough hook) then pull and fold some more. You keep doing this until everything is fully incorporated and the dough has a bit of tension. Also the dough temperature should be around 78°F at this point. Temperature is very important!
Now it’s time to cover the dough and let it start to rise. It needed to be folded a couple more times in the first hour or so to give it a little more tension, I guess.
The total time for the dough to rise after mixing is about 5 hours or until the dough triples in size. That’s when I headed to the store to get an oven thermometer. A necessary thing to have! When I got back after doing a few other errands which was about 3-1/2 hrs. later look what happened!
Look at the bubble in the back of the tub! Good yeast!! After about 4-1/2 hours, my dough had definitely tripled. My kitchen was a bit warmer since it’s August. Look at it now!
Those bubbles are nuts. Now the dough needed to be divided and shaped then put in the basket or brotform to proof. I only had one brotform so I used a bowl about the same size with a towel for the other brotform. Making sure everything is floured is key. I forgot to get a picture of the divided loaves before shaping but shaping them was quite fun. Playing with food, sort of. Once shaped, into the brotforms they went.
Now the loaves need to proof for an hour or so. You’ll know when they are ready when you push your finger into the dough and it springs back slightly. If it does that, it’s ready to bake. The oven has been preheating with the Dutch oven in it to a temperature of 475°F. That’s where the oven thermometer comes into play. My oven was only about 5° off but baking at the correct temperature is very important. It was pretty easy to get the loaf into the hot Dutch oven except for the fact that I burned my arm on the oven while taking out the pot. Once in the pot, cover it and bake for 30 minutes then take the lid off and bake for another 20 minutes. Out comes dark brown crusty goodness!!
It’s so damn pretty and perfect. I baked the second loaf the next morning since I only have 1 Dutch oven. It came out good but a little strange looking. I kept the dough in the refrigerator overnight before baking. The photo at the top of the post is the one I baked the next day.
I can’t say enough times how happy I am with the outcome of this bread. It is probably the most flavorful loaf I’ve ever made and the crust is awesome. Not too crunchy and the darkness of the crust tasted so yummy. So, since this goes under the category Sunday Bread, I guess you can figure out that I’m going to try and bake bread every Sunday. There are quite a few different breads in Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. Enough to keep me going for quite a while. Plus, there are pizza dough recipes – I love making pizza! One other thing that Mr. Forkish emphasized was keeping a journal of each bake so that you know what to adjust next time or what not to do. I’d love to meet him, such a cool guy.