On this last day of January, leaning calmly yet decisively towards February, I met up with a new friend this morning. We chose a rendezvous at the village artisan bakeshop. Mon dieu, the fragrant odors eminating from within!
But be strong, I thought. A cup of delicious coffee should do perfectly well. After all, I had consumed my super healthy bowl of steel cut oats and my own secret mixture of 7 organic grains to ‘fibre it up’ that morning at 7. Perfectly satisfactory. Yep. Right up to the moment when the idle chit chat began with another obviously weak individual, waiting in the coffee lineup. He shared his favorite. I waxed on about the almond croissants. By then, of course, there was no way in hell I was leaving the lineup without one!
Well, morning croissants, which shower into a million flaky crumbs upon consumption are one thing. For the present, we’ll leave that to the experts. But what about all of those gorgeous loaves of artisinal breads lining the shelves. Check out those price tags! To be sure, they are divine and delicious, all at once. But do you really have to spend between 5 and 8 dollars to get a single great loaf of crusty Italian bread, maybe even topped with asiago cheese and sliced green olives?
This is where we remind our readers that the answer to this question is a resounding ‘No!’ Last fall, I made a Facebook post about a true gem of a recipe, composed of just 4 of the most basic, simple ingredients ever. Follow it carefully, and you will have crafted, all by yourself, a loaf of rustic Italian bread to equal those found in the most authentic of old world bakeries. Take the basic recipe and add one or two delicious extras (such as the cheese and olives previously mentioned), and suddenly, you are the artist!
Here follows the recipe.
No Fuss, One Pot Rustic Italian Bread
This recipe could not be simpler, but it is predicated on one necessity: you must have a lidded, enamel – coated heavy pot. If you got really fancy wedding presents, you may have a ‘Le Creuset’, which would be perfect. I picked up a ‘Kitchenaid’ 2 litre pot at Canadian Tire, and it’s been great.
Once you have the pot, the ingredients for the bread are astonishingly few and simple. Also, you can absolutely vary the types of flour. Do your own thing, as it were.
- 3 C Flour (all purpose or any combination)
- 1/4 tsp instant yeast
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- In a reasonably large (2 to 3 L) Rubbermaid or Tupperware lidded container, combine the 3 ingredients. Mix well. To this, add 1 5/8 C (that’s 1 1/2 Cups plus 2 Tbsp.) water. Stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Snap lid on and leave dough to rest for 24 hours at warm (70ish) room temperature. (some people do this, leaving the dough for 12 or 18 hours, but I find it best to whip the dough up at dinnertime one night, and then bake it for dinner the next.)
- When ready to bake, get your oven roaring hot (450 degrees) and get the pot and lid in there. The key to this recipe is to create a little ‘steam oven’ of your lidded pot, and it absolutely must be stoking hot to do this. Leave it in there a good 30 minutes before baking.
- Just before you’re ready to bake, get a clean, cotton (not terry) tea towel and coat it generously with flour. Remove dough from container onto tea towel. Dust with flour and fold dough over on itself once or twice. Gently shape into ball. Place seam side down onto towel and cover with towel ends, letting it sit for about 10 minutes while pot finishes heating up.
- Working fast and careful, open oven door, remove lid from pot. Carefully ‘slide’ bread dough into pot. Replace lid, close door, and set timer for 30 minutes. Then, remove lid and bake another 10 minutes or so. Voila! The easiest rustic Italian bread ever! Your friends will be amazed!!
If you would like to doll up your loaf, with cheese or olives, whatever you choose, add those things just before the final 10 minutes of baking time.