January 14, 2012 | Breads,
I crossed a big threshold this week – I turned in the manuscript for my cookbook project. Two months early on top of that. [Insert sound of champagne cork popping!] It’s not that I’m an overachiever – although my friends might argue that point. It’s that I’m one of those people who relishes an accomplishment. You know, checking something off your list. The feeling that comes with knowing you’ve completed something you set out to do. And frankly, I wanted to finish the job because I have other things to do. Like clean out the files in my office so that I have a fresh start to the new year. Or make that sweep through my house and take a good load full of things I really don’t use or need to the Goodwill store so that someone else might enjoy them.Or bake bread with my friend from Italy who was in town last weekend to help me host an event about my next trip to his cooking school in 2013. You see, he had recently discovered Jim Lahey (Sullivan Street Bakery in New York – note to self: check it out next time I’m in New York to see my son) and his revolutionary technique for making yeast bread at home with close to no effort at all and wanted to share it with me. My friend Silvestro makes bread daily at the cooking school I take people to – as well as homemade pasta, his own sauce, and lots of other incredible things you can experience if you join me on a trip to Italy. And we decided baking fresh bread – one semolina loaf (at the top of this post) and one white flour loaf (like ciabatta in Italy – in the picture above) would be perfect to pair with some snacks for our open house to talk about the trip.That spread of snacks included things you might expect from Italy – salumi and burrata cheese – but also sauteed greens and roasted carrots, since vegetables like this are staples in southern Italy where his cooking school is located.Fresh baked bread just seemed the perfect thing to serve alongside these foods, and the guests seemed to appreciate the effort. For me, I loved the opportunity to host a friend from Italy here in my own home. To cook together in my kitchen while listening to Carmen Consoli on his iPod. To share a glass of wine and discuss his new love Elisa. That’s the thing about touring versus traveling – when you tour, you see the sights, but when you travel, you learn about culture and make friends. I’m not sure there is a better way to celebrate friendship than to break bread together. And by the way, your house will smell incredible while the bread is breaking. Here’s to endings and beginnings, and the cycles of our lives.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon yeast
- 2 cups water
- Olive oil
- Wheat bran
- Stir together flours, salt and yeast, then stir in water just until ingredients come together. Oil a second bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let set at room temperature for 12 hours.
- Turn dough out onto a light floured surface (it should be filled with bubble holes from the yeast) and gently fold all 4 sides together into the center. Sprinkle wheat bran on a clean dish towel and lay the dough seam side down on this bran. Sprinkle top with more bran and lay another clean towel over the top. Let sit at room temperature for an hour.
- While the dough is resting, place a covered Dutch oven into an oven and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Once the oven is fully heated, remove the Dutch oven and carefully turn the dough into the Dutch oven. Replace the cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue baking until the outside crust is lightly browned, 10-20 minutes.