- 1 tsp. sea salt, plus 1 tbs. for later
- 1 tsp. dry active yeast
- 2 lbs. Turkey Red Refined flour, divided
- 2 3/4 cups water, divided
- Mix 1 tsp. salt and yeast into 1 pound of the flour with a whisk. Add 1½ cups water, and mix until a sticky wet dough has formed. Refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, remove from the refrigerator and allow to warm for about an hour. Then, add the remaining 1 pound of flour, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1¼ cups of water. Mix and knead by hand until the dough is wet and thoroughly combined.
- Let it proof about two hours in a covered container.
- Now comes the critical part: The dough needs to stay as wet as possible. (The wet dough is the secret to baking light artisan bread with large holes in the crumb.) Sprinkle some flour on the outside so the dough can be worked, but add as little flour as possible to the inside of this dough ball. Lift the ball a bit with a dough tool, and sprinkle some flour under the ball.
- Now, think of the ball as a clock. Grab a quarter of the dough at 3 o’clock and stretch it upward as far as it will go without tearing, hopefully 8 to 12 inches. Lift and push this stretched dough to the middle of the ball. Repeat at the 6, 9, and 12 o’clock sides of the ball.
- Return to the covered bowl and proof for one hour. Preheat oven to 475 degrees F.
- Repeat stretching the dough from the 3, 6, 9, and 12 o’clock sides to the middle. After 30 minutes or less, the ball will have come back together again. The dough can now be divided and formed into the desired shape, for example, focaccia, baguette, bread sticks, etc. Take care to divide and shape so that the air bubbles that have been created in the dough while proofing are not pressed out.
- A pizza stone placed in the oven during preheating provides a more intense heat. Small loaves can be baked on a pizza stone covered with the top of a La Cloche clay baker. If there is nothing to cover the bread with, a metal pie pan and a few ice cubes can be used to add humidity to the oven.
- Every oven is different, but in general small round loaves and baguettes take about 12 to 14 minutes; larger loaves like ciabatta take 17 to 20 minutes. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the loaf should read 200 to 210 degrees F.
- This flour creates a rather light-colored crust even at this temperature. You can try brushing with olive oil or an egg wash before you bake to make it browner.
Alternate Baking Method: The ideal method of baking actually utilizes a cast-iron Dutch oven, 8 or 9 inches across the bottom. Preheat oven and Dutch oven to 475 degrees F at least 30 minutes prior to baking; 45 minutes is even better. Place half the dough in the ungreased Dutch oven, cover, and bake 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake another 10 to 15 minutes more depending on how brown a crust you want. The internal temperature of the bread, as with other methods, needs to be at least 200 degrees F.