Flour, Yeast, Water and Salt are the components of most of my favorite breads. I mean no disrespect to those calamata olive breads, sun-dried tomato focaccias, and parmesan baguettes-they just ain't my favorite thing. I'm happier without any eggs, oil, or milk in my loaf, too, most of the time. But after fooling around with the Sullivan Street/NY Times 18 hour no-knead loaf (see link to the right, if you somehow missed the furor) every week for months, I decided to take the radical step of adding three extra ingredients.
Of course, I'm cheating...one of the extra ingredients (spelt) is actually flour, another is just a (special) salt, and the third-malted wheat flakes-is, after all, wheat. But for me- wildly deviant. I guess the reason for the deviation boils down to my two minor areas of dissatisfaction with this bread as my main, all purpose, staff of life-type loaf. The first is that the crumb is, much of the time, a little too moist to be perfect. The second is that it is a tad too white-I like a touch of something darker and grittier-just a bit of country, in my everyday stuff. I'm not looking for a brown loaf here, just an off-white.
The flor de sal (not a typo-it's Portuguese) is just my very favorite sea salt of them all. I believe I read about it first in some Slow Food publication, and I adore it. "From the Barque Naturale da Ria Formosa in the Algarve, and hand harvested...." blah, blah- whatever, it could come from Disneyland ...it is just shockeningly delicious. A sprinkling of this stuff transforms, say, a fried egg. I'm not fooling.
The spelt is courtesy of June, who made such a startlingly high, even textured sandwich loaf from all spelt (I'm going to be trying one of those soon, too) , and Lynn D.*, who put some in her 18 hour loaf, and liked the results. They both said the flavor is "nutty", which sounds good to me. In fact, I'm thinking some toasted walnuts in the mix might make the 18 hour thing into a good special occasion, have-some-with-the-soup-and -cheese bread.
The malted wheat flakes also have a June connection, as she helped me out in my effort to find out something about Granary Bread, made with a proprietary brand flour, available in the UK, but not, or not widely, in the US.
It occurs to me that I have been talking about varying a recipe I've never actually provided, so, at the risk of boring you silly, here it is in the original, as I do it:
3 cups King Arthur all purpose flour or european type bread flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 tsps salt
1 5/8 cups room temp water
Mix it all together in a big bowl. Cover and let it sit in a 65F room for 18 hours. Turn into a WELL floured reed banneton, or a bowl or basket lined with a floured linen cloth. [You can shape it if you like, as you do this, noodging it into roundness, or, if you feel you know what I mean, stretching the top of the dough over the rest, without deflating it too much. This step is not essential, but adds to appearance a little.] Preheat oven to 500F with a 5 qt cast iron dutch oven inside. Baking pan must have a cover, but you don't have to preheat that. Let dough rise until doubled- about 2 hours.
Cut a circle of parchment slightly larger than the banneton, and place it over the top of the basket, covering dough. Over that, put a larger round tray or plate. Invert, gently nudging the dough out onto the parchment circle if it doesn't fall out itself. Now, open the oven, pick up the shaped loaf by the parchment beneath, and drop it into the preheated dutch oven. Put lid on the pan, and close the oven door. (You don't have to take out the parchment-just leave it there- it will be fine.)
Bake about 30 minutes, remove lid from dutch oven, and continue to bake 20-30 minutes more, until done..it will sound hollow if you tap the bottom. Make sure the exterior is a nice, dark brown. Listen to the popping sounds the crust makes as you cool it down on a rack. These are the delightful sounds of a crust which is thin, crispy, and toothsome- as good as any bakery crust I've ever had. To my mind, this is the most surprising aspect of this recipe. I've never had a home crust this good before.
Variant: Substitute one cup of spelt for one cup of the flour, and add a handful of malted wheat flakes. Use favorite fancy sea salt.
So, as you can see, it is still with the big holes and chewiness (a plus with me). I really like the taste- wheatier, and the malted wheat flakes are yummy. It is still plain-bready, which is what I'm looking for here, a kind of go-with-everything housebread, tasty, but not tasting noticeably of anything, except bread. It's a little damper than I'd like, despite being nice and dark brown. I think maybe I'll be trying to take the lid off a little earlier...I just don't want to ruin the perfect thin crust, though. Oh yes, I think I will add more of that lovely salt- because I just can't get enough.
I do love to play with my food.
*Lynn, who really should think about a blog, or website, or something to link people to. I get so many ideas from her, and I'm a fan of her writing , too. But she knows that.
Note: For some reason I can't get a permanent link for the malted wheat flakes, which I got at the Baker's Catalogue from King Arthur flour. It keeps saying that my shopping session has expired. I know that, I'm not shopping. Aaargh. But they do have it, you will just have to find it at the site yourself, I'm afraid, if you want some. I tried to help.