So Alecto talked about making this no knead fermented (or something close to it) bread. Came from the NYT -- no wonder I didn't see it. By way of Kitt's, where the actual directions came from.
I changed everything of course. I changed everything because I see no reason to eat anything but whole grains. Why bother? It doesn't taste as good not whole, and it isn't as good for you, and just why bother? I mean, it is one thing to eat junk but quite another to eat it at home -- and another thing entirely to bother cooking it.
I changed it because I've made a LOT of bread in my time, and a lot of fermented bread, and I knew I didn't have enough water in it when I mixed it up. I'm sure that was because I'd changed from white bread flour to freshly ground hard red whole wheat flour with some gluten added.
I changed it because the pot I had to cook it in, as well as the number of people in my family and their enthusiasm for bread, was a lot bigger than the original recipe's proportions.
So here's my version, here at the beginning (this will change over time, no doubt):
*Big old flat bottom cast iron cauldron with lid pot to cook it in.
*6 cups freshly ground hard red wheat flour, 4 tsp gluten flour, 3 tsp salt (not iodized), heaping 1/2 tsp yeast (not fast acting)
*Mix dry ingredients together.
*Add 3 1/2 to 4 cups of cold water
(note: I really should try weighing the ingredients because with flour and water, measurements are sometimes surprisingly variable)
I mix this in a stock pot and with a wooden spoon. Then cover and keep somewhere around 60 to 70 degrees for somewhere between 15 and 24 hours. It won't matter that much. The above loaf was kept at about 70 (in the oven with the light on in our rather cool house but on a relatively warm night) for about 18 hours.
*Deflate, leaving in stock pot, but don't bother to knead. Let rise again for two hours.
*Get your oven hot at some point within this last two hour rise. If you have a wood cook stove like I do, it takes a little longer than turning a knob and waiting a half hour like the recipe says for it to get to 450. After the oven is hot, let the pot and lid heat in the oven for at least a half hour so you better be thinking ahead here.
*I put the "toppings" on the board and just dumped the dough onto it, and from there shaped it by folding it into thirds both ways. I used flour and rolled cereal grains as my topping.
I was somewhat concerned that my cauldron might not be all that well seasoned, and then it was in a hot oven burning off what seasoning it had anyway, so I generously floured the bottom of the pot before I flopped the loaf into it. I shook the pot a bit to settle the dough and put the lid on making the seal (so the vent was covered). I was amazed this didn't rise as a loaf and went online to make sure this went in the oven this way. Yes it did. Ok. I am familiar with oven spring and with the chemistry of crust and understand what that lid is doing but it was still a leap of faith even more than "no knead" was. Ok. So here I was, making a recipe I had never made and changing it all to pieces and I was a tad bit nervous.
As you can tell, it came out wonderfully. Magnificently! Bake for 1/2 hour at 450 with the lid on, then remove lid and bake another 15 minutes or until done. Always measure bread for done-ness by internal temperature -- 190 is perfect, 210 is overdone, anything under 180 is underdone. This single step has made more difference in my bread baking than anything. The above loaf cooked about an hour total.
Turn out of pan and let cool a bit before digging in. It isn't as flavorful as bread you've used a starter that has developed its bacteria for flavor. I may get another sour starter because I really like a sour fermented bread. It does have an absolutely magnificent crust -- hard to cut and chewy and oh so flavorful.
And you know that photo of Alecto all pleased as punch getting her pizzas out of the oven? I kept looking at this loaf of bread sitting on my bar and laughing with delight at it. You can't see it in this photo but this loaf broke on top and curled just like the fancy bread books talk about. A no knead whole wheat loaf, not risen, not slashed, perfect. Tickled the absolute sh*t out of me. I do not see how a person can NOT be passionate about food. And especially about bread.