It is a very easy bread that requires no kneading, but takes a couple of days to make due to the longer fermentation time needed to develop the flavor and texture of the bread. Eventhough the entire process takes two days, don't let that scare you...it just requires a little bit of planning to allow for the longer rising times. The dough is resting (fermenting) for most of that time.
We started the process yesterday and will finish the loaf today.
Easy Four-Grain Pot Boule
Makes: 1 large loaf (12 to 14 portions or slices)
Recipe is from Kneadlessly Simple (p. 50-51) by Nancy Baggett.
- 3 1/4 cups (16.25 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1/2 cup yellow or white cornmeal, plus 1 tablespoon for garnish
- 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats or quick cooking (not instant) oats
- 1/2 cup light or dark rye flour (if unavailable, substitute 2 tablespoons each more cornmeal and oats)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- Generous 2 teaspoons table salt
- 3/4 teaspoon instant, fast-rising, or bread machine yeast
- 2 cups ice water, plus more if needed
- Corn oil, canola oil, or other flavorless vegetable oil or oil spray for coating dough
Day 1: First Rise (15 to 28 hours)
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, oats, rye flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Add the water to the bowl and mix thoroughly, scraping down the sides until the ingredients are blended completely.
If the mixture is too dry to incorporate all the flour, add more ice water, a little bit at a time, to blend the ingredients; however, don't over moisten. The dough should be fairly stiff. If necessary, stir in more flour to stiffen the dough slightly. I ended up adding a little bit more water and then a little more flour before I got the right consistency.
Brush or spray the top with oil.
Cover the dough with plastic wrap.
For best flavor or for convenience, refrigerate the dough for 3 to 10 hours.
I refrigerated my dough for about 4 hours.
Then let the dough rise at cool room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. If it's convenient, you can stir the dough vigorously partway through the rise. I let mine sit last night until about 10am this morning.
Day 2: Second Rise
Use an oiled rubber spatula to gently lift and fold the dough in towards the center all the way around. The dough should be mostly deflated; however don't stir.
Brush or spray with oil
and recover with plastic wrap.
Use one of the following methods to let the dough rise:
- For a 1 1/2- to 2 1/2- hour regular rise, let stand at room temperature (This is the method I used);
- For a 1- to 2-hour accelerated rise, let stand in a turned-off microwave along with 1 cup of boiling-hot water;
- Or, for an extended rise, refrigerate, covered, for 4 to 24 hours, then set out at room temperature.
Continue the rise until the dough doubles from the deflated size, removing the plastic if the dough nears it.
Preparing to bake:
Put a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees about 20 minutes before baking time. Heat a 3 1/2- to 4-quart (or larger) heavy metal pot in the oven until sizzling hot (check with a few drops of water), then remove it with heavy mitts.
I don't have a 3 1/2 to 4-quart pot so I used a larger pot.
Loosen the dough from the sides of the bowl using an oiled spatula and being careful not to deflate it. Gently invert the dough into the pot. It doesn't matter if it's lopsided, it will even out during baking.
Spritz or brush the top with water, then sprinkle with a tablespoon of cornmeal. Using a well-oiled serrated knife or kitchen shears, cut a 1/2-inch-deep, 4-inch diameter circle in the loaf center. Immediately put the lid on. Shake the pot back and forth to center the dough.
Reduce the heat to 425 degrees. Bake on the lower rack for 50 minutes. Remove the lid. Reduce the heat to 400 degrees. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer, until the top is well browned and a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few crumbs on the tip (or until center registers 210 degrees to 212 degrees on an instant-read thermometer).
Then bake for 5 minutes longer to ensure the center is baked through. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the loaf to the rack. Cool thoroughly. The bread has cooled and now it's time to test it!
You can tear or cut this loaf into portions. The loaf tastes good warm with butter but it will cut better when cooled. I decided to cut it instead of tearing it! Here goes nothing! Mmmm...this is pretty good!
Cool the loaf completely before storing. If you want to maintain the crisp crust, store in a large bowl draped with a clean tea towel or in a heavy paper bag. Or store airtight in a plastic bag or foil. The crust is a little too crunchy for me so I plan to store it in a plastic bag so the crust will soften up a little.
The bread will keep at room temperature for 3 days, and may be frozen, airtight, for up to 2 months.
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