I’ve always been sceptical of the old adage that cooking is an art and baking is a science. It makes the latter seem a little scary and inaccessible, and often serves to stunt creativity in novice bakers. It is, however, true that once you’ve mastered a few basics, it’s much easier to understand what’s going globally, and start improvising with whatever you bake. But that’s not to say that an understanding of what’s going on at a molecular level isn’t fascinating to help understand why such deceptively simple recipes like this work so well. In short, the process of kneading – which usually serves to develop the gluten in the flour and give bread its characteristic airy texture – is replaced by a long, slow rise (perfect for our newly confined lifestyles) to achieve the same thing with far less effort.
- 450 g all purpose or strong white bread flour
- 1 g yeast
- 8 g salt
- 315 g water
Mix all the ingredients until you have a rough dough. You need to make sure there are no pockets of unmixed flour, but it doesn’t need to be smooth – a quick 30 second stir is really all you need.
Cover with cling film, an old plastic bag, or beeswax wrap if you’re feeling virtuous, and leave to rest for at least 14 hours – more if you can spare it.
Dust a surface with flour, then pour out the dough onto it, and pull roughly in the shape of a rectangle. Fold this in half twice, then let it rest for a quarter of an hour.
Coat your hands in flour and roughly shape into a ball, then place on a piece of greaseproof paper on a baking sheet and cover again for 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 210 degrees, and heat up a large cast iron pot or similar (ceramic oven-proof casserole pans with a lid also work).
Once the dough has doubled in size, lift up the greaseproof paper and put the bread into the hot pan, then pop the lid on and bake for 30 minutes, then take the lid off and bake for 10 more, or until the top is nicely browned.