I have been on a quest to bake good bread. Really good bread. First, I was just interested in using my stored wheat and being frugal. So I tried some other recipes, and although edible and enjoyable, they were a bit crumbly and didn't rise that high. Or rose high and popped while baking. So I added more gluten, and bought some lecithin to use as a dough conditioner. I did learn that I have to hand-knead much longer then recipes say.
Anyway, back to THIS bread. This is from Ann Hodgman's book "One Bite Won't Kill You" (and I recommend "Beat This" and "Beat That" -- they are books I would replace in the event that I ever had to rebuild my library. I had never used "One Bite" because I don't often make recipes just for my children, and that seemed to be the focus of that book.
Okay, this Bread! I had to try it it because it is the "World's Best Bread." It takes 24 hours to make, and you can use a bread machine to make it up to a point (or leave it in a mixer with a dough hook). This bread is both beautiful, bouncy, delicious, no air holes, tender and is a perfect sandwich texture. The author recommends I take it to potlucks and parties, and...yes, it would be wonderful AND super easy if I could remember to start it the day before.
World's Best Bread
1 1/4 cups bread flour (NOT all-purpose)
1 T whole wheat flour
1 T rye flour (I subbed more whole wheat flour)
1 T semolina flour (I subbed more whole wheat flour
1 T rolled oats
1 T cornmeal
1 T wheat germ
1/8 t active dry yeast
1 cup chlorine-free water (bottled, not tap)
3 1/2 c bread flour
1 T coarse or kosher salt
1/4 t active dry yeast
1 1/4 c chlorine-free water
1 T honey
2-3 cups cornmeal for the cookie sheet
Night before: make Sponge (that you will let rest 16 hours at room temperature): Put all sponge ingredients into bowl of bread machine, or mixer bowl. Mix for at least 5 minutes until a smooth liquid. Unplug bread machine if using, or just cover the bowl of the mixer.
The next day, stir sponge down completely. Add Bread ingredients to mixer or bread machine. Set machine to "Knead" or "Dough" for 15 minutes, or mix with dough hook or by hand for 15 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest for 1/2 hour in a warm place. You can do the warm oven trick (preheat oven to lowest setting, turn off oven, put in bread to rise, set timer so you don't forget about it).
While it sits, take a rimmed cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Put about 2-3 cups of cornmeal (I used barely 2 cups) on the pan and shimmy it to make sure it covers the pan evenly. You are making an edible non-stick bread surface.
After 1/2 hour, punch down the dough. Shape it into a ball and put it on the cornmeal, seam side down (of course, I just dumped the dough ball from the bread machine onto the cornmeal, and it looked really good). Let rise for anywhere from 2 to 4 hours until it has doubled in bulk (on a cold day this could be even longer).
Set a baking rack in the lower third of oven. Put a pan in the bottom of the oven, and fill with boiling water (wrestling a pan of boiling water into the oven can slosh). Set oven to 400 degrees F.
Make an interesting slash pattern on the top of the bread, about 1/4 " deep. The sharper the knife, the better. I did a stylish X that looked more like two scratches.
Bake bread for 30-35 minutes or until the center reads 190 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. If you want the crust to be especially crisp, turn off the oven when the bread is done and prop open the oven with a wooden spoon, and let the bread cool with the oven. I just put mine on a rack..
Makes enough bread to serve 16 people at once, or a family for several days. Ann Hodgman cuts it up in chunks and freezes it to take out and slice as needed.
Next time, I offer will a fabulous bread pudding recipe that helps use up all the crumbly bread leftovers. There will be no leftovers from "World's Best Bread."