I credit almost everything I know about bread to Peter Reinhart’s excellent book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.This is my favorite of his recipes, Pain à l’Ancienne.
Jim Lahey, the author of Mark Bitman’s no-knead bread has theorized that when bread was indeed the staple food in Europe, bakers must have depended on a slow rise rather than kneading to produce bread. Kneading enough bread to feed a medieval village would use up a large fraction of the calories contained in the bread, and would have occupied a huge percentage of the labor force, leaving few hands to actually harvest and grind wheat.
Bread made from a slow rise rather than kneading is delicious and easy, though time consuming. The dough has to rest over-night, or longer.
The secret to all great bread is to do the opposite of most bakeries: cook the bread until its internal temperature reaches 205. Not 200, 205. Do you hear me American Bread Company and Starbucks? Soft wet bread, while appealing to children and the toothless, never tastes as well as fully baked bread.
A good crust is formed by pouring boiling water into a hot pan, creating lots and lots of steam. I pour boiling water into a cast iron pan, which I heat on the bottom rack of my oven, just below my baking stone.
You can try your hand at this recipe, which was published with permission of the author at the Fresh Loaf.
You can also buy the Bread Baker’s Apprentice from Peter Reinhart’s blog.