Crusty bread

The smell of freshly baked bread from the oven enticed my husband over to ask: what bread are you baking today? When I need a therapy of sorts I turn to bread-baking. There’s something magical about putting together each ingredient, kneading it and watching it rise, punching it down and shaping it, putting it in the oven and marvel at the golden brown beauty that comes out of it. And not forgetting the divine aroma that fills the entire house. A friend of mine suggested me to get a bread-maker. But I refused. The whole process of making the bread by hand is so rewarding. Nothing beats the feeling I experience when I slice the loaf and admire the final product of my labor. When I use my hand, I feel more alive. I am grateful for each ingredient that goes into making the bread. Nothing beats that feeling. This crusty bread is one of the final products which left me feeling triumphant.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 Cups wholemeal hi – protein bread flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups all – purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 1/2 + 1/3 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 3/4 Cup cranberries, sliced
  • 1/4 Cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 Cup pumpkin seeds

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the lukewarm water, yeast and sugar and set aside for about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together both flour and salt.
  3. Whisk in cranberries, almonds and pumpkin seeds.
  4. Pour in the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a shaggy ball forms.
  5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 12 – 18 hours (on the counter at room temperature).
  6. DO NOT REFRIGERATE. This is not optional. It takes that much time to proof the dough. The reason why you need a large bowl is because the dough will start to rise.
  7. Heat oven to 230 degrees Celcius. Once oven has reached 230 degrees Celcius, place a cast iron pot covered with lid into the preheated oven and heat pot for 30 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, turn dough out onto a heavily floured surface. Shape dough into a ball.
  9. Cover dough with plastic wrap and allow to rest while pot is heating.

Resting the dough

10. Remove pot from oven and with floured hands, carefully drop dough into hot pot (you DON’T need to grease the pot), cover with lid, then immediately return pot to oven and bake for 30 minutes at 230 degrees Celcius.

11. After 30 minutes, remove lid from pot and bake uncovered for 15 minutes.

12. Remove from oven and allow bread to cool on a cooling rack.

13. Once completely cooled, bread stores well in an open paper bag (it helps the bread maintain it’s crisp crust).

(Note: You do NOT have to have an enamel covered cast iron pot. You can use anything with a lid that can take the heat: Clay pots with lids, Pizza stone with a bowl to cover the bread, insert from a crockpot, pyrex baking dish with a lid, stainless steel pot with a lid, baking dish covered with aluminum foil).

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