They say you can judge a really good restaurant by how well it does a really simple dish. A simple dish gives the cook no room to hide. If the restaurant can do a really good roast chicken or pizza margherita than you know you are probably in good hands. Maybe we can say the same thing about cookbooks? If they can teach an amateur to make something simple or make it look simple than you have found yourself a good cookbook.
I feel that way about Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast. This is the cookbook I find myself reaching for most when I want a foolproof loaf ready for tonight’s or the next night’s (when I have my act together) dinner. These are not fancy or high concept breads, just simple, tasty, every day basics. If you can understand the concepts and follow the instructions for these loaves, you will not only make great bread but also have no problem with those fancy breads in other cookbooks.
My favorite part of Forkish’s book, beyond the clear, concise writing and instructions, is the sample baking schedule included with each recipe. Such a simple idea, but one that saves me lots of time reading ahead in the recipe and backing into the timing.
Now 75% whole wheat is a lot of wheat. We were having soup the first night, but I planned to use the second loaf (each recipe in the book makes enough for two loaves) for pizza the following night and thought a little less wheat might work better for that so I backed the recipe down to 60% whole wheat.
There’s something very appealing about making something so substantial out of just 4 ingredients.
Mix the flours. I like the Cambro 6 quart containers.
Add the water and mix by hand or use a dough whisk. I love my dough whisk. If you make bread even once in awhile, you should get one. This might take some effort to really incorporate it all.
After adding the salt and yeast, incorporating and stretching, you’re looking for a dough temperature of 77-79 degrees.
Here’s the dough after two hours and the three folds.
After about five hours, your dough should have tripled in volume.
Carefully remove the dough from the container. You want to be gentle and preserve as much gas in the dough as you can.
Divide in two, shape into balls and place in proofing baskets. If you are only baking one loaf, put the other in the refrigerator in a clean plastic bag. It will keep for a day or two. Let the other loaf proof for an hour or so until finger dent test shows it’s proofed.
This is where I differ slightly from Forkish’s instructions. I like to put the bread seam side up in the proofing basket so that I can invert out of the basket onto some parchment and then place directly into the Dutch oven.
Proofed and ready for the oven. This will be the bottom of the loaf.
Inverted out of the basket and onto a pizza peel with some parchment. I like to use a lame to slice the top. Optional, but fun!
After sixty minutes of baking. Not too shabby.
Cooled and sliced. Pretty good volume and structure for 60% whole wheat.
- 600 g whole wheat flour
- 400 g white flour
- 800 g water
- 22 g fine sea salt
- 3 g instant dried yeast
- Combine the flours and add the water (90 - 95) and mix until incorporated. Cover and let rest for 20 - 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle the yeast and salt over the top of the dough and incorporate by grabbing the bottom of the dough and pulling it over the top. Go around the dough repeating three or four times. The target temp at the end of the mix is 77 to 78 degrees. Cover and let rise.
- During the five hour rise period the dough needs three more gentle folds (the action that you did to incorporate the yeast/salt). These should all be done in the first 90 minutes. When the dough has tripled in volume, it's ready to divide.
- Carefully remove the dough onto a floured work surface. Divide equally in two.
- Shape each piece into a medium tight ball. Let rest of the counter, seam side down for a few minutes then place seam side up in a prepared proofing basket.
- If you are only baking one loaf, put the other in the fridge in a plastic bag or proofing box.
- Cover and let rise 60-90 minutes until finger-dent test tells you they are proofed.
- Meanwhile, preheat over with Dutch ovens inside for at least 45 minutes at 475 degrees.
- When proofed, invest the dough onto a sheet of parchment (I like to use a pizza peel for this) and then place into hot Dutch oven and replace lid.
- Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, then bake for 20-30 minutes more with lid off. I like aim for a final temperature between 205-210 degrees.
- Let loaf cool completely.
The overnight white is already a regular in my bread baking rotation, but with the extra fiber, I might need to make room for this whole wheat bread. Simple, nutritious, tasty and perfect for winter soups and stews.
Call it focaccia. Call it pizza. I call it delicious. I used the second dough ball for a mushroom, onion and thyme pizza the following night. The dough fit a quarter sheet pan perfectly with little fuss over stretching it out.