I don’t really need any reason or excuse to bake some bread, but if one presents itself? All the better. My parents were coming over for a Sunday dinner of stuffed shells and salad and a family meal like that just wouldn’t be complete without a nice crusty loaf of bread.
So on Saturday I plucked Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast off the shelf and took it to the park with the girls. I flipped through it while the girls hung upside from various pieces of equipment in the spring-like sun. It all ended well. No broken necks for them and I decided on the overnight wheat bread. We all headed off to for lunch quite satisfied. That satisfaction lasted about six hours.
Right up until the moment I went to mix the dough and realized I was out of wheat flour. That took the wind out of my sails. I’d start fresh in the morning. And just like that overnight whole wheat bread became same day white bread.
One aspect that I really like about FWSY is that Forkish lays out different baking schedules so you’re not sitting there trying to back out all the times to figure out if you’ll have the loaf on the table by dinner.
Things you’ll need:
- A large food grade bucket with the measurements on the outside.
- A kitchen scale and an instant read thermometer. If you want to bake bread or really anything, you’ll need a scale. I use this one.
- A Dutch oven for baking the bread. I’ve got two. A 4 quart Lodge cast iron one (the size Forkish recommends for his recipes) and a 5 quart enameled one from Target that’s about 10 years old. There was a big rush on these when Cook’s Illustrated picked them as on par with Le Creusets.
- Proofing baskets or something similar. Again, these 9 inch brotforms have worked fine for me for a few years.
- Parchment paper. Not essential but I find it makes it a lot easier to move the dough into the Dutch oven.
1000 grams unbleached all purpose flour
720 grams of filtered water heated to about 90 degrees F
21 g fine sea salt or table salt
4 g instant or rapid rise yeast
- Combine the flour and water in a large dough rising bucket. You want something big with a wide top. You’re going to be mixing, folding and doing the initial rise in this bucket. I have these Cambro ones and they’ve worked well for me.
- Mix the flour and water with your hands until the water and flour are incorporated. Cover and let it rest for about 20 minutes to let the flour absorb the water.
- Scatter the salt and yeast over the top of the dough and mix with your wet hands by alternatively stretching it and pinching it to fully incorporate the yeast and salt. The pincher method is doing it’s best to replicate those big industrial mixers. This should take about five minutes. At this point, the target dough temperature should be about 78 F. Cover with plastic wrap.
- After ten minutes of rest, fold the dough by picking up each “side,” stretching it to resistance and then folding it over the middle. Not sure my folds ever really tightened up the dough like Forkish’s pictures. Re-cover. Repeat this folding again after an hour. Fold the dough again after an hour.
- Let the dough rise for about five hours, until tripled.
- Generously flour 2 proofing baskets. I like to use rice flour.
- With a wet dough scraper or wet hands, loosen the dough from the sides of the bucket and gently turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into two even pieces.
- Shape the dough into boules, creating a tight skin over the top. Place the shaped dough into each basket, seam side down. This will become the top of the dough later.
- Cover with plastic wrap.
- At this point, if you are not baking both loaves, you can put one in the fridge and use it within 2 days. I stuck one proofing basket in a (clean) garbage bag and saved it to make focaccia during the week. More on that later.
- Allow the loaves to rise about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until they are puffy.
- About 45 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F with two empty covered Dutch ovens placed on the middle rack.
- One loaf at a time, place a piece of parchment over the dough and place a plate over it. Flip the dough over, remove the basket, and lift and place the loaf in the pre-heated Dutch oven by using the parchment as a sling (leave the paper under the dough). Cover the Dutch oven.
- Bake covered for 30 minutes, and then uncover it and bake it for 20 to 25 minutes more, until the interior of the bread reaches about 210 degrees F and the bread is a deep brown.
- Let the loaves cool fully on a wire rack. Try not to sneak a piece.
- I really like all the instructional photos in the book
- Most of the time I also really like the very detailed and specific written instructions though at times they felt almost too specific. I was getting lost in some of the language trying to make sure I followed as closely as I could to the recipe. I’m sure there’s some slack in the recipe and that I was being a bit too nuts about it.
- Then again, maybe my anal retentive nature helped as I got some great oven spring from this recipe and a really nice thin, crispy crust. Often these no knead or low knead breads are high in hydration and baking in a Dutch oven can give you a very thick, armor-like crust. It might look pretty but you need a hacksaw to get through it. The girls like when I make bread but almost never at the crust. This time the crust was crispy and flavorful but still soft enough for them to eat. Win, win!
I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the second dough I’d stashed in the fridge, but again, I was pleasantly surprised. It did not dry out and it still slipped right out of the banneton (rice flour really is magic!). Even straight from the fridge it remained pliable and I had no trouble stretching it out and covering almost the entire oiled half sheet pan. The whole process only took about 5 minutes (plus the time to preheat the oven).
The focaccia (you could hold a healthy debate on what the definition of focaccia is but for Forkish it’s dough cooked on a sheet pan) takes about 15 minutes to cook through in the oven (at least mine) and here’s where I made my only mistake. I should have baked it naked for the first 10 minutes and then pulled it out and added toppings and cheese. Fifteen minutes was a bit too long for both the cheese half and the spinach/pine nut half. It didn’t taste bad, but it could have tasted better. It made a nice compliment to a big salad for our Tuesday dinner.
I was a bit annoyed that the original recipe made enough for two loaves, then skeptical that the second could easily be stored and used later, but I was wrong on both accounts. I now see the wisdom in putting in the effort up front to get the two doughs and the flexibility it allows in spreading out your fresh bread over a few days time. I look forward to trying more recipes in FWSY and his follow up pizza book that has also been sitting on my shelf for far too long.