This month I discovered a superstar ingredient that has really taken my hearth bread baking up to a whole new level. You might wonder how that could be when using such simple ingredients – flour, yeast, honey, water, and a touch of salt. Read on to learn more about this important discovery.
Our September recipe was Rose’s Basic Hearth Bread. Although this was the first hearth bread during our bake-along, I have baked this recipe and several others many times over the years. This type of bread is a staple for me, and many years ago I invested in a La Cloche clay bread baker. My baker is similar to this version from King Arthur Flour, the only difference is that mine is unglazed.
When baked in the La Cloche, your bread develops an absolutely awesome crunchy crust. I typically preheat my oven an hour before baking, with the La Cloche cover in the oven as it preheats so that by the time I’m ready to put my bread in the oven the cover is good and hot. The accumulated heat in the lid creates steam when you put the bread in the oven which leads to the fabulous crust. I’d highly recommend a La Cloche type baker if you plan to bake this sort of bread on a regular basis. A less expensive tool that I’d also recommend is an inexpensive lame to artfuly slash the top of your bread. The plastic version I use from Sur La Table retails for $9.95, while a more impressive version with a black walnut handle from King Arthur retails for $34.95. I baked this bread according to the recipe directions with minor modifications to account for the La Cloche. For example, it is not necessary to add ice cubes to the oven to create steam, and after 30 minutes of baking, I removed the cover and baked the bread for an additional five minutes.
In addition to a crispy crust, one of the things I love about a bread like this is the flavor. Rose’s use of a starter which you can allow to ferment for up to 24 hours before mixing the dough creates a wonderfully developed flavor in the finished bread. For this go around, I allowed my starter and flour mixture to ferment for 1 hour at room temperature, and then refrigerated it for about 10 hours. I had great results with 10 hours of fermentation, but I do wonder what would have been with 24 hours. The point is to start your starter or sponge as early as you possibly can for awesome flavor development. As you may recall, last month I forgot to add the salt as I rushed off for a mani-pedi, but I made sure to include it this time.
Now let me tell you what I think really took this bread to a whole new level for a white bread. Rose includes ¼ cup of whole wheat flour in addition to the bread flour which she says acts to enhance the flavor. I’ve done this in the past, and the results have been good – this time I used King Arthur’s white whole wheat, but the real superstar ingredient was a new one for me. I had decided to try King Arthur’s Artisan Bread Flour, and I’ll admit I had my doubts as it is a good bit more expensive than their regular bread flour. The price on the website for the regular bread flour translates to $.99 per pound versus $2.65 per pound for the Artisan version without tax or shipping. According to the blurb on the front of the bag,
“This medium-protein flour balances strength and flexibility -– perfect for baguettes and pizza dough. Use it to bake European-style hearth breads with crisp crusts and airy, flavorful interiors.”
While the sentence about balancing strength and flexibility makes me think about what a good workout regimen should do, this flour absolutely delivers the baking results advertised. By the way, this flour has a five star rating on the King Arthur web site with over 170 reviews. Indeed, it is so delicious that I will need to step up my exercise routine to compensate.
Case in point, I decided to elevate the humble tuna salad I prepared for lunch with this bread. It was so good, I had to eat a slice of the bread by itself afterwards. By the way, as a bonus, I’ll share below how to make a flavorful, but low fat tuna salad to accompany the bread.
This bread recipe is a great one to use to build your expertise with making hearth breads, and the Artisan Bread Flour provides the opportunity to achieve super delicious professional level results. Honestly, I had dinner last night in a well-regarded local Italian restaurant and decided to eat one slice of their hearth type bread to compare. Theirs was good, but honestly mine was even better.
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P.P.S. – just learned that this recipe was previously published on food.com at this link.
Bonus Skipjack Tuna Salad Recipe
The tuna salad shown here uses:
- 2 5-ounce cans of Wild Planet Skipjack Tuna with the juices
- Approximately ¼ to 1/3 cup chopped onion to taste, I use brown, red, or green onions based on what I have on hand
- 8-10 pitted Greek olives, chopped
- 1-2 tablespoons chopped dill or parsley to taste
- Approximately 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- Lemon pepper seasoning to taste, I use one by Scott’s Food Products
Note that you do not drain the tuna, instead you use the juices and just a tiny bit of mayo which keeps the fat down. Stir the ingredients up and enjoy with veggies, crackers or on a sandwich.