Those who enjoy life know that the true spirit of it is found in simple pleasures; waking up to birds and trees outside your window, having a good talk over coffee with a close friend, sunny afternoons on a terrace, silly jokes that make your stomach hurt from laughing, ceviche on hot days, feeling the sea breeze on sunset, going out for a walk after its rained, flowering bushes…you name it. It’s the simple things that keep us content and give meaning to our day to day lives. And one of those excruciatingly delicious simple pleasures is bread. I think very few people can deny it, unless you’re allergic or on a diet…bread, particularly when warm from the oven, will never fail to give you a satisfied smile, even if its just from smelling it and thinking…yuuuum, that looks delicious, and then letting your mind wander with all the possibilities of toppings or accompanying goodness that can go with it. At least I can’t deny it. And for me one of the simplest, but most enjoyable of breads, is rustic bread. There’s just something about the soft and perfect butter-absorbing interior, full of flour flavors and smells, and the crunchy crust combination. There’s no way to eat it that’s not delicious. With butter. With butter and jam. With butter and ham. With mustard. With soup. With nutella. With cheese. With sugar. With olive oil and balsamic vinegar. And the sandwich-ing possibilities are endless..there are no ingredients that can taste bad in between two slices of it right? And if you happen to have a roast turkey breast laying around (because that’s what normal people do) then your life might almost be complete. (Read more for the recipe)
Rustic mini baguettes
(short version of Peter Reinhart’s recipe for ciabatta in artisan breads every day)
4 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (all purpose works too)
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast
2 cups chilled water
1 tbsp olive oil
Combine the flour, salt, yeast and water in a mixing bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon for 1 minute, until well blended. Let rest for 5 minutes. Drizzle the olive oil over the dough and mix with wet hands for 1 minute. The dough should become smoother but still very sticky and wet. Transfer to a clean and lightly oiled bowl and let rest for 10 minutes.
Place the dough on a lightly oiled work surface, and with oiled hands, reach under the front end of the dough, stretch it out, the fold it back on top. Do this from all four sides of the dough, then flip it over and tuck it into a ball to return to the bowl. Wait for 10 minutes, and repeat the process. Do this four times. (in total four folds and 40 minutes). The dough will become firmer and smoother. After the final fold, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or up to 4 days.
On baking day, remove the dough from the fridge 1 hour before you plan to bake. Preheat the oven to 550ºF or as high as it will go and line two baking sheets either with parchment or silicone mats.
Transfer the dough to the floured work surface and as gently as you can, stretch it and shape it into a rectangle (try to handle it with no pressure in order to not de-gas it). Cut the rectangle into 6 thick slices. Roll each slice lightly in flour and cradle it with your hand to transfer it to the baking sheet. Using your finger tips, lightly shape the ends into rounded tips.
Place in the oven (if you’ve got a steam pan, pour 1/2 cup water in it) and lower the temperature to 475ºF. Bake for 12 to 18 minutes, rotating the pan mid-bake. (The baguettes should be a rich brown, and when tapped underneath you should hear a hollow sound) Let cool for 5 minutes on a wire rack before slicing.