Friends of The Menagerie are everywhere. Thank you Georgie.
Georgie is Kerry and Tiger’s osteopath in Middle Park. So, as you’d expect, an osteo ‘needs’ to save her kneading energy for her patients rather than her bread. Those precious hands. Kerry couldn’t resist the temptation and put Georgie’s recipe to good use – topped with her home made raspberry jam.
3 cups of white flour (strong bakers flour or bread flour not all purpose cake flour)
1.5 cups water
1 and 1/4 teaspoon of salt
1/4 teaspoon of instant dried yeast
Bring together the ingredients until just combined.
No need to knead it at all. The dough should be quite sticky and wet Leave in a clump in the middle of the bowl and cover the whole bowl with plastic wrap.
Put in a draft free place such as a cupboard for about 12-20 hours.
HINT (closer to 20 hours allows the flavour to develop but if you leave it too long it will start to turn alcoholic so don’t leave it too long. 24+ hours is too much). When you pull the mixture out of the cupboard it will be very bubbly and have doubled in size but it will look like a pool of wet mess seeing this is quite a wet dough.
Lightly flour your work bench. Scrape the dough out of the bowl and onto the floured surface. You want to keep as much air in the dough as possible, so Georgie use a spatula or a plastic dough scraper to help the wet dough out of the bowl without pushing too much air out of it. As you pour it out, you will see all of the lovely strands and strings of gluten that have developed overnight. This is what gives the bread good structure once it is bakes, making it less like a cake.
Yeast does not add flavour, time adds flavour. By allowing a long fermentation time we allow flavour to develop. Adding only a small amount of yeast allows the dough to ferment for a long time without turning to alcohol. Do not be tempted to add more yeast. A long time with high water content allows the gluten strands to become ultra-hydrated and become strong, the same strength we give to gluten when we knead it furiously for 20 minutes when making traditional loaves of bread.
Fold the dough up like you would an A4 piece of paper into a DL envelope. You can also spin it 90 degrees and fold it again but Georgie often finds she doesn’t have enough slack in the dough to do this. The whole time you are aiming to keep as much air in the dough – so do not flatten it EVER.
Flip the dough so the seam side is down. Dust the top with semolina, polenta, rice flour or regular flour. Let it rest for 20 minutes on the bench while the oven heats. Just before putting it in the pot, slash a big deep slash across the top of the dough or a big X. (You can play around with this configuration for fun).
Put a cast iron pot with the lid on into the oven and turn the oven on to 250 degrees celcius. When the pot is piping hot and the oven has come to its 250 degree setting, remove from the oven and place your dough into the hot pot. It will look scrunched but it will be OK.
Put the lid back on and put in the oven for 30 minutes keeping the temperature of the oven at 250 degrees. This stage allows the moisture to escape from the bread. Because it is in a small, hot space (the pot) it steams itself and forms the basis for a good crust. This is replicating the steam injectors that exist in commercial ovens.
After 30 minutes take the lid off and put the pot with the bread back in the oven for another 30 minutes to let it brown up. Allow the bread to become a lot more dark than you might think. This will give the crust a very good ‘crunch’. If you tap on the underside of a loaf when it’s just out of the oven, it will sound hollow when it’s cooked through.
Leave it to cool on a cake rack – here’s the song!
Try and hold out for 30-60 minutes before cutting into the bread to let it set if you cut straight away it will be a bit doughey. You will hear crackling sounds as the loaf cools, this is referred to by bakers as ‘the song of the bread’.
The bread stores for about 3-4 days and is delicious for toast. Wrap it in a tea towel or a paper bag to keep.