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Pot Bread

Ingredients

  • 100 g starter
  • 280 g white flour
  • 20 g wheat germ (optional or replace with more flour)
  • 200 g rye or whole wheat or semolina flour. I usually like about 50 g rye and 150 g white whole wheat.
  • 340 g water (you may want to start with as little as 300 g for white flour on a damp day or up to 365 g water for whole wheat or semolina).
  • 2 tsp salt

Directions

  • Measure starter, water and flour into mixer bowl.
  • Mix, using dough hook, at lowest speed, for 5 minutes.  Dough should be very sticky. It should stick to the bottom of the mixing bowl. Adjust flour or water in very small increments (1 tsp) if necessary. If the dough climbs up the mixer it is too dry; if it does not form into a ball it is too wet.
  • Push dough off hook, cover bowl with towel, and let rest for one hour.
  • Add salt and, if dough is too dry, another Tbsp water.
  • Mix, using dough hook, at lowest speed, for 5 minutes.
  • Gather dough together and pour it into a large glass or ceramic bowl. Cover with a towel and allow to rest for about 30 minutes.
  • First Rise:
    • Lift up one half of the dough and fold over the other half. If the dough is extremely sticky, wetting your hands will help. Turn 90 degrees and repeat. Repeat several more times. Then cover with a towel and allow to rest for 20 or 30 minutes or up to 12 hours (or two days in the fridge).
    • If necessary, repeat this step for 1-4 hours until the dough has enough structure to handle a bit. Dryer doughs will need fewer or no repetitions.
  • Second Rise:
    • Turn out onto counter or board. If the dough is very wet, flouring the board may make this step easier. Otherwise, it works best on a dry, unfloured, wooden surface like large cutting board.
    • Shape into a ball.
    • Using a dough blade or, if you can, your hands, turn the ball on the counter, tucking the top under it, to shape it and increase the surface tension.
    • Cover with a towel and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
    • If the ball has fallen flat, repeat. (If this annoys you, make a dryer dough next time). Depending on how wet the dough is, you may need to repeat for 1-4 hours until the ball is still more or less ball shaped and not flat when you come back.
  • Third Rise:
    • Turn dough, seam side up, into a heavily floured or seeded towel-lined bowl or bratform.
    • Cover with a towel and allow to rest for one hour (or less if the dough rose a long time earlier).
    • Meanwhile, place a covered dutch oven or similar pot in the oven and preheat oven to 500° for one hour.
  • When the pot is very hot, remove and uncover it very carefully, and place dough in it. (The dough is likely to still be sticky enough that this basically means "dump" the dough into it.) Score the top of the dough. Carefully cover and replace pot in oven.
  • Bake, covered, for 20 minutes at 450°.
  • Carefully remove cover and bake 20 minutes more, still at 450°, until the bread is crusty and mahagony colored.
  • Carefully turn out onto a rack and allow to cool completely before eating.

Notes:

  • You can allow the dough to rest or rise for more or less, or do more or fewer turnings and shapings.
    • If do you let it rise but don't shape it or turn it at all, the bread will taste just as good but will not be as pretty.
    • If you let the dough rise too long, your bread will not puff up as much in the oven. Punching it down before the last rise will help.
  • You can vary the water.
    • Less water will make the dough easier to shape.
    • More water will give the bread a lighter crumb with more holes, until the dough gets so wet that it can't hold its structure and collapses into a foccaccia (if you are lucky) or hockey puck (if you aren't).
    • More water will require less kneading -- if you use more than 365 g you may not need to knead at all.
  • You can place the dough in the fridge overnight or even for a day or two after mixing, the first rise or the second rise.
    • Refigeration after the third rise doesn't work as well--the bread tends to not rise properly in the oven.
    • If you leave the dough in the fridge more than a day or two, the dough (and the bread) will start to smell beery and very sour. Some people like this; others not so much.

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