Rustic Hearth Bread

This recipe came with the La Cloche Covered Baker from King Arthur Flour. Handle the very hot cloche with extreme caution! I often substitute whole-wheat flour for up to half of the white, and throw in some seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, etc.).  It makes for a much denser, drier loaf, but it has a lovely nutty flavor.  Speaking of which, nuts and olives are great additions, too.

For the starter:

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup lukewarm water

1/4 tsp. instant or regular yeast

Mix the starter ingredients in a small bowl, cover, and let rest at room temperature for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

For the dough:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 Tbl. non-diastatic malt power or sugar (optional, I, Expatriate, have never used this)

1 teaspoon instant or regular yeast

1.  In a large bowl combine the starter with all of the dough ingredients, stirring until the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl.  Knead the dough for 5-7 minutes or until it’s supple, but the surface is still somewhat rough (if kneading by hand instead of by machine it’s helpful to oil your hands first).  Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover, and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours, turning it over and gently deflating it after 45 minutes.

2.  Lightly sprinkle the bottom of the Cloche with cornmeal, gently deflate the risen dough and form it into a smooth ball.  Place the ball, seam side down, on the pan.  Cover with lid and let it rise until doubled, an hour or so.

3.  Preheat oven to 450.  Slash the top of the loaf in several places if you wish.  Spritz the dough heavily with water.  Put lid on and place the cloche in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 400 and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes more until the loaf is goldn brown and sounds hollow when rapped.  Remove the lid for the final 10 minutes of baking. Let cool on a rack.

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