It’s a quiet bread. Basic and rustic. You might think it’s ho-hum, a run-of-the-mill loaf. It is ‘peasant’ bread after all. On the other hand, you might think the appearance and taste suggest it requires a great deal of your time and effort. You’d be wrong on both accounts.
Kneading is great. I love it, really I do. But there are times when you need something quicker — say when you need something healthy to counteract all the cookies, candies and creamy drinks you’ve devoured in the previous days. Or when you’re consumed with wedding invites and Christmas cards, and are covered in ink and stamps.
The holidays (and coincidentally planning a wedding) bring about a quickened pace, a constant voice in your head telling you to do this, do that, no this! The last thing you think of is baking bread from scratch.
Then again when it’s passion, it’s not work.
And when the food processor does the kneading for you, it’s really not work. You’re responsible for shaping and baking. That’s it. A true simple pleasure.
It would probably be very good with all white flour, and you’re welcome to make that change if you like, but what makes this bread work — what makes any bread, for me, work — is at least a portion of nutty whole wheat flour. It’s hearty with a slightly rough crumb, that bit of chewiness and crustiness, and a deeply browned floury top.
‘Peasant bread’ is too modest. It deserves respect. A prominent place on the table. Lots of butter or a creamy soup to dip. Join me, won’t you?
Whole Wheat Peasant Bread [makes 2 loaves]
2 c warm tap water, about 110° F
1 t honey
2 1/2 t (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/4 c olive oil
2 3/4 to 3 c all-purpose flour, depending on the stickiness of your dough
2 1/2 c whole wheat flour
3 t salt
1/4 c flour for dusting the loaves
cornmeal for dusting the pans
In a small bowl or 2 c measuring cup, whisk together warm water and honey until combined. Sprinkle yeast on the surface, allowing it to stand for three minutes before whisking. After yeast is dissolved, whisk in the olive oil.
In the bowl of a full-sized food processor fitted with a dough blade, place 2 3/4 c all-purpose flour, all 2 1/2 c whole wheat flour and the salt.
Add yeast mixture and process to form a smooth, elastic and slightly sticky dough, about 45 seconds. Incorporate the remaining 1/4 c all-purpose flour 1 T at a time if the dough is sticky.
Place dough in an oiled bowl and turn dough over so top is oiled. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise at room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour.
To shape loaves, scrape risen dough onto a lightly floured surface and press it to deflate it. Divide dough in half and shape one piece at a time. Press dough into a square, then roll it up tightly. Rotate cylinder of dough 90 degrees and roll up again from short end. Arrange dough seam side down, cover with plastic or a towel and let it rest 5 minutes. Repeat with remaining piece of dough.
Dust pan with cornmeal. Roll each piece of dough under palms of your hands to elongate it. Work from middle of loaf outward, pointing the ends slightly. Place loaves seam side down on cookie sheets and dust each loaf heavily with flour, using about 1/4 c in all. Cover with plastic or a towel and allow to rise until doubled.
About 30 minutes before you intend to bake the loaves, preheat oven to 500° F and set racks at the middle and lowest levels. Set a pan on the lowest rack to absorb some of the excess bottom heat and keep the bottom of the loaves from burning.
Using a razor blade or the point of a very sharp knife, make 3 to 4 diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf. Immediately place loaves in oven and lower temperature 450° F. After loaves have baked for 20 minutes and are completely risen, lower temperature to 350° F and continue baking about 20 to 30 minutes longer, until bread reaches an internal temperature of about 210-220° F. Remove loaves from oven and cool on a rack.
Adapted from Good Life Eats