You may already know that I'm in love with the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes method. One of my favorites is the Pain d'Epi or wheat stalk bread. This holiday version wowed me when I first saw Sylvie post hers on Foodgawker. My first attempt was not without flaws but practice will make perfect by the time I place it on our Christmas dinner table.
I sprinkled my wreath with herbs and sea salt before baking:
Master Recipe (Boule) from Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day
Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François
~from Savoring Time in the Kitchen
Time: About 45 minutes plus about 3 hours’ resting and rising
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
Finely Chopped Herbs (optional)
Sea Salt (Optional)
1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
2. Bake at this point or preferably refrigerate, covered, until the next day or as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on the dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with a serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface and pulling dough underneath, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. I place the dough on a piece of parchment paper that I have cut to the size of my pizza stone although you can place the dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 20 minutes. Refrigerate remaining dough.
3. After the 20 minutes are over, preheat the oven to 450 for another 20 minutes (this will make a total of 40 minutes rest time for the dough). The oven should be prepared as follows:
Place one rack in the middle of the oven and another rack right below that. Place a pizza stone on middle rack and an old small pan to hold the hot water on the bottom rack. I have a pan that I use just for this.
4. When the oven preheat time is over, dust the top of the loaf with flour and slash the top with serrated sharp knife three times (center and off to the sides). Slide loaf and parchment carefully onto the hot stone. Pour one cup hot water into the heated pan below and shut the oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. (I like to bake for about 25 minutes and then turn the loaf over and bake another 5 minutes). Cool and enjoy!
*To make a holiday wreath out of the dough, cut off about a grapefruit or small cantaloup-sized piece of dough. Shape the dough loosely in a ball. Then stretch the dough into a long rope and place the rope in a circle on the a piece of parchment paper placed on a non-rimmed baking sheet. Allow the ring to rest for 30 minutes. Sprinkle the dough with flour and then, with a kitchen shears, cut though the dough at an angle without cutting completely through the dough from the outside of the circle. Cut at regular intervals around the dough. Slightly fan out the cut pieces with your fingers to make the wreath. At this point, you may sprinkle with finely chopped herbs and/or sea salt, if you desire. Bake as directed above.
Yield: 4 loaves.
· I use a plastic 5-quart paint pail with matching lid that I found at Ace Hardware.
· I microwave the 3 cups of water for 2 minutes before adding the yeast and salt. I use a whisk to stir and combine.