Making Bread with David Norman

Category: 
Baked Goods

1 batch makes 1 large loaf with small amount of dough reserved for future starter.

Fairly difficult

Making Bread with David Norman

Ingredients

For 1 Batch(es)

Recipe

  • For the Starter Dough (made 1 day in advance):
  • 90 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 grams kosher salt
  • 1/2 grams instant yeast
  • 80 mL water
  • For the Dough:
  • 390 grams unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 13 grams kosher salt
  • 2 grams instant yeast
  • Starter dough from the day before
  • 236 (or more) water, divided
  • Cornmeal, for baking

Making Bread with David Norman Directions

  1. Between 18 and 24 hours before you want to bake the loaf, combine the dry ingredients for the starter dough in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the water. Pull the flour gradually into the center with your fingers until a loose, wet, shaggy dough is formed. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for about 1 hour, then place in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. A. Combine the dry ingredients for the dough in a large mixing bowl. Divide the fermented starter dough into 4 or 5 pieces and add them to the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add 1 cup of the water. Begin by pulling small amounts of flour into the water and mixing with your hands. As the dough starts to get thicker, squeeze it through your hands and work the water into all of the flour—also working the starter dough into the mix. If the mixture is too dry and stiff, add some of the reserved water—squeezing it into the dough. Then, start working from one side of the bowl to the other, squeezing the dough through both hands while also pulling and stretching it. Add more water, if needed, to make a pliable, moist dough. 
  3. B. After 2 or 3 passes from one side of the bowl to the other, turn the dough onto a lightly floured solid surface. Beginning on the side closest to you, pull the dough toward you, stretch it and fold it back on itself. Keep grabbing the dough a little closer to the opposite edge each time—pulling and stretching toward yourself, then folding back over the top. When finished moving across the surface, scrape up the dough with a dough scraper and rotate it 90 degrees. Repeat this process several times until the dough starts to smooth out (it won’t be as completely smooth as in traditional kneading). 
  4. C. Bring the dough together into a ball, place it back into the bowl, cover with a damp towel and let it rest for 15 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface again and press out slightly into a rough square shape. Grab the edge closest to you, lift it and give it a gentle stretch then fold it about two-thirds of the way away from you. Grab the edge furthest from you, lift and gently stretch it then fold it toward you about two-thirds of the way over the first fold. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat with 2 more folds—1 away from you and 1 toward you. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with the damp towel and let it rest for 15 more minutes. 
  5. Repeat the folding and resting process 2 or 3 more times to continue to develop the dough. Each time, you’ll notice how it becomes smoother, stronger and more elastic. When you can form a fairly tight ball with the dough without it ripping, the dough is well developed. 
  6. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover with towel and let the dough ferment (rise) for 1 to 1 ½ hours. It should almost double in size, but catch it before it starts to deflate.
  7. Preheat the oven to 500°—preferably with a baking stone centered on the shelf. Also place an empty, shallow metal cake pan on the rack below for making steam. Turn out the dough onto an un-floured surface and divide it in half for 2 loaves or leave it whole for a larger loaf. You can also take about one-fourth of the dough and put it in a plastic freezer bag, freeze it and use it in place of the starter dough the next time you want to bake this bread. Just defrost it in the bag and then add to your final dough as above. 
  8. To shape the loaf (or loaves), gently stretch the dough into a rectangle, patting out any large air bubbles. Fold the close edge away from you about two-thirds of the way up and pat gently. Fold the far edge over that fold about two-thirds of the way toward you. Then, starting at the far edge, fold the dough all the way toward you so that it meets the near edge and fold the dough in half. Use the heel of your hand to press and seal this seam. Roll the dough into a log, then roll the log a few times back and forth to make it a rounded cylinder. You can angle your hands as you roll to taper the ends of the loaf. 
  9. Place the loaf on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. If you’re using a baking stone, use an upside-down baking sheet or one that has no sides. Cover the loaf with a damp towel and let rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour—it should almost double in size. To test if it’s ready to bake, gently poke the loaf with your index finger. If it springs back quickly, then give it more time. If it springs back slowly, it’s perfect. If it doesn’t spring back at all, remember to check earlier next time, as it has probably gone a little over (if the loaf doesn’t completely deflate when touched or scored, go ahead and bake a slightly over-proofed loaf—just handle it extra gently and score it with shallow cuts. If it deflates completely, start over). 
  10. D. Very carefully pour about a half cup of water into the cake pan in the oven and shut the oven door as quickly as you can. This will make some steam to provide moisture that allows the loaf to rise more evenly in the oven. Also, slash the top of the loaf with a sharp knife or razor blade to help it to rise evenly in the oven. If using a baking stone, either slide the loaf directly off of the baking sheet onto the stone, or transfer it to a peel first and then slide it onto the stone. Either way, try to open and close the oven door as quickly as possible to keep as much of the steam as possible in the oven. If you’re not using a baking stone, simply put the slashed loaf on a baking sheet into the oven. After about 10 minutes, reduce the temperature to 450° and continue baking for 20 more minutes. Test the loaf by taking it out of the oven and tapping on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it’s done; if not return it to the oven for 5 or 10 more minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.

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