Lately I've been spending weekends in a house upstate that I'm sharing with my friends Hilary and Al. Deciding to share the house with them was a no-brainer: lovely people, great style, a kind and gentle son for Ursula to hang out with, fabulous British accents, and a killer house. What I didn't know until arriving for our first weekend was that Al makes bread every Friday night for toast on Saturday morning. I totally scored.
He uses the overnight bread method from Ken Forkish's wonderful book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast (Ten Speed Press). A little like Jim Lahey's no-knead bread, Forkish details a method that requires no stand mixer and no kneading, and instead uses a pull-and-fold approach to developing gluten. The dough rests overnight, and if you follow Forkish's exact instructions, there's some very precise timing and folding.
This week, in an effort to capture that comforting, on-vacation feeling, I started to play around with the recipe. After now watching Al make this bread two weekends in a row, often while sipping a tequila with no recipe in sight, I decided I would try out the method with a little more relaxed approach than Forkish might like. Forkish likes his mixing tubs and proofing baskets. I used an old metal bowl to mix my dough and a small basket I found in my daughter's room full of little figurines as my "proofing basket." (Yes, I washed it first!)
I had some sesame and hemp seeds in my cupboard and went with a 40% whole wheat flour formula. I cut a few steps out of the original recipe and the result was something that takes me right back to that blissful, on-vacation feeling.
Seeded Whole Wheat Overnight Bread
Adapted from "Flour Water Salt Yeast" by Ken Forkish
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon seeds such as hemp, sesame, pumpkin, sunflower
1 3/4 cups warm water at (90°F to 95°F)
2 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon instant dried yeast
In a large mixing bowl, combine the white flour, whole wheat flour, and 1/4 cup of the seeds. Whisk to combine. Add the water and mix by hand until barely incorporated. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen cloth and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle the salt and the yeast over the top of the dough mass. Run your hands under the faucet to completely moisten them. Reach underneath the dough, grab a small handful, and then gently pull and fold it over the top to the other side of the dough. Repeat three more times with the remaining dough, until the salt and yeast are fully enclosed.
Using your thumb and forefinger, pinch the dough deeply five or six times across the entire mass of dough. Then fold the dough over itself four times — at the top, right side, bottom, and left side. Repeat, alternately cutting and folding until all of the ingredients are fully integrated. Let the dough rest for a few minutes, then fold for another 30 seconds, until the dough tightens up. Cover the bowl with the kitchen towel and let the dough rise for about 2 hours, or until almost doubled in size. Repeat the 4-part folding process, then re-cover the bowl and let the dough rise another 2-3 hours
When the dough is
triple its original volume,
about 5 hours after mixing, it’s ready to be shaped.
Lightly flour a board or countertop. Flour your hands. Tip the bowl slightly and gently work your floured free hand beneath the dough to loosen it. Gently ease the dough out onto the work surface without pulling or tearing it.
With floured hands, pick up the dough and ease it back down onto the work surface in a somewhat even shape. Dust 1 proofing basket (or clean dry bowl) with flour. Shape the dough into a ball by tucking each of the four sides (imagine the ball is a square) underneath. Place the dough seam side down in the basket.
Place the basket in a clean plastic trash bag and tie a knot. If using a regular bowl instead of a basket, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator overnight, ideally about 12 hours before baking, but a few hours less or more works too.
At least 45 minutes prior to baking, put a rack in the middle of the oven and put a lidded Dutch oven on the rack Preheat the oven to 475°F.
Lightly flour a board or countertop and invert the proofed loaf onto a lightly floured countertop, keeping in mind that the top of the loaf will be the side that was facing down while it was rising—the seam side. Use hot pads to remove the preheated Dutch oven from the oven. Remove the lid. Carefully place the loaf in the hot Dutch oven seam side up. It will sizzle. With a sharp knife, make a few 1/4-inch deep slashes in the top of the dough and sprinkle with the remaining seeds. Use mitts to replace the lid, then put the Dutch oven in the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes, then carefully remove the lid and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes, until at least medium dark brown all around the loaf.
Remove the Dutch oven and carefully tilt it to turn the loaf out. Let cool on a rack or set the loaf on its side so air can circulate around it for at least 20 minutes before slicing.
Find the book at your local library, independent bookstore, or Amazon:Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish
• Visit Ken Forkish's Ken's Artisan Bakery
(Images: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)