This method is known to have been used in Italy for decades, and an early written account is noted in a 1972 combination of cookbook and songs collection. Suzanne Dunaway is usually accredited for the version that was popularised by food columnist Mark Bittman in 2006. Regardless of it’s origins, this recipe has become a staple for many households, and with good reason too. It is so easy to make that a child can make it, and it’s forgiving enough to allow for many variations in method. After reading many people’s experiences, and trying it myself a few times, here are a couple of things to note before you freak out over any ‘mistakes’:
– If your dough ends up too ‘liquid’ adjust the amount of flour; altitude and humidity can have an effect. (No matter how your dough turns out, do still bake it; it may end up a little flatter or heavier, but I’ve found even my biggest ‘failures’ still resulted in an edible loaf)
– The original recipe calls for a croc pot – don’t worry if you don’t have one – any container with a lid that can be used in the oven will work. Just make sure that it is covered well; the aim is to create a steam pot that will retain the moisture during the initial bake.
– I have also read of people baking this bread in a greased uncovered tray, I would think this would work better for rolls than a loaf, but I haven’t tried it so can’t really say.
- 3 cups flour
- 1 cup room temperature water
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp dry yeast
- Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl.
- Stir in the water until everything is combined.
- Cover the bowl with cling film, then leave it for 18 hours (18 is the recommended time, but it seems to work fine anywhere between 12-24 hours).
- Place your croc pot in the oven and preheat it to 200c.
- Meanwhile, flour your surface liberally and tip your (very sticky) dough onto it.
- Gently form the sticky mass into a ball, don’t knead it, you want all those air bubbles to stay in the dough as much as possible.
- At this point the dough should be left for a second rise for between 1/2 hour and 2 hours, so return it to a cling film covered bowl or simply cover with clingfilm in it’s place on the floured surface. Note: Some people like to stand the dough on baking parchment to ease the transfer to croc pot later and avoid any possible ssticking, but this isn’t a necessity – I have never used parchment paper and never had a loaf stick. Note: Some people skip the second rise for a more focaccia-like bread; I’ve encountered different rise times for this same recipe and they all work, they just result in different bread height/consistency.
- After your dough has risen for the second time, and your oven and croc pot are hot. Carefully place the dough in the hot croc pot and return it to the oven.
- Bake for half an hour covered, then remove the lid and bake for a furter 15 minutes uncovered.
- Remove and enjoy! Note: this bread is wonderful fresh but will lose it’s crispness or softness overnight depending on how it’s stored; it can be reheated to return it to it’s former glory (well close).
– For bread rolls simply divide the dough into six pieces between steps 4 and 5. Form gently into smaller balls and bake on a greased baking tray leaving at least an inch between rolls.
– You can substitute the flour, I have tried a 2 cups white with 1 cup rye combination which turned out nicely.
– I have also thrown in half a cup of mixed seeds to the initial ingredients for a multi-seeded bread. No problem.
– Another option is to sprinkle flavours on top just before baking. Herbs and minced garlic is one option to try.