It's taken a year of research and experimentation, but I think I've finally discovered my solution to bread baking on hot, humid summer days. This recipe is a step up from the No-Knead Bread of recent fame, and I find that the flavor and crumb of this loaf is a vast improvement over that recipe.
And P.S. the man-hands in the pictures below belong to my dad. I'm thinking he has a possible future in the field of professional hand-modeling.
thanks to James McGuire, as published in The Art of Eating, No. 73 + 74
500 gr all-purpose flour
10 gr (1 1/2 tsp) fine salt (preferably kosher)
2 gr (1/8 tsp, or about a pinch) yeast
400 ml (1 5/8 c) water
Blend flour and salt in a bowl and form a well in the center. Pour the water into the well and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow the yeast to dissolve (about 5 minutes). Using your fingertips, gradually begin to mix the flour into the water until all the flour is incorporated. This should take about two minutes. Cover the bowl and let rest for 10 minutes. When the ten minutes is up, give the dough its first fold. Slip your fingers between the side of the bowl and the dough. Grasp the dough between your fingers and thumb, lift the flap upwards to about the rim of the bowl, and then lay the flap across the top of the dough. Give the bowl a turn and repeat the folding until you have gone a full revolution--about 8 to 10 folds. Cover and let rest for 1 hour. After an hour, give the dough a second set of folds. Cover and let rest 1 hour.After two hours, give the dough a third set of folds. Cover and let rest 1 hour.
After three hours, give the dough a fourth set of folds. Cover and let rest 1 hour.
After four hours, give the dough a final set of folds. At this point, the dough should largely come away from the sides of the bowl when you're doing this and the dough should hold a roughly spherical shape. Sprinkle a little flour between the dough and the sides of the bowl and turn the dough out onto a floured work surface (so the folds are now underneath). Dust the dough lightly with flour and cover with the inverted bowl. Let rest 20 minutes.
While the dough is resting, prepare a rising bowl or basket. If you have an actual rising bowl or basket, pat a little bit of flour into the sides and use that. If you're improvising, find a circular bowl or basket about the diameter of the dough and line it with a clean, smooth kitchen towel (not terry cloth or anything with a nap).
After 20 minutes, pick the dough up and gently reshape it into a sphere by tucking the ends under. Invert it into the rising basket so the folds are on top. Cover with plastic wrap or a towl and let it rise at room temperature for 45 - 50 minutes. The loaf has sufficiently risen when a fingertip indention disappears completely in 2-3 seconds. If it springs back like a rubber ball, it's not ready; if the indention remains, it's risen for too long and your loaf will still be yummy, but won't rise as much in the oven. After the dough has been rising for a half an hour, place a baking stone in your oven and pre-heat the oven to 450-degrees.*
When the dough is ready, sprinkle a pizza peel with a light layer of cornmeal (or the back of a cookie sheet will do) and tip the dough onto it. Quickly cut a few scores into the surface of the dough--about a half-inch deep--with a razor blade. Slide the dough into the oven onto the baking stone. Using a spray bottle, spritz the inside of the oven (avoiding the light) and the surface of the dough and quickly close the door. Repeat this a few times in the first five minutes of baking.
Allow to cool for 20 minutes. Serve with room-temperature butter sprinkled with sea salt and a few dollops of good honey.
*You can also bake this in a dutch oven, a la 'No-Knead Bread.' Just place your dutch oven inside the oven so both pre-heat at the same time. When it comes time to bake, tip the dough into the dutch oven and cover with lid. Let it bake for about 30 minutes with the lid on and finish with the lid off.