banner image

Crunchy crust white bread.

I have been making bread by hand for many years but lately have been using using the "poolish" method. This involves making a starter the evening before you intend to bake the loaf. I mix 200g of strong white flour with 200ml of water and 28g of fresh yeast together to make a rather sloppy starter. Cover lightly and leave to ferment overnight. The starter will rise and collapse. The following morning add 400g of strong white flour, another 200ml of water and two teaspoons of salt. Mix to a smooth dough, leave to stand for half an hour, then knead. I find that the dough comes together quickly and needs less kneading before I get the stretchiness to show that the gluten is developing. Put into a bowl and cover with cling film or a damp tea towel and leave to double in size. Because the yeast has already developed from the original 28g, the initial rise is quicker than if starting from scratch.When doubled in size, knock back the dough and mould to shape and place on a piece of parchment paper. Invert the bowl over the loaf and leave to rise for a second time. This can take an hour or so depending on the room temperature. Dust the loaf with flour and slash the top to encourage a better "oven spring". I like to use a sharp pair of scissors to snip the top.
I bake the loaf in a Dutch Oven or lidded cast iron casserole dish. Preheat the oven and casserole dish to 220 deg C. When up to heat, carefully remove the hot lid and lift the loaf using the parchment paper and place in the dish. Replace the lid and cook for 30 minutes. There is sufficient moisture in the loaf to create a steamy atmosphere ensuring a good rise and a good crust. After 30 minutes carefully remove the loaf from the dish, again using the parchment paper, and place on the oven shelf. Cook for a further 12-15 minutes depending on how dark you like your crust. Remove from the oven, place on a wire rack and listen to the cracking crust as it cools.