This is my favorite recipe from the cookbook "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day." I have baked it eighteen times now--it's foolproof and looks beautiful! The "secret" to this bread is mixing the dough ahead of time and storing it in your fridge, so you can make a fresh loaf daily. The "wheat stalk" shape allows diners at the table to twist off a roll-sized piece from the loaf.
- Mix the yeast and salt with water.
- Mix in flour without kneading, using a spoon or a stand-mixer (locked) with the dough hook. If not using the mixer, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
- Cover (not airtight--use a pice of foil or wax paper over the bowl) and allow to rest at room remperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top); about 2 hours.
- Dough may be used right away, though it easier to handle when cold. I refrigerate the lidded (not airtight) dough for use over a 2-week period.
- On baking day, dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour. Cut off a 1 pound (grapefruit-sized) piece. Dust the piece with flour and quickly shape into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all 4 sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Gradually elongate the mass. With palms of your hands, gently roll into the shape of a baguette, tapering the ends to points.
- Allow to rest on a flour-dusted board for 30 minutes. (I cover with a low-lint linen napkin).
- Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees F. At this time, placea baking stone on the center rack, or use two overturned glass baking dishes of the same height as a surface. A metal cookie sheet will work in a pinch. Place an empty broiler pan on any other shelf that will not interfere with the rising bread.
- Just before baking, dust the loaf with flour. With sharp kitchen scissors, cut from the top, at a 45-degree angle into the dough, stopping a quarter inch from the bottom. Make another identical cut about 3 inches down the loaf. Fold each cut piece over to one side, and repeat cutting, alternating sides each time to replicate a stalk of wheat (see photo).
- Slide the loaf directly onto the hot stone (baking dishes, or cookie sheet). Pour 1 cup hot tap water into the broiler pan and quickly close the oven door. Bake 20-25 minutes, until deeply browned and firm.
- NOTE: Use 7 cups all-purpose flour if you don't have bread flour. You will get 3-4, 1-pound loaves out of this recipe. Make the dough ahead of time and you'll have fresh bread every day for four days.