The Master Recipe: White Boule (Alternative)

Moderate
Makes 4 (1 lb.) loaves
Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. (2 pkgs.) granulated yeast
  • 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100°)
  • 1 - 1 1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (2 lbs.), plus extra
  • - parchment paper
  • - baking sheet
  • - 1 cup hot water
Instructions: 

In 5qt. bowl, mix yeast, 3 cups water and salt; add flour. Using a wooden spoon, mix until ingredients are uniformly moist (it is not necessary to knead). Cover with a lid (not airtight); let rise at room temperature until dough begins to collapse, about 2 hrs., no more than 5 hrs. The dough can be baked after rising or refrigerated covered (not airtight) up to 14 days. The dough is easier to work with after at least 3 hrs. refrigeration.

To Shape: Place a piece of parchment paper on baking sheet. Uncover dough, sprinkling surface with flour; pull up and cut off a grapefruit-sized piece (about 1 lb.) using a serrated knife. Cover and refrigerate the remaining dough. Using your hands and enough flour to prevent sticking, create a smooth ball by gently pulling the sides down around to the bottom, rotating by quarter-turns. (The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends but will flatten out during resting and baking. Shaping should take less than a minute.) Place dough on parchment-covered sheet; let rest uncovered 40 min. (The bread may not rise much.)

To Bake: 20 min. before baking, place broiler pan below the center rack or on the oven floor, removing any upper racks; preheat to 450°. Dust top of rested dough liberally with flour; using a serrated knife, slash a 1/4" deep cross or tic-tac-toe pattern into top. Put baking sheet in the oven on the center rack; quickly, carefully pour hot water into broiler tray. Close oven door; bake until crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch (about 30 min.), removing paper and sheet two-thirds of the way through to finish baking directly on the oven rack. Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack.

Recipe from "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: the Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking" (Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin's Press, Nov 2007).

Good to Know: A longer resting time (up to 90 min.) produces a more open crumb; cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying if resting longer than 40 min.