Here's how it works. You put together the dough just like you were going to bake bread in the same day, except you don't actually bake it. Well, you can, but it's easier to just wait until the next day. The master recipe [which I will share in this post] makes enough dough to produce 3-4 loaves and should be used within 14 days. The "proof" [haha, yeast joke] is in the storage. I'm going to adapt pages 56-59 for you as the authors describe their Master Recipe. From this recipe there are many other things you can make, like pizza dough and hamburger buns. But you'll have to get the book to find out how!
Before I tell you what to do, I want to tell you what you don't have to do.
1. Make a new batch of dough every time you want to make bread
2. Proof yeast
3. Knead dough
4. Rest/rise in a draft-free location--it doesn't matter!
5. Figure out how to double or triple the volume if you need multiple loaves
6. Punch down and re-rise: NEVER punch down stored dough.
7. Poke rising loaves to see if they've proofed.
I know you're excited, so let's get started with what you need to do.
Here's what you need:
5 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
2 cups of all-purpose flour, unbleached
1 1/2 Tbsp [or 2 packets] of granulated yeast
1 Tbsp of kosher salt
1/4 cup of vital wheat gluten [can be found on the baking aisle in Whole Foods or ordered from King Arthur]
4 cups of lukewarm water
Cornmeal of parchment paper for resting the dough
Carefully measure the flours, yeast, salt, and vital wheat gluten and whisk them together in at least a 5-quart bowl. [You'll be using this bowl to rise the dough later on.] Next you're going to mix in water. Kneading isn't necessary. You want the water to feel slightly warmer than body temperature, about 100 degrees. Add it in all at once using a spoon, 14-cup food processor, or heavy-duty stand mixer. I transferred the flour mixture to my stand mixer and pulsed it to get some of the water incorporated so I didn't splash it all out. It worked fine for me. When everything is uniformly moist without dry patches, you're finished. This step should only take a couple minutes.
Next, transfer the dough into what you'll be storing it in. I used a large bowl but the book recommends a lidded plastic food container or food-grade bucket. You want it to be covered, but not airtight. I just covered my bowl with plastic wrap. For the first 48 hours you'll want to leave a little crack in your storage container lid/cover to prevent the buildup of gases; after that you can seal it up completely.
Once the dough is in its final resting place, cover it with a lid [again, not airtight]. Allow it to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapes or gets kind of flat on the top. For me it took 2 hours, but it depends on the temperature in your house and initial water temperature. The book says that you can even leave it overnight [in case your forget!] and it won't hurt the end result. After rising, refrigerate in the lidded container and use over the next 14 days. Here's what mine looked like after the rise:
Fully refrigerated wet dough is much easier to work with than dough at room temperature because it isn't as sticky. It's so much easier to shape! Once it's refrigerated, it seems like it has kind of deflated but it feels heavy. It will never rise again, which the authors say is normal. No matter what, don't punch down the dough! It's hard not to if you're used to making bread a certain way. Remember, with this method you are trying to keep as much gas in the dough as possible. I did this first part on a Sunday evening so I could have fresh baked bread on Monday morning that would be ready for lunch.
On baking day, you want to block out about 2 hours for shaping, resting, and baking. Although, shaping only takes about 30 seconds. The book gives several suggestions for what to rest the bread on, and I used a sil-pat that I sprinkled with a little cornmeal. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound piece of dough using a serrated knife or kitchen shears. It'll be the size of a grapefruit, roughly. You can add a little flour to your hands to keep it from sticking. Gently stretch it around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating as you go. The bottom of your dough ball might be kind of rough but the top will be smoothe. Try not to work your dough longer than a few seconds or else it can become dense. Form a narrow oval-shaped loaf and let it rest. You can stretch the ball gently to elongate it and then just taper the ends. You'll want to let the loaf rest for 90 minutes, loosely covered with plastic wrap. This is what my loaf looked like after I shaped it. I think I need more practice. :)
Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450 with a baking stone placed on the mdidle rack. Also, put a roasting pan or high sided metal [never glass!] pan below to hold water on a lower rack. We're going to steam this baby! Just before baking, use a pastry brush to paint the top with water. Slash the loaf with 1/4-inch- deep parallel cuts across the top. Use a serrated knife for this. I don't know if you can tell from the photo below, but my dough pretty much doubled in size during the rest.
After the 30 minute preheat you are ready to bake [the book says even if your oven's thermometer hasn't reached 450]. Quickly transfer the dough to the pizza stone, and then carefully pour in about 1 cup of hot tap water into the other pan. Close the oven door to trap in the steam. It requires some acrobatics, but you can do it! Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is browned and firm to the touch.
Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack completely before slicing. Store the remaining dough in the refrigerator in your lidded container and use it over the next 14 days. The texture and flavor actually improves over time as it begins to ferment and take on sourdough characteristics.
The bread is surprisingly light and not "earthy" tasting at all. I was pleasantly surprised. You can make in in loaf form by following all of the same steps except get about 2 lbs of dough from your starter and you can let it rest in the loaf pan rather than on a sil-pat.
I know it seems like a lot of detail [the authors left no stone unturned] but it really is so easy. For just the two of us, I need about 2 loaves of bread a week [they aren't that big]. It's wonderful to just wake up and get fresh bread going in half the time. I used to spend almost 7 hours making bread, and now I spend 2...wow! I hope you'll check out the book and try the wonderful healthful bread recipes for your family.