Top | Kneadlessly Simple
Easy Four-Grain Pot Boule
(recipe, Nancy Baggett)
In the process of using up some packages and tidying up my baking supplies, I tossed a little cornmeal, rolled oats, and rye flour into a white bread dough and discovered I'd created a combination worth repeating. The serendipitous blend lends this homey, crisp-crusted pot bread a light color and subtle, indefinable grain taste that whispers rather than shouts its mixed-grain heritage. It's a loaf that goes with most anything and often gets compliments. It's one of my favorites.
- 3¼ cups (16.25 ounces) unbleached all-purpose white flour or unbleached bread flour, plus more as needed
- ½ cup yellow or white cornmeal, plus 1 Tbsp. for garnish
- ½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats or quick-cooking (but not instant) oats
- ¼ cup light or dark rye flour (if unavailable, substitute 2 Tbsp. each more cornmeal and oats)
- 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
- 2 tsp. table salt
- ¾ tsp. instant, fast-rising, or bread-machine yeast
- 2 cups ice water, plus more if needed
- Corn oil, canola oil, or other mild-flavored vegetable oil or oil spray for coating dough
- First rise: In a large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, cornmeal, oats, rye flour, sugar, salt, and yeast. Thoroughly stir the water into the bowl, scraping down the sides until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. If the mixture is too dry to incorporate all the flour, a bit at a time, stir in just enough more ice water to blend the ingredients; don't over-moisten, as the dough should be fairly stiff. If necessary, stir in enough more flour to stiffen it slightly. Brush or spray the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. If desired, for best flavor or for convenience, you can refrigerate the dough for 3 to 10 hours. Then let rise at cool room temperature for 12 to 18 hours; if convenient, vigorously stir once partway through the rise.
- Second rise: Using an oiled rubber spatula, gently lift and fold the dough in towards the center all the way around until mostly deflated; don't stir. Brush or spray with oil. Re-cover with plastic wrap.
- Let rise using any of these methods: For a 1½- to 2½-hour regular rise, let stand at warm room temperature; for a 1- to 2-hour accelerated rise, let stand in a turned-off microwave along with 1 cup of boiling-hot water; or for an extended rise, refrigerate, covered, for 4 to 24 hours, then set out at room temperature. Continue the rise until the dough doubles from the deflated size, removing the plastic if the dough nears it.
- Baking preliminaries: 20 minutes before baking time, put a rack in the lower third of the oven; preheat to 450 degrees. Heat a 3½- to 4-quart (or larger) heavy metal Dutch oven in the oven until sizzling hot (check with a few drops of water), then remove it using heavy mitts. Taking care not to deflate the dough, loosen it from the bowl sides with an oiled rubber spatula and gently invert it into the pot. Don't worry if it's lopsided and ragged-looking; it will even out during baking. Generously spritz or brush the top with water, then sprinkle over a tablespoon of cornmeal. Using a well-oiled serrated knife or kitchen shears, cut a ½-inch-deep, 4-inch diameter circle in the loaf center. Immediately top with the lid. Shake the pot back and forth to center the dough.
- Baking: Reduce the heat to 425 degrees. Bake on the lower rack for 50 minutes. Remove the lid. Reduce the heat to 400 degrees. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer, until the top is well browned and a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few crumbs on the tip (or until center registers 210 to 212 degrees on an instant-read thermometer). Then bake for 5 minutes longer to ensure the center is baked through. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the loaf to the rack. Cool thoroughly.
- Serving and storing: Cut or tear the loaf into portions; it tastes good warm, but will cut better when cool. Cool completely before storing. To maintain the crisp crust, store in a large bowl draped with a clean tea towel or in a heavy paper bag. Or store airtight in a plastic bag or foil; the crust will soften, but can be crisped by heating the loaf, uncovered, in a 400-degree oven for a few minutes. The bread will keep at room temperature for 3 days, and may be frozen, airtight, for up to 2 months.
Culinate editor's notes: This recipe is very similar in concept and execution to Ellen Jackson's Multigrain No-Knead Bread. You'll need to sprinkle some cornmeal into the hot Dutch oven before putting the dough in, otherwise the dough will stick firmly to the bottom of the pan and be impossible to remove. And you may find that the initial baking time needs to be reduced from 50 minutes to 30 minutes. Should you overbake your loaf slightly, don't let it cool in the pan; invert it onto a wire rack immediately to cool.