This week, I made bread again. I used to make bread at least once a week. I fell head over heels in love with bread when I started to visit Acme Bread in Berkeley.

I love making bread because it is an art–and I am not an artist in the traditional sense of the word. Bread is something that I can make and that I am good at making. That makes my husband’s face light as he grabs his weapon of choice, a knife coated in butter. He walks into the kitchen after I pull a loaf out of the oven and voila! Half the loaf is gone. Baking bread is similar to painting, welding or sculpting. It is an art that takes time and practice. Trial and Error. I am not a good painter, welder or sculptor. Instead of creating a piece of art that you can hang on the wall or set on a table, I make a piece of art that you can devour with butter. And, jam.

You are what I eat Little O and in about 11 weeks, I get to meet you. In the meantime, I hope that you will soak up the good things about baking bread and eating bread. That you can easily impress most with a few simple ingredients and time. That you will always have a gift to give someone that you created for any occasion. That you can linger in bakeries or at your best friends’ tables tearing off chunks of bread and dipping them in a variety of things. That you will know and learn that time will do the work for you when it comes to creating great things. And, that does not just apply to bread sweet baby.

I tried this new recipe from the Sullivan Street Bakery cookbook. It was easy and tasted delicious. And versatile. You can add things on top of the bread. Make an easy picnic with some salami, cheese, basil and tomato in the middle. Or simply dip in some olive oil.

Stecca (by Jim Lahey)

* 400 grams (3 cups) bread flour
* 8 grams (1 1/4 t.) salt
* 1 gram (1/4 t.) active or instant yeast
* 300 grams (1 1/2 cups) cool (55-65 degree) water
* olive oil for pan and drizzling
* flour for dusting

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, salt and yeast. Then, add water and mix about 30 seconds until you have a wet sticky dough. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 12-18 hours until the dough has at least doubled in size and has little bubbles on it.

After this first rise is complete, generously (GENEROUSLY) dust work surface with flour. Scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece, and fold it onto itself gently two or three times into a somewhat flattened ball. Brush the surface with olive oil, and sprinkle with 1/4 t. coarse salt.

Generously dust a tea towel (non-lint towel) with flour, and place the dough on it, seam side down. If it is still a bit sticky, dust it with a little flour, cornmeal or wheat bran. (I have a linen kitchen towel that I only use for bread that I never wash – it has a nice build up of flour already in it, which prevents the dough from sticking. If you do this, make sure to hang the towel up to dry thoroughly between uses so it doesn’t mold.) Let the dough rise for 1-2 hours (I found it was closer to the 2 hour mark in my cool room-temp) in a draft-free place. About a half an hour before the end of this second rise, preheat the oven to 500 degrees, and oil a half sheet (13×18 inch) sheet pan with olive oil.

Cut the dough into 4 equal quarters, and gently stretch each piece evenly into a stick shape the length of the pan. Place on pan, leaving 1 inch between sticks. Brush with olive oil, and sprinkle each stick with a pinch of coarse salt.

Bake for 15-25 minutes (mine took only 15!) until crust is golden brown. Cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then move them to a rack to cool completely.


One response to “Stecca

  1. I made these baguettes over the weekend. Oh my god, they were so good and so simple. I impressed friends:) I must not have poked the garlic and tomato cherries down far enough because they rolled right off. I’ll have to give it another try. Thanks for sharing this!

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