Rustic Country Bread

Life moves pretty fast sometimes.

Summer has been over for quite some time but for some reason unbeknownst to me I'm still craving iced coffee and missing the beach.  But the reality is this:  October is over, which means that it's November, so in other words December is here and I haven't even started my holiday shopping.

It's got me thinking about "slow living".

I'm no ace at it.  No one ever said slow was an effortless state of being.  Because it isn't easy living.  It takes work.  Let me rephrase that:  It takes very hard work.  It involves going out of your way to consciously change the speed at which you live.

Slow living isn't slow and easy.  But we need to carve out moments of rest and peace.  Moments of thoughtfulness and stillness;  moments that create the vibe of slow living.  Because slow effort involves patience.  It involves precision.  It involves attention and detail.  It has a pay off.

Fresh bread.  It has it's place.  It reminds us of the importance of conscious retreat because it encourages us to tread through the steps carefully, taking the time to gather our thoughts and our hearts.  It reminds us of how to treat our hearts and your loved ones:  with patience, care, a little time to rise to their potential and a bit of salt for good measure.

Rustic Country Bread

recipe from King Arthur

(yields 2 to 3 boules)

3 cups, or 680 grams, lukewarm water (100 degrees F - 105 degrees F)

6 1/2 cups, or 907 grams, white or whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast

a few pinches of garlic powder

additional herbs and spices

PREPARATION:

Combine water and yeast together in a large bowl, stirring consistently until combined.  Incorporate the measured flour slowly until all is mixed together and forms a very sticky, rough dough.  Either use a stand mixer on medium speed, a big spoon, or your hands to form the dough.

Next, let the dough rise.  Place a towel under the bowl and use another towel or lid to cover the top.  Let the dough rise for at least 2 hours up to 8 hours.  When ready, remove the towel and knead the dough for 3 to 5 minutes using your fingertips and knuckles.

When done, transfer dough to the refrigerator and chill for at least 2 hours, even up to 5 days (the longer the dough remains in the fridge, the tangier it'll taste). Over the course of the day, the dough will rise and fall.

When you're ready to make the bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and grease your hands with butter or a little bit of oil.  Pull off about 1/3 of the dough or about the size of a softball - a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece if you have a scale.

Place the dough on a floured surface and round it into a ball.  Knead for 3 to 5 minutes and mold piece into what shape you'd like.

Place the dough in a cast iron skillet for a boule-shaped bread or on a piece of parchment paper if you're using a baking stone.  Sprinkle a light coating of mixed spices on top to before baking.

Preheat oven (and baking stone, if using) to 500 degrees F while the dough rests.

When ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2-inch deep.  Place the bread in the oven an bake for 20 to 25 minutes with the lid on.  After 20 minutes, remove the top, drop the temperature to 450 degrees F and cook for another 20 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven and cool on a rack.  Repeat baking steps until all the dough is used up.

Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.