The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge, I can honestly say Peter Reinhart is absolutely spot on when he says bread Number 21, Pain à l'Ancienne is one of the easiest doughs in the book to make. There is very little kneading involved, no shaping, no proofing, and scoring, which IMHO is almost futile anyway, is just an option. All you do is mix, refrigerate overnight, cut the dough into equal portions, elongate the pieces a little bit which is not hard to do, bake, and 20 minutes later, you will be enjoying a crispy [crust] sweetish light and airy most delicious bread you will ever have, at least to me it is. It is so good I can't stop eating it. This is currently my favorite bread from the book. Wait, didn't I just say that last week, and the week before last? Aack, I am starting to sound like a broken record! And there is a possibility that I will say the same thing the next 22 weeks.^__^
The slack dough uses ice-cold 40°F water and after mixing with flour, yeast, and salt, the dough is immediately stored in the refrigerator overnight. Peter explains that the delayed fermentation using ice-cold water produces a bread that "has a natural sweetness and nutlike character that is distinct from breads made from the same ingredients but fermented by the standard method, even with large percentages of pre-ferment". It has something to do with the natural sugars in flour but I won't go into details of the chemical reactions going on in this dough. The bread is delicious and it's all that matters.
Some of the loaves came out nice and straight but some are crooked and uneven which I like even better because of their rustic appearance. Adding to my delight are the irregular large holes in the crumb. Once again I am grateful to Nicole for this nifty idea of becoming Peter Reinhart's virtual apprentice and being able to bake great tasting loaves of bread. This is one recipe that I will be baking over and over. I actually baked a second batch the very next day and the result is consistent in flavor and texture, light airy crispy flavorful bread.
We didn't wait for the bread to cool because the loaves finished baking just in time for dinner. We spread aioli on the slices and had them with Green Bouillabaisse for a most satisfying vegetarian meal. This dough can also be shaped into ciabatta or focaccia which I will be making very soon.
visual appeal 5
ease of preparation 5
performance 5worth 5