magic overnight bread
You know that feeling of joyous discovery you get when you stumble upon a pure and simple truth that will change your life, accompanied by a robust aura of inadequacy for having been too stupid to notice it until now?
There’s a word for that: benedizschiaffo - literally, a blessing that comes with a slap in the face. It’s an Italian word - for only Italian has the passion and complexity to produce such a word, and also I made it up.
(In my meticulous and ultimately unsuccessful search for the perfect word, I did find this little gem: During the confirmation ritual, 13th century bishops gave each confirmand a slap on the cheek after anointing them with chrism. The slap was thought to serve as a light exorcism. So there you go.)
I have been making this un-fancy, effortless, mood-altering bread once a week for months now. Except for the weeks when I make it twice. It is - truly - a benedizschiaffo.
You need a dutch oven to create this magic. It doesn’t have to be a fancy enameled one, cast iron is fine - any big oven-proof pot with a lid will do.
Also Bread Flour. Bread flour has more gluten than AP flour - all the better to capture carbon dioxide and ethyl alcohol emitted via fermentation in an elastic network of air bubbles, my dear. This bread is going to have some next-level weapons-grade air bubbles.
Magic Overnight Bread
3 cups bread flour
1-1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. yeast
The night before you want to eat bread (which is: every night) combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix until a soft, shaggy dough comes together, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Rest at room temperature overnight (12 to 18 hours).
In the morning, it will look bubbly - like this:
Don’t touch it. Don’t punch it down, don’t knead it.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees with the dutch oven (lid on) inside. When the oven is heated, pull the pot out, with an awareness that it is now hotter than the sun.
With a rubber spatula, scrape the super-sticky-soft-uncooperative dough away from the sides of the bowl and into a roughly roundish shape - and let it fall into the pot. Don’t burn yourself. I believe in you.
It will not be perfect. It will not matter. Put the lid on the pot and put the whole sha-bang back the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Done. Pop the bread out of the pot and onto a cooling rack. Consider yourself lightly exorcised.
But wait! There’s more….
Small bread! Same instructions, but forget about the super-heated dutch oven. Scrape the dough out onto a well-floured board and cut it into 6 equal-ish pieces for sandwich rolls (or 8 if you’re doing more of a dinner roll thing) with a bench scraper or a knife.
This dough is really really soft. I’ve been trying to think of something else that has the same texture, but I can’t. It’s got a jiggly gelatin thing happening but more cohesive and stickier. It’s sort of a primordial gooooo. You’ll figure it out.
Move each piece of dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet. They will not be perfect. It will not matter. Rest (yourself and the dough) for 20 minutes and then bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.