TERRY GERMANOSKI’S BREAD
(He’s right: an idiot can do it. I’ve tested it on me.)
1. You want a large mixing bowl and a large bottle of wine to go with it as the process can spread out over a few days.
2. You also need bread flour, rather than all-purpose flour. I don’t know why this is true, but it is. Trust me.
3. This sounds like such a simple recipe—I mean it’s got four ingredients and you don’t even knead it—so start with a light, celebratory sipper: bubbly.
4. Put 3 cups of bread flour in the bowl. And don’t get skimpy just because you’re not sifting it and you know that would change the measurement somehow.
5. Add 1.5 teaspoons of regular old tiny-crystal salt.
6. Add a generous 1/2 teaspoon of dry yeast. Yes, that stuff in the foil packet your mother used to buy. But it shouldn’t BE the package that’s been at the back of your mom’s shelf. You need some that’s new-ish. And you can close the foil envelope containing the rest of the yeast with a paper clip. Stick that to one of your refrigerator magnets so you can find it next time you need it. Just be sure you buy a brand whose label matches your kitchen decor.
7. Stir the dry ingredients together, keeping as much inside the bowl as possible.
8. If you want to add herbs—oregano or rosemary are great!—do so now.
9. Add 1.5 cups of warm, not hot, water. No, you don't have to do the yeast separately. I don’t know why our Moms did, either.
10. Stir the mixture until it’s all wet. And it will be wet.
11. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap, but put it over the top of the bowl, not on the dough. If you were to put plastic wrap directly on the dough, it would become annoyed and try to crawl away.
12. Place the bowl somewhere it can sit undisturbed for the next 18 hours, or possibly 2 days.
13. Have a snack to clear your palate and then change to a heartier, muscle-building wine: perhaps a Malbec.
14. You are going to be baking this, covered, in a 450-degree oven, so you need something with a little attitude to bake it in. I use a big, round, deep cast iron pan with a heavy cast iron lid. This is stupid because I can barely lift it, but there you are. You could use a Crockpot pot and lid. If you can see through the lid, that’s a plus. If you put the metal part of the Crockpot in the oven, you need to stop drinking.
15. If you missed the part about not putting the plastic wrap directly on the dough you might want to use a pizza stone and bake the dough uncovered. Then you will have another pizza stone. That is where pizza stones come from.
16. Whatever you are going to use, oil it well (including the inside of the lid, just in case it actually rises). This is a WONDERFUL use for that world’s-best-bacon fat.
17. Wind the cuckoo clocks, catch up on your email, practice your vocal exercises, and transplant your Swedish ivy. In between projects, peek at the dough to see what it looks like. Oddly, it should keep getting wetter.
18. When large bubbles become apparent under the dough’s surface, but before it looks like that guy’s face on the bus—You know, the second grossest scene in all of the “X Files” (after the fluke-man throwing up in the shower)—it’s time to punch it down. This will not be as satisfying as it would be with normal dough, because this one fights back.
19. Before you wade in, take a good long drink of wine because it’s going to be a while before you want to put your hands on that stem again.
20. Lay out lots of flour on a clean, dry, large surface, and dip both your hands in same. All-purpose flour is fine for this.
21. Convince, by whatever means necessary, the dough to come out of the bowl and land in the flour. Moosh it down so the bubbles pop and the wet surface incorporates enough flour to stop sticking to your forearms.
22. Form the dough into the shape of whatever you are going to bake it in, but make it exactly 0.78 as big around.
23. If you are having trouble with the ratio, have more wine until you get it just right.
24. Place the dough gently on a huge pile of flour, with a 2” margin of more flour around it.
25. Now back away slowly and don’t make eye contact.
26. Put a record on. I SAID A RECORD. An LP. Vinyl. It’s a perfect timer. Play side 1, dancing. Flip it over. Play side 2, singing.
27. At the end of side 2, put the needle back in its cradle and go to the kitchen.
28. Look at the dough. You know: raise your left thumb straight out in front of you and peer at your nascent creation. Baking is an art. Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso were both inspired by recipes similar to this one. Is it ready to go into the oven? You are the artist! You get to decide! And there are no wrong decisions!
29. Unless you put plastic wrap on top of the dough.
30. If it’s not ready, repeat steps 26-28 until it is or until you’ve given up all hope of it rising.
31. Start heating the oven to 450 degrees. If the dough looks sluggish, put it in the room-temp pan and into the oven so it can be all it can be. If your dough already shows enthusiasm for this project, high-five it, put the pan in the oven to pre-heat, and then show the dough the way to the pre-heated pan.
32. Do you know someone who’s strong, not too bright, and infinitely malleable? Oh you lucky dog you. Have them put the pan in the oven.
33. If all others have fled—your singing might have had something to do with that—you get to put the pan in the oven.
34. Remember that you put ice on burns, not grease.
35. Set a timer so that you remember you have something in the oven. After 25 minutes, look into the oven. If you have a see-through lid, and the bread looks like, you know, bread, woo-hoo! If you like a crunchier crust, uncover it and let it bake a few more minutes.
36. If you can’t see the bread because of the cast iron lid, just take the lid off. Is it done? Probably. Take it out. Thump the side of the loaf. If it sounds like bread—well, again, you might want to lay off the booze a bit.
37. Let it cool. This is important. If you try to cut the bread when it’s still all warm and doughy, so that it smooshes into a delicious handful of hot yum, the butter will run right off onto your hands and feet.
38. Ok. Grease does make burns feel better.