Ten years ago, if someone had told me that in my twenties I would develop a mad passion for beer and all things fermented, I would have laughed and probably gagged a bit. In my early twenties, I spent my relaxing time drinking glasses of Arbor Mist and Boone’s Farm strawberry wine with fresh berries in the bottom of the glass. I lived mostly on Cheetos, Nacho Cheese Doritos, root beer, strange little white chocolate candies with Oreo Cookie bits in them, coffee (mostly cream and sugar, actually), and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I would go out to dinner with my friends and order an ice cream sundae as my meal.
While a big portion of my diet has remained the same (I crumble Nacho Cheese Doritos on top of my macaroni and cheese!), I have taken on a much different view when it comes to beer and bread. While I still appreciate a big red cup full of bud light with scoop of ice cream on a hot day, or a piece of toasted sandwich bread, I’ve come to know and love the huge range of flavors and textures that bread and beer have to offer.
I simply adore this Pain Rustique recipe from Jeffrey Hamelman’s Bread. It’s pretty versatile, and lately I’ve been adding figs and anise seed to it in my attempt to create something similar to the Fig Anise Panini at the Pearl Bakery in Portland, OR. I don’t really keep a sourdough culture around, so this recipe makes it easy to make a good loaf of bread with a great crumb in just a few hours. There are two secrets to the awesomeness of this bread:
1) Half of the flour is prefermented, and
2) You don’t really touch the dough very much. Just bulk ferment, chop it into a square, proof it, and TA-DA! Beautiful, open-crumb, rustic, delicious bread.