Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Zucchini-Tomato Tart

During my first baking job at UCSC, I met a middle-aged baker named Roxanne who every morning would serve me up a big plate of Too Much Information. Trysts in the walk-in with the cutie who mixed the pizza dough, drug induced escapades, naughty acts with various boyfriends; no subject was off-limits for Roxanne. She left after only a month to start her own business, but she did leave me with more than just disturbing visual images before she went.

One day she asked me whether I wanted to be a cook or a baker when I grew up. I thought for a moment of the shrimp legs I'd had to rip off at my prior job as a pantry cook, of the stench of raw onion trimmings and fish detritus, of the blood drippings from the raw beef I'd had to hack up. Then I looked around me at the flour-dusted wooden counters, lumps of dough in various states of formedness. I glanced in the compost at the blameless eggshells. I inhaled the aroma of vanilla and butter and warm cinnamon around us and said decisively, 'A baker. It's cleaner.' She nodded in agreement and approval, then told me conspiratorially, 'There are two types of people in the world: cooks and bakers.'

Her words continued to echo in my head, long after she switched topics back to last night's explicit sexual act.

Bakers like to follow recipes. We like the assurance that as long as we do as we're told, everything will turn out right. With baking, there is only so much tweaking you can do as you go. Once you put your product in the oven, you can cross your fingers, but you are pretty much stuck with whatever comes out.

When someone tells me that they suck at baking, I assume what they actually mean is that they don't like to follow instructions. Conversely, I greatly admire those cooks who can whip something up at the drop of a tomato. It is harder to do this with baking, and even the most experienced bakers that I know tend to use springboard recipes for basic ratios before diving off into the abyss of improvisation.

Since opposites attract, it makes sense that I have many 'cook personality' friends, including the talented Leigh, who makes the best tomato sauce, and many other things, I've ever tasted. I will never let him forget the time we made soup together 10 years ago at my house in Santa Cruz. Nervous about not following a recipe, I was constantly tasting and adding small amounts of salt to bring up the flavor. Leigh cheekily grabbed the salt shaker, and dumped a bunch in. When I tried to stop him, he sprinkled in more just to spite me. The soup was inedibly salty and we were forced to add copious amounts of water to it so we didn't go hungry.

Becoming a pastry chef has forced me to overcome my aversion to improvising. Though I still always use a base recipe, like a good baker, I am braver about adjusting flavorings, adding ingredients and changing techniques to achieve the results I'm seeking. This tart, for instance, was inspired by Smitten Kitchen's zucchini-ricotta galette. I made a cornmeal pate brisee à la Martha, but completely made up the fillings. I hovered over the oven, worrying about the crust being soggy or the filling watery, but in the end the tart emerged radiantly flavorful and juicy from the oven to be proudly and happily devoured. It was exactly how I'd imagined it.

I wanted to make this recipe as streamlined as possible, so I didn't prebake the crust or veggies. I did salt the zucchini to draw out some of the moisture, and I might slice it thinner next time to make it easier to arrange in the dish. The result was not unlike a pizza, with stretchy melted cheese, delicate fillings and a buttery-tender crust. Despite all the butter and cheese, the tart tasted surprisingly light; Jay and I polished the whole thing off in two meals. It makes a succulent, vegetarian supper or brunch served alongside a green salad. It reheats beautifully, the crust staying resolutely crisp and sturdy.

The basil, tomatoes, squash and cheeses felt like the ideal way to usher in the first of the summer produce, but don't feel like you have to be an anal baker-personality when you make this; feel free to throw caution to the wind and futz around with various fillings if you like.

Just go easy on the salt.

Zucchini-Tomato Tart

Makes 4 - 6 servings

Time: about 2 1/2 hours, including chilling, sweating and baking (the food, not you)

Cornmeal pate brisee:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornflour (finely ground cornmeal) or cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2" chunks
1/4 cup ice water

Combine the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Scatter over the butter chunks and work in with your fingers until some pea-sized chunks remain. Sprinkle in the water a tablespoon at a time, tossing with your hands, until the dough just comes together and no floury bits remain. Gently press the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, and stick in plastic bag. Chill in the fridge until firm, 30-45 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an even 14" round. Fit into a 10" tart pan, fold over the edges and trim flush with the pan. Chill 30 minutes.

The filling:

1 pound (4-5 medium) summer squash or zucchini, cut into 1/8-1/4" rounds
1/2 teaspoon plus 1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces dry mozzarella (not the water packed kind) sliced
2 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons basil, chopped, plus some leaves for garnish
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon olive oil

While the tart dough is chilling, toss the zucchini with the 1/2 teaspoon salt in a colander. Set aside to sweat about 1 hour. Drain and pat dry with a clean towel.

Position a rack in the bottom of the oven and preheat to 450º. If you have a baking stone, put that in there, too; if not, put in a sturdy baking pan.

Layer the fillings in the chilled crust in the following order: mozzarella, goat cheese, basil, tomatoes. Arrange the squash on top in concentric circles.

Mash the garlic with the 1/4 teaspoon salt in a morter and pestle until a paste forms. Add in the olive oil. Brush this mixture over the squash. 

Place the tart on the baking stone or baking sheet. Reduce the oven to 425º and bake for 55-60 minutes, until the filling is bubbling and the crust and squash are golden. Cool the tart 10 minutes, then cut into wedges and serve. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Apricot Cherry Clafoutis

A few years ago, when I told Jay we were having cherry clafoutis for dessert he chided me for cooking the precious fruits which make such a teasingly brief (and expensive) appearance every spring. Why squander them, rather than enjoying them fresh? But when he took his first bite of the juicy, brandy-infused cherries surrounded by custardy batter, he fully understood. 'The way to make cherries even better,' he philosophized, helping himself to seconds, 'is to soak them in booze and bake them.' 

Words of a wise man. Or at least a sated one. 

Since then, I have made it a mission to expose people to the wonders of clafoutis. I've baked clafoutis with peaches, berries, figs, poached rhubarb, and roasted apples, and have made ginormous pans of it at music camps several summers in a row. Peoples' eyes widen in anticipatory wonder when they take their first bite of the puffed custard and warm, oozing fruit. Eyes roll heavenwards, lips are smacked, and 'Clafoutis!' is often joyously exclaimed. (Though I suspect some people just like to say 'clafoutis.')

Cherries and apricots make a particularly lovely combination, the cherries retaining a sweet crispness and the perfumed apricots softening into luscious pockets. This is a versatile dessert and can showcase almost any seasonal fruit. Stone fruit and berries can be swapped in as the are; pears and apples should be briefly sauteed in butter; quince and rhubarb can be roasted or poached; prunes, dried apricots or cherries can be soaked in more brandy or armagnac. I once saw a recipe for pumpkin cranberry clafoutis, and am curious as to what a chocolate clafoutis might be like, with cocoa in the batter and chunks of chocolate (or fresh cherries, pears or raspberries) replacing the fruit. You could go crazy and steep the dairy with cardamom pods or coins of fresh ginger, use honey or maple syrup in place of the sugar, or add a splash of almond extract or noyaux liquor to the batter. 

Clafoutis is best eaten within several hours of being baked, but it can be stored in the fridge and reheats beautifully. Warm, it is puffed and light, like a fallen souffle. Cooled the texture is more dense and custardy, more closely resembling a slightly chewy bread pudding or baked pancake (dutch baby). In fact, it makes a fantastic breakfast, topped with creamy yogurt and some extra fresh fruit, and would be an unique addition to any brunch.

This dessert comes together quickly and easily, requiring only a whisk and a bowl. If you lack a cherry pitter, or have a hand modeling gig coming up, take comfort in the fact that it is traditional to leave the cherry pits in to flavor the dessert with their bitter almondy essence. (Just be sure to warn your guests.)  

I asked Jay if he was tired of clafoutis yet, this being my third trial this month. He replied stalwartly, gazing into the middle distance, 'I will never tire of clafoutis.'

Stoked on stone fruit:
Almond Plum Tart with Cardamom Ice Cream
Cardamom Plum Crumble Squares
Vanilla Brown Butter Peach Buckle

Apricot-Cherry Clafoutis

Makes one 10" clafoutis, about 8 servings

Feel free to swap in any fruit you like for the cherries and apricots: peaches, berries, figs, roasted apples or rhubarb are some favorites. The batter can be made a day or two ahead if you like, and stored in the fridge. A bit of yogurt, creme fraiche or unsweetened whipped cream makes a nice accompaniment. I've found that cake flour makes the most delicate, creamy clafoutis; all-purpose can be used in a pinch, but the result won't be quite as silky.

1/4 cup sliced almonds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar (plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling over the top)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (or the seeds from 1 vanilla bean)
2/3 cup cake flour
1 cup half and half
generous 1/2 pound apricots, quartered
generous 1/2 pound cherries, pitted
1 tablespoon brandy or kirsh

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º. Spread the almonds on a small baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, 4 minutes or so. Remove and set aside. Increase the oven to 400º.

Brush a 10" solid-bottom tart, pie or cake pan or skillet with a bit of the melted butter.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla. Sift the flour over and whisk until very smooth. Gradually whisk in the half and half. The consistency will be that of a thick crepe batter.

Combine the fruit and brandy in a medium bowl, tossing several times.

Lay the fruit evenly in the bottom of the buttered pan. Whisk any leftover juices and the rest of the melted butter into the batter. Pour the batter over the fruit. Scatter the almonds over the top and sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon sugar. (Alternately, bake the clafoutis for 10 minutes first, then add the almonds and sugar and continue baking. This makes a slightly prettier dessert.)

Bake the clafoutis until puffed and golden and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, 40 - 50 minutes. Remove and let cool at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to several days; reheat if you like.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tonic Water

Depending on how you see it, I had the good fortune to celebrate my 21st birthday in Italy. While many an American young adult spend the first night of their 21st year of life blind drunk, staggering from bar to bar in an alcohol-fueled frenzy, I spent mine calmly indulging in fabulous thin-crust pizza and prosecco at La Mela with a few of my closest friends. While I have had some rather wild experiences in my time, on my 21st birthday I did not:

-drink whisky, gin, tequila or vodka
-make out with a stranger/bartender
-embarrass myself (any more than usual)
-reveal any private body parts in public
-throw up
-pass out
-wake up next morning with acidic hangover beside stranger/bartender/own vomit

I might have had more fun if it weren't for the fact that Italians don't really do cocktails.

During my first stay in Venice when I was 18 and obsessed by the fact that I could get wasted any night (or, er, morning) of the week, I asked a bartender to make me a mixed drink. He inquired as to what I wanted, and I told him to be creative. He very excitedly got out a thick book, spent the next half hour  meticulously measuring things into a shaker, then presented me with a frilly glass of murky liquid. I took a sip, tried not to grimace, and thanked him, I'm sure, with an overly generous tip and many an, 'E buonissimo! Molte grazie!' and bats of the eyelashes. (He was, if not a stellar mixologist, cute, after all.)

It was in Italy, however, that I tried my first gin and tonic. At a club in Bologna one night, I sipped a friend's drink, which, up until that moment, I had considered a second-rate old-man type beverage not worthy of my hard-earned (i.e. financially aided) euros. If it didn't take the bartender half an hour of careful measuring, surely it wasn't worth drinking?

Wrong. Until that sweltering evening (during that famous 2002 European heatwave) I had never tasted anything more refreshing. Sweet, tart, bitter, and bubbly, I fell in love.

It is at a week-long music camp called Sweet's Mill, located in the sweltering Sierra Foothills, that I most appreciate g&ts. Most days are spent in the shade or pond attempting to escape the oppressive heat, and gratefully imbibing frosty beverages when the coffeehouse can be bamboozled into giving out crushed ice. Tonic seems particularly apropos in those mosquito-infested hills, perhaps due to the anti-malarial properties of quinine.

Sadly, most tonic water is made from high fructose corn syrup and can only be purchased in scary places such as Safeway (or Unsafeway, as we call it) or BevMo. Sugar-free tonic is even scarier with its artificial sweeteners, and you are pretty much SOL if you are a g&t loving diabetic. Better options have emerged in the past few years, with Stirrings and Q both bottling tasty tonics, made with sugar or agave. Unfortunately, these waters cost more than gin itself, even the good stuff, although not, interestingly, as much as HP printer ink. (Not even human blood is that expensive.) Whole Paycheck's 365 brand makes tonic from sugar in cans, a cheaper alternative, and my favorite option if you don't have the wherewithal to make your own.

But this blogger had been pondering making her own tonic for some time.

My good friend and former co-baker at Petite Patisserie, Kelly, emailed one day saying she'd had a homemade g&t at Boot and Shoe Service in her East Bay 'hood. I excitedly asked her all about it, and she kindly forwarded a few interesting articles, and some tips on where to purchase quinine bark in the Bay Area. It seems I was not the only bojon gourmet looking for tonic action. The Food Dude of Portland wrote an absolutely hilarious article on the process several years ago. He used powdered cinchona bark, from whence quinine is derived, and the resulting syrup required several hours of laborious straining. I wagered that using the whole bark would be a lot simpler, and, with Kelly's help, tracked some down. My intrepid friend Calvaleigh gave it a go first, and mixed us phenomenal drinks in Ashland a few weeks ago.

So I came up with the following recipe, based on Food Dude's, which, for maybe $12 worth of ingredients, made five cups of tonic concentrate, or enough for forty drinks. (Suck on those ice cubes, Q!) Cinchona bark is combined with lemongrass, citrus peel, citric acid, lemon balm and water and simmered to make a sort of tisane. It is then strained and combined with sugar and citrus juice. It should keep in the fridge for several weeks at least. Cinchona bark can be found at Duc Loi or Lhasa Karnak; citric acid is carried at Rainbow and, I believe, Berkeley Bowl.

I made some drinks with the New Amsterdam gin we happened to have in the freezer, but am looking forward to trying our local Junipero, made by the folks at Anchor Brewing, and recommended by Food Dude via the New York Times. Another local gin I'm quite fond of is No. 209, made in Napa. If glycemic indices are an issue for you, you can try making the tonic with agave syrup. You may want to reduce the amount to 3 cups, though, as it can be sweeter than sugar.

I am quite pleased (i.e. drunk) with the results, and hope you either give this a go, or at least come over sometime in the next week before we leave for Sweet's Mill for a g&t. Just don't go flirting with the bartender; she's already sown her wild cinchona (as it were).

Drink me:
Hibiscus Tequila Spritzers
Indian Summer Blues (with Cardamom, Rose and Gin)

Homemade Tonic

Adapted from The Food Dude

Makes 5 cups, or enough for 40 drinks

This makes a fairly mild, complex and citrusy tonic. I add bitters to the drinks when I mix them, but I plan to try doubling the cinchona bark next time for more bitterness and bite.

I found Mamà brand quinine bark (pictured above) at an Asian/Latin market called Duc Loi in the Mission district of San Francisco. You can also buy or order quinine (cinchona) bark from Lhasa Karnak in Berkeley. Lhasa Karnak's cinchona bark comes finely chopped, and a friend who used 3 tablespoons of it in this recipe claimed that its bitterness was much too strong (though others have claimed that it's just right!) so you may want to start with half the amount of cinchona if you use a different brand than Mamà.

2 limes
1 lemon
one package (.37 ounce) Mamà brand quinine (cinchona) bark pieces (a scant 3 tablespoons of pieces measuring about 1/2 inch square) (see headnote for sources)
1 cup chopped lemongrass (from about 3 stalks)
1/2 cup fresh lemon balm or lemon verbena leaves (optional)
6 tablespoons citric acid
4 cups water
4 cups sugar

Using a sharp knife, vegetable peeler or zester, pare off the colorful peel of the citrus fruits leaving the white pith behind. Combine the peel, bark, lemongrass, lemon balm, citric acid and water in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer (or cheesecloth, or a coffee filter if there are any fine particles that bother you.)

Rinse out the saucepan and combine the flavored water with the sugar. Bring to a simmer to dissolve the sugar, remove from the heat and add the juice from the limes and lemon. Let cool. Pour into glass bottles and store in the fridge for at least several weeks. The flavors will meld with time.

Gin and Tonic

Makes 1 drink

1 ounce (2 tablespoons) cooled tonic syrup
1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) gin (such as New Amsterdam, No. 209 or Junipero)
4 drops Angostura bitters
ice cubes
sparkling water
1 - 2 lime wedges

Combine the syrup, gin and bitters in a glass. Add the ice, squeeze in the lime wedges and add them as well, and top with sparkling water. Give it a stir, and enjoy.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread

While few aromas are as tantalizing as a loaf of buttery white bread emerging from the oven (right up there with bacon frying and coffee percolating; if you do it right, you can have all three at once!) some of us who grew up with health-obsessed parents have a hard time gorging on the fluffy white stuff. But we still crave the chewy compressability of a loaf of tender pan bread.

Though rustic, artisan-style breads are currently all the rage, pan bread is ideal for making sandwiches from its uniform slices. And although I abhorred the brown stuff my mom used to send in my (paper) lunch bag, wrapped around (nitrate-free) (organic) turkey and (canola oil) mayonnaise, I now find myself packing similar lunches for myself.

For several years I have been searching for a great whole-grain pan bread recipe. The ideal would be quick and simple to put together, bake up tall in the pan, have a decent amount of butter, salt and sweetener to give it flavor, and have a light and delicate texture flecked with a hefty dose of whole grains and seeds.

Here's a brief overview of my search:

Hollyhock bread, from The Hollyhock Cookbook
We ate this at an awesome retreat center in British Columbia. The bread is delicious, but a bit more squat, heavy, crumbly and dark in color than I was after.

Cornmeal Millet bread, from Tassajara, with tweaks mentioned in Bread Alone, A Novel
Perhaps I oughtn't have taken advice from a novel, but this bread was disastrous: leaden and sandy textured from the grains, and bland to boot.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread, from Nancy Silverton's La Brea Bakery Breads
This bread tasted great, but was super labor intensive and time consuming, with a bit of sourdough starter, lots of time, and a ton of ingredients. The dough was also a huge amount for the standard sized loaf pan.

Flax Bread, from Rose Levy Bernbaum's Bread Bible
Very close to perfection: light, tasty, quick, but also huge for the pan. I considered decreasing the recipe by 1/3 or so, but my mind boggled at the math required. It didn't actually call for whole grains, but whole rye flour, so it was less grainy than I wanted.

Sunflower Millet Bread, from the Moosewood cookbook
Molly Katzen, you are my hero! This was my favorite thus far, and my recipe is based on its proportions. Millet is steamed, then mixed with salt, butter and honey and allowed to cool. Meanwhile, a sponge is made. The two are combined, more water and flour are added, and the bread does its thing. It baked up soft, grainy, full flavored and golden.

I had some 10 grain cereal mix in the cupboard that needed using, so I began experimenting with the Moosewood recipe. Rather than steaming the grains, which requires cleaning an extra pot (which you know I don't enjoy doing) I covered the mix with boiling water. I added butter and honey to the mixture and let it cool down to just warm. The grains softened up nicely, leaving enough water to which I added flour, salt, yeast and flaxseed. I kneaded the dough, let it rise, rolled it into a loaf. Another rise and a bake yielded just the sort of bread I was looking for.

I made 5 more loaves, tweaking the flavorings, trying various grains, and using different ratios of white and whole wheat bread flours. This is the version I came up with. I don't want to use the 'p' word, but I will say that I am quite happy with it, and can't stop toasting it for breakfast, layering it with tomatoes, cheese, turkey and sprouts for lunch, or dipping it into soups for dinner.

The bread is mixed using the straight dough method which means everything goes straight into one bowl. You can easily knead it by hand, and you get only a spoon, a bowl and your counter dirty. Grainy doughs can be a bit sticky, so be sure your surface and hands are dusted with a bit of flour as you knead. The softer the dough (i.e. the less flour you add) the more open and springy your bread will be, so use the barest amount you can to prevent stickage. The dough should still be a bit tacky to the touch when you've finished kneading it, but not so wet as to be sticking gooily to your hands and the counter. A plastic bench scraper is my best friend for hand-kneading sticky doughs (or any dough).

You can experiment with using other whole grains or a multi-grain cereal mix in place of the millet, oats and polenta; just grind anything you like to the size of a coarse meal. Try using sunflower, sesame or poppy seeds in place of the flax. I like the way the little yellow flecks of polenta add a splash of color, contrasting with the deep brown ovals of flax and the crust, and the warm beige of the bread itself.

I love using fresh cake yeast, with its bizarre, crumbly texture and rapidly rising nature. You can buy it at Rainbow. Instant yeast is an easy substitute; use 1/3 the volume of the fresh yeast called for. Active dry yeast will need to sit for 10 minutes after being whisked into the warm water/grain mixture, but it can be used as well.

Yeast feast:
Oatmeal Molasses Bread
Honey Oat Beer Buns 
Pumpkin Challah

Multi-Grain Sandwich Bread

This is a straightforward, user-friendly, multi-grain bread recipe, an excellent place to start for the yeast-phobic. If you prefer, you can substitute any multi-grain hot cereal blend for the millet, oats and polenta.

Time: about 4 hours, plus 1 - 2 hours to cool the loaf

Makes one 8x4" or 9x5" loaf

1/4 cup millet
1/4 cup steel cut oats
1/4 cup polenta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) honey
1 1/2 cups boiling water

1 tablespoon fresh yeast (or 2 teaspoons active dry or 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast)
1/4 cup whole flaxseeds
1/2 cup whole wheat bread flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups white bread flour, plus extra for kneading
vegetable oil for the bowl
butter for the pan

Soak the grains:
Pulse the millet and oats in a coffee grinder to the size of coarse meal or sand. Dump into a large bowl with the polenta, butter and honey. Pour the boiling water over and let sit, stirring once or twice, until the mixture feels just warm to the touch, about 30 - 45 minutes. (If the water is hotter than this, it could kill the yeast. But don't let the grains sit too long, or they may absorb too much water and throw your ratios off.)

Make the dough:
Crumble in the fresh yeast, stir, (if using active dry yeast, let the mixture sit for 10 minutes) then add the flaxseeds, whole wheat flour and salt. Begin adding the white flour 1/4 cup at a time, stirring after each addition. After about 1 1/4 cups the dough should form a rough, sticky mass. (If it is too dry at this point, sprinkle over a bit more water and continue stirring or kneading until it becomes sticky again.) Scrape down the sides of the bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a large plastic bag, and let the mixture sit for 15 - 20 minutes. (This is called autolyse, and it allows the starches in the flour to absorb the water and swell up, and the glutens to begin unfurling and forming straight lines. All of this makes the dough smoother and easier to knead, allowing you to add less flour and resulting in a wetter dough, which is what we want here.)

Uncover the bowl and scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough, dusting your hands and surface with just enough flour to keep it from sticking, for about 10 minutes. The dough should feel smoother by the end, and should be a bit tacky but not sticking to things.

Round the dough into a boule and place in a large bowl coated lightly with oil. Turn to coat the dough with oil and leave the boule smooth side up. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and leave to rise until doubled in bulk, 1 - 2 hours.

Shape the loaf:
Grease an 8x4" or 9x5" loaf pan with butter. Turn the dough out onto a surface dusted very lightly with a bit of flour. (A plastic scraper works wonderfully for this.) Pat the dough into a rectangle roughly 8x14", with a skinny side facing you. Roll the dough up snugly, cinnamon bun-style, and pinch the seam shut. Tuck the ends under the loaf and roll the log a few times, seam side down, to smooth it out. Place the log, seam side down, in the greased pan, and put the whole shebang into a large plastic vegetable bag (or small garbage bag). Tie the end of the bag shut, leaving it inflated to give the loaf room to expand.

Let the loaf rise until doubled in bulk and 2" above the rim of the pan, 45 - 60 minutes. Meanwhile...

Prepare the oven:
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 400º. If you have a baking stone, put that on the rack. Place a metal or cast iron pan that you don't care about on the floor of the oven. You will put ice cubes in it to steam the oven, and it will become rusted and nasty.

Bake the bread:
Remove the bag. Fill a 1/2 cup measure with ice cubes. Open the oven and quickly but gently place the loaf pan on the baking stone, and toss the ice cubes into the pan on the floor of the oven. Close the door and don't open it again for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, reduce the oven to 350º. Rotate the pan and bake the loaf for 30 - 40 more minutes, for a total baking time of 50 - 60 minutes. A thermometer inserted into the center of the loaf should register 195 - 200º. Optionally, for an extra-crisp crust, remove the loaf from the pan after 45 minutes and finish baking directly on the stone.

Remove the loaf from the pan and let cool completely before cutting (the internal steam is continuing to cook the interior of the bread) 1 - 2 hours.

Store the bread in a plastic bag or other airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.