On Sunday I managed to watch last week's Hairy Bikers, where they were in Germany. In amongst all the schwartzwalderkirschetorte there was a segment where they popped into a slow food bakery called Fleury in Brauneberg. The chap there makes a whole load of different loaves, including one that takes 48 hours to make.
Hmm. Can you see cogs whirring?
Bread is simple; flour & water will get you started; if you've not got a week to wait and 12 hours to prep then adding yeast helps, and salt is probably necessary but if you don't have any then it's not the end of the world. There's two hard bits.
1. Making sure the yeast is working. 2. Making sure the oven is hot enough.
Other than that, it's just waiting.
I liked the thought of 48 hour bread so much I thought I'd give it a go. There's no recipe given, so I reckoned I'd try basic recipe bread, then bung it in the fridge to rise & prove for a couple of days. If it doesn't work then I'll have wasted about 80p of ingredients.
The details: 500g strong white flour, 300ml water (tap is fine, don't bother with this "hand-hot" malarky) + another 50ml kicking around if you need it, 10g salt, 2 packets of easyblend yeast. Mix the dry ingredients - stir in the salt before adding the yeast - then pour in most of the water and mix, then add the rest and the extra 50ml if, after mixing, you've still got dry lumps in the bottom of the bowl. Tip it out onto a work surface - don't flour it, just have a dough scraper or pallette knife to hand - and knead it until you can see light through a stretched out bit of dough without it breaking. The books say 5-10 minutes, I reckon it can take a lot longer, depending on how vigorous you are. Roll it into a ball, then take a 2l (or bigger) airtight plastic lunchbox - the ones with clickable seals are perfect - and lightly oil the insides, drop in the ball, put on the lid and bung in the fridge.
Forget about it until the following morning; tip it out onto the work surface, pummel it a bit, then put it back in the box. The following morning, tip it out of the box, shape it into a baton, then at one end twist it over twice, so you get a spiral formed on the outside. Put onto some baking parchment, then onto something flat, then cover and put back in the fridge. That evening, turn the oven onto as high as it'll go, put a baking sheet on the middle shelf (and remove the top shelf), then when it's hot take the dough from the fridge and slide onto the hot baking sheet. Leave for 15 minutes, then turn the oven down to about 180C and forget about it for at least 35 minutes. At this point, the longer it bakes the thicker the crust.
The results: in all seriousness this is some of the best bread I've ever made.
The texture is incredible - soft, chewy, dense and airy all at the same time. It springs back, has a delicious crust and the middle tastes like bread smells. It's a bugger to slice, though - that crust is solid - but that just means you get the pleasure of ripping it apart. I cannot emphasise this enough: make this bread. It is simple, delicious and takes all of 20 minutes of actual effort. Your family will love you, your friends will love you, and your tummy will love you.