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October 8, 2010
If I get up at 5am, I thought as I drifted off to sleep last night, I can get the bread risen and baked by 9, easily. This bread has an extraordinarily slow rise -- two hours, and that's after a first rise that began yesterday afternoon and lasted all night. And while the bread is doing what it does, I can make a butternut squash soup for Q to have while I'm gone this weekend. I do these things so that he won't forget about me when I'm gone. And because I love to cook. And because I hate to leave home.

So then I can run to the bank when it opens at 9am. And then I can empty the battered little secretary that has graced our living rooms since I was a little girl, and move in the one I bought at the yard sale, which is just like the old one except that it's not missing its front panel or one of its legs or any of its shelves. And maybe I can also put some things back in the china cupboard in the dining room, now that the walls are painted. My only deadline in all this is an 11.06 train bound for Virginia, on which I can take a nap.

I'll be lucky to accomplish half this list, of course -- although the nap is a pretty safe bet. But that's all right. I've always thought it healthy for my reach to exceed my grasp.

New Favorite Bread

In a large-ish bowl ( a covered Pyrex 2-quart baking dish is ideal), combine 1 cup white flour, 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp dry yeast (yes, that's only one quarter of a teaspoon, and that's not the end of the amazing things about this recipe). Whisk together and then add 1-5/8 cups water (that's one and five-eighths, a little less than one and three quarters). Mix together until blended -- it will look very shaggy. Don't knead it.

Cover the bowl and put it somewhere out of your way for eighteen hours. Actually, anything over twelve hours works, though the longer rise gives you bigger holes, which we like. By then, it will have filled the bowl, and its surface will be covered with little bubbles, or holes where bubbles used to be. Turn it out on a floured surface, fold it over once or twice and cover it with the same bowl. Let it sit and think for fifteen minutes. Then sprinkle a clean cotton towel liberally with corn meal and gather the dough into a rough ball. Place it on the towel and sprinkle more corn meal on top; cover with the other end of the towel. Let rise for two hours. At the end of this rise, with half an hour to go, heat your oven to 450F and put a covered pot (like a cast-iron dutch oven or a long ceramic baker) in the oven to heat. Bring it out, spray it with nonstick baking spray. Then gather up the dough in your hands and gently place it in the hot pot. Put the cover on and put it back in the oven. This creates an oven-within-an-oven, and gets you the wonderful crustiness you want.

Bake 30 minutes and uncover, then bake fifteen more minutes uncovered. Then take a look: the crust should be a nice brown. If it isn't, give it more time, five minutes at a time. Then remove pot from oven and loaf from pot, to cool on a wire rack.

I'm making this bread every other day lately. Like all bread, but even more so, it takes a while, but most of that time is time you can spend doing other things.
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