Cook’s Illustrated Rustic Country Bread

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In the spirit of using up lingering baking supplies, I offer you Cook’s Illustrated Rustic Country Bread. I printed the recipe way back when I had a membership to their site. They offer a 14-day free trial, and from time to time they offer heavily discounted memberships as well. I find Cook’s Illustrated and their related enterprises (Cook’s Country and America’s Test Kitchen) endlessly helpful and highly recommend their magazines and various books. In the meantime, you can also see the recipe on Ruth’s Kitchen‘s site here.

This is my second time making this recipe in recent weeks. The first time, I made one huge boule with all the dough. This time I opted to make two smaller boules. I didn’t end up using all the flour that was called for, and didn’t use any extra flour when kneading the dough either (I just used some of the initial flour that I hadn’t incorporated). The recipe says that the dough should be very wet and sticky and I did not find this to be true at all, either time I made it. I scaled my ingredients so I’m confident that it was not a flour measuring error. Upon further investigation, I discovered others in the blogosphere who have had the same experience. Rather than force the rest of the bread flour into the dough and risk a dry, dense loaf, I left it out. Even with reduction in flour, it was not at all what I’d consider a wet dough.

The first time I made this recipe, I followed the shaping instructions to the letter, including performing the final proof in a basket to help the loaf keep its shape. However, since the dough was not at all wet or slack, I decided this was unnecessary and simply proofed the two boules on a parchment-lined sheet pan this time and it was fine. I also proofed the dough quite a bit longer than stated, choosing to go with my eyes rather than the clock.

One of the things I love about this bread is its complexity. It’s mostly (white) bread flour, but includes a small amount of whole wheat flour and even less rye flour, which adds interest to the flavor while keeping it from being heavy like wheat breads can be. My favorite way to enjoy it is toasted with a nice schmear of peanut butter. Yummy.

A postscript: after I posted this, I saw a link to a 2008 post when I baked this bread. So it appears that I have made this three times, and not just twice! Honestly, I think I maintain this blog more as a record for myself than anything else!

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