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Banneton Bread

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Makes 2 to 3 loaves, depending on banneton sizes.
By Dennis W. Viau.

This is the most basic of bread recipes. Only four ingredients are needed — flour, yeast, salt, and water. Anything else is an enhancement. Like Julia Child, I like to add butter to bread dough. It makes a softer crumb. Substitute some of the water with beer and you have a more flavorful bread. For this project, I wanted the absolute basics.

Ingredients:

2 pounds (900g, about 61/3 cups) bread flour, more or less as needed for a sticky dough
1 tablespoon active dry or instant yeast
2 teaspoons salt (1 tablespoon okay)
600g (about 2½ cups) water

Directions:

Combine half the flour with the yeast and salt in a large bowl. Mix well. Add the water and blend into a batter.

Start adding the remaining flour, a little at a time, until a sticky dough forms. Depending on the flour, you might need less or more than the amount specified above.

Knead until smooth. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

While the dough is rising, prepare the benetons by dusting them liberally with flour.

Punch the dough down and divide for the bannetons, depending on their size. Press each dough portion into each banneton. Butter the top (to prevent sticking) and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until doubled.

Heat the oven to 425°F (220°C).

Invert each dough loaf onto a line or greased baking sheet, carefully removing the banneton. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, or to an internal temperature around 200°F (95°C) when tested with a digital thermometer.

Cool on a wire rack before cutting.

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