“The Great Hall of Winterfell was hazy with smoke and heavy with the smell of roasted meat and fresh-baked bread.”- A Game of Thrones
So reads the intro to the recipe for Crusty White Bread from the companion cookbook to the Song of Ice and Fire series, aka, the Game of Thrones. And let me tell you, having your house smell like this fresh baked bread is a wonderful thing. This recipe was very easy to put together and very impressive to watch rise. The bread dough got so big that it spilled out of the bowl I was using and onto the counter beneath. It was awesome in a sciencey kind of way. (Spell check doesn’t believe sciencey is a real word but doesn’t mind science-y, apparently. What does spell check know?)
I followed the directions for this bread, and I was very happy with the result. The bread was indeed crusty with a very soft, delicate interior. It is the kind of white bread that you remember eating as a kid before white bread became all taboo. As with the foccacia I made a few weeks ago, we started munching down on this as soon as the photos were done. (And as you can see below, while we were still taking photos.) There is just not much better in the world than freshly baked bread with butter smeared on top. Maybe fresh bread with butter and honey, but that just depends on what kind of mood you are in.
I think this is hilarious. My first .gif! This little clip has made my day. I keep cracking up. Not sure exactly why pictures of me eating bread are so hilarious, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
Now, in my experience, following the instructions, my dough was always sticky. The kneading step was especially hilarious. I’m not sure how, unless I added entire cups more flour, I was supposed to get something that I could knead, so instead I figured that the bread would be fine, flipped it around a few times, stuck my hilariously gooey fingers in people’s faces, and trusted that it would work out. And it did! So if your dough seems unbelievably sticky no matter how much flour you start adding, don’t sweat it too much.
Crusty White Bread
from A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Companion Cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel and Sariann Lehrer
1 1/2 TB dry yeast (2 packets)
1 to 2 TB honey
3 cups warm water
6 1/2 cups all purpose flour, more as needed
1 TB coarse salt
Combine the yeast, honey and water and mix it up. Add the flour and salt and begin working them into the mixture. Combine thoroughly with the dough hook of your mixer, or by hand if you are dedicated and strong.
Dump the dough onto the clean, floured counter top and knead for around 5 minutes, pushing with the heel of your hand, then gathering the dough back into a lump. Knead until the dough becomes one big mass. When you poke it and the dough bounces back, you’re all set. If it is still too sticky, add a little extra flour.
Place the dough into a large greased bowl, cover it with a towel, and let it sit in a warm place for about 2 hours. (You can also put it in the refrigerator overnight; it will rise more slowly. You can even let the dough sit in the fridge for a couple of days, at which point it will take on a slight sourdough taste.)
Once the dough has at least doubled in size, divide it into thirds. Pull on each piece to form a ball, tucking all the ends in at the bottom. The balls should be semi-smooth. Dust the top of each round loaf with a bit of flour and make some light slices in the dough with a very sharp knife. Place the balls at least 4 inches apart on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal and allow them to rise, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Fill a baking dish or broiler pan with 2 cups of water and place it under the rack where your bread will go. (This is the trick to making a nice, crusty loaf of rustic bread. The steam from the water adds a nice crunch to the surface of the loaf.) Bake the loaves for around 30 minutes, until the crusts are a dark golden color and the loaves sound hollow when you tap them.