Warning to bread cowards: avert your eyes
4 c flour (and a cup or so in a separate bowl)
1 packet yeast
1-2 tsp salt
2 c warm water
Mix the flour and salt and take ½ of this and mix it with the yeast. Add the 2 c warm water and mix it together for several minutes. It will be sticky and more like batter, so scrape the sides often. Cover and let rise until double in bulk. It should be sort of bubbly.
Mix the risen dough and add the rest of the flour and salt. Turn it out on a well-floured counter and knead for six minutes until the dough is satin-y.
Oil a glass or stainless steel bowl, drop the dough in and spin it around to get the oil all over the top. Flip the dough over, cover the bowl and let it sit in a warm spot until doubled in bulk.
Divide the dough into three pieces and roll into longish shapes. I used only two pieces that I then sprinkled with sea salt and placed on baking parchment, covered, and let it sort of relax for about half an hour. The rest of the dough went in a plastic container and into the fridge.
(For a regular oven, preheat to 450 and bake for 25 minutes. Put a bowl of water in the oven during the first 15 minutes and then take it out---this will give you a bit of steam to make the crust particularly yummy.)
For my earth oven, it takes about an hour or so to get to temperature with a small but intense fire, so I fire it right after the first mixing. After shoveling out the coals, I brush and then wipe the oven floor, and let the earth oven temperature stabilize. I still haven’t made a peel, but I use a metal spatula to guide the loaves into the oven, one left and one right. I made a door with a single piece of maple and a piece of terry cloth that I soak, which I set in place, using the wet rag to cover any openings, and block it shut.
Twenty-five minutes later I opened the door and this is what came out.
I then slid in a garlic bulb drenched in olive oil on a clay tray and a small cast iron pan with baby carrots and a touch of sesame oil to roast for the next couple hours until dinner. The earth oven holds warmth for hours so roasting like this works great.
The loaves came out at 4:10 and they smell amazing. Yummy.