Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers! I hope you’ll all be spending the holiday with family or close friends, plates and hearts full.
This week’s recipe is hardly Turkey Day-themed, except that Opa Bread happens to be an excellent choice for leftover turkey sandwiches. The recipe comes from my friend Danielle, and was handed down to her from her grandpa, a.k.a. Opa.
With its thick, crusty exterior and perfectly chewy, not-too-hole-y interior, Opa Bread slices perfectly and holds up well to just about any topping or filling. The flavor is nicely yeasty from two separate rises, and a small amount of whole wheat flour makes its flavor a little nuttier than a plain white loaf.
I hope Danielle will forgive me for the hyper-detailed, slightly refined version of Opa Bread that follows. I’ve included weights for the flours (if you don’t use a kitchen scale for baking, there are volume measurements too), as well as a method for shaping the loaf into something resembling a giant baguette. I struggled with how to put the method in writing, so I hope it’s fairly coherent — feel free to comment if I’ve left you scratching your head! Alternately, The Kitchn provides methods for shaping boules and baguettes — Opa Bread dough is versatile, and would take well to these shapes, too.
Be sure to read through the whole recipe before you start. It takes about six hours from measuring the flour to slicing the loaf. Much of that time is unattended, though, so this is a great recipe to make when you’re at home with your family for a holiday weekend.
Oh, and for all of my bread baking, I use a Danish dough whisk — made of thick, stiff wire, they make amazing kneading tools. They’re not particularly expensive, but might be hard to track down in person. I ordered mine online for about ten bucks. Unless you are blessed with a fancy-pants stand mixer, they’re the best tools for effortlessly kneading any stiff dough.
Opa Bread (printer-friendly version)
Makes one really big loaf.
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 C. warm (120F) water
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
2 C. warm (120F) water
1/4 C. tap water
1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the white and wheat flours. Make a well in the center.
2. In a small bowl, combine yeast and 1 C. warm water. Stir until yeast is fully dissolved, then pour into the well in the large mixing bowl of flour. Cover with a warm damp cloth and let sit for 2 hours.
3. Remove cloth from bowl. Sprinkle the kosher salt around the edge of the flour.
4. Add the remaining 2 C. of warm water to the well in the middle of the bowl, then use a dough whisk to mix everything together until all the flour is fully incorporated. Use the whisk to knead the dough 100 times, until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and begins to become bouncy and resistant to kneading.
5. Cover the bowl with a warm, damp cloth once more, and let rise for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
6. Flour your hands to avoid sticking (you may have to do this repeatedly), then punch the dough down in the bowl.
7. Remove dough from bowl, and turn it out onto a floured pastry board. Create a taught outer “skin” on the dough by rolling it in a circular motion against the pastry board, using your fingers to gather the edges under the dough ball. You’ll form a round ball with a “belly button” of gathered dough underneath.
8. Let the dough ball rest for a minute, then gently pat it out into an oval. Turn it upside down (so the “belly button” is on top), then fold it in half lengthwise. Turn it over so the seam is on the bottom, and push the dough towards you repeatedly, sealing the seam underneath.
9. Preheat the oven to 450F.
10. Carefully transfer the loaf onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use a long, thin carving knife, bread scoring knife, or razor blade to make four diagonal slashes across the top of the loaf, cutting at a 45-degree angle and about 3/4-inch deep.
11. Bake the loaf at 450F for 30 minutes, then open the oven door and splash 1/4C. tap water onto the bottom of the oven. Quickly close the oven door to allow the water to “steam” the bread, turn the oven down to 400F, and bake for another 30 minutes.
12. Remove bread from oven and dab the entire surface of the loaf with a soaked towel. Return to oven and bake for 5 more minutes.