As far as bread making goes, this recipe is pretty straight-forward and the flavor is fabulous. It uses a pre-ferment to develop that flavor and adds beer for an extra dimension. It is great right out of the oven or - my favorite - as toast in the morning. It also makes a good sandwich bread. While I was shooting for making a very rustic loaf when I developed this recipe, it is delicious despite not fulfilling my original goals.
If you don't have much experience with cutting boules, I'd like to share some of my trial and error experience here: the best way to cut and serve bread from a boule is to cut it in half (ending up with a right and left) and then place the halves cut side down on your board to cut slices. It's embarrassing to admit, but it took me a while to figure that out. For some reason, I kept trying to cut the bread like a pie or cake and it doesn't work very well!
Yield: one 8" diameter boule
For the pre-ferment:
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup lager beer (I used Yuengling)
1/2 tsp instant yeast
Mix all pre-ferment ingredients together in a bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter for 6-12 hours. Then place the bowl in the refrigerator for 1-3 days.
1 tsp yeast
1 cup warm water
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
Remove pre-ferment from the refrigerator an hour or so before continuing to allow it to come to room temperature. Transfer the pre-ferment into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast, water, and flour. Mix together and then knead with a dough hook for 6 minutes. Let dough rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the kosher salt over the bread and then knead with the dough hook for an additional 4 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until double.
Prepare a sheet pan with parchment. Gently deflate the dough and shape into a boule by pulling the edges of the ball underneath to form a nice round shape. Place shaped dough on the cooking sheet. Spray with oil and cover with plastic wrap or a barely damp flour-sack towel. Let rise until nearly double.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Before baking, with a very sharp knife or razor, cut an 'X' in the top of the boule about 1/2 an inch deep. When the oven is preheated, place the loaf in and let bake until golden. Shoot for an internal temperature of 200 degrees. It took about 30 minutes in my oven.
Remove bread from oven and let cool slightly before breaking into it. Very yummy with butter melting all over it.