Yes, I’m still rather obsessed with the concept of rustic, artisan bread.
Baking the bread, and serving it fresh, warm out of the oven, slathered in melty golden butter is one of my very favorite things to do these days.
I can’t get enough of it.
Don’t you wish you were a neighbor or a friend, as I’m bursting with baked goods and simply adore the concept of gifting the gourmet goodness.
This time I delivered the utter uniqueness of a ginger-lime flavored crusty bread, with a spicy sweet jalapeño butter.
My better half was a little bit worried about the concept.
I was not.
And in the end, he was so very grateful for my ambition and bravery in the kitchen!
Ginger Lime Artisan Bread & Jalapeño Honey Butter
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, plus more for the broiler tray
1 1/2 tsp. granulated yeast (active dry, instant, quick rise, or bread machine is fine)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, measured by the scoop-and-sweep method
Warm the water just a little so that it feels just slightly warmer than body temperature. In the large bowl of a standing mixer or a 6-quart container with a lid, mix the yeast, warm water, and salt. Don’t worry about getting the yeast to dissolve. Add the lime zest and juice, ginger, and flour all at once, then use a spoon or stand mixer to mix until the flour is completely incorporated and you have a blobby dough. (If you’re hand-mixing the dough and it becomes too difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, just use very wet hands to press the mixture together.) Don’t knead the dough! It’s not necessary. You just want the dough to be uniformly wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container. All you need to do is be certain that there are no dry patches of flour.
Loosely cover the container and let the dough hang out at room temperature until it begins to rise and collapse or at least flatten a little on the top, about 2 hours. (Relax. It’s bread dough, not a newborn. You don’t need to monitor it constantly. And don’t worry about the dough being precisely double or triple its original volume as you would with a traditional bread recipe. Just walk away, go about your business, and come back in 2 hours. Seriously.)
After 2 hours, stash the container of dough in the fridge. That’s it. (If your container isn’t vented, you want to ensure the gases can escape by leaving the cover open a crack for the first couple days in the fridge; after that, you can seal it.) You can use the dough anytime after the initial 2-hour rise, although the refrigerated wet dough is less sticky and easier to work with than dough at room temperature, so it’s best to refrigerate the dough overnight before handling it. Once refrigerated, the dough will seem to have shrunk back upon itself as though it will never rise again—that’s normal. Whatever you do, do not punch down this dough. You’re trying to retain as much gas in the dough as possible, and punching it down knocks gas out and results in denser loaves. Just be certain to use the dough at some point within 14 days.
When you want to bake a loaf of artisan bread, dust a pizza peel or a baking sheet turned upside down with cornmeal or line it with parchment paper. Grab a hunk of the dough and use a serrated knife or scissors to cut off the size you’d like to bake. I divided this recipe into two loaves.
Hold the dough in your hands and, if necessary, add just enough flour so the dough doesn’t stick to your hands. (What you’re trying to do is surround the surface of the dough with flour so that it can be handled. You are not trying to incorporate more flour into the dough, so for the love of all things good, resist the temptation to get rid of all the dough’s inherent and lovely stickiness by working the flour into the dough.) Gently stretch the surface of the dough, tucking the ends underneath the ball and rotating it a quarter turn as you go. Most of the dusting flour will fall off, and that’s okay, because as we just said, it’s not intended to be incorporated into the dough. The bottom of the ball of dough may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out and adhere during resting and baking. Your round loaf of bread should be smooth and cohesive, and the entire shaping process should take no more than 20 to 40 seconds—don’t work the dough any longer or your loaves may be dense. Place the shaped ball of dough on the prepared pizza peel and let it rest for about 40 minutes. It doesn’t need to be covered. You may not see much rise during this period, but don’t fret. It will rise much more during baking.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Preheat a baking stone on a middle rack for at least 20 to 30 minutes. Place an empty metal broiler tray on any rack that won’t interfere with the rising bread. (Do not use a glass pan as it could shatter.)
Dust the top of the raised loaf generously with flour and, using a serrated bread knife, slash a 1/2-inch-deep cross or tic-tac-toe pattern in the top. There’s no need to dust the flour off the loaf.
Place the far edge of the peel or the upside-down baking sheet in the oven on the baking stone a few inches beyond where you want the bread to land. Give the peel or baking sheet a couple quick back-and-forth jiggles and then abruptly pull it out from under the loaf. The loaf should land on the baking stone with very little drama. Quickly but carefully pour about 1 cup hot water into the broiler tray and immediately shut the oven door to trap the steam. Bake the bread for a total of 20 to 35 minutes, until the crust is richly browned and firm to the touch. (Don’t worry. Because the dough is so wet, there’s very little risk of it becoming dry despite how dark the crust may become.) And crazily enough, a perfectly baked loaf will audibly crackle, or “sing,” when initially exposed to room temperature. Let the loaf cool completely, preferably on a wire rack for the best flavor, texture, and slicing. The crust may initially soften but will firm when cooled.
Jalapeño Honey Butter:
8 Tbs. salted butter
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
2 Tbs. honey
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the pepper and simmer for 5-10 minutes, taking extra caution not to let the butter burn. Transfer to a medium bowl and whisk in honey. Allow to cool so that the butter becomes solid (room temperature) once again.
Slather the spicy sweet butter all over that bread, fresh out of the oven.