100% hydration bread

I’ve got a new bread for you, friends! Introducing 100% hydration bread, otherwise known as pan de cristal, or glass bread.

I discovered this bread via a video put out by King Arthur Baking Company, and then promptly proceeded to make it four times in less than a week. After the first bake, I had the recipe memorized — and I still do. It’s very, very simple, feels like magic, tastes delicious, and makes everyone extremely happy, and, because I want you to be happy, too, here you go! 

This bread is the perfect weekend side project, something to do when you’re knocking about the house watering plants and paying bills and organizing the shoe shelf and talking on the phone with your mom. In other words, you gotta be home but you don’t need to be fully present.

And then — and this is the best part — at the end of the day you have fantastic fresh bread to go with that pot of soup you’ve been simmering on the stove, and any leftover bread will make great cheese-and-ham breakfast sandwiches, which are, in case you didn’t already know, the perfect counterpoint to a steaming mug of hot coffee. 

Sold yet? Good.

Let’s get on with it.

100% Hydration Bread (Pan de Cristal)
Adapted from the King Arthur Baking Company.

500 grams warm water
500 grams bread flour
¾ teaspoon yeast
2 teaspoons salt
olive oil, a couple tablespoons 

Measure the water, flour, yeast, and salt into a bowl and stir well. The dough will be the consistency of muffin batter. 

Drizzle some olive oil into at 9×12 pan and smear it all over the bottom and sides. Pour the dough-batter into the pan. Cover with plastic and set the time for 20 minutes. 

for the folds:
Bowl Fold (1): When the timer dings, wet your fingers with water and gently lift the edges of the dough up, folding it back over itself to make a squishy dough puddle.

The dough will be loose, almost impossible to handle. No worries! Set the timer for another 20 minutes. 

Coil Folds (4): When the time timer dings, wet your hands and lift the dough from the middle and then lay it back down, kinda folding it over itself. Turn your hands 90 degrees and repeat the process. Cover and rest for another 20 minutes.

Do this coil fold three more times, letting the dough rest for 20 minutes between folds; I make tally marks to keep track.

By the final coil fold, the dough will be satiny-smooth, boingy-firm, and only barely wet.

1. Oil the underside of the plastic wrap to keep it from sticking to the dough. This won’t fully work, but it will help.
2. Place the pan of dough in your oven on the “bread proof” setting. 

After the final stretch-and-fold, cover the dough and let it rest for 80 minutes, at which point the dough will have poofed to fill the entire pan. 

to shape the dough:
Heavily flour your work surface and gently — don’t deflate the dough! — dump out the dough. Flour the dough and cut it into desired shapes: loaves, baguettes, squares, fingers. (Squares are my favorite.)

Carefully scoop each piece of bread onto a sideless, parchment-lined cookie tray. (If all your trays have sides, flip them upside down.) 

At this point the instructions say to let the bread rest for two hours, uncovered, at room temperature, but I’ve experimented with baking the bread after only a 20-minute rest and couldn’t detect a difference. And when I have let the bread rest the full amount of time, I haven’t noticed the dough changing over the course of those two hours. So do what you will.

for the bake:
Place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat to 475 degrees. Use your sideless cookie sheet as a pizza peel to slide the piece of parchment paper with the bread onto the stone. Bake for 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of the bread and how dark you want it to be. Repeat with the remaining bread. 

Serve the bread fresh, and store any leftovers in a plastic bag. On Day One, the crust is crispy, almost like a cracker, the inside and soft and airy, and the bread itself feels impossibly light. On Day Two (and beyond), after being stored in a bag, the crust turns soft and chewy, which I love.

This same time, years previous: perimenopause: Hillary, age 51, baked pasta with harissa bolognese, the quotidian (2.24.20), homemade pasta, steer sitting, doppelganger, lemon cheesecake morning buns, peanut butter and jelly bars, birds and bugs, bandwagons.

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