Good luck keep your hands off this delightful loaf before it cools.
“Despite knowing better, I am completely incapable of letting freshly baked bread cool down before eating it,” Richard Vana, a friend and the owner of the Heritage Table, a quaint American everything-from-scratch-and-we’d-grow-our-own-heritage-wheat-if-we-could restaurant in a 100-year-old house in Frisco, Texas, recently told me. It’s true for me. I think it’s true for most people. Whether it’s rustic crusty loaves that leave no chance of a successful sneaky nosh or the squishy yeast rolls accompanying a holiday meal, bread has a pull on us.
Maybe bread’s pull on our appetite and willpower is found in the critical role grain domestication played in the rise of civilization. Rich thinks so. “It’s a primal instinct that when you smell and taste fresh bread, it’s sustenance at its basest level,” he tells me over the phone ahead of the Heritage Table’s lunch rush. “It’s where things start.” Maybe it’s that well-crafted bread is an addictive marvel. “Professional bakers have learned to overcome the temptation to destroy their product by diving into the bread too early,” Rich says, before poking fun at himself. “I, on the other hand, have a slight proclivity toward baking and am unable to control the urge quite frequently.” Its vessel of creation does not matter one whit. Bread can be baked in ancient earthen ovens, commercial tray ovens, or, in the case of cowboy chuck wagon cook Kent Rollins, Dutch ovens.
You’ll find Rollins’ yeast rolls recipe in print and online here. But, below, is the bread recipe Rich Vana feels is worth burning his fingers for.
1 head garlic
3 tablespoons Parmesan, shredded
14 ounces high-gluten flour or bread flour
2 ounces rye flour
2 ounces wheat flour
13 ounces water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2½ teaspoons salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut off the top of the garlic head and drizzle with olive oil. Roast in oven for 35 – 40 minutes, until cloves are soft. Let garlic cool a little. Squeeze garlic cloves out of the head and mix thoroughly with the Parmesan. Set aside.
Mix all ingredients except garlic and Parmesan in stand mixer until dough is stretchy and nearly translucent when pulled. Fold in the garlic and Parmesan. Bulk proof in an oiled, covered bowl until doubled, which can take 45 – 90 minutes, depending on the yeast and the room temperature.
Heat oven to 400 degrees. If you’ve got a baking stone, it’s time to put it in there.
Divide dough into 2 pieces and shape into boules. Cover and let proof again until doubled. Score the bread immediately before putting it in the oven.
Put in oven, then splash ½ cup of water on bottom of the oven. Be cautious, it’s going to create some steam. Close oven immediately. Repeat this process 1 minute later.
Cook bread for 25 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 195 degrees. Let cool completely, about 40 minutes, before cutting and eating.
For more information on the Heritage Table, visit the restaurant’s website. Subscribe to the forthcoming monthly Taste of the West e-newsletter below.