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Country Pistolettes

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans, LA,
July 25, 2002

by Constance Snow

“There's a catch to making good crusty rolls. You must allow enough time (at least 10 hours total) for three extended risings at room temperature. You can cut that
in half with quick-action yeast and warmer surroundings, but it will affect the
flavor and character of the final product. Like any true French bread, this is a
project for a leisurely day.
Don't be discouraged by the long list of instructions. They're not complicated,
and if you follow carefully, you'll be rewarded by crackly rustic pistolettes.
This recipe is a good one for beginners, as the dough is relatively easy to work
and forgiving of minor errors. You may use it to make pistolettes or hard rolls,
as directed, or to make two to four larger rounds. Either way, the leftovers freeze
well. Though the author, bread expert Bernard Clayton, calls for baking sheets,
you'll get an even crisper crust if you use a pizza stone. You can also simulate a
brick oven with unglazed quarry tiles from a building supply store. Place around
six (each 5 1/2 inches square) on the middle rack, then dust them with cornmeal
and slide the dough directly onto the hot tiles to bake.”


Country Pistolettes
Adapted from "Bernard Clayton's
New Complete Book of Breads" (Fireside, 1995)

Makes 12 to 24 pistolettes or rolls

Starter
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup hot water (120 to 130 degrees F.)
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup bread or all-purpose flour,
approximately
1 cup whole-wheat flour

To make the starter, in a large mixing bowl dissolve the honey in the hot
water and add the yeast. Add a half-cup each white and whole-wheat flour
to make a thick batter. Add the balance of the flours to make a shaggy mass
that can be worked with the hands. Knead for three minutes. Toss in liberal
sprinkles of flour if the dough is slack or sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic
wrap and leave at room temperature for at least four hours. (Left overnight
it will gather even more flavor and strength.)

Bread
2 cups hot water (120 to
130 degrees F.)
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 to 3 cups bread or all-purpose flour,
approximately

To make the dough, pour the hot water over the starter. Stir with a large wooden spoon or rubber scraper, or the flat beater of a mixer, to break up
the dough. Add the salt.
Place two cups each of whole-wheat and white flour at the side of the
mixing bowl, and add equal parts of each, one-half cup at a time, first stir-
ring with a spoon and then working it with your hands, or with the dough
hook. (It may take more white flour to make a mass that is not sticky.)
Lift from the bowl if to be kneaded by hand, or leave in the mixer bowl
if with the dough hook.
If by hand, place the dough on the floured work surface and begin to
knead the dough aggressively with a strong motion of push-turn-fold.
If the dough is slack and sticky, add sprinkles of flour. Once in a while,
lift the dough high above the work surface and bring it down with a
crash to speed the process. Do this three or four times and then resume kneading. Knead by hand, or with the dough hook, for 10 minutes.
Place the ball of dough in a greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap,
and leave at room temperature to double in volume, three to four hours.
Push down the dough and turn out onto a well-floured work surface.
Divide the dough into the desired number of pieces and shape it firmly
with cupped hands into pistolette shapes, tight balls or larger round loaves.
Place on greased baking sheets and press down to flatten slightly. Leave
the rolls (or loaves) under wax paper to triple in size, about 2 1/2 hours
at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. 20 minutes before baking. Place a
broiler pan on the bottom rack. Five minutes before the bread goes into
the oven, pour one cup hot water in the pan to create a moist, steamy
oven. (Be extremely cautious here, as the steam -- especially the initial
burst - can burn you. Use a long-handled pot or small watering can to
pour in the water and take care when opening the oven door afterward.)
Place the loaves on the middle rack. Midway through baking, shift the
loaves to balance the effect of the oven's heat. They're done when golden
brown, in 15 to 20 minutes. (Larger loaves of bread should bake for 40 to
50 minutes.) The bottom crust will sound hard and hollow when tapped
with a forefinger. Place on metal rack to cool.

The Times-Picayune. Used with permission


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