This superb bread recipe comes from Domaine de l’Arlot in Burgundy (France) where it is made every day by the lady of the house, Madame de Smet. Madame, as you might imagine, entertains a lot of visitors to the highly acclaimed Domaine and needs food preparation to be as easy as pouring great wine. Joan Lawrence of Aurum Wines in Central Otago, whose son Brook worked at Domaine de l’Arlot for a time and returned home clutching the recipe, is the source.
The cleverness of Domaine de l’Arlot’s bread is that you don’t have to knead it, nor wait around for the loaves to prove. The dough is made quite wet, leavened by a generous amount of yeast and proved in the fridge overnight. Next day you just take the bowl from the fridge, let it come to room temperature, form the sticky dough into rustic shapes and pop it in a cold oven set to 220C. As the oven heats up the bread proves. Fifty minutes later – eh voila! – a fabulously rustic French/Italian style bread with chewy texture and big holes, brilliant with a piece of ripe Brie and glass of, appropriately, pinot noir.
I’m going to make this bread, again and again, using different brand flours, a little more or less water depending on weather conditions, adjusting the time spent out of the fridge before shaping and experimenting with other shapes until Domaine de l’Arlot’s bread is truly at one with my local conditions. I trust that you’ll want to do the same.
1 kg strong unbleached bread flour (Lowan’s is good) 1 tbsp instant yeast 1 tbsp salt (please don’t be tempted to use less) 950ml lukewarm water extra flour for dusting and shaping Place the flour, yeast and salt in a very large bowl. Mix in the water to make a quite wet, sticky dough. Use your hands to mix around well. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight. Next day, take the bowl from the fridge and leave it to come back to room temperature. Prepare two flat trays by lining with baking paper and sprinkling generously with flour. Using a dough scraper remove the dough from the bowl to a floured bench. Cut the dough in half. With floured hands lightly shape each piece into a round. Place the dough on floured trays and press/pull lightly into flattish ciabatta shapes. Flip them over so that the wrinkled, floured sides are now on top. Place the trays in a cold, fan-forced oven set to 220C. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on wire racks.