Peasant Bread


  1. flour
  2. water
  3. salt
  4. yeast


  • 3 cups of Flour
  • 11/2 cups of Water
  • 1/4 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon Salt


  1. mix ingredients
  2. cover
  3. string texture of dough emerges
  4. lightly pad it
  5. fold the edges into the center to make a ball
  6. place in a towel sprinkled with wheat bran seam side down
  7. sprinkle wheat bran on top
  8. transfer to cast iron pot or dutch oven preheated at 515 degrees (Pots blazing hot)
  9. cook for 30 minutes with cover closed
  10. 15-20 minutes with cover open (212 degrees 70% humidity for 2/3rds of the baking time in order to allow the steam that is inside the bread to migrate outward)
  11. let it rest and cool down and form a crust


  1. you’ll need about 24 hours to create a loaf;
  2. the dough uses very little yeast,
  3. a quarter teaspoon
  4. the dough is fermented very slowly
  5. He mixes a very wet dough,
  6. about 42 percent water,
  7. which is at the extreme high end of the range that professional bakers use to create crisp crust and large, well-structured crumb, both of which are evident in this loaf.
  8. The dough is so sticky that you couldn’t knead it if you wanted to.
  9. It is mixed in less than a minute,
  10. then sits in a covered bowl, undisturbed, for about 18 hours.
  11. It is then turned out onto a board for 15 minutes, quickly shaped (I mean in 30 seconds),
  12. and allowed to rise again, for a couple of hours.
  13. Then it’s baked
  14. time brings the gluten molecules into side-by-side alignment to maximize their opportunity to bind to each other and produce a strong, elastic network.
  15. The wetness of the dough is an important piece of this because the gluten molecules are more mobile in a high proportion of water, and so can move into alignment easier and faster than if the dough were stiff.”
  16. produces a resulting combination of great crumb, lightness, incredible flavor — long fermentation gives you that — and an enviable, crackling crust, the feature of bread that most frequently separates the amateurs from the pros.
  17. it requires getting moisture onto the bread as the crust develops.
  18. To get that kind of a crust, professionals use steam-injected ovens.
  19. this problem is solved by putting the dough in a preheated covered pot — a common one, a heavy one, but nothing fancy.
  20. For one loaf he used an old Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot; for another, a heavy ceramic pot. (I have used cast iron with great success.)
  21. By starting this very wet dough in a hot, covered pot, Mr. Lahey lets the crust develop in a moist, enclosed environment.
  22. The pot is in effect the oven, and that oven has plenty of steam in it.
  23. Once uncovered, a half-hour later, the crust has time to harden and brown, still in the pot, and the bread is done.
  24. Fear not. The dough does not stick to the pot any more than it would to a preheated bread stone.)

Chef's measure by weight, cooks measure by volume
imprecision isn’t much of a handicap if the method compensates:
“I encourage a somewhat careless approach,” he

  1. The loaf is incredible, a fine-bakery quality, European-style boule that is produced more easily than by any other technique I’ve used, and will blow your mind.
  2. although it requires far less electricity than conventional baking, it takes a lot of space and time
  3. It is best made with bread flour, but all-purpose flour works fine. (I’ve played with whole-wheat and rye flours, too; the results are fantastic.)
  4. Long, slow fermentation is critical for 12 to 18 hours, but I have had much greater success at the longer time.
  5. Similarly, Mr. Lahey’s second rising can take as little as an hour, but two hours, or even a little longer, works better.

trouble shooting

  • two drawbacks of this recipe
  • 1. the unkneaded bread does not rise enought to guarantee the shape of the loaf upon completion
  • 2. the flavour of the crumb inside lacked complexity
  1. the shaping problem was addressed by neading the dough for 15 seconds two hours before baking
  2. the flavour problem was addressed with the addition of some light lager beer to the dough mixture


  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
  • ¼ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.


  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt.
  2. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended;
  3. dough will be shaggy and sticky.
  4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.
  5. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
  6. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles.
  7. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it;
  8. sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice.
  9. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.
  10. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball.
  11. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal.
  12. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours.
  13. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  14. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees.
  15. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats.
  16. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven.
  17. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  18. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned.
  19. Cool on a rack.

now let's create a recipe that doesn't require an 18 hour wait, and handling scalding hot pots

Red Fife Flour

  • Red fife flour is almost always available exclusively in whole wheat form - it is not bleached, and therefore creates a hearty, earthy end product. It is suitable for breads, biscuits and some pastas, but may not be desirable in items where a finer texture is required, such as cakes, cookies or thickened sauces.

Peterborough's County Road 4, also known as David Fife Line,

Red Fife Pappardelle

  • In 1842, when Ontario farmer David Fife first planted the seeds a friend had sent from Glasgow,
  • Growing conditions in Ontario's Otonabee Township weren't par- ticularly suitable for Siberian wheat,
  • the variety local farmers were pro- ducing prior to 1842.
  • Yields were low and it was susceptible to rust and sensitive to frost, so growers were highly motivated to find a replace- ment.
  • The Glasgow seeds, likely a strain of Ukrainian Halychanka, bode well for survival in our northern climate.
  • Unfortunately, perambulating cows ate most of the first year's crop.
  • Thanks to the quick-witted Mrs. Fife,
  • three precious heads were saved and the following year she sowed the remaining seed alongside a plot of conventional Siberian.
  • The old standard succumbed to rust.
  • The Glasgow seeds, which were planted later and matured earlier, produced rust-free wheat and a greater yield.
  • Soon farmer Fife was supplying his neighbours with seed, and the local agricultural society was distributing seed to its members.
  • By the time David Fife passed away in 1877, Red Fife wheat, named for him as well as for its distinctive red kernel, had made its way across Ontario,
  • into the northern United States, and as far west as the Prairies, where it was en- thusiasrically embraced.
  • "The glorious Fife," as it was often called, reigned supreme until the early 1900s,
  • when its progeny, Marquis - which ripened ten days earlier - ascended the throne.
  • But Red Fife remains the ancestor of vir- tually all wheat grown in Canada.
  • Without the efforts of seed-saver ac- tivist Sharon Rempel, however, this Canadian artifact might have completely disappeared.
  • In 1989, as part of a heritage wheat project, Rempel acquired a pound of precious seed from a Saskatchewan plant breeder who was re- tiring.
  • She planted Red Fife at the historic grist mill in Keremeos, British Columbia, along with six other historically significant varieties that had also fallen from grace.
  • In the world of high-yield, high-input industrial farming, there is little place for Red Fife, a "landrace" or "traditional" seed known for its flavour and its adaptability to a wide variety of grow- ing conditions.
  • Its unique qualities are abhorred in the commercial wheat world, which values high yield and standardization, and virtu- ally dismisses the significance of flavour.
  • When Sharon Rempel planted her seeds she had a vision: someday Red Fife would be grown again commercially.
  • To a considerable degree, that image has materialized.
  • Red Fife is produced by small-scale farm- ers - mostly, if not exclusively, organic- who grow it outside the WheatBoard's tracking system.
  • The movement originated in the West and from there gradually spread across the country.
  • In 2007, approximately five hundred tons of Red Fife was harvested, from as far west as the Gulf Is- lands in British Columbia to eastern Nova Scotia.
  • Interestingly, it didn't return to County Road 4 until 2005 when four women, all of whom live and farm on David Fife Line, decided to resurrect this for- gotten chapter in their local history.
  • "We realized we lived on David Fife Line and very few people had any sense of what that meant," commented Helen Knibb, a member of the Fife Line Sisterhood, as they christened themselves.
  • "We felt com- pelled to acknowledge our agricultural history; it's part of our heritage."
  • They contacted Saskatchewan farmer Marc Loiselle, who became interested in Red Fife in 2001, and has made it his mission to provide seeds for growers across the country.
  • Virtually all the Red Fife seed planted in Ontario comes from him, although local farmers are starting to produce their own.
  • The Sisterhood planted one-and-a-quarter acres their first year, and, with the help of local farmer Peter Leahy, who was growing a small amount himself, produced a second crop, but they didn't have the infrastructure to grow the grain on a much larger scale and bowed out of the business.
  • Leahy's interest was whetted and he has gradually increased the quantity he grows at Merrylynd, his certified or- ganic family farm just outside Peterborough.
  • Last year he planted fifty acres, a relatively large quantity in the Red Fife world.
  • Like others I spoke with, Leahy says he doesn't have enough to keep up with the demand.
  • "People from Jamie Kennedy's called me recently," he told me in early April,
  • "but I couldn't give them any flour.
  • I need to keep some for seed."
  • At least two other farmers are growing Red Fife in Ontario - Patricia Hastings at the Centre for Integrated Pest Manage-ment (CIPM) in Madoc and Sean McGivern of Saugeen Specialty Grains in the Owen Sound area.
  • The largest market for Red Fife flour is artisanal bread bakers, who love its distinctive flavour and reddish brown crust.
  • Supply permitting, they have been baking with it at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar in Toronto, and it turns up at top restaurants across the country, including Bishop's in Vancouver, Calgary's River Cafd and Sooke Harbour House on Van- couver Island.
  • At Thuet in Toronto, chef Marc Thuet is taking a leaf out ofMario Batali's book and working his magic with house-made or- ganic Red Fife lasagnette.
  • There's little doubt that much of the interest from those in the know stems from Slow Food International's 2004 Terra Madre event in Turin, Italy.
  • The previous year, the Vancouver Island chapter of Slow Food nominated Red Fife for the Ark of Taste, the equivalent of the academy award for food.
  • It made the cut in 2004 and now ranks as Canada's sole entry on this international list, which recognizes histori- cally significant products of exceptional quality.
  • Throughout the four- day Terra Madre conference, Cliff Leir of Victoria's Wildfire Bakery baked his legendary sourdough bread at a bakery in Turin, using flour provided by Marc Loiselle.
  • It was an incredible success. "I was blown away by the reaction," comments Loiselle.
  • "Here we were in Italy where people know something about good bread, and they were saying, "This is the best bread I've ever tasted."
  • The word spread quickly. Glen Roberts of Anson Mills, a company based in Columbia, South Carolina that specializes in growing organic heirloom grains, heard about Red Fife from friends in Maine who are ar- tisan bakers.
  • They were wild about its crisping tendencies as well as its flavour.

"I'm in the business of resurrecting lost food," he comments, and the response in Italy, plus the fact that it represented the work of a well- respected seeds man, convinced me to pursue Red Fife."

  • He now imports seed from Loiselle and is growing it as winter wheat in Columbia and on the South Carolina coast. He is also looking at expanding production.
  • Western Canada is not only the breadbasket of the world, it's the pasta bowl and its farmers could be known as "Spaghetti Farmers."
  • After all, there are 10,000 of them growing high quality durum wheat — the ideal kind for pasta — and they not only grow more durum wheat than anywhere else on earth but they dominate the world market.
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