Burn baby burn!
There’s something about those really dark scorched loaves, that really intense flavour and smell, that really crisp crust which cracks and splinters as you cut into it…..
It’s kind of hard to acheive in a domestic oven but here’s my best attempt so far.
Knock up a dough, bit like this
Aim for something with a bit of give, just on the slack side of standard.
Give it a good long prooving. You’re going to put it into a really hot oven so you wont get much oven spring. It’ll stay pretty much the same size as it was when you put it in the oven as the outer crust will form quite quickly, so make sure its well risen.
Get your oven as hot as it will go, my electric fan oven takes a good 15 minutes to get up to 240 C. Add a tray of water to the bottom of the oven, this will produce steam which will help the crust form.
But the loaf in the oven and spray the tray and loaf with water, spray again every 10 minutes or so.
Now you have to be brave, let it burn.
How long it will take will, of course, depend on how hot your oven is, how big the loaf is etc etc, mine baked for about 35 mins. But just keep watching the colour, you want a deep dark brown. Once you’re happy with it take it out and leave it to cool. This is really important, make sure it is completely cold before you cut it.
The bread is losing moisture as it cools, as much as 20% of it’s weight will be lost as the moist interior dries out. The starch granules that form the crumb will get firmer too and the burnt flavours from the crust will diffuse into the loaf.
If you can, save some for tomorrow and the flavour will be even stronger. The staling process really helps this kind of loaf and the first stage can take up to a day from baking.