This bread is a relative newcomer to our table, but it immediately became a favorite — the crusty loaf we’d been looking for — the first night I served it.
A friend had given me her recipe for lager bread, which I tried with wheat beer (because that’s what we had in the house). We liked the result, and thought the texture was quite good, but I kept wondering what it would taste like if I tried it with hard cider. One evening this fall, Jason brought me home a case of shiny green cans of Jack’s hard cider. He’s a beer connoisseur — even doing some of his own brewing — but my drink of choice is usually a crisp hard apple cider.
Thinking back to the sourdough starter I made a few years ago according to a recipe in 52 Loaves, which extracted wild yeast from apple peels, I wondered about a starter-less recipe made with cider. And the more I looked at the lager bread recipe, the more I thought it could use more than just a third of a cup of alcohol.
So, one night, I dumped about 3 cups of flour into a bowl, mixed in 1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and popped open a can of Jack’s. I poured about 2 tablespoons of the 12-ounce can into a glass and savored it while I emptied the can into the bowl, stirring in the foamy liquid to hydrate the flour mixture. I covered it and left the dough on the counter overnight. After lunch the next day, I kneaded it a bit, adding a bit more flour to make it workable, and formed a boule on a piece of parchment paper, as the lager bread recipe had suggested.
While I take credit for the simple ingredient list of this recipe, I must note that this technique is truly effortless and yet ingenious, and not of my own invention. Instead of allowing the loaf to rise on a towel inside a colander or bowl, as many of the famous “no-knead” recipes have suggested, this recipe simply calls for rising on a sheet of parchment paper, which is used to lower the loaf into the preheated dutch oven — and to take it out again when it’s done baking. It’s seriously the easiest loaf of crusty bread I’ve ever made, and the most flavorful too.
I preheat the oven to 500 degrees (with my cast-iron dutch oven in it) about 45 minutes before I bake the bread, and I bake each loaf for about 25 minutes with the lid on and 20-25 minutes with the lid off. The exterior is perfectly crisp and bursting with tangy flavor; the interior has a tender, slightly chewy crumb with a sourdough aroma. It’s the bread I’ve been trying to bake for years, and it’s easier than pie.
And this, my friends, is why we are out of Jack’s hard cider.