Hot Cross Buns was the first recipe selected in the Hamelman Challenge and was largely a trial run. The next official recipe was the Rustic Bread. It along with Bagels and Rye filled out the first full month of recipes.
As a place to start, the Rustic Bread was an inspired choice. This is definitely a solid recipe and a practical place to begin. The inclusion of 10% rye and 10% whole wheat gives a bread that is neither a wimpy white bread nor an heavy, stogy whole grain bread. The use of a pre-ferment, rye, and whole wheat build a satisfyingly complex flavor. 60% hydration gave a loaf that had a more open crumb, but that will still relatively tight and useful as a sandwich bread. While I love ciabatta, it is not the most practical bread for a sandwich with a leaky filling. This bread would work fine. The only down side to the bread is the boules I’ve made have been a little too flat. This is something I don’t fully understand, but need to work on.
I’ve made the recipe three times now and definitely plan to continue making it. The first time through, I stuck closely to the original recipe. I used 10 rather than 9.6 oz of water and still had a shaggy pre-ferment. The only other problem I encountered was the pre-ferment did not completely mix into the dough on my first try. This gave a bread with a slightly marbled appearance. Otherwise, the bread was fine and the problem was easy to correct in subsequent loaves. I simply added the pre-ferment to the mixer in smaller pieces and a bit earlier.
The second and third tries I played around with the cooking methods. The second time around I made one boule using a cloche lid over the bread. (I soaked the lid and then preheated it along with the pizza stone starting in a cold oven.) With a 1½ pound loaf, the boule had too much oven spring. It expanded all the way to the cloche and stuck to it. Still, I got a great crust this way and a really good oven spring. With the third try, I tried a 1 pound loaf with the cloche and this worked nicely. Still, I was right to the limit of the capacity of my cloche. I’ve also used some of the dough to make smaller rolls decreasing the cooking time. This worked very nicely.