The funniest part about this whole business of ours -- you know, the one where we specialize in selling creative, artisan sandwiches and all -- is that until I was about nineteen years old, I despised sandwiches. Like, truly loathed them. My poor mother (God bless her kind soul) probably can attest to this better than anyone. In grade school, while the other kids at my lunch table tore open their brown paper bags to find cellophane wrapped bologna and cheese sandwiches, my lunchbox contained a plastic thermos filled with homemade lentil or chicken and orzo soup, accompanied by a small plastic bag filled with shredded parmesan for sprinkling on top, and a proper metal spoon taken from our kitchen drawer (none of that plastic stuff). Before we go any further, lets get one thing clear: I was in no way a snob. My mother was not a member of our local "Finer Things Club" (we were about as middle class as they came). However, she knew better than to give her little girl (the weird one who literally snarled her lip at cold cuts) two slices of white bread and expect her to eat it like any other kid on our block. Truly, I blame her for feeding into this food fixation that has come to rule my life.
I'm not sure what it was exactly that turned me off to sandwiches so much when I was a kid. However, a child of the eighties (and all the horrible prepackaged preservative filled foods that came with that decade), I suspect it had something to do with the bread. As strange as it sounds, I can vividly remember the look of those soggy sandwiches spread across the lunch table and the way kids would roll the bread up into gooey little balls before shoving them in their mouths all in one bite. Nothing about that bread or, as a result, those sandwiches, looked appetizing to me, even back then.
I like to think my relationship with sandwiches changed one autumn afternoon when I was a freshman studying at the University of Vermont (this was the same year I began to learn more about organic agriculture, joined a local co-op, and signed up for my first CSA...thank God for that year in my life). My roommates and I ventured into downtown Burlington in search of peasant blouses to wear to house parties and a few cool study spots where we could grab coffee and food.
taken from Saveur
1 2/3 cups tap water, heated to 115 degrees
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
3 1/4 cups, plus 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing bowls
2 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2-1 cup ice cubes
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup water and1/2 tsp. yeast; let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add 2/3 cup flour, and mix until a smooth dough forms. Transfer to a lightly floured surface, and knead until fairly smooth, about 2 minutes. Transfer the ball of dough to a greased bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Place bowl in a cold oven, and let sit for 1 hour; transfer bowl to refrigerator, and let sit for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours to ferment. This ball of dough is the biga, a quick and simple starter that imparts large bubbles and a lightly fermented flavor to the dough. Remove biga from refrigerator, and let sit to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Transfer biga to a large bowl and add remaining 1 1/3 cups water and 1 teaspoon yeast; stir until biga breaks up and is partly dissolved in water. Add remaining 3 1/4 cups flour, along with oil and salt, and stir until dough forms. Let the dough sit to allow flour to hydrate, about 20 minutes (the term for this process is called autolysis).
Knead dough, which will be very wet and sticky, in the bowl until it begins to tighten and becomes smooth, about 4 minutes. (The dough for this bread must be very wet to achieve its light and airy texture.) Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and continue kneading, using a bench scraper to help if necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 6 minutes more. At this point, the dough will be sticky to the touch but will release from your hands fairly easily. It will also have formed a tight skin on the outside that can hold its shape when stretched lightly.
Transfer the dough ball to a lightly greased bowl, and cover it with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a cold oven, and let the dough rest until it doubles in size, about 2 hours. (When you press your finger into the dough, the fingerprint should spring back slowly. Lightly dust a sheet of parchment paper with flour, and set it on a rimless baking sheet.)
Lightly dust a work surface with flour, and transfer dough to work surface. Using a bench scraper or a chef's knife, cut dough into two equal–sized pieces, and flatten slightly. Fold the top and bottom edges of one piece toward the middle, and flatten dough at the seam with the palm of your hand; turn dough over, seam side down, and shape into a 12 inch log. Transfer log to the prepared, floured parchment paper, and repeat this folding and shaping procedure with remaining dough piece. Lift the parchment paper between the loaves slightly. Loosely cover dough logs on baking sheet with plastic wrap, and transfer to a cold oven; let sit until dough logs double in size, about 90 minutes. (Because the temperature in kitchens can vary, thus speeding up or slowing down a dough's rise, placing the dough in a cold oven keeps the temperature more constant.)
Remove proofed loaves on baking sheet from oven, and place a cast–iron skillet on the bottom rack of oven; position another rack above skillet, and place a baking stone on top of it. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
Uncover dough logs, and sprinkle with flour; this looks aesthetically pleasing and adds another dimension of flavor from the toasted flour. Using the corner of the parchment paper as a guide, slide the loaves, still on the paper, onto the baking stone; and position evenly on the stone. Place ice cubes in skillet (this produces steam that allows the loaves to rise fully before a crust forms on the exterior). Bake loaves until dark golden brown and crisp, about 50 minutes; let cool before serving.