Okay, so I've been asked to share my bread recipe. This recipe is very basic and can be altered all kinds of ways, using different ratios of flour, or with nuts and raisins and seeds and oats added, and the timing is also pretty loose.
In a large bowl, mix 4 cups flour (I personally prefer 1 cup whole wheat and 3 all purpose, but you can mix in rye, spelt, whatever floats your boat) together with 3 tsp salt (I just use large pinches), and a pinch of dry yeast.
(side not here to stem the horror of anyone who thought I was doing sourdough. I have made starters off and on over the past five years, which is a pretty simple process, but ultimately it is just another thing to keep track of. To get sourdough to be great, you need to cook bread when the starter is prime or control the starter's conditions perfectly to line up with your preferred schedule. Using dry yeast allows me to mix up dough on a whim or short notice, and the results are almost as good.)
Mix dry ingredients together with raisins or seeds or whatever, and then add 2 cups warm water. Mix only until all the dry ingredients are hydrated, no more.
Cover bowl with lid (can be loose fitting, that's fine) and let stand 8-16 hours. There is a great deal of leeway here, so bake when it works for you. I often mix up dough in the evening and bake the next morning, or vice versa. If the house is cold, run the oven at 200 for a few minutes, turn it off and stick the bowl in.
Thirty minutes before you intend to bake, heat up a cast iron pot with a lid (crucial point) to 500 in the oven. If the pot has a plastic knob on the lid, replace that with some bolts or wingnuts. If you have a pizza stone, stick that in as well.
Flour a tea towel and flour a counter. Turn out the dough (which will be soft) and gently fold all four edges into the middle. Wrap in the floured towel. Let rise for 30 minutes to two hours (see above about when to heat the pot and oven). When the oven is hot, take out the pot, place the whole tea towel in the bottom, and then REMOVE the tea towel by gently lifting up one edge and letting the dough roll out the bottom.
Bake 30 minutes with the lid ON, 15 minutes with the lid off. Remove bread from pot to cool.
The reason this recipe works so well is that the lidded pot creates a steam chamber, where moisture driven out of the wet dough (which earlier made it easy to mix up) helps to create a thick, chewy crust like bread from the best bakeries. Total hands on time for this is literally about 5 minutes, and the parameters are flexible enough to fit it in around daily life.
For extra credit, you could make a sourdough starter. Just mix equal parts flour and water and leave it out on your counter, stirring it vigorously once a day to fluff it up. You can chuck some apple or grape skins in if the fruit has that whitish bloom on it that you would polish off on your shirt (that's the wild yeast, but you don't need the fruit). Every day when you stir, discard half the mixture and add fresh water and flour.
After about 4-5 days, you should have some bubbling. Keep going! Sticking it in the fridge will make it hibernate, or leave it on the counter and use the part you would discard to leaven pancakes, biscuits, etc. When you mix up bread dough, use at least a half cup starter that seems at its most frothy part of its cycle instead of yeast.
As with anything, there is TONS of nuance that you can get into, but I hope this will convince you to try baking bread. The trick is the wet dough, long rise (no kneading!) and lidded pot in a super hot oven. Have fun!
9/13/2017 01:12:07 pm
Thank you! Looks simple enough what could go wrong :)
12/5/2018 12:29:41 am
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