Easy as ............. bread???

My best friend said I should share my bread baking with you. So here we go.

First of all, I have been baking bread for 40 years and this is the easiest recipe I have ever used. No mixer, no bread machine, no kneading, one bowl and one spoon. Four ingredients! Four! That is all.

I wish I could take credit for the recipe -- I did do some variations and I will share some of those with you. I also did some changes in the technique. But the original recipe is by Mark Bitterman of the New York Times. And he adapted it from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery.

So for those four ingredients ---

3 cups of bread flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1-1/2 to 1-5/8 cup water.

I have added two more ingredients to this bread --
2 tbsp dried herbs
1/4 cup cheese

When it comes to cheese -- I have used Asiago, Romano, Swiss -- almost anything I have had on hand. Today, I used Prairie Breeze from Milton Creamery in Milton, Iowa. It is a cheddar that has a wonderful taste and its local. I buy it at the Davenport Freight House Farmers Market.

For herbs -- I use an all-purpose herb blend from Frontier Cooperative. We like the flavor of 2 tbsps. but you can use less.

Stir all your dried ingredients together. Hey! That was easy.

Now add your water and mix with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula. It is going to be sticky and shaggy ....... Like this!

Ok -------- Now its time for the hard part. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and wait. And wait. And wait. Ok -- in my case, weed, cook supper, read the paper, do a load of laundry, weed some more, spin some yarn and sleep 8 hours! Seriously, let it rise for 12-18 hours. The dough is ready when it's surface is covered in bubbles.

Put the dough on a lightly floured board. Sprinkle some flour on the dough and go "flap" "flap" "flap" a couple of times -- folding the dough in on itself. Then its more of the "waiting" game....... this time for 15 minutes. Be sure to cover the dough with the plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.

Still more waiting, you are going to put the dough into a bowl that has been sprinkled lightly with flour, bran or cornmeal. Then sprinkle just a bit of the same on the top. What I use depends on any variation that I have done. If I have used some oat flour in the mixture -- I may use some oatmeal. If I use cheese or herbs, I almost always use cornmeal. And if I use whole wheat flour, I will use that.

Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and there is one more rise. This is much quicker ......... 2 hours.

Before we bake the bread, I will go over some variations and some techniques that have worked for me. This is a great bread to experiment with. Its very forgiving and you don't have a fortune in ingredients.

When changing the flour around -- don't use any more than 1/3 of the flour in something other than white bread flour. For example -- whole wheat bread -- I use 2 c white bread flour and 1 c whole wheat flour. I have added some hot cereals to the bread to add more flavor -- about 1/3 -1/2 cup. When I do that -- I increase the yeast by another 1/4 tsp. (making 1/2 tsp) and maybe adding 1 tsp of wheat gluten. Watch the amount of water you use, start out using 1-1/2 cup. This summer with our high humidity, I find I am using less water.

I have added chopped sun-dried tomatoes, chopped black olives, sunflower seeds, oatmeal and different herbs and garlic. The only thing I haven't gotten to work was a rye bread. And after 3 tries --- I've given up! Send me your success story on that one!

Final step-- preheat your oven to 450 degrees. YEP! 450! Its a hot one! Then you need a 6 to 8 quart heavy covered pot. If you were given a Le Crueset or a Dansk pan for a wedding gift -- this is the perfect use. Otherwise, a covered cast iron skillet or a small Dutch oven can work.

You need to preheat the pan and the lid. Yea -- when you take it out of the oven, it will be hot. The lid will also be hot. Hmmmmm? Wonder how I knew that one???

Ok -- put the dough into the hot pan -- it may lose its shape --don't worry about it. Give it a shake or two and it will recover while baking. Don't forget the potholders!! Put in the oven with the lid on for 30 minutes.

Now -- take off the lid and bake another 15-30 minutes (yea, you are still at 450 degrees!) I bake mine for approximately 20 minutes more. The smell is incredible! The crust is crunchy and good and the inside is moist and tender and yeasty and earthy. It is a wonderful artisan bread ......... and it is waaay too easy for that label.

So this is what it looks like when its done. It will pop right out of the pan -- remember, we used no fat in the recipe. Let it cool and enjoy. You will need a sharp serrated knife. This bread is great to just pull part and use with seasoned olive oil or for sandwiches.

Hope you enjoy it.......... now its back to the garden and weeding.


I make our own bread, too, and love my all whole-grain, prairie flax seed recipe. But this sounds so easy and yummy, I may have to hunt the thrift stores for a dutch oven!
hiccupp said…
ooh, looks yummy. more importantly, looks about my skill level :)

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