“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”
– James Beard
How far back does bread go? I wonder this a lot. What human was the first to take into consideration grain, grind it, mold it into shape, and bake it warm and crusty?
I want to know which woman first pondered that thought of Saavedra’s and decided that yes, all sorrows are less with bread. Who figured out yeast? (But seriously, who figured out yeast? Weirrrd.)
Whoever they are, these bread discovers, these yeast adventurers, I am indebted to them. Baking your own bread is one of the best experiences. It’s simple, but delicate. It takes patience and it brings your hands in to work alongside your brain.
When you pull out the bread from the oven and it’s hot and crusty and you know you are supposed to wait for it to cool but you have to slice it. It’s the most delicious satisfying and sustaining feeling. It’s good to remember that bread only takes four ingredients. And gosh, a warm slice of fresh bread with melty butter is better than the best chocolate cake.
This bread recipe follows in the footsteps of the pretty popular method of “no knead” bread dough. It isn’t hard at all to follow their instructions and the loaves are all pretty and fresh and you get to make them all yourself. No knead recipes for bread are really wonderful. If yeast scares you, then this is perfect. You’ll be incredulous that something with so few ingredients and a little time came out of your oven.
- 3 cups warm water
- 6½ c. flour
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 1½ Tablespoons active instant yeast (or one packet)
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- The best way to do this is to start with a large plastic container that holds about 6 quarts and has a lid. But if you don't have one, don't worry at all. You can still stir these ingredients in a large bowl. Start with warm water, which in this case means about 105 degrees. But again, don't worry about measuring temperature just stick your finger in. If it's too hot for your finger to be comfortable, it's too hot for those yeasties. Sprinkle the salt, sugar and yeast over the water and stir a few times. Add all the flour at once and stir to make a sticky dough. You will have to stir quite a bit, but once it's all combined you're pretty much done with the hard stuff. If you started with a plastic container just pop the lid on loosely and let it rise. It's going to rise a LOT. It takes about two hours on the counter or cool stove top. Transfer it to the refrigerator to chill for two more hours. You can keep it there for a week in between baking the loaves. The longer it stays in the fridge the more like tangy sourdough it will taste.
- When you are ready to bake your bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with a little flour, stick one hand in that spongy dough and pull up a handful, with a serrated knife saw off a chunk of dough about the size of a large grapefruit. Plop it onto a floured surface and round it into a ball or log. Place it onto a baking sheet or baking stone and sprinkle with flour.
- Let the dough set about 45 minutes, it will spread a little, but not rise much. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and place a shallow metal pan on the bottom rack. Have 1 c. hot water ready. Right before you stick your loaf in the oven, slash the top with a sharp knife a few times, about ½ inch deep. Put the bread in the oven, and pour the cup of hot water into the hot pan you placed there earlier. The water will steam up and bubble. Quickly close the oven door and let the steam do it's work on making that crust. 😉 Bake 25-25 minutes until it's a deep golden brown and crusty. Mmmmmmm...
- Remove from the oven, and let it cool on a rack. Eat it like your life depends on it.