October 31, 2009

Easy Homemade Bread

Water, yeast, salt, flour, cornmeal, a broiler pan, and a pizza stone. If you have these seven things, you can make your own bread. A stand mixer won't hurt, but it's not required. As with most baking recipes, and especially if you're making bread for the first time, it's important to follow the directions exactly. I'll give you a few specifics later of what not to do, learned by my brother's mistakes and my far less significant mistakes. Once you combine all of the ingredients there is very little active cooking time involved, and there's no need to be intimidated by bread-making with this recipe. Or should I say there's no knead to be intimidated. Hi-yo!


3 cups lukewarm water
1-1/2 tbsp yeast
1-1/2 tbsp yeast
6-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Note 1: If you want a little more clarification or more details, click on the Mother Earth News link above.
Note 2: This recipes makes four 1-lb. loaves.

Heat the water to 105-115 degrees. Add the water, the yeast, and the salt to the bowl of a stand mixer or to a large bowl with a lid. Give it a quick stir.

Add the flour 1/2 cup or 1 cup at a time by scooping it up and then leveling it off with a knife. Mix with every addition, with either the dough hook of the mixer or with a wooden spoon. The first time my mom and I made this recipe we just dumped all the flour in at once, and I don't think it made that much of a difference in the end result so do whatever works for you.

Keep adding flour and mixing until all of the flour is incorporated. The dough will be very moist.

Cover the bowl loosely with a towel, and let the dough rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, until the dough rises and then flattens on top. Letting the dough sit out for up to five hours will not hurt it.

Here it is after 3 or 4 hours. You can skip to the baking process at this point, but it will be easier to work with if you refrigerate it for a few hours.

After a few hours of refrigeration, dust the top of the dough with flour.

Since the recipe makes four 1-lb. loaves I think it's easiest to score the dough before cutting off a piece so you end up with uniform loaves.

Dust a pizza peel with cornmeal. Holding the dough in your hands (and adding more flour if it's too sticky), turn the dough over itself, from the top to the bottom. Rotate a quarter turn and repeat so you have four bunched ends on the bottom. If that's confusing just think of a mushroom cap, but instead of having a hollow bottom, the dough that you pull around fills up what would be the hollow space.

Let the dough rest on the peel for 40 minutes before baking. After 20 minutes turn on the oven t0 450, with the pizza stone on the the middle rack and an empty pan for water on another rack. Before going into the oven, liberally dust the top of the loaf with flour and make a few slashes in it.

When the 40 minutes is up, transfer the dough to the pizza stone, pour a cup of hot water into the broiler tray to create steam, and quickly shut the door. This is where my brother totally blew it the first time he tried this recipe. In case you are a ditz like he is, here is a warning: never pour a cup of cold water into a preheated glass pan. Especially if that glass pan is on a rack above your bread. Unless, of course, you enjoy eating crunchy bread which gets its crunch from shards of glass.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the outside is browned and firm.

The remainder of the dough can be kept in the refrigerator for a couple weeks. Store it in a container with a lid, but not one that is airtight. I used a lidded container and just set the lid on top instead of sealing it. The longer the dough hangs out in the fridge, the more it will take on a sourdough flavor. You can also reserve a little of the dough from your last loaf to incorporate into the next batch of dough for a more immediate sourdough flavor.

Repeat the same steps as before with the remaining dough, dusting the top with flour and cutting off a piece of dough.

I decided to make my second loaf slightly larger, using about 2/3 of the remaining dough.

This is where I messed up. I was slightly distracted by putting the final touches on my Margot Tenenbaum costume that I forgot to dust the loaf with flour or make slashes in it before throwing it in the oven.

I still ended up with a nice loaf of bread, but it was a loaf of bread with a tumor shooting out of it. Maybe it was more of a goiter. The mark on the top of the loaf is from my unsuccessful attempt to make a slash after it had been baking for 20 minutes.

This loaf was a little more dense than the last, probably from it's large size and lack of slashes on the top which give it room to grow. It's still delicious, though.

Happy Halloween from my nearly-albino piece of candy corn!

And happy birthday to the cutest cupcake-eyeballing one-year-old I know.

Who is slightly unsure of what to think about dolls that are nearly as tall as he is. Happy Birthday, Nolan!



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