Daily Bread

"Since the carb police have been patrolling twenty-four hours a day, bread seems to have become public enemy number one.  To me it's just sad that so many people are forgoing one of life's most elemental pleasures for the sake of a dead-end weight-loss strategy . . . Does bread make people fat? Ridiculous!  Too much of most things will make you fat, of course.  But there's nothing wrong with bread per se.  Eliminating it from one's diet is lamentable, probably unhealthy . . . and very un-French."
Mireille Guiliano, in French Women Don't Get Fat

(If you are having to live gluten free - I am so sorry.  I hope you can find a bread that suits your needs.  You can stop reading this post now if you like.)

I've been baking bread for my family for 15 years.  I bought a Bosch mixer and a Grain Master Whisper-Mill when my oldest son was a few months old.  I'd buy 50 pound bags of organic wheatberries, grind my own flour, and bake the most delicious and nutritious bread for my family every week.  As the years went on, I waxed and waned on the baking of this basic bread, adding others to my line-up, winning a few county fair ribbons along the way, and becoming fearless in the use of flour-yeast-water-salt.  Pizza dough, baguettes, sandwich bread, cinnamon rolls, and many more delights have been a passion of mine for a very long time.

Crusty bread intimated me.  I figured I didn't have a wood burning oven that could make the perfect hard crust and tender, holey inside, so why bother?  The bakery makes such nice offerings!  Stubbornness and pride drove me to find a way.

For a while, I'd been making the baguette recipe out of the above-quoted book.  It was good!  I bought the correct pans - perforated with many tiny holes to let in air and steam, creating a nice crust all around the loaf.  My family liked the bread.  A combo of white and whole wheat flour was fine, all-white produced the lightest and tastiest loaves, though.

Then my friend Gwen at www.gwens-nest.com came through with an amazing, revolutionary, simple and perfect bread recipe.  Truly, it has taken over my kitchen life!  I've used it for bread, pizza dough, cinnamon swirl bread, savory herb-cheese bread and more.  It is unlike anything I've ever made before, and since I'm so excited, I need to tell you how I make it.  Please visit Gwen, she has step-by-step pictures which are helpful to understand the process and oddness of it all :)  I've tweaked her recipe a bit to suit my taste, and thankfully found out she tweaked her own recipe she got from someone else.  And so it goes, and so it should be!

You can make this bread from start to finish in a couple hours, including rise time.  BUT, the longer the dough stays in the refrigerator, the better-developed the flavors get.  The beauty of this bread?  Few ingredients, no kneading, fast baking, yummy taste and satisfying texture.  Try it!  You'll love it!

You'll need: 
*  a large mixing bowl
*  a wooden spoon
*  plastic wrap
*  a baking stone
*  a "peel" or an upside-down baking sheet
*  parchment paper

Daily Bread

3 1/2 cups water, "blood warm" which means about 100 degrees
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
1 heaping tablespoon dried yeast
6 1/2 - 7 cups flour - organic, unbleached is best - I am experimenting with some whole-wheat, too

Pour water into a large mixing bowl, add salt, sugar and yeast.  Stir until dissolved.  Add flour and stir until a thick and sticky dough forms, and all flour is incorporated.  THAT'S IT!  Cover with plastic wrap.  Place on your counter out of the way for an hour.

At the point, the dough will rise and completely surprise you with its size, bubbly-yeasty appearance and fragrance.  In an hour or so, you can shape and bake.  But if you put it in the refrigerator and let it sit for a few hours, or overnight, or a day or two, the flavor will develop, strengthen, and take on a more yeasty component.  At that point, you can just pull off a hunk and shape and bake, leaving the remainder for the next baking.  When the dough is gone, the stuff stuck to the sides of the bowl becomes your "starter" for the next batch.  Just add a fresh round of ingredients and have a go, all over again!

To shape and bake:
Pull off a hunk of dough.  This batch makes 3 nice large loaves.  You'll want to flour or oil your hands VERY well, this is a sticky mess of dough!  Shape the dough into a circle or "baguette" shape or whatever suits your fancy.  It will NOT look pretty or loaf-like.  That's ok!  Roll it out on a floured surface and sprinkle with cheese and herbs and melted butter and roll up, or sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and melted butter, rolling up and pinching closed.  Use it for pizza dough!  Or mix in some chopped olives and herbs.  The variations are endless.

Anyway, shape it onto a piece of parchment paper on top of your peel or your flat, unsided baking sheet.  Let it rest!  If it was cold to start with, give it about 30 minutes.  Room temperature needs about 15.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees, with your baking stone in the oven.  When the oven is ready and the dough has rested, cut a few deep slashes in the top of the loaf and slide the loaf-on-parchment onto the stone. 

Bake at 450 for about 25 minutes.  It should be dark golden, lovely, and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Let it cool on a wire rack and enjoy it.

So there it is - fresh bread made from dough out of your refrigerator in less than an hour.  I made a batch this morning and about 2/3 of it will become crust for pizza tonight.  The other hunk will get baked tomorrow morning to have fresh bread for tuna sandwiches for lunch at noon.  I'll start another batch before I go to bed tomorrow night. 

Simple.  Routine.  You get the picture.

Finished and ready for savoring :)
JillBread4 Comments