Baking beautiful bread? Bread. Beauty. Bounty (alliteration today is brought to you by Cara). Today is the day!
I’ve been excited about this one for weeks, that is ever since I discovered it (I haven’t stopped baking beautiful bread since that day). This was a recipe I randomly & luckily stumbled upon, and I am not sure through which medium it actually came to me (I am thinking Pinterest) – however, it must be noted it was this amazing blog post that got me going.
Insert major gratitude here. Over the years, I’ve certainly tried all manner of bread recipes. Yeast and flour and I have never really gotten each other, and it could be that the precise nature of all things baking just does not come naturally for me. I am happy to say that I’ve finally found the one recipe that has made me a bread baker. The day has come, and now, if you want it, it is yours for the taking too!
It is true that not all good folks enjoy bread freely these days. With the rise in sensitivities to gluten, more and more people every day are avoiding the stuff.
Wheat being one of the oldest crops known to man-kind, it always seems crazy to me that evolution would take us down this road. Especially considering wheat’s status as the ‘staff of life’ and the fact it is an age-old source of sustenance that has been relied upon since the dawn of human existence. Wheat berries are cheap, they can be grown all over the world, and in their whole form are full of sound vitamins, minerals, and other healthy nutritious properties.
Used in their most natural form, whole wheat berries can be made into all manner of salads, added to stews, or famously sprouted for making raw bread or used to make rejuvelac and to grow wheatgrass. However, when wheat berries are milled, bleached, bagged, and left in giant storehouses to spoil & turn rancid, it’s no wonder that our bodies are struggling to recognize wheat for the simple, life-giving grain that it is.
So if you are sensitive to wheat & gluten, but can still eat it from time to time, do source out organic freshly milled flour if possible. You might just notice a difference in how you feel after eating it (or you might not). Whole wheat, all-purpose, or white, the most important thing to know is that it is fresh. Just like roasted coffee should be ground right before use, or nuts & oils can go rancid if left for long periods of time at the wrong temperature, all milled flours are susceptible to the same conditions, so use it fresh. Like all of your food (if you can).
Easy Crusty Home Baked Bread:
(3) cups all-purpose flour
(1/2) tsp active dry yeast
(1 3/4) tsp salt
(1.5 – 1.75 cups) cold water from the tap
Whatever additions your heart desires: fresh or dried herbs like rosemary, grated cheddar cheese, dried fruits, nuts & seeds, the ideas are endless! One ovenproof casserole with lid, preferably ceramic or cast iron.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except for the water. Next, add the water (in bits or all at once) and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or tough plastic spatula. Once mixed, the dough should be sticky, like the picture shown below.
Feel free to play with the amounts of water used as I have used anywhere from 1.5 cups (the original recipe amount) to almost 2 cups. A good friend of mine uses a bread recipe very similar to this and suggested to add more water particularly if I play with other flours – ie. a mix of white & whole wheat.
Once the dough is well mixed, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to proof on the kitchen counter for anywhere from 12 – 20 hours. Seriously, this is (just one) of the beautiful things about this recipe. You can start the dough at anytime and get to the baking when it works for you. I have baked after 12 hours proofing and I have baked after 22 hours proofing. All delicious, all the time.
When you are ready to bake (and have a free hour and a half), turn on the oven and heat it to 450 degrees. Once the temperature is reached, put your oven proof dish in the oven and heat it for 30 minutes. Just before the heating time for the dish is ready, flour a work surface with a very generous handful of flour. With your hands, pull the proofed dough out of the bowl and set it on the floured surface.
Shape the dough into a roundish loaf and evenly coat it with the flour. Don’t worry about any inconsistencies with the shape of the dough – it will all sort itself out in the baking process. This is a no-knead recipe. Yes, that is right, no kneading! So. Very. Awesome.
Remove the hot pot -careful it will be HOT! – and place the dough carefully into the dish. No oil or anything required. Place the lid on top (or foil if this is your method – use good oven mits!) and place the dish into the hot oven still set to 450 degrees. Bake for 30-35 minutes, keeping the oven hot by not peeking (I love having a hot and heavy lid that prevents me from peeking).
I have done both times and prefer the 35 minute time, the crust gets (just a little) crustier that way, but feel free to play with a time that works for you.
After 30-35 minutes, carefully remove the dish from the oven, and voila! Hot, beautiful, glorious bread. Remove onto a wire cooling rack and allow to cool before slicing. For best keeping, do not store in a plastic bag until the loaf has cooled completely as this will diminish the crust on the loaf. A paper bag or on the counter is great right after it is made.
Though if you make this in time for a family meal I can almost guarantee leftovers will not be an issue. Serve with soup, salad, curry, pasta, or make into crusty bread sandwiches with tofu steaks, cheese, lettuce, and ripe red tomatoes. My personal favourite? Fresh out of the oven with butter. A bowl of hearty warm beans. And not a whole lot more (or less) 🙂
Whatever makes up your daily bread, doing so with reverence and appreciation of all things past can give us a better understanding of how it is we got where we are today. Things don’t always get better with time (but thankfully many things do).
In our modern world full of processed, packaged, ‘middle grocery aisle’ foods, fresh foods from fresh ingredients are still best. It’s been that way for thousands of years. Funny how some things never change. Fresh is still best.