I have always wanted to make bread. I don’t mean buying a little bag of pizza dough from Trader Joe’s and plopping small pieces into a muffin tin with a little olive oil. That’s just cheating your way to kind of crappy rolls. I mean, I want to mix flour and water and yeast. I want things to rise. I want that delicious smell, first thing in the morning (or right before dinner). I want… I want… I want to make bread.
Luckily, I have a friend at work who is a culinary genius (all natural, all delicious), and she let me take a quick looksie at her bread cook book, and even brought me a little vial of yeast. I copied a cliff notes version of the “Master” recipe, and headed home. The book, worth a mention, is called something like, “Fresh Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” or something — it’s brilliant. The idea is that you make a bunch of dough when you have the time, and then break off hunks and bake them as you need them. Perfect, right?
So yesterday morning, I threw everything together, gave it a quick stir, and let it sit on the counter for two hours — apparently, this is a secret. Shhhhhhh! Then, into the fridge for at least 3 hours, but the longer the better. I had so much to do, so the bread would have to wait until this afternoon. Luckily, the longer the dough stays in the fridge, the more complex the flavor becomes as the yeast… does yeasty things. With that done, I had to take care of some other things that kept me busy until this morning.
Making bread is so easy! It’s ridiculous. sprinkle a little flour on the top of what’s in the bowl, break off a hunk, and let it rest for a little while before popping it into the oven. Then, voila! Fresh, warm, delicious artisan bread. The next adventure: figuring out how to put crap in it.
3 c Lukewarm water
1.5 Tbsp yeast
1.5 Tbsp coarse salt
6.5 c flour
Mix the water, yeast, and salt.
Add the flour to the mix and mix until it isn’t lumpy. We’re going for homogeneity, here.
Here’s the easy part: Let it sit on the counter for two hours with a lid or saran wrap on it. Be sure that it’s not airtight. Gasses need to move around in there.
After two hours, pop it into the fridge for at least 3 hours. The longer it sits, the more complex the flavor will become.
Then lightly dust the top of the dough that you plan to cut off from the rest to bake, and then cut it off. You want it to be about a pound, or about the size of a grapefruit.
Next, use your thumbs to stretch the top layer of the dough around to the bottom of the loaf, little by little. The bottom of the loaf should look a little pinched when you’re through (this should only take 30-60 seconds). Plop that baby down on a nice layer of flour (either on a bread stone or a tray, doesn’t matter) and let it rest for 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 450.
Put an oven-safe container into the oven to warm up. Put it on the bottom rack, with enough space between the top of the container and the rack above, so that you can add some water to it in a minute.
When the dough has rested for 40 minutes, dust the top with flour, give it a quick slash across the top with a sharp knife (to get those neat lines), and stick it into the oven.
Now, add a glass of water to that hot container below the bread. It’ll steam, so be ready. Shut the oven door, trapping the steam. I think it’s the steam that gives the bread that awesome crustiness.
In 30 minutes, take that bread out and enjoy it.