Keeping it Simple: Make it yourself

Want to bake bread? Overwhelmed by how ‘intense’ it seems? Welcome to the introductory recipe that will get you over that hump.

The Master (adjusted for a single large boule)

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (I used approx 100-102 degree tap)
  • 1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 3/4 tbsp coarse kosher salt (next time I will go up to a full tbsp, I felt it could have used more)
  • 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour

Gather your tools: Large bowl or food grade container (4qt minimum), wooden spoon or dough whisk (not a regular whisk, folks), measuring cups & spoons, parchment paper, baking stone or Enamel Cast Iron dutch oven, pizza peel or ‘transfer’ surface (THIN cutting board, non-ridged baking sheet, etc), bottom part of broiler pan, cooling rack, oven mitts/gloves, ingredients.

Making the dough:

  • in a large bowl or food safe container (at least 4qts), combine salt, water and yeast. Swirl once (it doesn’t all need to be dissolved.)
  • add in flour and combine with wooden spoon or danish whisk (my next purchase btw). Do not over mix. When in question, opt for LESS mixing than more. You will NOT be kneading this.
  • when there are no dry spots or pockets of flour, leave rough dough in place and cover (do NOT seal completely if using a food safe container with lid!) leaving gas the ability to release. NOTE: a plastic wrap is fine but leave a small area unsealed, like with the food safe lid. Also, towels might be a no-no as they might collapse and stick to the top of your rising dough.
  • let rise in a warm room for at least 2 hours. The cooler your room, the longer it will need to rise. (I let this dough rise for 3 hours in a 72 degree room as I wanted a LOT of expansion and gas production.)
  • about 30-45 minutes before the end of the rise, preheat your oven to 450 with your cooking surface inside. You can use a few things to bake bread on, easiest (and something most folks have nowadays) is either a pizza stone or enamel cast iron (ECI) dutch oven. Place on rack in middle of oven.
  • if you are using a baking stone, on a rack just below it, place an empty broiler pan (this will be for water to create steam in the oven and create an awesomely crusty, crunchy crust on the bread. If you are using a dutch oven, you will not need this.
  • once the oven is to temp, form and prep your loaf (a boule is a basic round peasant loaf, so this is good for one good sized round loaf) by taking a square of parchment paper and placing it on a ‘transfer’ surface. Take the dough, dust liberally with flour and then slowly tuck the edges under, rotating the loaf as you go to form a ball. The bottom will not be smooth (from all the tucking) but the top should be a nice smooth round shape. Dust again with flour then with a rasp, straight blade or sharp knife, add venting or decoration. Form your boule on your transfer surface. If you are using a baking/pizza stone, this can be a pizza peel, thin (non-lipped) baking sheet, or even a thin medium sized cutting board. The goal is to be able to slide the parchment paper with formed boule on top of it, ONTO the hot hot HOT cooking surface. If you are using an ECI dutch oven, make the parchment a bit bigger as your will be picking up the dough ‘loaf’ by grabbing the corners of the parchment paper and placing it into the HOT HOT HOT dutch oven.
  • once formed, transfer the loaf to the cooking surface right away. No need to let rise again as you are using properly prepped dough. With a few quick shake motions, your parchment paper (and formed boule) should slide right onto the baking stone. NOTE: Dutch oven users – carefully remove the lid of the dutch oven, place dough on parchment paper into dutch oven and then recover to bake.
  • once dough is transferred, add 1 cup of HOT tap water to the broiler pan (if using) and close up oven.
  • baking stone users: bake for 20 minutes and then remove parchment paper (will slide right out) to crispy bottom of bread in the last 10-15 minutes.
  • ECI dutch oven users: bake for 20 minutes with lid on then remove lid for remaining 10-15 minutes.
  • after 30-35 total minutes, or once boule is browned and crisped on top, remove from oven.
  • a few quick checks on ‘doneness’ of a loaf are: 1. if you turn upside down and tap on the bottom with a knuckle, it should sound hollow and 2. if you place on cooling rack and listen close, you can hear the loaf crackle. Bakers call this crackling ‘singing’ and say it is the song sang by a perfectly cooked loaf of bread.
  • let cool for a minimum of 30 minutes before cutting, then enjoy!

The story:

Everyone else and their moms rediscovered baking bread in 2020. Not I, due to being deemed an essential worker and also having my previous role re-defined and heaped on (thanks to a pre-covid re-titling and location reclassification that included position elimination and role consolidation.)

Oh, and having a newborn.

WHEW… it’s exhausting to read, let alone to remember what it was like.

BUT new year, new goals right?

The first project in the 2021 kitchen was rediscovering my love of BREAD. While all yous guys might have opted to just go right into mastering sourdough, I opted for reality: I have a 13 month old. I get 30-60 minutes free each weekend day. Options?

Enter a simple bread that’s put together QUICK, is able to sit and proof/rise between my daughter’s naps and is an incredible base recipe for all manners of adjustments. I adore this book, which the recipe comes from: The New Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. It is a wonderful resource for anyone looking to riff on bread recipes. But, in all honesty, if you learn your oven and NAIL the recipe above to your liking… the sky is the limit. I DO recommend the book to support the authors and for the other bread recipes in there, however. There are some amazing ones, for sure!

Now, for my first foray with this dough, I added rosemary. I LOVE a good herbed bread! As this was going with our leftovers (Christmas Ham, Farm Bean and Kale stew! Sooooo yummy…) I wanted something a little more flavorful than a basic bread. If you want to add an herb to your dough, the best bet is to add it to the water mixture. This helps it mix more evenly through the dough as you put it together.

Example of how to riff on this recipe? Add Kalamata olives. This will be next week’s hearty bread.

Now that I have this recipe down, I might try a sweet bread… how about a challah?

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