Ever since hearing about and making Mark Bittman’s wonderful no-knead bread, I’ve been hooked on making my own loaves at home in the comfort of our kitchen. I am no pastry chef or expert baker by any stretch of the imagination, but within the past year I have jumped over hurdles of pastry intimidation and the air of pretension that tends to, most rightfully so, tag along with crafting artisan foods, chief among them: bread.
Though a complex process if you want it to be, I love that bread making can also be done simply at home. Homemade bread consists of a few quality ingredients, some patience, and a hot oven. That’s really about it. It’s especially wonderful to have homemade bread in the colder months when heating the oven to 450 degree is more of a treat than another reason to sweat on a hot summer’s day. But let’s not joke around here, I’ll take and make bread no matter the season and no matter the heat index outside. My love for bread knows no bounds. This recipe below is one I’ve tinkered and toyed with several times, six to be exact, before feeling fully satisfied to share it here with you. It’s one I’ve adapted from an old but trustee recipe (see link above), whereupon I’ve proven to myself that one can indeed fiddle with baked goods and get pretty darn good results. Now there will undoubtedly be bread makers out there who will deem this recipe a bit of a cheap shot at making bread, and they are right. It is. This recipe aims to get homemade bread on your table fast, a word you almost never associate with good bread, but for whatever reason it here it works. I stand by this recipe not only because of it’s speedy results, but because it is very delicious. I recommend slathering it well with full-fat butter, sprinkled with fancy salt. Fleur de sel is a revelation on a slice if you have it. And if you dare take things a step further, top it with butter and raspberry Bonne Maman jam. You’ll have one beautiful breakfast or snack.
- 3 cups bread flour + more for dusting your work surface and hands
- 1 teaspoon dry active yeast (I use Fleischmann’s instant yeast)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups warm water (not hot, not boiling, but warm)
To prepare, mix the bread flour, dry active yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Once mixed, add warm water and mix well using a large wood spoon. There should not be any extra flour on the sides of your bowl and the dough should look a bit shaggy when done. Cover your bowl with a towel or saran wrap and leave it be, preferably somewhere warm like on a sunny table top or on your refrigerator, for at least 3 hours. If you happen to leave it for 6 no biggie. I like making my bread mixture before church on Sunday around 8 am, and I’ll get back to it after brunch and laying the boys down for naps around noon.
At this point, your bread dough should have lots of bubbles on the surface, so go ahead and preheat your oven. You’ll want it really hot, so set the temperature for 450 degrees and put your dutch oven inside with the lid on while it heats up. I use my large 8 quart Le Creuset for this and it works really well. Dust a work surface or countertop and scoop the dough out onto it. The dough should be really sticky at this point, so dust those hands of yours with flour to keep the dough together. Fold the dough over several times on itself as if you were sloppily wrapping a present, 2-3 times works, and then dust your proofing basket.
Place the bread dough in the proofing basket (or another bowl), cover it, and let sit anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. It takes my oven at least a half an hour to reach 450 degrees so if you light it before the final proof you shouldn’t have to wait too long. When your oven is hot and the dough has proofed for at least 30 minutes, dump the risen floured bread into a sheet of lightly oil-sprayed parchment paper. I use canola oil spray so the bread doesn’t stick to the parchment, but any sprayed oil should be fine. Lift the parchment into the dutch oven making sure the beautiful rings are on the top and cover it with the hot lid. Place the hot dutch oven back into the oven for 40 minutes. Once the timer is up, check the color of your bread and cook longer if you prefer a darker crust, ten minutes max. I recommend you take it out and let it cool the first time you make this, and make adjustments from there. The loaf you see above was baked for 40 minutes covered without any additional uncovered baking time. Eat after it has cooled a bit with lots of good salty butter and…