Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Easiest Bread EVER

I've been making a lot of bread lately. I think it's been almost a month since I have bought any at the store, or anywhere else for that matter. It's funny, when you mention that you make homemade bread to people. They tell you that they wish they had the time. They tell you that it's too complicated. They tell you that it's too hard. They tell you that they've TRIED, but it never works out for them.

I've been making my own bread for years now, only it was never really consistently. I've always baked bread more in the summer, because it was just so easy to place my bowl of dough out on the patio to get it to rise perfectly. That doesn't really work during the winter.

Then there was the whole issue of having to knead the dough, and well, that makes your arms tired, and let's face it, I'm sort of lazy. I did get the stand mixer partly to make bread, but after I burned out the motor on my first one last year, I'm sort of scared to do that anymore. I mean, wouldn't you be scared too? It's not like I can just go out and buy another one!

I did come across a recipe for a no knead dough that worked well. The only problem was that you had to let the dough rest for eight hours. By the time I remembered that I wanted to make bread it would be too late in the day to get started. I never seemed to be able to remember to put it out before I headed to bed either. Lame.

One day, I was poking around on the internet, and I came across an article on how to make your own artisan breads in just five minutes a day. Intrigued, I sat down and read it. Now, I had heard of the book before, and had seen their blog (no recipes to be found there!!!), but I figured it would be recipes like the one I had been using, with the long rest time substituting for the actual kneading. This was sort of like that, but sort of different. Instead of mixing your ingredients for and letting them rest for eight hours to bake that day, you mix them and stick the whole thing in the fridge so that you can bake when you get around to it.


Even better, it's ridiculous how easy this is to do. You don't need any fancy ingredients - it's just plain old all purpose flour, water, yeast and salt. You don't need any special equipment beyond a thermometer with which to check your water temperature - I bake mine on a Pampered Chef baking stone. (I hear that a clean terra cotta floor tile from the hardware store will work too, but I've never tried it myself.) When you decide you want some bread, you just go into the fridge, pull out a hunk of dough, let it come to room temperature for 40 minutes while your stone heats up in the oven, and thirty minutes later you have the most amazing loaf of white bread you've ever tasted.

All you do is mix 3 cups of 100 degree water (use your thermometer!) with 1 1/2 tablespoons EACH of water and yeast. That's a tablespoon, a teaspoon, and a half teaspoon. Once they're combined, add 6 1/2 cups all purpose flour and stir well. I like to use the handle of a heavy wooden spoon. Loosely cover your container (it should hold about 5-6 quarts) and let it sit on the counter for three hours. Then, put it in the fridge.

You want it to be covered, but not tightly. I use this food service container I picked up at a local restaurant supply store (you can get them at King Arthur Flour online too) and just set the lid on top, unfastened. I'm sure you can use a big bowl with a piece of aluminum foil on top too! I just like this because it's square and fits neatly into the fridge.

While it's on your counter the dough will rise almost to the 6 quart mark, but then once it's in the fridge, it deflates a bit. It doesn't affect it at all. When you're ready to bake, you just pull out some dough, shape it, let it rest on a piece of parchment paper for 40 minutes while you heat up the oven to 450 degrees WITH the stone already inside. You don't need to wait for it to rise, of worry if your dough has doubled or anything like that. I get about three modest sized loaves that last us a day or two from this recipe. If you eat less bread, make smaller loaves! If you eat more, make bigger ones! It's totally up to you.

Once your rest/preheating time is up, you just plop the dough down paper and all, on the stone. You're supposed to put a pan of water in there too, but I forgot this time and it seems to be okay still. I guess I'll find out when I cut into it tomorrow!

You can read the full directions, as well as the directions for Whole Wheat bread that's actually made with ALL wheat flour (most recipes use half white and half wheat) here. They say to use a pizza peel with cornmeal to place the bread on the stone. I read that you could skip the peel and use parchment paper instead when baking dough in Saveur, and it's SO much easier, I think. Don't feel like you just have to make loaves either - how cute would it be to make a whole bunch of small round loaves for bread boules and serve them full of chili?

So, there you go. I challenge everyone who reads this to try it, at least once. It will amaze and impress all your friends, I promise. You'll feel all sneaky because you know how little actual labor is involved.

Oh, and while I have you here... have you entered my giveaway yet? What are you waiting for? You could win your very own copy of Martha Stewart's Cupcakes, a fabulous Le Creuset spatula, and a kick butt dishcloth hand embroidered by your's truly. Enter here to win!

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Blogger emily said...

That bread looks delicious! Baking bread and learning how to use yeast is one of my goals. I make some bread but not with yeast. It is the only thing I think my mom doesn't know how to cook/bake with so she can't teach me :)

5:34 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

glad you enjoyed the photo! your bread looks yummy

8:57 PM  
Blogger Katy and Chris said...

Oh, need to try this, too. And the cards from before. Super cute! More ideas than I have time for!

10:23 AM  
Blogger Hooptee said...

Okay, I've written this down and I'm going to try it.... as soon as I get more flour! This looks awesome and simple. Thanks!

2:06 PM  

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