Through it all, bread.
Is that weird? Well, I have long taken stress and turned it into food. Cooking is my outlet through which I am able to release my tension, which I'm sure you can imagine I have had TONS of in the past couple of years. I've made curries and stews and pasta and everything else under the sun. But what I really love to make? What I've never stopped making? Bread.
There's something intensely comforting about baking the bread for your household. Not only do you have total control over what goes into your bread, which allows you to skip any preservatives or stabilizers that are found in commercially produced products, but it is immensely satisfying to produce something easily as good in quality and flavor to what you can find in a bakery.
And it's super, mega, incredibly easy. So easy, I'm not even going to post a recipe. Just guidelines. Feel free to play with them, as I have and have almost always come out with amazing results. For our wedding, for example, I baked 6 large loaves of different flavored bread for our cocktail/cheese hour. Huge hits.
So here's how you can make the loaf above.
What you will need :
- An oven-safe pot or other vessel with a tight-fitting lid. I alternate between a cast iron 6qt pot by Lodge (because lets be honest, the OTHER brand is oppressively expensive) and a covered clay Romertopf.
- 4-5C flour (I use bread flour, but really AP will work, anything but pastry due to its low-gluten content)
- 1 tbsp salt
- Pinch active dry yeast (I keep mine in the freezer in a tupperware and buy it in bulk - it lasts forever as long as you're careful not to thaw it for long)
How to make it. Grab a large bowl and add the flour, yeast, and salt. Mix together. Pour in water until the dough reaches a thick oatmeal consistency. Yes, this is rather subjective. But guess what! I've made several different hydration levels of this recipe and...
they all worked great.
So don't sweat it too much. You want a wet dough. It won't ball up well, and it will be sticky as hell. The idea is that you don't have to knead it because kneading allows for the formation of gluten by physically bringing together glutenin molecules and mushing them into fibers. That's one way to make bread, and it works great.
However, what you're going to do today is NOT knead. No-knead bread, you know. Gluten forms because it is in a wetter environment, and thus can move around to form fibers rather than forming by physical squishing via kneading. Science. This is why I got a PhD, amiright? :P
So when you've mixed it all together and made sure there are no dry spots in the bottom of the bowl, cover it in plastic wrap and let it sit in the kitchen. Forget about it for a day or so. Less if you're impatient like become sometimes when I haven't made bread in a week and am totally out.
What you're looking for is at least a doubling of the dough. It will look like a bubbly slime monster. That's what you want.
When the "dough" is ready, preheat the oven and pot you'll cook your bread in to 500F for one hour. Turn out the dough onto a very floured surface. It will be kinda gross. But take the sides of the blob and fold it back on top until it forms a loose ball. Cover with the bowl and let it rise while the oven preheats.
Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Then remove the cover and bake until well browned, 15-20 minutes.
Remove from the pot immediately, and slice off the end. Slather with butter, and enjoy.
Bread. Share with others.
Feel free to add in other ingredients once comfortable with the basic bread recipe. My favorite in the world is gruyere cheese and tons of chopped green onions. So. good.