Truth be told, I had never made bread before I found this magical recipe on my favorite food blog, Bread and Honey (although original credit belongs to the NY Times). But I did, like many people, have fond memories of my mother doing so. And that smell of baking bread, mouthwatering slow in our old oven, is still one of the most comforting I know. Unfortunately, that comfort seemed to come at a price – a whole lot of elbow grease, a whole lot of time.
But now, with just a little planning and foresight, fresh baked bread is as easy as, well, this is a whole lot easier than pie!
3 cups flour (I use whole wheat, but all-purpose or any other variety will work), plus more for dusting
1/4 teaspoon yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 5/8 cups warm water
optional: I have thrown in a handful of rosemary, I have tossed in sunflower, poppy, and sesame seeds, I have sprinkled in Italian herbs, and I have mixed in kalamata olives. The possibilities are endless; customize to taste!
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients until thoroughly mixed. Dough should be shaggy. Shaggy is a *really* great way of describing dough.
Cover dough with a pot lid or dish towel, and put it in a warm place to rest. I usually hide mine in a cupboard. Let the dough hang out for a good 12-20 hours. Yep, 12-20 hours.
The next day, check your dough. It’s ready when the surface shows tiny bubbles. Spread some flour on a cutting board or counter, and turn the dough out onto the surface. With floured hands, fold the dough over onto itself (like a dough taco), and then fold it again (double dough taco?). Let it rest there for about 15 minutes, and then cover it with a cotton dishtowel (non-terry cloth). Let it rise under the towel for about 2 hours. The dough is done when it has doubled in size, and no longer springs back when depressed.
A half hour or so before the dough is done rising, preheat the oven to 450º. With floured hands, transfer the dough to a lightly sprayed or floured cast iron, enamel, Pyrex, or ceramic pot – one that has a tight-fitting lid. (Warning: DO NOT use teflon-coated or glass bakeware. Teflon cannot stand this heat, and will make stinky smoky awefulness. The first time I made this recipe I used a glass dish. As I was leaning over to sniff my bread straight out of the oven, the glass dish literally shattered in my face, because it cooled too quickly sitting on top of the hot oven. Don’t risk it! Use Pyrex.) Cover the pot with the lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid, and bake another 15-20 minutes, until loaf is well browned. Cool on a wire rack, or eat hot with lots of Earthbalance™, mmmmmmm.
I don’t actually have any pictures of a finished loaf, because it never sticks around long enough to to be photographed! But I hope you enjoy, and get as much use out of this recipe as I have. Homemade bread, containing only the simplest and purest ingredients, is truly a heart- and belly-warming treat.