Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bread Anyone Can Make

There is something about a loaf of bread straight from the oven. Maybe it's the way it makes the whole house smell? Maybe it's the taste? Whatever it is, homemade bread makes me feel like everything is just a little better, even if the feeling only lasts a few hours. I love to make homemade bread. It looks awesome! It smells awesome! It tastes awesome! The only thing that could make it better? The fact that it takes less than 5 minutes of actual time to make! This beautiful loaf came out of my kitchen without a bread machine or the use of my Kitchen Aid. This is a loaf that requires patience though, you need to mix the dough 12-18 hours BEFORE you bake it.

In your favorite large bowl mix together the following ingredients with a wooden spoon:

3 C King Arthur all purpose flour (trust me on this one)
¼ t instant yeast
1¼ t salt
1 1/2 C + 2 T warm water

Cover it with plastic wrap, place it in a draft-free place where it won't be disturbed or in the way. Now here is the important part... Walk away. That's it, put down the spoon and go about your business. Move along now, nothing to see you looky lous! Go away and don't touch it for a minimum of 12 hours.

If your yeast was good and you left the dough alone long enough this is what it should look like. It will be wet and full of bubbles, don't panic! Wet dough freaks me out, it doesn't hold it's shape and the first time I made this I worried that it would not bake into anything edible. There is no mistaking that this is a super wet dough, at the twelve hour mark you can see the wetness (click on photo for larger image) but I finally figured out that in order for the recipe to work properly, the dough needs to be wet. It's this waterlogged like dough that creates the steam bath in the covered pot while it bakes. Speaking of pots...

This is what I bake this particular bread in but you can do it in any oven safe covered vessel. You put the pot in the oven while it's preheating and then open it up, plop the dough in, re-cover and let it do its thing. Don't worry, I'm going to give complete directions in a minute but I wanted to show you guys that you don't need a fancy Le Creuset pot to bake this bread. Getting back to the recipe...

At the 12-18 hour mark it's time to form the dough into a ball. I use a 2 tea towel method. I put one tea towel on a cookie sheet and liberally sprinkle it with flour. I fold the dough over on itself several times, form it into a ball and place it seam side down on the flour. I sprinkle the top of the dough ball with cornmeal and place the second towl on top. I leave the dough to rest for about 2 hours total. At the hour and a half mark of rising, I put my covered pot in the oven and turn it on to 450* abd leave it alone for a half hour. To put the dough in the pot I slide one hand under towel and, although awkward the first few times, I flip the dough into pot, floured side up. You can shake the pan a little if the dough didn't land in the center but it will straighten out as it bakes all on its own. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is browned. Cool on a rack for about 15 minutes before you cut into it or you will have a mess.


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