Bake My Bread

I’m pretty picky about bread. Generic sandwich bread makes me sad. And here in Tofino, it seems like that’s all I ever see. It’s either sandwich bread or the artisan stuff that costs nine bucks a loaf. I like bread, I don’t like it that much.

Colin and I considered bringing a breadmaker with us, but I really hate the things. I love putting a bunch of stuff in a machine and waking up the next morning to fresh bread, but the bread that comes out of those things isn’t that great. Those of you who disagree with me and really like your breadmakers, call me when that thing can churn you out a French baguette.

Before we left I scoured food blogs and online recipes, looking for a good basic bread recipe that wouldn’t require lots of attention. Colin and I both work full time and don’t really have time to babysit a ball of dough. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find an easy bread recipe? One that doesn’t require freaky ingredients, kneading, punching, rising and shaping? It’s pretty much impossible. I had resigned myself to eating crappy bread or investing money in the delicious but expensive 600 degrees bread from the Tofino market.

Then I found this recipe on the Tasty Kitchen website. Four ingredients? All of them currently residing in my pantry? Yes, please. It is a no-knead bread recipe, so all you have to do is mix up the ingredients in a bowl, cover it and let it rise for about 18 hours. Just forget about, forget you made it, forget everything for 18 hours until it looks like a bubbly creature from the dough lagoon. Then you put it in the oven with a pan of water underneath it so it gets steamy and thus fluffy with a crunchy crust.

When I made this for the first time, I freaked out. But not nearly as much as Colin freaked out. I thought he was going to drop down right then and propose.

No dice. I’ll let you know when I finally nail him down.

But he really really liked the bread. Loved it. Raved about it to everyone. Made me grilled cheese sandwiches with it. The last thing he said to me before going to bed that night was “Man, that bread is amazing.” For realsies.

Need to impress a dude? Make this bread. Your house will smell fantastic when it’s baking, and you can impress him with how it totally looks like that amazing bakery bread that is made in the shape of footballs. Yeah, that good.

Here’s the recipe below if you don’t want to use the link, you lazy bum you. I also added my own notes to the recipe below in hopes that it might help you along. Try it! It’s fun to make your own bread, and this is honestly the best homemade bread I’ve ever had.

Artisan Bread Awesomeness

Ingredients

  • 3 cups All-purpose Or Bread Flour, With A Little Extra For Dusting
  • ¼ teaspoons Instant Yeast
  • 1-½ teaspoon Salt (Note: I Started Out Using Plain Ole Table Salt But Find You Get A Much More Robust Flavor With Kosher Or Sea Salt)
  • 1-¾ cup Water, Room Temperature

I haven’t tried it yet, but fresh herbs would be amazing in this bread. Chop up some fresh rosemary or thyme, or even dill and add about a tablespoon or two to the flour before you mix the water in. Yummy.
In a large bowl, mix flour, yeast and salt together. Add water and stir till more or less blended. The dough will be thick and shaggy. Think Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at room temperature for at least 12 hours, but to 18 or 20 hours. Seriously.

I put mine in the window sill on sunny days because it’s cold in my house, and dough likes a little warmth. If you have this temperature problem, you can also turn your oven on for a few minutes, then turn it off and open the oven door to let the heat out. Just make sure your dough bowl is sitting near or on top of the oven, not across the kitchen, as this makes the whole thing totally pointless. WARMTH, people.

The dough is ready when it is swollen and bubbly all over the top. Think lunar surface.

I did none of the following steps up to shaping the dough into loaves. I tried it the first time and didn’t like how dense the bread was at the bottom. But try it, it’s fun to play with dough, and it might work for you.

Spread 1/4 to 1/3 cup of additional flour on a smooth work surface. Dump the dough onto the floured surface. Have a scraper handy because it’s pretty gooey and will stick to the bowl.

Sprinkle the top of the dough with a little more flour. Using a bench scraper or spatula, lift up one side of the dough, give it a good stretch skyward and fold it over the rest of dough. Repeat this process 2-3 times trying not to deflate the dough too much.

See? I skip those two steps and go straight to the following. I’m badass like that.

Flour up you hands and get ready to shape the dough in loaves or rolls on the floury surface. For rolls, divide the dough in half, halve again, and divide each quarter into thirds. For loaves, divide dough in half and create rounded or oblong free-form shapes. Work as gently as possible so as not to deflate dough very much.

Place these little gems on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Dust loaves/rolls with flour and cover with plastic wrap.

I also sprinkle a little kosher salt and pepper on top of the loaves – this made it extra yummy.

Let rise for 30 minutes while you pre-heat your oven to 475 degrees (F). The oven does need to be good and hot.

A few minutes before it’s time to put the bread in the oven, put a pie pan filled with 1/2 – 1 inches of water on the bottom rack. This creates steam — a “turbo boost” for the bread and creates a great crust.

Bake bread on middle rack till it’s a fine, nutty brown — about 15 minutes for rolls and about 20 minutes for loaves. Bottoms of your bread should be browned as well.

My bottoms were not browned enough at 20 minutes (story of my life, pale bottoms…) so I took them off the baking sheet and placed them back in the oven for an extra 2 minutes to brown the bottoms. This is important because you want crunchy crusts, not soft.

Cool on a rack, and as tempting as it may be to tear into your bread while warm, it’s actually way better once it cools. You have been warned.

I actually agree, even though I am the QUEEN of eating warm bread. Entire loaves have been consumed. But you should wait, because the bread gets chewier on the inside and it helps retain the shape of the loaves. You don’t have to go crazy with waiting though. A half hour will do.

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2 Comments on “Bake My Bread”

  1. Betty says:

    this sounds wonderful – I’m going to try is soon!

    • Alex says:

      It is really great bread. I baked up two more loaves this morning and I’m going to start trying to experiment a bit with additions. I’ll let you know how it goes!


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