Baking Bread Together

Nothing beats the smell of fresh baked bread, nor the taste and crusty crust right out of the oven. In the BeHi Hood there is a tasty bakery who fires up their ovens every morning. You can smell it when out for a walk. Not quite as intoxicating, and no where nears as preserved, as the Hostess factory I used to run by – Twinkies and Ho Ho aroma while hauling your carcass around Lake Union? Yes, please. The more crusty and country roughhewn bread the better. It is such a great vehicle for those gifts of life, extra virgin olive oil, slab of cheese, peanut butter, honey, jam, or butter.

Inspired to try once again, after a few hocky puck focaccia loafs, by the Kitchen Counter Cooking School, I tried my hand and finally succeeded at the artisan bread making. What made this time more successful? For one, my yeast wasn’t old. Two, I used a different recipe than the widely available Lahey recipe from Sullivan St. Bakery. Three, I didn’t pack the flour down in the measuring cups. Rather cascade it from one into the other, to allow for more air. Given that in the US we measure by volume but most recipes originated using weight, scooping, packing it in to that cup and level with a knife (like we probably all learned in home ec) could mean a whole extra ounce of flour versus spooning the flour into the cup the leveling but no tappy, tap tap tapperoo (Happy Gilmore shout out). Ideally, dry ingredients should be measured. I do not currently practice this. No idea what I am describing? Here’s a You Tube video for you by JoyofBaking.

From Chapter 7 – The Bread Also Rises

Artisan Bread for Busy People: Yield about 4 one-pound loaves

  • 3 cups lukewarm water (~100F)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons yeast
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 6 ½ cups unsifted unbleached all-purpose white flour
  • Additional flour to create loaves
  • Cornmeal
  1. Combine the water, yeast and salt in a 5-quart mixing bowl or food container with lid. Stir to mix. Add all the flour at once and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough is wet and sticky with no dry patches. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap but do not seal airtight. Let it rise for about 2 hours at room temperature.
    1. Best part! If you are not using it immediately, refrigerate the dough, covered, for up to 2 weeks.
  2. To make a loaf, lightly sprinkle some flour onto the dough’s surface. Scoop up a handful the size of a grapefruit and cut or tear it away from the remainder. This is probably the hardest step. Rub the dough with a layer of flour while gently stretching the top around to tuck the sides into the bottom form a smooth, round loaf.
  3. Put the loaf on a pizza peal, cutting board or rimless cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal (to prevent sticking). Let it rise uncovered for at least a half hour or as long as 90 minutes. The loaf will plump up but not change radically in size.
  4. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 400 F. Place a broiler tray or other metal pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Put the baking stone or cast iron skillet in the middle rack.
  5. Dust the loaf liberally with flour. Slash the top with a cross or three lines with a sharp knife and slide it onto the preheated baking surface. Carefully pour about 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray or metal pan and close the over door to trap the steam.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the crust is browned and the loaf feels light and hollow. You can also check the temperature – should be around 190 F.

For a lazy sourdough, mix the next batch in the same container without cleaning it first. If so desired, you can substitute 2 cups of whole wheat flour for the white flour. You can also add in dry herbs wen mixing the dough.

I don’t plan to abandon store bough bread just yet, you never know when you need a piece of toast or handy chicken treat. And those situations can’t wait a few hours. Do consider though that there are only 4 ingredients in this bread versus almost 20 in the indestructible loaf in the fridge. What is a datem anyway….. sounds like something your Jersey friend might say – just go ahead and datem already!

Maybe I’ll change the saying to “best thing to happen since no knead artisan bread”.

Do you have a favorite artisan bread recipe or add-in to share?

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