We love bread. I mean we really, really love bread. We’re not crazy about regular sliced bread and sometimes struggle to finish the loaves we rarely buy, but we LOVE artisan breads and homemade rolls. For a number of reasons, until recently, I had not baked bread since we moved aboard in July. We have limited counter space (sound familiar fellow boat people?), and kneading bread makes a BIG mess. Baking also takes time, a commodity of which I never feel like we have enough. Finally, our oven seems to bake at temperatures that may or may not have anything to do with the numbers listed on the oven knob. All of this changed a couple of months ago when Pam, our friend aboard Emerald Mistress, shared with me the BEST BREAD RECIPE EVER. That sounds a little dramatic, right? Well, I’m serious!
So, what makes a bread recipe the best bread recipe ever?
- No tricky steps. As much as I appreciate a complex, gourmet meal, the reality is that simplicity is the key to success around here. Fewer ingredients and steps means quicker memorization, so that I don’t have to locate the cookbook. It also means I’m less likely to forget something and mess up dinner.
- No fancy ingredients. We have limited storage and our access to a grocery store is less convenient than it was when we were landlubbers. Thus, recipes that include few ingredients, and that include items that are typically already aboard, are best these days. My hope is that making this adjustment now will help to prepare us for the time not so far away when access to markets will really get complicated.
- No kneading. Yup, I said it. NO KNEADING. Putting some elbow grease into a healthy pile of dough is rewarding¸ don’t get me wrong, but it can also be a messy pain in the ass. No kneading here, ladies and gentlemen!
This master recipe comes from an awesome book called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and is tweaked slightly below. I highly recommend this reference and intend to buy a copy of my own. That is, after I finally return the copy my generous neighbor loaned to me….she didn’t realize I would be borrowing it for two months (thank you and I’m sorry, Pam).
Ingredients (note: this recipe is halved, which works best for us and our miniature oven)
- 1 ½ cups of just-warmer-than-body-temperature water (~100°F)
- ¾ tablespoons of granulated yeast
- ¾ tablespoons of salt
- 3 ¼ cups of flour
What to do
- Combine water, yeast, and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
- Mix in all the flour at once. The dough will be really wet. It’s supposed to be that way. Don’t get freaked out.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 2 hours or longer (if you used cool water).
- Plop out onto a surface covered with flour (I prefer a large, flexible cutting board to keep the flour contained), shape into a ball, and place on the baking surface. This takes a minute or less.
- Allow the dough blob to rise again for about 40 minutes.
- Slash the top with a couple of decorative, quarter-inch cuts (if you want to…or remember to do so).
- Place a pan with at least one cup of water on the oven rack that will be below the dough. This sounded weird to me, too, but it is essential.
- Bake at 450°F for 30 minutes. Rotate the pan every few minutes if your oven, like mine, has hot spots and tends to burn stripes onto the bottom of baked goods. If you have a good oven, leave it alone.
- ENJOY…with butter, garlic, jam, olive oil and vinegar…or whatever tickles your fancy!
In addition to bread, this recipe can also be used for pizza crust! I’ve also mixed this recipe up a little bit by using different types of flour. For example, I used 50% oat flour in one batch and have tried 30%-50% buckwheat flour. So far, everything works! I used ½ a cup of buckwheat flour in the loaf shown above. I’d love to hear whether anyone tries out this recipe or gets creative with it!
Also important, I prefer to cook and bake with wine, thanks to Julia’s fine example!