This might sound sickening, but I find cooking and baking as a stress reliever. There, I said it, I feel so much better now, phew. There is just something about taking the time to prepare a meal from scratch that is so satisfying to me. My mom always loved to cook and we always had homemade meals every night for dinner which were usually prepared by her, but my dad would cook as well. My mom was born in Bolivia but raised in Chile and besides learning from some cooks she used to work for, she was mainly self taught. She picked up a lot of skills from those cooks and has mastered her own recipes which amazes me because she can cook almost anything (Chinese, Italian, Chilean, Japanese, Bolivian, Mexican). I can’t even begin to go through all the food she used to make us but it was because of her that I love to cook. Besides the cooking side, my aunt who took care of me while I was younger was always baking so I always used to bake cookies with her and when I got older, I continued to bake things on my own ever since I was little. SO, with a combo of those things from my parents and from my aunt, I have a slight obsession with being in the kitchen and finding comfort in preparing food.
With all that said, I will be posting recipes along with other posts and it starts with this recipe which is seriously, the easiest bread to make! You can prepare it in the morning or the night before and bake it right before dinner time or make a fresh batch every morning. It’s a great base for mix in’s too so whatever you like in your bread, go ahead and add it in! I’ve done rosemary olive bread and jalapeno cheese which have both come out fantastic. I like to do about 2 cups worth of whole wheat to add some nutty flavor along with flax seed. I will say, bread flour is best for this but if you don’t have it you can add some vital wheat gluten to add more chew to the bread. If you’re too lazy to click on the link, here is the recipe below. Seriously, make this bread, you wont regret it, it’s delicous and soooo simple.
- 3 cups lukewarm water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt or 1 1/2 tablespoons other coarse salt
- 6 1/2 cups flour, unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose- I would recommend bread flour
- Warm the water slightly. It should feel just a little warmer than body temperature. Warm water will rise the dough to the right point for storage in about 2 hours. With cold water it will need 3-4 hours.
- Add the yeast to the water in a 5 quart bowl or, preferably, in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container or food-grade bucket. Don’t worry about getting it all to dissolve.
- Mix in the flour and salt – kneading is unnecessary. Add all of the flour at once, measuring it in with dry-ingredient measuring cups, by gently scooping up the flour, then sweeping the top level with a knife or spatula. Don’t press down into the flour as you scoop or you’ll throw off the measurement. Mix with a wooden spoon, a high-capacity food processor (14 cups or larger) fitted with the dough attachment, or a heavy duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the mixture is uniform. If you’re hand mixing and it becomes too difficult to incorporate all the flour with the spoon, you can reach into your mixing vessel with very wet hands and press the mixture together. Don’t knead, it isn’t necessary. You’re finished when everything is uniformly moist, without dry patches. It takes a few minutes, and will yield a dough that is wet and loose enough to conform to the shape of its container.
- Allow to rise. Cover with lid (not airtight or it could explode the lid off). Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse (or at least flattens on the top), approx 2 hours, depending on room temperature, and initial water temperature Longer rising times, up to 5 hours, won’t harm the result.
- You can use a portion of the dough any time after this period. Fully refrigerated dough is less sticky and easier to work with than dough at room temperature.
- On Baking Day: prepare your loaf tin, tray, or whatever you’re baking it in/on. Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with four. Pull up and cut of a grapefruit-size piece of dough (c 1 lb), using a serrated knife.
- Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won’t stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all 4 sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. Most of the dusting flour will fall off – that’s fine, it isn’t meant to be incorporated. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will sort itself out during resting and baking.
- The correctly shaped final product will be smooth and cohesive. The entire process should take no more than 30 – 60 seconds.
- Rest the loaf and let it rise in the form, on the tray/pizza peel, for about 40 minutes Depending on the age of the dough, you may not see much rise during this period. That’s fine, more rising will occur during baking.
- Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450°F Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won’t interfere with the rising bread.
- Dust and Slash. Dust the top of the loaf liberally with flour, which will allow the slashing knife to pass without sticking. Slash a quarter inch deep cross, diagonal lines, or tic-tac-toe pattern on top using a serrated knife.
- After a 20 min preheat you’re ready to bake, even though the oven thermometer won’t be at full temperature yet. Put your loaf in the oven. Pour about 1 cup of hot water (from the tap) into the broiler tray and close the oven to trap the steam.
- Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch.
- Store the rest of the dough in the fridge in your lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next 14 days. The flavour and texture improves, becoming like sourdough. Even 24 hours of storage improves the flavor.
**My personal notes:
- The bread will be easiest to form into whatever shape you want after being in the fridge for at least 2-3 hours, trust me, or else if you bake it right away your pretty oval bread will flatten out and not be very pretty. The picture I have posted is one I baked after letting it sit in the fridge for a while.
- This bread yields about 3 small loaves.
- Add about 2 cups whole wheat flour for a heartier bread, it just adds a flavor that I miss if I don’t add it in. Plus, it makes me feel better there is some whole wheat flour in there besides all white.
- If you don’t have a pizza stone you can use a heavy bottomed cookie sheet. Just flip it over, dust with some corn meal; you’ll still get that nice crust on the bottom.
- About the water in the oven while baking, don’t skip on this step. If you haven’t baked bread before, the steam creates a nice crust on the bread and when you pull it out, you’ll hear a crackling from that nicely formed crust.