Like almost everyone else on the planet right now, we are working from home, school is cancelled indefinitely and there is no decent bread left anywhere…
I know, I know. Gluten free is the way of the mindful Yogi, less carbs more plants. Don’t bread shame me y’all, we have much bigger things to worry about.
I grew up on whole foods and was an active part of a farmer Co-Op way before it was ever cool or trendy. Think traditional Amish farmer, a table saw and a wheel of cheddar cheese the size of a VW Bug. Not making this up…
My mom taught me a lot of things that might come in handy for the zombie apocalypse. One being the knowledge of how to grow my own food, safely store it and how to bake incredible bread. I’ve decided to give you three basic versions over the next few weeks: Traditional yeast bread, drop biscuits and hearty muffins that can make a fabulous breakfast or snack.
The best part is you can use ingredients most of us already have in the cupboard. If you have bored kids, or hangry roommates, put them to work and let them help.
Don’t bother trying to write/read and bake. I’ve tried it. Either the writing suffers, readus interuptus happens or more likely the bread will burn and obviously–– nothing should be wasted right now. I am all about organic grains, so if you can afford them please do.
The sturdier the flour, the heavier the bread. Whole wheat tends to be super heavy and tastes best sliced thin with a serrated knife and toasted with butter or a slice of cheese or jam. I love it, but if you must… use unbleached all-purpose white flour for any of the recipes. I also am not big on eating hydrogenated shortening or margarine. I personally think that it’s really bad for you, so I use real, organic butter and/or olive oil in lieu of vegetable or corn oil.
Basic Yeast Bread-yields 2 loaves
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups very warm water, ideal temp 100-105 F
( use a meat thermometer)
5 ½ cups flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
extra flour for your hands
one extra-large bowl made of ceramic, wood or glass (Do not use metal spoons or bowls, it will mess up the yeast.)
2 flat cookie sheets or pizza stones
Nonstick baking spray or parchment paper for the pans
Additional things you can easily add ½ cup of one of these-raisins, currants, dried cranberries or chopped tree nuts * check your household for allergies
Wash your hands with soap and water. Take off watches, bracelets and rings, put them somewhere safe away from the sink. In a large bowl mix together, sugar, salt, hot water and yeast with a wooden spoon.
Let the yeast proof. It bubbles up and looks really strange when it’s ready. (Like sea foam at the beach. About 8-10. minutes)
Gradually add the flour. (If you want to add dried fruits or chopped nuts this is the time to do it. Just ½ cup of one kind of nuts or raisins, etc. is plenty for flavor.)
With the wooden spoon, scrape the bowl and be gentle. At about 3 ½ cups of flour it will start getting harder to stir. I add the rest of the flour on top and knead it in with clean, bare hands. (Think light sports massage to the shoulders.)
Turn out the entire bowl and its contents onto a clean, dry counter top and use the heel of your hand to push remaining flour into the dough. Do a ¼ moon turn with the dough and do it again with a dough fold over, heel of hand, then a half turn again as needed, for about five minutes. If it’s super sticky, sprinkle a little flour on the counter and your hands. The dough feels elastic, smooth and supple when it’s ready.
The mess on the counter can easily be dealt afterwards with a plastic spatula. Be careful not to scratch your countertop. Scrape and toss out leftover flour, and dough bits in the garbage bin. DO NOT put this stuff down the sink. It’s like glue and will mess up your disposal.
Add the tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of the bowl. Set the dough on top, and then flip it, so it greases both sides of the dough. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for 1 to 2 hours in a warm, dry place. It should be doubled in size.
Prepare your baking sheets with either parchment paper or grease them with cooking spray. You can also use a little cornmeal on the bottom to keep the bread from sticking. Set aside.
After the first rise.
Punch the dough with your fist and knead again, as before to briefly smooth again. Cut dough ball in half with a sharp knife. You can either form two artisan rounds or two French baguettes. I prefer the rounds, as the ends make great salad croutons and the center is a little softer for sandwiches.
*You can experiment with this recipe and make 12 large buns, 24 garlic knots, whatever you need. The dough can be shaped on the second rise, just be mindful to lower the temp to 350 for the oven and lessen the cooking time by about ten minutes to accommodate the less dense dough shapes. It just takes practice.
Arrange into the shape you desire and place each half on its own cookie sheet or with enough space so the shapes have room to rise.
Let rise again covered with a clean, damp towel for 45 minutes in a warm, dry place. I usually use the top of my refrigerator or leave the microwave door open and use it as a high shelf away from kids and pets. When dough looks ready to go. Pre-heat oven to 400 F.
Slash the top of each loaf in 3 diagonals for a baguette or five for a round. Use a pastry brush and a cup of super cold water to gently brush the loaves. Sprinkle top with sesame seeds, or a little sea salt, only if you didn’t add nuts or fruit. Or keep it plain. It’s up to you and your taste buds.
Bake in oven approximately 30-35 minutes. It should be golden brown and sound like a hollow tree stump when you thump it. Some ovens run much hotter, so keep an eye on it or simply turn the heat down to compensate. Burnt bread is the worst!
Turn off oven and carefully remove bread from pans. Let cool completely on a clean dishtowel.
For added flavor, butter the tops with a tablespoon of butter while the bread cools.
Store in a cool, dry place, like a breadbox or wrap loosely in foil on countertop. Usually its good for about week. You can freeze it for up to a month in a Ziploc. Good luck for it lasting that long. It's really good. If you see mold anywhere, it’s time to toss it and make more. I can't guarantee your bread will turn out the way mine does, but I hope it does. Nothing comforts more than fresh bread and a good book with your loved ones at home.
Thanks to all of my wonderful friends and readers reaching out to connect over this difficult time. Stay safe, be smart and take care. We will get through this together. Happy Mother's Day to all of my friends in the U.K! If you need a good book to read, you know where to go. If you can’t afford to buy one, reach out and I will do my best to help.
Until next time find your Peace, Love, Hustle, then Read or Write. Xox Bibiana