Bread: the Final Frontier. Rarely if ever attempted in this kitchen.
Now you and I both know that there is nothing better than homemade bread. It smells great. It makes the whole house smell great. It’s crusty. It’s chewy. It’s satisfying. I leaves you feeling just good.
But bread scares me, Fellow FoodBeest. Seriously. I don’t do bread. Bread is hard to make. It’s easy to mess up. It requires a lot of work or fancy equipment. I can’t make it.
And other stories I have told myself about making bread.
Several years ago Mark Bittman (one of my culinary gurus) published a recipe in the New York Times he adapted from the Sullivan Street Bakery in Manhattan. I copied the recipe and saved it for “someday.” I didn’t try it. After all I already know that “bread is hard to make. It’s easy to mess up. It requires a lot of work…” etc., etc.
Turns out my story was full of beans, Fellow FoodBeest. Baking bread can be simple (and easy). It requires no kneading. It’s incredibly delicious. And beautiful. Even I can make it. It – no kidding – looked like I had bought a boule in my local bakery and plopped it in my kitchen just to show off.
But I really made it. That means you can too.
But there is a catch. The catch is that you have to plan ahead. Like 14-20 hours ahead. You start the night before.
What You Need to Make the Easiest Homemade Bread Ever
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ t instant yeast [you read that right. ¼ teaspoon. That’s all.]
1¼ t salt
1-5/8 C water [that’s one cup plus 5 coffee scoops]
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.
How to Make the Easiest Homemade Bread Ever
Start the night before the day you want to eat the bread. I put this first step together about 8 pm.
In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add water, and stir until blended. You will have sticky, stringy dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 – 18 hours (longer is better), at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
You will know your dough is ready for the next step when its surface is dotted with bubbles. For me it was about 16 hours (around noon the next day).
Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rest about 15 minutes.
Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Place the dough, seam-down on a piece of parchment paper. Alternately you could use a silicone mat or a cotton (not terrycloth) towel covered with flour, cornmeal or wheat bran.
Cover it with another flour-coated cotton towel (the towel can also be coated with corn meal or wheat bran) and let it rise in a quiet, warm place (a gas oven that is not on is perfect) for about 2 hours.
When the dough more than doubles in size and does not readily spring back when you poke it with your finger, you know it is ready for the next step.
A good half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees with a large (6-8 quart) heavy covered pot like a cast iron or enamel Dutch oven.
When dough is ready, carefully remove the very hot, empty pot from oven. Slide your hand under the dough. It will separate pretty easily from the parchment. Then turn the dough over into the pot or Dutch oven, seam side up. It may look like a mess, but that is ok. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
Cover with lid [that’s right. You put the lid on the pot or Dutch oven] and bake it for 30 minutes. Then carefully remove the lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf. Warm. Butter melts into it. Crusty. Chewy. Awesome.
Have you ever made bread, Fellow FoodBeest? Share your experiences in the comments section below.