“How can a nation be great if it’s bread tastes like Kleenex?” – Julia Child
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I can’t think of the last time I bought bread
My love affair with homemade bread began innocently enough – one day in my car, listening to NPR.
The authors of Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day were discussing their new book, and the no-knead, keep a batch of dough in your fridge, tear off a hunk each day to bake, process.
Sold. I went home and ordered a copy. My Amazon history tells me that it was May 11, 2009.
Since then I’ve made batches and batches of dough, and their cookbooks have become some of my favorite gifts to give
If you came to my house on any given day, this is the loaf you’d see on my counter.
I stumbled upon the recipe from one of my very favorite food blogs: Alexandra’s Kitchen
When she mentioned it was her favorite, I had to give it a try. It quickly became mine as well, for my everydays. Simple, delicious, and terribly versatile.
The number of loaves I’ve made over the years, too numerous to count. If you came to a family gathering, it would be part of the menu. Even during the times I’ve been gluten-free, there were still loaves rising our the fridge overnight for the men in my life that I love
I’ve made several modifications to her original. One cup of graham flour is a must, but with the other 3 cups I’ve been experimenting: whole wheat, spelt, oat, regular. They all give just that different bit of flavor and texture.
The salt – since discovering flavored salts at AllSpice, I haven’t used anything regular and white. They’re absolutely fantastic.
Add spices and herbs. Throw in anything that sounds good! I’ve used rosemary, thyme, roasted garlic, herbs de Provence. (There are lots and lots of great ideas for variations on her site as well)
Or make it plain, for your everyday, when you get up in the morning and want something warm and toasty with your peanut butter and jelly
ps: Since the original post, Alexandra has also included a gluten-free version of this recipe at her site. I’ve yet to give it a try, although I imagine, like all of her recipes, it’s spot on. She also includes an interesting write-up about her findings as she experimented with getting it right
pps: One batch of dough makes two loaves; each of which fit in 1L Pyrex glass baking bowls
ppps: More fun recipes and stories from Spaghetti Saturdays
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~ Adapted from Alexandra’s Kitchen
Peasant Bread (My Favorite)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup graham flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 1 Tbsp natural sugar, or honey
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- butter ~ 2 Tbsp at room temperature
- In a mixing bowl whisk the flours and the salt. Set aside.
- Grease a separate large bowl with butter or olive oil and set this aside. (It will be used for the dough's initial rise)
- In a standing mixer's bowl, dissolve the sugar into the water. Sprinkle the yeast over the top. (If you'd like, to ensure the yeast is active, you could let the mix stand for 10-15 minutes or until it's foamy and bubbling just a bit. I typically don't)
- Add the flours and salt.
- Mix (The original recipe outlines stirring with a wooden spoon, which works, but I like to use my mixer with the dough hook and let it go for 4 or 5 minutes on medium speed) The dough will be on the wet side. Transfer to the greased bowl from the preparation step
- Cover bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise for at least an hour, or until it's about doubled in size
- Grease 2 oven-safe bowls with about a Tbsp of butter each.
- Punch down your dough and divide it into two equal parts. One by one, place each half on a floured counter-top. Quickly form a ball with each, and transfer them to your prepared bowls.
- At this point, the original recipe calls for letting the dough rise until it's doubled again in size, and this certainly works. I've taken to putting the dough into the fridge overnight for its second rise. There's something that happens to dough when it ferments for a long period of time in a cool environment.
- When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425° F
- Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375º and bake for 18-19 minutes longer. Remove from the oven, letting the loaves sit for 5-10 minutes before turning them over onto cooling racks
- If the bowls have been greased well, the loaves should easily fall out onto the cooling racks.
- You'll have to gauge it based on taste; I cook the loaves on the lower end of the time the original calls for because we like them pale and soft. If that's not for you, they can always be placed back into the oven (outside their bowls) and baked for about 5 minutes longer.
- Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.
I’m inspired to try my own variations. Will report results later!