Learning to bake bread was a top quarantine activity for many. For too long, I neglected to post the method my wife and I have been using for years. It’s time to fix that.
This recipe is quick and easy, it’s flexible, and it’s absolutely delicious.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other preferences, or for variety, but this is pretty awesome.
The core comes from the book The New Artisinal Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
The book provides lots of useful variants, tweaks and methods one can use to make things great. And they’ve certainly earned your money! But you can get most of the benefits from the core recipe, and tweak from there.
Here’s how it works.
3 cups water
6.5 cups bread flour (can substitute all-purpose flour and it’s fine)
1.5 tablespoons self-activating yeast
1.5 tablespoons kosher salt
How to make the dough:
1. Put the water wherever you want to store the dough.
2. Add yeast and salt, and mix together.
3. Then add the flour, and mix again. No need to kneed, only to mix until it’s roughly one texture.
4. Cover with saran wrap and let rise for two hours.
5. Put it in the refrigerator, in a container with an airtight lid, and use as needed. It should be good for at least two weeks.
Because the timing is so flexible, you can always get hot fresh bread. You can make the exact amount you want, exactly when you want it. Don’t drop the ball on this. It’s a huge deal. Fresh and hot is where it is at.
When the time comes to make the bread:
1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Grease pan with flour and butter and/or wax paper. Good wax paper is a big win, but bad wax paper only makes things worse.
3. Make desired shape of dough. Remember that it doesn’t have to be that high, it will rise a lot.
4. (Optional) You can let the bread rise again before baking, and it’s slightly better if you do that for a half hour to an hour, but you don’t need to. We mostly skip it.
5. (Optional) If desired, place flour over loaf and make slash marks on the top to get more crisp. This totally is not actually necessary. We mostly skip it.
6. Place in oven.
7. (Optional) Have a pan on the rack below the bread, and dump a cup of warm water onto that pan to generate steam. Again, slightly useful, not actually necessary. We mostly skip it.
8. Bake bread for 30 minutes or until it’s about as done as you’d like. Ovens and preferences vary.
Serve as desired, preferably with some combination Kerrygold Butter, Sea Salt, fresh ground black pepper, jam, honey, high quality olive oil, burrata, and other neat stuff like that.
This whole job is essentially five minutes to make a batch of dough, ten tops, a check back to refrigerate two hours later (timing is super flexible on that), then a few minutes work when the time comes to make the bread. The main problem is remembering to keep dough on hand and deciding how much you want half an hour in advance. That’s it.
And that’s it. It’s that easy. We make that bread straight up about 85% of the time, and my mother’s Challah the other 15% of the time. The Challah is of similar final quality and a different style, but it is more work per batch, has to rise overnight and it only lasts about two days, so the timing is trickier. No contest.