Fresh Bread

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.

Ingredients:

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.

Seriously, check this out. It’s pretty great.
This entry was posted in Good Advice, Impractical Optimization, Reference. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Fresh Bread

  1. Manx says:

    It’s 3 cups warm water – not 3.5.

  2. myst_05 says:

    What’s your opinion on specialized bread making machines? Better/worse than a regular stove?

    • TheZvi says:

      I have seen them produce reasonable loaves at reasonable effort, but I’ve never seen them do better than the procedure above, for which one already has an oven.

  3. Eric Fletcher says:

    Does this recipe accommodate mix-ins like rains or chocolate chips?

  4. aslvrstn says:

    Do you transfer the dough to an air-tight container before you store it for longer-term? I saved some dough for a week to see how well it really held up, and now I have completely dried-out dough. Probably because I left it covered with poorly sealed saran wrap and didn’t think very hard about what that would do.

    • TheZvi says:

      You definitely put a lid on the container. We let it rest over a week all the time, and have one over a week old right now.

      • Eric Fletcher says:

        You must be baking much less at a time. I finally made this today, and I’m not expecting it to last through the weekend.

  5. Eric Fletcher says:

    Update:
    For hot days when you don’t want to turn on the Oven, I have this mod, which makes things _even easier_.
    1. Measure 1c warm-from-tap water into a 4c measuring cup.
    2. Use a 1.5tsp measuring spoon to scoop yeast from it’s airtight container
    3. Use that same spoon to scoop and add salt from the box
    4. Add two cups of flour.
    (You can also multiply the above by any integer, and mix it in a sealable container if you want extra for another day. Or you can grab your extra from an earlier batch)
    5. Stir with a metal soup spoon until all the flour is incorporated into the ball
    6. Toss a clean dish towel over the top, and let it sit at least 2 hours (I make it at lunch, and let it sit until it’s time to start dinner)
    7. Pull one man-hand full of risen dough (about 3/4 cup) and toss it in a mini (2 cup size?) Ceramic coquette (a mini metal loaf pan would work too) that has been sprayed with a non-stick spray (which might not be needed, but better safe than sticky)
    If you want, knead in about 1/8 cup of mix-ins like chocolate chips, shredded cheese, etc before putting it in the pan.
    8. Put up to three of this on a tray in the center of your Air Frier or Toaster Oven
    9. Cook for 25 minutes at 400 degrees for 3 of them.

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