Baking bread has been one of those elusive skills for me (like keeping plants alive) It doesn’t seem that hard to do, since I can follow instructions pretty well. And yet, when I try to make bread it just doesn’t turn out how I imagined.
I already figured out that one of my problems was the type of flour that I was using. Bread flour has higher protein content then all purpose flour. Ah! Science! I can understand that! The protein allows the gluten to develop in the dough. Gluten is what is produced when the yeast does its magic and what gives bread its chewy texture. This all makes sense. My previous attempts at bread making yielded some crumbly spongy weird bread.
Like any ambitious amateur baker I sought out some information from people that new what they were talking about. Off to the library! I found My Bread by Jim Lahey, he has a way of explaining the basics that clicked with me. His method of creating a tasty loaf of bread promised to be less muss and fuss than the traditional kneading and rolling techniques. You pretty much mix all the ingredients together to make kind of a doughy soup. You cover and wait a long time. He recommends 18 hours but for me it was closer to 24 because of work.
Once the blob of bubbles and flour had morphed into a alcohol-smelling-thing I scrapped it out of the bowl with a spoon and formed my round blob that would very soon bake into my loaf of bread.
I set my oven to a temperature super hot and it started to smoke a bit. I have a large dutch oven and that served as the “inner oven” for the loaf of bread. This part is pretty genious since it allows you to have a more controlled temperature. The way ovens normally heat is they will kick on and raise the temperature and then it will fall to a certain point and then the oven will kick on again. So the temperature normally fluctuates which is fine for most cooking but not so good for bread I imagine.
I am pretty pleased with the end result of this baking experiment. My husband even liked it, and I know he won’t sugar coat it if something I make doesn’t turn out quite right.
Here is the recipe I used for this bread. If you want more detailed direction check out Jim Lahey’s book My Bread. This book also gave me my latest pizza dough recipe. I’ll be checking this one out from the library again soon.
3 cups (400g) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoon (8g) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1g) dry active yeast
1 1/3 cup (300g) cool water
additional flour for dusting
- In large bowl combine dry ingredients and mix. Add water and stir for 30 seconds. Cover bowl and wait 12-18 hours.
- Dust work surface with flour and scrape dough out of bowl. Pull edges of the blob to the center to create a round blob. Sprinkle with flour.
- Cover with cotton dish towel and let raise for 2 more hours. 30 minutes prior to the end of this time preheat your oven to 375 and place a large dutch oven, my 6 quart dutch oven seemed to be the perfect size.
- Remove dutch oven from oven and carefully invert the dough into the pot seam side up. Cover and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
- Remove lid and bake for additional 10-30 minutes until bread is a deep chestnut color but not burnt.
I was surprised how little yeast was needed for this recipe. A packet of yeast is about 2 teaspoons. A big part of why so little is needed is the amount of time you let the dough rise. 18 hours is the longest that I’ve seen in a recipe. Bread making is a time commitment. Most of the work is in the waiting. If you will be around your house for a few hours while the dough goes through it’s second rise and baking, it is well worth the time invested.
The Price of home made bread:
bread flour – (Assuming you purchase a 5lb bag for $3.99, you can get this cheaper from a bulk supplier) = $0.77
salt = $0.02
dry active yeast (Assuming you purchase a 2lb bag for $4.94) = $0.01
electricity to run the oven = $0.16
Total for this loaf of bread = $0.96
I’ll definitely be making this recipe again. Happy baking!