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Homemade bread the easy way

With an aroma to please any soul, freshly baked bread is the hallmark of a country kitchen

January 24, 2020
By Jean Picard - Grit Magazine , Farm News

By JEAN PICARD

Grit Magazine

Nothing says "home" like the aroma of fresh baked bread wafting from the oven, and nothing pleases guests or family members like the taste of that bread when it hits the table. Oven fresh bread is difficult to resist, but it doesn't have to be difficult or time-consuming to create.

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- Grit Magazine photo by Lori Dunn

This Sun-dried tomato focaccia bread recipe is made over a 24-hour period.

Although bread making involves several steps, the timing doesn't need to be precise. It can be accomplished at your convenience, with steps in the recipe fitting between other activities. And some no-knead recipes require less than an hour of your time.

While experienced bakers may not need quite as many details, our instructions will enable even novice bread bakers to turn out old-fashioned white sandwich bread, tender dinner rolls, zesty Italian flatbread, and a round artisanal loaf of incomparable texture.

Though I sometimes use whole-grain flours, the only white flour I ever use is unbleached all-purpose flour. Also, for the sake of simplicity, all these recipes call for instant yeast, sometimes called rapid rise or bread machine yeast.

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Bakers measure flour several different ways; the most accurate way is by weight, not volume. The weights of a given volume of packed versus scooped versus sifted flour varies substantially. A packed and leveled cup, the most consistent measure, of unbleached all-purpose flour weighs about 5 ounces. The following recipes are based on that measurement method.

72-hour no-knead sourdough bread

Inspired by the famous no-knead bread of 2006 that was baked in a cast-iron Dutch oven (but had some messy steps I've eliminated), and craving a sourdough without the bother of maintaining a sourdough starter, I developed this easy recipe. Don't let the "72-Hour" bit scare you off; it's really just a few minutes of work and 72 hours of waiting. That's a lot easier than keeping a sourdough starter going, which I have done in the past only to conclude that keeping a cat is less trouble!

Starter, day one:

1/2 packed cup (2 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, room temperature

Starter, day two:

1/2 packed cup (2 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, room temperature

Final dough, day three:

2 1/2 packed cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

1 cup water, room temperature

Prepare starter 72 hours before you plan to serve the bread. In 1-quart bowl, stir together flour, yeast, and water. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, stir in additional flour and water. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

Start final dough 24 hours before you plan to serve the bread. In medium bowl (I use a 2-quart glass measure so I can easily tell when the dough has doubled), whisk together flour, salt, and yeast. Add starter and water and stir with dough whisk or large spoon until mixture just comes together into wet, sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 19 hours on countertop.

Stir down dough (just a couple of strokes), cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 3 1/2 hours. When you have about a half hour left, put your pot (without its lid) into the oven and heat to 450 F. I use a 5-quart, round, enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with 9-inch bottom interior diameter.

When ready, dough will be more than double in size. Remove hot pot from oven. Put a round of parchment in bottom to prevent sticking. Scrape dough into heated pot. Cover and place in oven. Reduce temperature to 425 F. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake another 30 minutes, or until crust is beautifully golden and middle of loaf is 210 F. Remove and let cool on wire rack for 1 1/2 hours. If not eating right away, you can recrisp crust at 350 F for 10 minutes. It's best the day it is baked; the loaf can be kept, wrapped in foil, at room temperature for up to 2 days (makes great toast). Yields 1 loaf.

24-hour sun-dried tomato

focaccia

Plain focaccia is delicious, but in the middle of winter, with tomatoes from the garden a distant memory, the tang of sun-dried tomatoes is refreshing. The improved flavor of the made-ahead dough is worth waiting at least a day for.

3 1/2 packed cups (16 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon instant yeast

1/3 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1 1/2 cups water, room temperature

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

3/4 teaspoon dried basil

3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Start focaccia dough one to three days ahead. Lightly oil 2-quart glass measure. In large bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, salt, sugar, instant yeast, and sun-dried tomatoes. Add water and 2 tablespoons olive oil, and stir until thoroughly combined. Continue stirring slowly for 2 minutes. Stir in remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time, reserving final quarter cup for shaping the soft and slightly sticky dough into a smooth ball.

Place dough in prepared measure; turn to oil surface. Cover with loose lid, tea towel, or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours or up to three days.

Remove dough from refrigerator 4 or 5 hours before serving time (depending on the temperature of your kitchen; a cool kitchen makes for a longer rising time than a warm kitchen). Oil a 17-by-11-by-1-inch baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Punch down dough (by pressing down in center and folding in edges), turn out on prepared baking sheet. With oiled hands, press out dough a bit just to flatten; don't try to fill pan. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap; let rest for 2 hours.

Uncover and, with oiled hands, stretch and press out dough to fit pan. If it's too springy, cover and let relax for 15 minutes before patting it out. Repeat if necessary. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until very puffy, which can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours.

During last 20 minutes, heat oven to 450 F. Just before placing dough in oven, dimple (gently poke) dough with oiled fingers and sprinkle with herbs. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden. Loosen focaccia from pan with spatula and slide onto rack to cool slightly, about 20 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

48-hour no-knead

ciabatta

Many recipes exist for Italian "slipper" bread (so called for its resemblance to a slipper). The flattened oval shape makes it the perfect loaf to split horizontally for a large sandwich. The inside is chewy and filled with holes, ideal for dipping in olive oil.

Starter, day one:

1 packed cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

3/4 cup water, room temperature

Final dough, day two:

2 1/2 packed cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, room temperature

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Prepare starter 48 hours before you plan to serve the bread. In 1-quart bowl, stir together flour, yeast, and water. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

Start final dough 24 hours before serving time. In 2-quart glass measure, whisk together flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. Add starter, water, and oil, and stir with dough whisk or large spoon until mixture just comes together into wet, sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 19 hours on countertop.

Stir down dough (just a couple of strokes), cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 2 hours.

Lightly spray half-sheet pan or large baking sheet (mine is 17-by-11-by-1-inch) with baking spray. Place 17-inch length of parchment on baking sheet and lightly flour (about 1 teaspoon) paper in spots where loaves will go.

Turn dough out onto floured countertop and sprinkle with lots of flour as you shape it into a log. Cut log in half and transfer to parchment-lined pan. Set halves parallel with short end of pan and press dough out to 10-by-4-inch rectangles. Dimple surface with floured fingertips. Sprinkle each rectangle lightly with flour and cover with floured, smooth kitchen towel or oil-sprayed plastic wrap. Let rise for 2 hours. About 20 minutes before you put the bread in, heat oven to 450 F.

Uncover pan and place in oven. Reduce heat to 425 F, and bake about 30 minutes or until crust is golden. Remove and let cool on wire rack for 1 hour. If not eating right away, you can recrisp crust in oven at 350 F for 10 minutes. It's best the day it is baked; the bread can be kept, wrapped in foil, at room temperature for up to 2 days. Yields two 15-ounce loaves.

Quick and easy spoon rolls

Even if you have just an hour and a half or so until dinner, it's not too late to make old-fashioned spoon rolls. Since they require no kneading or shaping, you can get on with other things during the two quick rises. Such an easy, foolproof recipe makes a perfect introduction to yeast baking.

3 3/4 packed cups (18 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) instant yeast

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

2 cups water

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 large egg, lightly beaten

In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. On stove or in microwave, heat water and butter together until butter is melted and mixture is 120 to 130 F. With dough whisk or large wooden spoon, stir into flour mixture along with beaten egg until blended. The dough will be very sticky. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 35 to 45 minutes.

Stir down dough (just a few strokes). With a 1/4-cup measure, scoop dough into well-greased or cooking-sprayed muffin tins, filling two-thirds full (scant 1/4 cup). Let rise, uncovered, 20 to 30 minutes, or until dough has risen to the top of the cups. During last 15 minutes, heat oven to 400 F.

Bake 20 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from tins. Yields 24 rolls.

Excerpted from GRIT. To read more articles from GRIT, please visit www.grit.com or call 866-803-7096 to subscribe. Copyright 2020 by Ogden Publications Inc.

 
 

 

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