Listen, I’m going to show you how to make bread and you are going to make it. It is so simple, and if you are in and out of your place on a Saturday or Sunday running errands and such, you can make a loaf or two and have fresh bread ALL WEEK. You will never ever want to buy bread from the grocery store ever again and you’ll find all sorts of ways to love bread…with ricotta cheese and honey, with a piece of salami and provolone, toasted with butter, topped with smoked fish and cheddar. You will have to find reasons NOT to eat bread.
And it’s so easy to make variations. I’m going to give you recipes for 2 types of hearth bread, also known as artisan bread, the kind you get when you go to restaurants and you end up eating the equivalent of a loaf before dinner. I love hearth bread, and you will too.
Basically all you have to do is mix the sponge, put a flour mixture over it, let it sit, mix them together and you have your dough. Then it’s time to rise…some people see this as the pain in the ass part. But if you have an oven with a light in it, you will have the perfect environment for dough rising. Just set your bowl in the oven, put the light on, close the door, and the oven will heat to a yeast-friendly 75-80 degrees. Then it’s a waiting game. And we can play that game.
I love the look and smell of risen dough. It’s all warm and soft and light. You need this is your life.
Since it’s snowing here (currently in CT) and I’m prepping for my boyfriend’s family’s holiday party, I’ll just post the Rye Bread recipe now and once I’m done glutting and frolicking in the snow I’ll give you the regular hearth bread recipe.
Come on folks, I made like 4 loaves in the past week and a half. You can do this! People will be so impressed with you (not that they aren’t already…you’re lovely!) Don’t make me sing pep songs and stuff.
Traditional Jewish Rye Bread
from The Bread Bible
Dough Starter: minimum 1 hr, max 24 hrs
Minimum Rising Time: 3 1/4 hrs
Oven Temp: 450 then 400
Baking Time: 45 to 55 minutes
Dough Starter Ingredients:
3/4 cup bread flour
3/4 cup rye flour
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp honey
1 1/2 cups water
Make the Sponge:
In a mixer bowl or other large bowl, place the bread flour, rye flour, yeast, sugar, honey, and water. Whisk until very smooth to incorporate air, about 2 minutes. The starter will be the consistency of a thick batter. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Set is aside covered in plastic wrap while you make the flour mixture.
Flour Mixture Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2 plus 1/8 tsp instant yeast
2 tbsp caraway seeds
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
cornmeal for sprinkling
Make the flour mixture and add it to the sponge:
In a large bowl, whisk together the bread flour (reserve 1/4 cup if mixing by hand), yeast, caraway seeds, and salt. Gently scoop it onto the sponge to cover it completely. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature.
Mix the Dough:
Add the oil and, with a wooden spoon or your hand, stir until the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together, then scrape it onto a lightly floured counter. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, enough to develop the gluten structure a little, adding as little of the reserved flour as possible to keep it from sticking. Use a bench scraper to scrape the dough and gather it together as you knead it. At this point, it will be a little sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is very smooth and elastic. If the dough is sticky, add some of the remaining reserved flour, or a little extra.
Let the Dough Rise:
Place the dough in a 2-qt dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Press down on the dough and lightly spray or oil the top. Cover the container with plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75 or 80 deg) until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and press down on it gently to form a rectangle. Give it 1 business letter turn. Oil the surface again, cover, and mark where double the height would now be. The dough will fill the container fuller than before because it is puffier with air. Allow to rise a second time until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Shape the dough and let it rise:
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and press it down to flatten it slightly. Round the dough into a ball about 5 1/2 inches by 2 1/2 inches high and set it on the cornmeal sprinkled baking sheet. Cover it wit a large container or oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it has almost doubled, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. It will be about 7 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches high, and when it is pressed gently with a fingertip the depression will very slowly fill in.
Preheat the oven:
Preheat the oven to 450F 1 hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it before preheating. Place a cast-iron skillet on the floor of the oven.
Slash and bake the bread:
With a sharp knife or single-edged razor blade, make 1/4- to 1/2-inch deep slashes in the top of the dough. Mist the dough with water and quickly but gently set the baking sheet on the hot stone or hot sheet. Toss 1/2 cup ice cubes into the pan beneath and immediately shut the door. Bake for 15 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 400F and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Halfway through baking, with a heavy pancake turner, lift the bread from the pan and place directly on the baking stone or sheet below, turning around as you do for even baking.
Cool the bread:
Remove the bread from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.