Recently I’ve discovered a new obsession… HOMEMADE BREAD.
I have a love-hate relationship with bread. While I enjoy a hearty sandwich as much as the next person and I love bread’s ability to give me the carbies I need to do all of the things I love everyday, I am often left feeling dissatisfied with the floppy bread cut into uniform shapes that I often find in my bread drawer. Also, the use of high fructose corn syrup in most breads just does not sit well with me.
A few months ago I stumbled upon an article on Mark Bittman’s blog, “The Minimalist,” about “No-Knead Bread.” What intrigued me the most was that I could have warm, crusty, FRESH bread in my hands in a matter of hours. While there is a significant amount of down time in this recipe, the active baking time is quick and all you need is a cast iron pot, dutch oven, or any pot that conducts heat well. While my first try did not produce the most visually appealing product, the satisfaction of baking my own bread made up for my blob-shaped loaf.
THEN, a few weeks ago I was perusing the cookbook section of my local library when I stumbled across this:
This book has the same basic message of the original No-Knead-Bread recipe by the Sullivan Street Bakery: with just minutes a day of preparation, along with some time for the dough to rest, you can have fresh bread everyday. One difference between these recipes and the New York Times recipe is that instead of using a dutch oven to allow for rapid baking and a crunchy crust a screaming hot pizza stone is used. My pizza stone has definitely been working overtime as I have discovered a new use for it other than making amazing pizza. In addition, the book prides itself on not requiring any kneading in order to mix the dough or develop its gluten structure-all you need is a large bowl and a wooden spoon. A major aspect of this No-Knead phenomenon is that you whip up a large batch of whatever dough you desire and it will keep in the fridge for up to ten days. So whenever you’ve got a hankering for some yummy bread you just cut off a piece of the mother batch and pop it in the oven. Their claims are true and by simply mixing the dough and allowing it to sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours (I prefer about 24 hours so that the flavors and the gluten structure of the dough can develop), I have been able to create some lovely loaves.
I’m not sure why but the lovely aroma of freshly baked bread is right up there with the smell of sweet apple pie and sugar cookies straight out of the oven.
AND THEN I discovered the second installment of the “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day”:
Cue the angelic gospel singing.
This book utilizes the same basic method of no-knead bread baking but with the use of whole grains- um, whole wheat cinnamon raisin bagels, anyone? This time I decided to actually buy the book and I have definitely got my money’s worth!
Usually when people (myself included) think about baking bread, they think of spending hours of being elbow deep in dough kneading and moving the dough to random places at specific temperatures in order to allow it to properly rise. But these recipes and books have taught me that fresh bread does not require hours of devotion. And as I try to move towards eating as simply and as close to the source as possible, homemade bread is a great example of how with a handful of ingredients and a little time, one can create a delicious, satisfying loaf of bread that is a million times better than anything you would find in the grocery store. I HIGHLY recommend baking your own bread- it is rewarding for both the soul and the belly! Happy baking!