Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bread, bread, bread

I love bread.  I love any kind of fresh bread, the crispy white bread, the hearty whole grain, rye is a particular favorite.  Yum. I had finally come to terms with the fact that I can never make the quality I get from bakeries,  when I stumbled upon some interesting articles (I love Mother Earth News) both touting instructions on how to make great bread.  There were many similarities in these articles, namely they both negating the necessity to knead.  This little fact was a pleasant surprise.  Every time my bread didn't turn out I had always assumed it was due to my lazy kneading.  I would start out with great commitment to kneading for 10 to 15 minutes, and last maybe 5.

I perused this article a clip from the book Artisan Bread Making in 5 Minutes a Day.  This was an information article, giving me plenty of information to get started including her basic recipe.  The next article concured with the no knead method and suggest that you don't need a recipe.  Encouraging the novice baker to play with your dough, add some flour, yeast, water, salt and whatever else sounds interesting and get to know how the dough should feel, etc.  But what I found even more interesting was the information the author found in his quest to understand why we knead.  When he was perusing old cookbooks researching bread preparation and such,  he found that the cookbooks in the 1950's started the emphasis on kneading.  Quotes in the cookbooks expressed that a mother/wife proves how much she loves her family by the time she spends kneading her dough.  Seems very depicting of that time period.  Kneading time came from a cultural value, not a culinary importance.  So what we know, what we believe to be fact, to be necessary may just be what our culture, our role models have touted.    Hmmmm, even more interesting.  Who know that bread could be so historically interesting.  One more reason to not knead your dough :)

Anyways, I decided to start with basic recipe from the Artisan Bread Making article, 6-3-3-13, 6 cups warm water (about the perfect bath temperature), 3 Tbs yeast, 3 Tbs salt and 13 cups flour.  I cut the recipe in half to start.  The author also says to reuse the same container (she recommends a jar which does seem like the perfect devise rather than a bowl, I will get a gallon jar and use that next time) with each batch.  Just scrape down the sides and leave it in the bowl to add to the next batch, it makes it more sourdough like.

Here is my bowl with some left over from the last batch.

Here it is scraped down

So next I added 3 cups warm water 1 1/2 Tbs yeast and 1 1/2 Tbs salt.  Mixed everything together and let it sit for a few minutes.  While it was resting I stepped things up a notch and milled some grain.  Yes, I have a little mill and wanted to add some rye to the mixture.  So I milled some rye berries.

I added 4 cups of the fresh rye flour and 2 1/2 cups of unbleached white flour.  The freshly milled flour is great, but definitely different than what we are used to.  It is less processed and more flavorful - I have to admit my family shows a preference for the crunchy white loafs - but I still change it up a little :)

The appearance of the dough is more like a gruel.  It is not a dough-like consistency.

But it would seem the yeast are much happier in the mush, there is immediate activity and bubbles begin to form in the gruel shortly.

I let this "rise" in a warm place for 2 hours and the dough has gotten significantly larger.  Now I get to the baking.  This is the step that can make or brake your bread.  I have made a huge batch of dough, so I cut out or tear out a grapefruit size ball, cover the rest and put it in the refrigerator, leaving it for up to two weeks.  Taking out these balls to make a loaf whenever we have finished the last.  This is a genius idea, now we can have a freshly baked, small loaf of bread everyday.  Great for the taste buds and the wonderful aroma filling the house.

So I take this ball and make it into a round loaf, using lots of flour on the board as this is sticky dough.

I let this loaf rest/rise for 40 minutes to 1 hour.  Pre-heat the oven to 450.  I have found that a hot oven is VERY important in getting a good loaf of bread.  I moved the oven rack to the second slot from the top and put my baking stone on that rack.  When I cook the loaves in a hot oven close to the  top, they get that crunchy outside and moist inside.  Slide the loaf into the pre-heated oven and bake for 35 minutes.

A beautiful, crunchy, moist loaf of bread the perfect size for my family of four.  We are all happy.


  1. Wonderful stuff Sarah, i love it!
    I found the pictures very helpful
    and thats a great idea to have the dough in the fridge ready to go.


  2. SO fun! I can't wait to try this. Thanks!

  3. I love baking bread at home and have been using the "almost no-knead bread" method as published by Cook's Illustrated a couple of years ago (based on Mark Bittman's original article in the NYT). It seems there has been a wave of these recipes. What is fascinating about your approach is that no dutch oven is needed - in the Cook's and NYT articles they talk about they need for an appropriate cooking vessel to trap the moisture and create the crispy exterior. Of course, those recipes have very wet doughs. All I know is that I'm sold on your baking stone approach, as well as the rip the piece off of the stuff in the fridge as opposed to a new batch every other night (my current m.o.) The kneading "history" is so good to know. Last question - what I like about my current method is that my 4 year old can easily stir it all together. That's true with your recipe too, right? Great post - thanks for sharing!

  4. Baking stone has arrived and I tried the recipe - it's fantastic! Meanwhile, I've got the Artisan Bread book from the library (the healthy - WW version) and I'm loving it. Thanks for the inspiration!