I bought this great book Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day - and while it does take a bit more than 5 minutes - I have been baking bread just about every other day with the recipes there-in. This is what one recent loaf looked like:
|wow. this is one blurry picture. sorry.|
Beautiful, right? And I have, almost single-handedly been eating a loaf of bread a day. With Irish Butter. Oh. My. God. I have to stop. My double chin is going to develop its own double chin.
So, what you do, is mix up a big batch of bread dough in a big tub, like the one pictured above. I got that one from the King Arthur website. It's pretty easy - in a big tub or bowl, stir together 3 cups of warm water, 2TBLSP of yeast, 1 TBSLP kosher salt and I add 1TBLSP of brown sugar. Let that sit for a while, then add 5 cups of flour and squish it all together with both hands like it's wet clay and you're six. Let all that sit at room temperature for 2 hours - or so - then refrigerate it over night. In the morning hack off a 1lb portion (about two large handfuls) - form it into a ball or a football shape - let it sit out for 2 hours, or all day if need be - there's nothing in it to spoil - and then when you are on your way home from teaching, call your daughter and ask her to preheat the oven to 450. After she's finished arguing with you about it (E:"but mom, I'm watching HOUSE!" K: "On the DVR! Which you can PAUSE for 3 minutes to punch three numbers on the controls!"), and with a huge I-do-so-much-for-YOU-what-have-you-done-for-ME-lately-sigh gets up and does it, you can be smug the rest of the way home that tonight you and your family will feast on fresh baked bread even if you accompany it with canned soup and frozen veggies.
When you get home, dust the dough with flour, make a couple of slashes in the top and slide it in the oven. I don't have a pizza stone (which is what the book recommends*) so I've been baking it on my massive cast iron skillet which you should throw in the oven to preheat about 10 minutes before throwing the bread on top of it. The book suggests pouring a cup of water into a pan on the rack above the bread - which I've done a few times, but which, I have to say, has not created the desired extra crispy crust that was promised. So I don't do it because I'm lazy. Bake the bread for 30- 45 min - you want the crust to be fairly dark - darker than you'd think - because the dough is so wet. Resist, resist, resist cutting into the bread for an hour or so after you take it out because it really does your bread a disservice - releasing all the steam before it's done, and causing it to be soggy. Sometimes I can actually wait.
Buy this book, or get it from the library, because there's all this science behind the baking of this bread which you will want to read. Or, if you live in my neighborhood, be extra nice to me and I might just give you a loaf of bread for free. Before my double chin's double chin develops yet another double chin.
* I bought a pizza stone from I-don't-remember-where and every time I used it, it made the house smell like Elizabeth New Jersey, which is to say, chemicals. I thew it out.