The Bread and Butter of Quarantine

It's been over 20 years since I've made bread from scratch. During quarantine, all I had was a package of three-month-old expired yeast, and wouldn't you know every store in town was out of yeast. What I learned in this experiment is don't believe every yeast packet you read.

Baking bread has never been my thing. I could never quite put my finger on why it just didn't have the same appeal for me as baking a batch of cookies or a cake from scratch. Perhaps I didn't have the patience to let the dough rise. Perhaps I didn't enjoy the kneading of the bread, as it made my wimpy wrists hurt and give out.

In swooped the 1990s with the invention of the bread machine. An odd-looking contraption that took up counter space. The machine made it as simple as dumping in the ingredients (and sometimes from a mix) and then sitting back watching the machine stir, knead, and bake.  The machine also created a smell of hot fresh bread giving us the cue to bring out the butter dish and a jar of jam. It also made it too easy to have a daily hot loaf of bread making us put on weight. 

At the beginning of the quarantine as I looked around on social media it seemed as if the trend around the nation was to make and bake bread and even make bread from your own fermented stash of sourdough. I didn't feel like mixing flour and water together and waiting for a week for the wild yeasts from the air to kick in and start its bubbling action. I also didn't feel like dusting off the old bread machine. 

It just so happened that during quarantine, I found a new hobby. I got hooked on watching YouTube.  I was amazed at the talented content creators. There were more than just videos of silly cat tricks and old White Snake rock n' roll videos. There were creators of cooking and sharing recipes, gardening, herbologist, journaling, bookbinding, papercrafts, soap making, and even making natural salves from herbs and flowers from their gardens. 

Several YouTube creators were sharing their favorite tried and true bread recipes, but none of them seemed different than the old recipes I had collecting dust - and then one day I found it. I found the recipe that would not ask me to knead. 

My First Loaf
My first loaf. I'm like a proud parent. 

I discovered the perfect recipe - a no-knead recipe that only calls for four simple ingredients. It's a recipe from New York Times featuring Mark Bittman interviewing breadmaker James Lahey, owner of Sullivan Street Bakery.

I have now made this recipe several times and each time with success. Once I even used the yeast that was four months past the expiration date, and another time I forgot one of the techniques - - and despite my errors, I still ended up with the perfect loaf of bread. After getting hooked on bread baking but knowing I shouldn't be eating it all at once, I discovered a loaf, and even half of a loaf freezes well.  The parchment paper the bread is baked in serves as an extra wrapping and then placed in a freezer bag. 


Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. yeast
  • 1 1/2 c lukewarm water

Combine the flour, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl. Stir the dry ingredients well. Add lukewarm water. Stir together.  A rubber spatula really helps. With the help of a spatula, form the dough in the bowl and into a ball-like shape. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. I also covered the plastic wrap with a towel. Set it on the counter. Now go about your business for at least six hours. This is where it's important to plan ahead. I usually start the dough in the morning if I want bread for the evening. I have even left it overnight (12-18 hours) with great success.

When it's time to bake,  preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  After a few minutes,  place an (empty) oven-safe cast-iron Dutch oven with a lid (I have also used my LeCruset  Dutch oven with success) in the oven to preheat it. 

Sprinkle flour onto a workspace like a counter or wooden board. I have even used parchment paper to cover the workspace which makes for easy clean-up.  Place the plastic aside from the bowl. Place all of the dough from the bowl onto the floured workspace. You will note that the dough isn't smooth and kind of sticky - this means all is well. 

Flour your hands and gently shape the dough into a ball. It doesn't have to be perfect. Cover it back with the plastic while you're waiting for the Dutch oven to heat. 

Carefully remove the hot Dutch oven from oven. Carefully drop the dough into the Dutch oven.  Bake (450 degrees) with the lid on for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the lid and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the finished bread. Let cool on a rack.  

Later the thawed bread made the nicest and richest cheesy grilled toast perfect for dipping in tomato soup. 




Addition 9/1/2020: 

With this recipe, I decided to experiment and make cinnamon raisin bread.  I added a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon to the dry ingredients and continued the usual process.  Then after it did its rising thing and ready to be placed in the Dutch Oven, I added about a 1/4 cup of raisins to the dough. I kind of just sprinkled and worked them into the dough. When done, then plopped it in the Dutch oven and baked as directed. 

So what do you think? I think my little experiment looks good, and it also tasted delicious! 




Comments

  1. I actually enjoy kneading, and I gave my bread machine away to force myself to use my KitchenAid instead.. My boys refused to eat bread that wasn't shaped like a slice taken from a loaf (weirdos) so the rounded loaves with a hole in the center the bread machine made were only eaten by me. I did love how easy the bread machine was to fill the house with the smell of baking bread! I am the only person I know who hasn't baked bread in the pandemic. Instead, I learned to use my Instant Pot (which I had to dust off) better!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry Carrie for me not replying sooner. I didn't get a notification. I hear ya on the bread machine. I loved the thing and I still have it, although I haven't used it in awhile, but this recipe makes bread-making so easy. You are way ahead of me as I haven't bought a Instant Pot. A few decades ago I might have, but I now have the time and kind of enjoy the "slow cooking." Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete

Post a Comment

https://www.womaninwinecountry.com/2022/01/pantry-pull-1-1-1-peanut-butter-cookies.html