I came across this wonderful bread recipe at least a year ago, and finally figured out how to use it to it’s fullest. Well, I’m sure I’m not actually using it to it’s fullest, but I am using the recipe almost every day now!
I first saw the recipe for Fresh Bread for a Week on trashfreeliving.blogspot.com.
This recipe is great, and yields two gorgeous round artisan loaves fit for the farmer’s market stand. I often add some herbs or italian seasoning and sprinkle some rosemary on top to make it even more tempting, but the baking process just was too much for me to do every day, and it wasn’t really enough bread for a week for our family (yes, we love bread). I gave out the recipe to several friends, and one of my friends later mentioned that she liked to put the dough in bread pans to bake so it would have that familiar “loaf shape” that her husband loves. She also said they like to make pizza rolls with it, which sounds delicious. Then my pastor’s wife shared her bread secret, which is just to add a little honey to the basic recipe, and even my 4 year old who formerly refused to eat any homemade bread loves that! So now, the super-simplified, couldn’t get much quicker or easier, version that I have settled on (for now):
- 3 cups Warm Water
- 1 1/2 Tbsp Salt (we like to use salt with minerals, like himalayan pink salt)
- 1 1/2 Tbsp Yeast
- 2-3 Tbsp Honey (or whatever amount you like, or leave it out)
- 5 1/2- 6 cups Flour (we like sprouted wheat or a mixture of whole grains, but if you want the “artisan boule” look and texture, I have found that turns out best with white flour.)
- About 1 Tbsp Dried herbs, garlic, or other spice if you like
Pour the warm water into a very large bowl, add the salt, yeast, and honey, then stir in the flour with a sturdy spoon and add herbs if desired. The dough should not be stiff or dry or at all like regular bread dough. It should be more like very thick muffin batter, or rather loose biscuit dough, and should conform easily to the bowl. Cover and let rise until double (about 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on how warm your kitchen is). At this point you can put the whole bowl in the fridge to deal with later (up to 3-4 days later) or just for a few hours to make it easy to handle, or you can be impatient like me and just tackle the sticky dough. Sprinkle the top of the dough very generously with flour and carefully divide into two halves. (Or, forget sprinkling flour and use a spoon to scoop the batter into your greased pans.) Place one half of the dough in one greased bread pan and the other half in another greased bread pan, or save one half for another day by placing in the fridge. Allow to rise while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees and then bake for about 30 minutes. I use glass 4×8 inch pans, so if you use a different size or metal pans you may need to adjust the time or temperature. This bread usually lasts well in a bag on the counter for 3-4 days before becoming a little dry or possibly moldy, but will last longer in the fridge. I don’t know how well it freezes because it’s just too easy to make for me to take up freezer space with it. =) You can freeze portions of the dough, then let them thaw and rise a couple hours before baking when you want to bake a fresh loaf.
By the way, this usually takes me about 1 1/2 – 2 hours start to finish, including tending to the needs of 3 little ones who decide that if Mommy is in the kitchen, they need to eat ;). Only about 5- 10 minutes of that is hands on time. I have made this bread in under an hour a few times though, just by cutting down the rising times a bit.
*Update: Make sure your yeast is still good. Sometimes yeast gets old after a few months and will no longer do its job to leaven bread, so an easy way to check is to take a little of your yeast and add it to about 1/4 cup of warm (like water you would use to wash dishes) water. Add a sprinkle of sugar and wait about 5 minutes. If your yeast is good, it should get foamy and “grow” to be a fluffy foamy mass in your bowl. If it doesn’t do anything, get some new yeast. Also, if you keep your flour in the freezer you will need to allow more rising time or get your flour out ahead of time.
*Update! I’ve been reading up a little on soaking grains to make them easier for our bodies to digest, but the recipes I found seemed awfully complicated for me to tackle right now. So, I just added 2 Tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (which seems to be the “magical” ingredient to help ferment the grains) to this recipe and let the dough sit on the counter overnight. I made up the loaves and baked them in the morning, and it turned out great! The loaves were perhaps a little more dense than usual, but that may have had more to do with using rye and barley flour instead of wheat, which has been yielding more dense loaves than wheat flour anyway. Gotta love this flexible recipe!
I am not an expert on soaking grains, so please let me know if I am doing it wrong and if there is more to it than just adding vinegar to the liquid and grains and allowing to soak overnight. Thanks!
UPDATE! I came across another excellent version of this bread– I think it may be the original recipe, and it’s even more foolproof! I love the idea of baking the bread in a dutch oven and letting it rise on parchment paper! It takes the painstaking part out of making an amazing artisan loaf.
Basically, make your dough and let it sit overnight. Then, using wet hands, plop half of it onto a sheet of parchment paper and gently lift the parchment paper and bread into a tall bowl (like a mixer bowl, or a tall crock pot) to rise. Heat your oven to 425 degrees with a dutch oven with lid on inside. (Make sure your dutch oven pot and lid DO NOT HAVE MELTABLE PARTS!) When the oven is hot and your bread has risen for about 1-2 hours, remove your dutch oven from the oven using oven mitts, and gently place the parchment paper (with the dough on it) in the dutch oven. Place lid on pot (with oven mitts!) and bake about 30 minutes with lid on. Then remove lid and bake 25-30 minutes uncovered until the crust is golden, cracked and gorgeous. It should sound hollow when you tap it. Allow to cool a bit before cutting the bread.