Old Fashioned Bread
Over the past few months, my family has posted several pictures on the Internet, of a very simple, homemade bread that I’ve been experimenting with. I’ve now had around 300 requests for the recipe, so here goes.
There are only 4 basic ingredients; it takes 5 minutes to mix, and then, 15 to 18 hours later, it’s 5 minutes to get it into the oven. And it smells good! Quantities can be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled, depending on how much bread you want.
2 cups unbleached flour, or 1 cup of unbleached, and 1 cup of whole wheat.
I just tried 1/3 rye flour, and it’s great. (photo) But you won’t get quite as much rise when you add whole wheat or rye. A small handful of flax seeds add texture.
I have an uncle and a cousin who grow Kamut; an ancient grain that is significantly higher in nutritive value than modern grains. I’m going to be getting some from them in a couple of months. Hint for Meritha: If I don’t get a grain mill for Father’s Day, I suppose I’ll have to use the coffee grinder.
1 teaspoon of traditional yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
1 1/3 cups of water, more or less.
Mix the dry ingredients and add most of the water. I mix it with a spatula – it’s less messy than using your hands, but if you like to feel the dough, go for it – and check to see if you get a dough that just barely sticks to the spatula. If it’s too dry, you’ll need to add a little water; too wet and you add a little flour. I keep flour and cornmeal in shaker bottles.
Then I put a plate over the bowl and let it sit for 15 to 18 hours.
The idea is that the yeasts do much of the work of digesting the gluten, and releasing the minerals and vitamins. I got the idea from watching a four-part series called Cooked, on Netflix. It’s well worth watching.
**My general philosophy is: “What’s the worst that could happen?” If it’s skydiving, the parachute might not open. No thanks. But if the bread is inedible, I just throw out $1 worth of ingredients and 10 minutes time; try to figure out what went wrong, and start again. If you get this just right on the first try, you’re probably lying. But seriously, that’s the secret. If you’re afraid of a failure, or a few, you’ll never create something that’s really yours. The recipe is meant for you to make it yours.
So, 18 hours later, again using the spatula, I poke it down, (kneading I suppose, but easier). I check it for stickiness and sprinkle and mix flour or water, as needed. You don’t want it to stick to your baking dish. Using the spatula, and sprinkling a bit of flour, I form it into kind of a ball and roll it into my baking dish, which I’ve had in a slightly warmed oven.
Leave it in the turned-off oven: then, 30 to 60 minutes later, and leaving it in the oven, I turn the oven on to 400°, set the timer to 55 minutes, (you’ll adjust this depending on how moist you like your bread) and let it bake, covered with foil or a lid.
**For the basic 2 or 3 cups of flour recipe, I bake it in a heavy, 6” diameter, non-stick aluminum pot, or a 3 X 7 X 3 inch deep rectangular ceramic dish. I wipe the interior with olive oil and then coat it lightly with the cornmeal. It gives a nice crust.
For larger quantities I use a deep, cast-iron pan. In the summer I use the barbecue and set the pan up on bricks to avoid burning the bottom. It’s also a great way to bake Cornbread / Johnny cake, or pies.
To the bread recipe I sometimes add flax seed, or a mixed cereal, or whatever seems like it might add good taste and texture. Adjust the water and flour accordingly.
Brush cream or oil or butter the top, and bake it uncovered for another 15 minutes.