By Danielle Rosenberg
Kneading and baking fresh bread is one of the arts for which our culture has truly lost appreciation.
It has for the average person become an abstract concept, evoking the incredulous: “You make your own bread?”
In fact, it wasn’t until 1928 that the process of slicing, wrapping and selling the bread we buy everyday began.
We have become dependent upon these loaves wrapped in plastic and slapped on a shelf when, in reality, the hardest part about baking bread is to resist eating the entire loaf the second it comes from the oven (really, I don’t advise it).
So, I’ve decided to dedicate this article to this staple which can so be improved: bread.
I certainly can’t take the full credit for this recipe as I could for my others, so I’ll admit I found this basic one from a blogger named Jason Horn of an excellent food blog: thekitchn.com
Here, I’m going to post his basic recipe and then elaborate on ways to make the bread more interesting and flavorful.
1 C. Water (Should be at or just above room temperature)
1 Pkg. Active Dry Yeast
1 C. Bread Flour
1 C. Whole wheat, rye or other type of flour (optional)
1 Tsp. Salt
In a large bowl, let the yeast dissolve in the water, and then let it sit for about five minutes until it begins to froth slightly.Stir in all of the flour, the salt and any additional ingredients (such as spices); then move to a floured surface.Knead the bread for about 7 or 8 minutes, until it springs back slowly when indented. (This may be a little strenuous at first but is really very relaxing, promise.)In a bowl, pour about two tablespoons of olive oil and turn over the bread a few times until it’s coated by a thin layer. Cover this bowl with plastic wrap or a moist tea towel, then let the bread rise until doubled (or about an hour).Punch down the bread, and replace the cover, and let rise until doubled once more (this time should only take about forty-five minutes).
Move the loaf to a baking sheet and shape as you’d like (I usually form it into a skinny oval) and use a serrated knife to cut slits in the top (this helps the bread rise evenly).
Preheat the oven to 450 ͦF. The amount of time required for the oven to reach this temperature should be a sufficient resting period for the bread. When it has finished preheating (and not a second before, mind you), slide the bread in and cook for about 35 or 40 minutes, or until knocking on the bottom of the loaf of bread produces a hollow sound.
Rice Flour: I have been using brown rice flour instead of whole wheat or rye flour—this doesn’t necessarily change the flavor much.
Herbs: Adding herbs to the bread can be a great way of adding interest to an otherwise bland product. Don’t be afraid to experiment, as this recipe is very hard to mess up. I’ve baked loaves with fresh thyme and sundried tomatoes, lavender, basil, and even substituted about an eighth of a cup of white wine for some of the water. These additions all helped produce loaves which tasted even better.
Then just let it cool, slice it, and enjoy while jamming out to Sharon van Etten’s “One Day”.