27 January 2015

The Mother of Invention, A Loaf of Bread

The saying goes, as I remember it,  that "Necessity is the Mother of Invention".  Well, in this case, it's the Mother of Re-Invention.

I haven't blogged for quite some time.  A long time.  It just worked out that way.  Things went awry, took precedence over tending to my blog.  I have to say I've missed it.  I enjoy writing, and putting my thoughts, ideas, musings down on paper ... or, in this case, in other written form.  

Today I posted a photo of a freshly baked loaf of bread on my Facebook page.  It was a recipe I had stumbled upon that sounded too good to be true.  Just four ingredients, and easy - the recipe said that even a four year old could make this wonderfully delicious, crusty, rustic bread.  It had been on "the list" (you know that never-ending compilation, in non-sequential form, of things you just HAVE to do), and, last night with a forecast of the possibility of up to 30 inches of snow and blizzard type winds, I decided the time is now.

The dilemma was, and what brings me back to blogging today, was that my offer to share the recipe with anyone who wanted to try it needed a "home".  A place where readers could access it without my having to email everyone who had requested it.

So without further ado, here it is.  A recipe for an easy, delicious crusty loaf of bread that doesn't require hours in the kitchen or lots of specialized ingredients.  And, no kneading!

Two things you will need to have, however:  

1. Time:  You begin the recipe before you go to bed.  It takes all of ten minutes to get it started, and then it rests (and rises) while you sleep.  A few steps in the morning and by noontime, you have it!  Fresh baked bread that makes your kitchen smell amazing.  Just like the picture above.  Seriously.  And, believe me, it's worth the wait.

2.  A Cast Iron Pot or Casserole with a Lid:  I used a LeCreuset enamel covered cast iron Dutch Oven, which I've had forever and used for soups and stews.  (These pans are wonderful but expensive, certainly a lot higher priced than when I bought mine years ago.) I imagine any deep, heavy pot (that will take oven temperatures up to 500 degrees) will suffice.  Mine looks like this:

This Lodge cast iron pot from Amazon would work well, too:

Here's the recipe:  It apparently first appeared in the New York Times a while back.


3 cups of bread flour (I used King Arthur)
1/4 teaspoon yeast (I used Hodgson Mill Active Dry Yeast)
1-1/2 teaspoons salt

1-2/3 cups of lukewarm water (warm, not hot to the touch)

Here's how it's done:

The evening before:

1.  Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Add the lukewarm water and stir until well mixed.  The dough will be very wet.  No worries - it's supposed to be.  Work the dough well enough to ensure that all the flour is incorporated and moistened.

2.  Spray a piece of plastic wrap with Pam cooking spray and cover the bowl (sprayed side face down on the dough).

3.  Drape a clean kitchen towel over the bowl and put the bowl in the microwave and close the door.  Leave it in the microwave for 12 - 14 hours.  (P.S. Don't turn the microwave on!)

The next morning:

The dough should have risen quite a bit and be very bubbly.  If it isn't, put the bowl in a warm spot for awhile. (Can you tell this isn't an exact science - it all seemed very forgiving!)

1.  Sprinkle some flour on a cutting board and turn the dough out onto the floured surface.  Fold it onto itself several times till it becomes cohesive - use a rubber scraper to gather the dough in to the center from all around.

2.  Cover the dough with the clean towel from above and let it sit for an hour in a draft-free, warmish place.  The dough will flatten out - no problem;  it's fine!

3.  After an hour, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  PLACE YOUR POT INSIDE THE OVEN WHILE IT PREHEATS.  (Don't mean to scream at you but this step is important!  When the oven reaches 450 degrees, let the pot sit in there for another half hour.  (The pot needs to be very hot to create that amazing crust.)

4.  Working quickly, pull the pot out of the oven, sprinkle some flour on the bottom of the pot, and dump the wet dough into the pan.  It'll appear quite blob-like, but that's okay.  Put the pan back in the oven, with the lid on.  Bake for 20 minutes.

5.  Remove the lid and set it aside.  Raise the oven temperature to 500 degrees and bake the bread for 15-20 more minutes, till dark golden brown.

6.  Take the bread out of the oven and remove it from the pan onto a cooling rack.  Allow to cool slightly before ripping or slicing it in to pieces and enjoy with butter, jam, olive oil, or other dipping sauce of your choosing.

That's it!  If I had known it was going to be this easy and this good, I would have taken step-by-step pictures to show you - sorry, I got caught up in the moment!

Now I have a nice loaf of bread to enjoy with dinner.  And!  I got back to my blog.  I'm one happy girl!

Please, feel free to ask for clarification on the above as needed, and leave a comment to tell me what you think.  I hope you enjoy it, too - the aroma in the house was worth it, in and of itself.   

Here's a few more shots:

dark brown and crusty on the outside

a moist crumb and kind of chewy inside

when cools, slices nicely

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