Recipe: Bread

Since bread wasn't rationed, I decided to start with my bread recipe. I got it from The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flynn, page 140.  This book is chock-full of tips, tricks, and recipes for the average open-the-box cook, all in a well-written narrative. I highly recommend it.

Before we start, here's one bit of trivia from The History Channel;
In January 1943, the U.S. War Foods Administration instituted a ban on what had once been advertised as “the greatest step forward in the baking industry”: pre-sliced bread. The rule was intended to save on wax paper and metal. Since pre-sliced bread required more wrapping than a whole loaf to keep it from going stale, the government assumed they could easily conserve paper and curb demand for metal bread slicer parts by having people cut it themselves at home. The public response proved how wrong they were. Bakeries argued they had more than enough supplies on hand to meet demands, and housewives criticized the law in the media. “I should like to let you know how important sliced bread is to the morale and saneness of a household,” began one woman’s letter to the New York Times. Secretary of Agriculture Claude R. Wickard eventually bowed to the pressure and rescinded the ban after only three months, admitting, “the savings are not as much as we expected…”
Yup, sliced bread is the best thing since...since...well, since sliced bread! Anyway, enough trivia. On with the recipe!!

 No-Knead Bread for Busy People

(All four ingredients. Complicated, huh?)
3 cups warm water (100*F)
1 1/2 TBSP yeast (1 envelope)
1 TBSP salt
6 1/2 cups (32 oz) flour--WEIGH THIS. You need 32 oz.
(cornmeal, optional. This is for if you form the bread into boules.)

Combine the water, yeast, and salt. Stir until combined.
Add the flour all at once. Stir until dough is sticky and there are no dry patches.
Cover with plastic wrap or a lid. Let rise until doubled.

I use a 2 gallon glass jar for my bread, rather than a bowl. I mark the "doubled" level on the side, and write the time I started on the top with a Sharpie. The ink washes right off with soap and water. They're also good for making kim chee, salting meat, and storing salt/sugar/etc. in way that is rat,-moisture,-and bug proof but still readily visible and accessible (I rubber band double layers of plastic wrap around the rim and the weight of the glass lid makes an air-tight seal.)

(Looks like I mis-estimated "double." I started it rising at 11:15 and it is now 3:45. Close enough for government work.)

Dump the dough out on a floured countertop. Let it rest while you oil your bread pans (or, if you want to make it into boules, while you try to locate a cookie sheet.)

Dust some flour over the top of the dough. Cut the dough into two pieces.

Flour your hands. Roll one half of the dough into either like a jelly roll (pictured) or into a round boule, tucking the ends under. Pinch out any air bubbles.

Tuck the rolled dough into your oiled bread pans, or dust a cookie sheet lightly with coarse-ground cornmeal and set the boules on it. Oil the top of the bread lightly if using a pan (to keep the tops from getting too crusty. I use a Misto.) or dust lightly with flour if making boules (because they're better with a crisp crust.) I don't usually make boules because everyone loves the crust and will eat them too quickly and not leave any for sandwiches. Plus, it's easier to get regular sandwich slices from pan-shaped bread.

Cover with plastic wrap and set to rise until doubled again, about an hour or two.

Heat your oven to 450F. Slide a cookie sheet or other shallow pan into the bottom of the oven. Slash the tops of your bread. For boules I like to slash an X, for pans I usually just slash a line down the middle. (Use a razor blade for this. You're welcome.)

Once the oven has heated up, put your bread in and immediately pour about a cup of water into the preheated pan in the oven. Be careful not to scald yourself with the steam. Bake for 30 minutes, until bread is light brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cook on racks or the edge of the bread pans.

(Nom, nom, nom.)

No comments: