An easier way to bake fresh bread

Bread

I remember reading in a cookbook once that one of the most important tools in the kitchen is confidence. For some strange reason it seems like we can let food get the best of us when it comes to cooking and baking.

A lot of people have a few “fear” foods in the kitchen and often one of them is bread.

There are a lot of different recipes and techniques that have been passed down through the generations, but when it comes down to it there are two things you need when it comes to baking bread and that is confidence and patience.

When you’re starting off in your bread journey, don’t over complicate things with alternative flours such as spelt, quinoa, or barley. Keep it simple and go with an all-purpose flour.

A lot of bread bakers rely on a scale to measure the flour and other ingredients, and many also use a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook, but I would imagine not many cottages have these luxuries, so you’ll have to rely on a good old-fashioned measuring cup and a lot of elbow grease to knead your bread.

But if you don’t want to spend your weekend at the cottage kneading and rising bread, there are a lot of great no-knead bread recipes that allow you to make great bread at home, without all the effort of kneading.

Most no-knead breads are not only easy but also very forgiving. One tool that I would highly recommend you try when you’re baking bread is an oven-safe pot with a lid or a Dutch oven.

You may be thinking, “Baking bread in a pot? What?” But baking your bread in a pot builds steam, which creates a beautiful crisp crust.

For this no-knead bread recipe you’ll need:
•    3 cups of all-purpose flour
•    3/4 teaspoon of yeast (the nice thing about this recipe is that you can use quick rise or instant yeast.)
•    1 1/4 tsp salt
•    1 1/2 cups slightly warm water
•    1 tbsp honey or sugar

For equipment you’ll need a few basic tools:
•    Large bowl
•    Plastic wrap
•    Kitchen towel
•    Spray oil or olive oil
•    Oven-safe pot with a lid or a Dutch oven (should be at least 4 quarts in size)
•    Paper towel

Before you start cooking, gather all your ingredients.

Add your flour to the bowl. Add the yeast and salt and stir thoroughly. Measure out the 1 ½ cups of barely warm water and pour it in the bowl. Mix the honey or sugar in the water. Stir in the honey water mixture. The dough should look a bit rough and shaggy. Spray the top of the dough with the cooking spray or lightly oil the top of the dough with olive oil. Spread a thin layer of cooking spray or oil on a paper towel, and then turn the dough in a bowl so the whole ball of dough is coated with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and drape with a clean kitchen towel and place in a warm corner and allow it to rise for six to eight hours.

After six hours the dough will have risen. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled counter top and fold it over on itself at least once. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it sit for another hour. About 20 minutes before the hour is up, turn on the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, and place the oven-safe pot or Dutch oven in the oven.

Shape the dough into a round ball and drop it into the pot.

Place the lid on the pot and put it in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes and then remove the lid. Then bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven. If you wish to keep it warm for serving, you can wrap it in a clean kitchen towel. Slice and serve.

Megan Cole is an award-winning Victoria, B.C.–based journalist and freelance writer. She most enjoys writing about food and music, and when she isn’t behind a keyboard or camera, you can find her in the kitchen or at a concert. Visit her other blogs at: victoriaculinaryunderground.wordpress.com or doingsomehotcooking.wordpress.com.