I have been asked by a few lovely ladies over the past few weeks what my favorite type of bread is to bake and what is my easiest recipe? So to answer the first question – my favorite bread – the answer is…..bread. All bread. I really can’t choose just one, but I do have a weakness for simple white bread. I know it’s the most unhealthy of them all, but it’s so fluffy and comforting. I just can’t help it. My easiest recipe, is the one I will share with you here today and for the next couple of weeks – different versions of the same thing. A no knead bread that literally anyone can master almost immediately with great results and almost zero effort.
When I first started blogging I never really meant to write about food or recipes, as my focus was our Homestead and the progress as we build our home on our 40 acre property. But like anything, that takes an incredible amount of time and progress is slow. Please don’t get me started on that today. What I did realize however, is that part of homesteading for me, and living a simple, natural and healthy life, is that what I cook is a huge part of this life for our family. We are normal people and eat at McDonald’s and I love eating out in general, but cooking for my family has become almost a hobby, and as time went on, a challenge, to push myself to cook and bake from scratch and make the healthiest food possible, with the least amount of ingredients.
Bread has always been something I couldn’t master, so I made a goal for myself last summer to change that. I hated the idea of kneading bread and didn’t seem to have the skill, but practise makes progress and little by little I got the hang of it and now there’s nothing I won’t try. Keep at it if you are in the same boat. In just about 9 months, I feel I have really developed some great skills and except for one or two times, I haven’t had to buy bread for months. It was not an easy goal to see through, but I did it, and it’s the most satisfying thing for me and it’s really become a hobby for me now. Also, kneading bread is really good for getting out aggression. Try it….and then at the end give that ball of dough a hard slap. You’ll feel so good.
The more I realized what was put into bread that I purchased at the grocery store, the less I wanted to eat it. I knew I needed the most simple bread recipe to encourage my lack of skill and I found it. 4 ingredients is all this bread has and that makes a heart happy. I like knowing what is in my food when I eat it and when I serve it to my boys. This bread, in its simplest form is one of my all time favorites and one I make on a weekly basis. Let me show you just how easy it is!
Also, I like to make sure credit is given. I originally found this recipe on Jo Cismaru’s website Jo Cooks. I love so much of what this lady puts out there and I am a big fan of her various doughs and breads. I took this simple recipe and later made it my own by changing it up and adding things to make it how I want it. But this is her recipe for a beautiful rustic white bread.
3 cups all purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 ½ cups water – at room temperature
Instructions: (copied exactly from Jo Cooks website)
In a big bowl, mix the flour, salt and yeast together. Pour water into the bowl and using a spatula or a wooden spoon mix it until well incorporated.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on your counter for 12 to 18 hours.
Preheat oven to 450 F degrees. Add your cast iron pot to the oven as it’s heating and heat it as well until it’s at 450 F degrees.
Remove the pot from the oven and remove the lid from it. If you want to make sure your bread doesn’t stick to the pot you can sprinkle some flour or cornmeal on the bottom of the pot. (Note from Candace – You can also spray with olive oil cooking spray!)
Flour your hands really well and also sprinkle a bit of flour over the dough. With your floured hands gently remove the dough from the bowl and roughly shape it into a ball. Take the ball of dough and drop it into the pot. Cover the pot with the lid and place it back in the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on, after which remove the lid and bake for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.
Remove the bread from the pot, it should fall out easily. Let cool completely before slicing into it and serving.
Here’s how it turns out:
Get out a large mixing bowl and add in your flour, salt and yeast.
Then pour in your water and mix well with a wooden spoon.
Your dough will look and feel very wet and sticky. It should. You don’t want it dry. If it is wet looking and sticking to everything, you’ve done it right.
Cover this with plastic wrap and leave it on your counter for 12-18 hours. You’ll want to think ahead about that before you start. I usually mix this up mid afternoon for a morning bake the next day. And that’s it for the dough! So easy right?
Then next day…..your dough will have gotten nice and active overnight and will sometimes triple in size. This is why you want a large mixing bowl to start with. It’s bubbly and the smell is beautiful. I get excited at the smell of yeast, so this is something that makes me happy!
Get your oven preheated to 450 degrees. Get out your dutch oven or you can also use one of these – a standard corningware dish. This is what I used for a long time and it worked great.
Now I have been forever changed with artisan and rustic bread baking and like to bake exclusively with my cloche. I have written about this great little baking tool before and I will say here again that this baking tool is wonderful and really does make a difference in the quality I was able to produce. Basically it traps moisture from the bread because of the material it is made out of. If you were using the corningware dish or a dutch oven, you would want to remove the lid as per the instructions, 30 minutes into baking. With the cloche you don’t remove the lid at all. It will still get golden and crisp all the way around but give you the most beautiful, soft inside imaginable. I know this looks a little marked up, but it’s the unglazed version and this tends to brown in your oven over time. It’s seasoning itself. It might look ugly to most people, but to me, it looks loved.
And, if you are going to use something like this, you must line it with parchment before use as the dough will stick otherwise. I just wanted to explain why I was using a baking dish that is probably not so familiar. Also, another difference is that when using a cloche, you don’t need to get the entire dish heated in the oven like the dutch oven or corningware dish. I put my lid in the oven while it is preheating, but I leave the base out.
Have your cloche/dutch oven ready to go once it’s heated. Spray it with cooking spray or sprinkle with cornmeal so the dough doesn’t stick.
Have some flour ready, and get your hands nice and dusted with it. When you go in for the dough with your hands, it’s going to be wet and sticky. Like this.
Have faith in it though. As sticky as it may seem, it will pull away just enough from the sides to come away and should all come out in one piece. The trick in doing this, is to sort of scoop your hands down, around and underneath quickly because you don’t want to handle this too much. Get in, and get out type of things. We want as many of those gorgeous airy bubbles in there as possible.
I also don’t try to shape it. It’s sticky so don’t expect to do that. Just place it in your baking dish as best as you can in close to the shape it should be in. It’s a rustic loaf of bread. It really doesn’t matter. Once it bakes, it is very forgiving and will do it’s own thing anyway!
So if you are using a corningware dish or dutch oven, put your hot lid back on here and pop it in the oven as per the instructions. If you are using a cloche, then do the same. Put the lid on and place it in your oven. The difference here will be there I will not be removing the lid at all during baking.
55 minutes later, with the lid having been on the entire time, I still pulled out a beautifully golden brown, loaf of gorgeous rustic white bread.
The crust on this baby is outstanding. So crisp and crackling, just like you would want. It makes the best chewy crust. Once it has cooled down and you have cut into it, my oh my, the inside is to die for. It’s so incredibly moist and soft and airy.
This bread is so incredibly easy to make. All you really need is time. And the time you have to spend waiting is pretty much while you are sleeping. So, really, “it’s so easy, you could make it in your sleep”. (insert bad joke music here).
So when you make this sort of bread at home, you will begin to notice that it doesn’t last long. There’s no preservatives or weird additives in there so you really only have about 2 days for it to be fresh for you.
We are only 3 people at home so I will cut this in half after it is cooled and freeze half. If you freeze, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and then put it in a freezer bag. For the half I keep out, I never, ever, wrap it in plastic wrap. It’s the worst thing for it. If you want to keep the crust crispy and the inside still soft, just leave it on your counter, cut side down on a cutting board, and just let it sit out. From there, you have about 2 days to get through it before it will start to get dry on you. If it does get dry by day 3, I would suggest cutting it up and freezing it for bread crumbs. They come in handy for meatloafs, stuffing, bread puddings etc. and it’s all homemade! Perfect! Once in a while I forget about an end and it’s too hard to bother cutting so it’s a perfect treat for our chickens. It never has to go to waste!
I have taken an extremely simple recipe and written a novel on how to make it, which was not my intention, but I just wanted to explain my alternate method with the cloche and different ways to handle and care for it. A normal person would go back through this and cut the wordy explanations in half, but I am not normal and I don’t care because I somehow feel justified in my lengthy how-to.
But if you look past how long this got, hopefully you will see that this is probably the easiest bread on earth to make. My next post is a take on this bread with some wonderful additions, and I promise to keep it short and simple. Well, I take that back. I won’t promise, but I’ll try.
– The Homesteaders Wife