Learning to Bake: Daily Bread

Daily Bread

There’s something special about a loaf of whole grain bread fresh from the oven. It’s inviting and warm and perfect for sharing. In my very first blog post, I wrote about bread and shared a recipe for a gouda cheese variety made with the help of a bread machine. Leaving my trusty bread machine behind when we moved overseas, and without even a mixer to do the kneading, I was determined to carry on baking bread without the convenience of a machine. On my first shopping trip to gather kitchen supplies for our new Abu Dhabi apartment, I picked up two loaf pans, brought them home, and stored them away along with all my good intentions. A year later and the pans sat barely touched. The multi-hour process required by traditional bread making was far too labor intensive to become part of my regular cooking routine, so I searched for an alternative method that would mesh with my approach to food: healthy, easy, and flavorful.

My starting point, the no-knead method, was made popular by the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and required only white flour, salt, yeast, and water. To boost the nutritional value, I found an alternative version that uses a combination of whole wheat and all-purpose flours. With the ingredients lined up, I went in search of realistic baking instructions. The original version dictates that you preheat a heavy pot in the oven and then proceed to turn the dough upside down into the hot pot without burning yourself. Dissuaded by visions of burnt fingers and dough flopped on the floor, I found that others had produced similarly excellent results (although with a softer crust) by baking the dough in loaf pans.

The great thing about this method is that you mix up the dough quickly (remember, no kneading!) let it rise, and store it in the refrigerator. It keeps for approximately 10 days, and as it sits, more and more flavor develops. Whenever you want fresh bread, you pull off a piece of dough, shape it, let it rise, and bake. I make fairly small loaves meaning that there are rarely left-overs, but we prefer it that way since it’s so easy to make a fresh loaf every day. My new Saturday morning routine now includes mixing up a batch of this bread dough, preparing us for a week of fresh bread.

Daily Bread

  • Servings: 4-5 small loaves
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Recipe adapted from artisanbreadinfive.com

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons lukewarm water
  • 2¼ teaspoons instant or active dry yeast
  • 1½ tablespoons fine sea salt (decrease to 1 tablespoon or to taste if using table salt)
  • 3½ cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour

Mixing and Storage Directions:

  1. In a 5-quart container or bowl, mix yeast, water, and salt. Add the flours, then use a wooden spoon, stand mixer, or high-capacity food processor to mix until uniformly moist. (I use a wooden spoon and then switch to using my hands, ensuring all ingredients are fully combined.)
  2. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap (not airtight). Allow to rise at room temperature for about 2 hours.
  3. The dough can be shaped and baked the day it’s mixed, or refrigerated in a covered container (not airtight) for up to 10 days. The dough will be easier to work with after at least 3 hours refrigeration.

Baking Instructions:

  1. Pull off a grapefruit-sized piece of dough. Cover the remaining dough and refrigerate for up to 10 days as flavor will continue to develop during storage.
  2. Dust a clean surface with flour to prevent sticking. The dough may be sticky and hard to shape; if so, sprinkle the surface of your dough with flour and knead two or three times to incorporate.
  3. Shape your dough into a loaf. These visual instructions will help if you haven’t done this before.
  4. Place into a greased loaf pan and let rise for 40 minutes to an hour. (I make small loaves for two people so the pan is only filled about half-way after rising.)
  5. 20 minutes before baking, preheat your oven to 450 degrees F (230 C).
  6. Slash the top of the dough with a sharp knife before baking to prevent irregular cracking of the crust.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 190 degrees F (88 C).

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