I love fresh bread – the texture, the smell, the taste, the warmth that melts the butter when you’ve sliced it before giving it time to cool. I’ve tried homemade bread before on several occasions. I don’t know if I am not kneading long enough, too long, the yeast is bad, whatever. I have never had results I am proud of. I usually end up with heavy bricks that the birds end up enjoying. But we like bread around here, so I would spend a lot on bread at the store.
Buying store bread as a vegan can be tedious. Not all stores carry bread that is clearly vegan, and good bread is expensive. I like to splurge on a sprouted cinnamon raisin bread but our five-year-old LOVES bread so it would get too expensive to stock the freezer with bread for her.
I was honestly considering a bread machine about a year ago, even though I try to limit my kitchen gadgets. I didn’t know if I could justify the expense. But around the time I was comparison shopping, Mother Earth News printed an excerpt from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day byJeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.
This article introduced me to an easy method of prepping bread dough (no kneading!) – enough for four loaves at a time that is stored for up to two weeks in the fridge and baked as needed. I could use my Kitchenaid mixer (my go-to kitchen gadget). I was totally sold. We’ve been enjoying fresh bread ever since.
The introductary article in Mother Earth News is wonderful. It gives a great overview of the no-knead method, as well as a couple of the basic dough recipes. In the book itself (I have it listed in my Bookstore), there are a handful of base bread recipes that can be used in different ways for different types of bread, as well as modified for specific recipes. The “Master Recipe” that is included in the article as well as the book is the simplest to master, and so versatile.
3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tbsp granulated yeast (this should be a three-pack strip’s content)
1 1/2 Tbsp Kosher or coarse salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted flour (unbleached all purpose) – measure by filling measuring cup and sweeping off excess with flat end of butter knife
This Master Recipe can be adjusted to incorporate whole wheat flour. I typically adjust my flour to 2 cups whole wheat with the remaining 4 1/2 cups as unbleached all-purpose flour. In the book there is a 100% whole wheat recipe, but my combination has been a hit around here so I haven’t used it yet.
I add the salt, yeast and water into my mixing bowl. There is no need to proof the yeast, though I usually see some bubbles in the water which reassures me. I make a lot of bread so I haven’t had any expired yeast packets to worry about. The flour is measured into the mixing bowl, and the dough is mixed for a couple of minutes using the dough hook for the Kitchen Aid mixer. If you don’t have one, you can use a sturdy wooden spoon to mix thoroughly. You want all of the flour incorpated. This dough will be wet – this is a wet dough method so this is to beexpected.
The wet dough is then either covered for a rise (if your mixing bowl is large enough) or transferred to a larger bowl (this is what I do). You want to cover the bowl, though not airtight. The dough should double so be sure your bowl can accomodate. This usually takes 3-4 hours. Afterward, transfer your dough to the fridge (I usually switch to a tupperware box at this point to take up less space in my fridge – again, the lid isn’t airtight). You can use the dough right away but it is so much easier to work with if it’s cold.
This batch makes enough for four loaves. Just sprinkle some flour over the surface of the dough and cut off a one pound grapefruit-sized portion. Lightly flour a cutting board or clean surface. The next step is described in the book as “cloaking” – After you have your ball of dough (lightly dust with flour to keep from sticking) stretch a bit around to the bottom, turn a quarter turn and stretch another section. Repeat until you have four segments that have been stretched to the bottom. Place on cutting board surface to rest for 40 minutes. Twenty minutes later (and 20 minutes until bake time) preheat oven to 450F. You should be cooking on a baking stone – I use stone wear bar pan or a pizza stone. You want to have the stone in the oven during the preheat to warm up.
When the 40 minute rest time is complete, transfer dough to preheated oven. Cornmeal is very helpful to have on your board to transfer dough to stone without sticking. On the lower oven rack, place a broiler pan. After transfering dough, pour a cup of water into broiler pan and quickly close oven door. The steam helps give the bread a crispy crust. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Remove bread and cool on cutting board. Bread is a lot easier to slice when it has cooled completely. I keep telling my family this, but when the bread comes out of the oven, they start circling, so it doesn’t always happen. Bread sliced before it has a chance to cool may be crumbly in the center (but still delicious!).
This master recipe isn’t just for loaf bread. Just by altering your baking routine, you can have fresh pita bread as well.
Preheat your oven and stone at 500F. Cut off the 1 pound (grapefruit-sized) hunk of dough from your refridgerated dough. This can be rolled out for a large family sized pita or split into four smaller balls of dough for typical individual sized pita bread (I prefer this). On a floured surface roll out each ball of dough (no rise time needed for pita) to 1/8 inch thickness. Put into oven on preheated stone and bake for 5-7 minutes. You don’t need a broiler pan with water for baking pita bread. Cool on a baking rack. Bread should puff up nicely (too thick and it won’t really puff while baking). I err on the shorter baking time and don’t go the full 7 minutes. This keeps my pita from being too crisp on top.
Tease the pita open and you’ve got pocket bread for sandwiches! The kiddos love these!