Another installment of our (very) occasional series of basics, staple recipes every cook should have in their arsenal.
Bread, the basic building block of life. Even the lowliest meals calls for a crust of bread. It's too bad that this most primal, human, food stuff was handed over to bakers for so many years. Instead of paying for pricey artisan loaves, I decided it's time to take it back.
Over the last few months I've gone through 15 pounds of various flours and many recipe options. A heavy whole wheat loaf complete with milk powder, kneaded on the stand mixer. The simple and tasty white no-knead, famous for introducing a run on Dutch ovens. Then, I was duped into the false allure of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day; a big fat LIE. Oh, and don't forget about no-knead in a hurry. But I've finally come to a reliably tasty and healthy bread that fits into our lifestyle.
This recipe and method happens to work for me, but by all means, seek out your own. I'm partial to this combination of no-knead and Artisan Bread in Five techniques. Every other Saturday night before hitting the town, I mix up the dough. Then shape and bake one loaf on Sunday night, while reserving the remaining half the dough for another loaf up to 10 days later. Two loaves for the price of one 24 hour rise.
Multigrain Peasant Bread
Not adapted at all from TheKitchn.com
1 cup rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 to 1 cup cracked wheat, uncooked steel cut oats, sunflower seeds, or other textured grain, seeds, or nuts (I whir oats and flax seeds in the food processor)
4 cups white all-purpose flour (bread flour works too, it will just be a bit heavier)
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
3 1/4 cups (26 ounces) room temperature water
1. In a very large bowl, mix together all the flours, salt, and yeast. Stir in the water to form a thick, gloppy batter. (If your yeast needs to dissolve in water before being added, do this in a separate bowl before combining with the flours.)
2. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it sit at room temperature for at least 8 hours, ideally overnight. My dough forms a hard crust which looks unappetizing, but doesn't seem to affect the final product. Remove the crust if you prefer.
3. Sprinkle your work surface with a little flour and turn out half the dough onto it. Cover the other half with plastic wrap to refrigerate the dough for up to a week. Refrigerating for a few hours also helps make the dough easier to work with and improves the flavor.
4. Choose to shape your loaf into either a boule or a sandwich loaf (I like to do one of each).
Round: Sprinkle the dough with a little more flour and attempt to knead the shaggy wet dough a few times. If it's more like just folding, that's ok, the goal is just to stretch the gluten and develop surface tension to keep it from falling flat. Sprinkle a pizza peel or non-plastic cutting board with cornmeal and place the shaped loaf on it. Cover and let the loaf rise for about 1.5 - 2 hours at room temperature, until nearly doubled in bulk.
Sandwich: Lightly spray a loaf pan with oil. No need to knead, just dump the shaggy dough into the pan, cover and let rise for about 1.5 - 2 hours at room temperature, until nearly doubled in bulk.
5. A half hour before baking, preheat the oven to 450°. Put a pan in the bottom of the oven to preheat as well. If you're baking round loaves, set a baking stone on the middle rack while the oven is heating.When the loaves have risen, quickly cut 1/2-inch slashes in the top with a serrated knife and set them in the oven. Pour a half cup of water into the pan at the bottom of the oven and close the oven door.
6. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the loaves are dark brown, sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, and the interior registers 190° on an instant-read thermometer. Allow to cool fully on a rack before slicing and eating.