If you are interested in living a more self sufficient lifestyle, then you are no doubt working on building up your set of skills and knowledge. It's good to learn more and more about gardening techniques, various animal husbandry practices, and how to preserve the food that you are able to harvest each year. We have been exploring a wide range of topics in these areas over the past few years, but a very specific skill we have been really exploring here the past few weeks is how to make bread from scratch. Learning how to make anything from scratch is no doubt a useful skill, and I can tell you now after over a dozen loaves of fresh baked bread, it will save you money (flour is cheap) and result in an amazing treat that rivals anything you can buy at the store.
I want to start this discussion right off the bat by saying that I have long been afraid of baking bread. For some reason, as a child I remember thinking that it took some magical skill in the kitchen to not screw it up. I am here to tell you that not only is there no magic involved, it is actually one of the easiest things I have ever made. And it tastes freaking amazing!
That being said, the style of bread we will be discussing does require a very specific tool, and that is a cast iron pot with a lid. The lid is of specific importance in that the beginning baking process requires that the dough be placed into a preheated pot with a lid. I use a Lodge cast iron pot and also have an old Calphalon cast iron pot (similar to this) that is slightly smaller and works just as well. I did read a post about someone using a crock pot liner, so I would imagine a ceramic baking dish would work just as well. It must have a lid though, so keep that in mind.
So, let's get into the basic process. The steps will go something like this...
- Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer with a dough hook for this, and mix 3 cups of flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons of dry yeast, and 1 1/2 cups of warm water. Mix and scrape until the dough comes together and forms a nice mass around the dough hook usually. We have been using Himalayan pink salt, but any salt will work.
- Transfer to a bowl and let the dough rise. Now this is where I disagree with posts that I have read. I have used both rapid rise yeast, and regular yeast, and I have let it rise for anywhere from 2-3 hours all the way to over 24 hours. I am going to tell you that your best bet is to just keep an eye on the dough because there are so many variables in how long it takes. Temperature of your house, temperature of the water you added at the beginning, shape of the bowl you're rising it in, etc. I started an 18-24 hour batch the other night only to pop it in the oven 3-4 hours later because the dough was already pushing the limits of the container it was in. And I had at least one batch come pouring out of the bowl after rising too long. So just watch it closely.
- Heat the oven and the pot you're cooking the bread in to 450 degrees when you're ready to bake the bread. It will take 45 minutes in the oven, probably 20-30 minutes to bring your oven up to temp and a solid 15 minutes to let the bread rest and cool slightly, so your gonna want a good hour at least.
- we use this kind) and reshape the loaf once more into a nice round mass of dough. Then I cover it with the same piece of oiled plastic wrap that covered its bowl while it was rising. Leave this to rest and get a slight second rise while the pot and oven reach the desired 450 degree temperature. (20-30 minutes or so)
- After 30 minutes, remove the lid and let the bread bake uncovered for another 15 minutes. If you are making multiple loaves, this is when I scrape out the next batch of dough and shape it up so it can begin rising on the parchment paper.
- After 15 minutes uncovered, your bread is finished baking. Remove the pot from the oven and place the bread on a wire rack to begin cooling. It will be ready to cut and eat after about 15-20 minutes of cooling. If you are baking multiple loaves, I use this same time to reheat the lid on the pot while the second loaf finishes its second rise on the parchment paper.