We discovered a fantastic recipe for peasant bread – a “perfect” simple and natural bread recipe – and had to share on account of the rave reviews that it is getting! This is a great tutorial which includes not only photos every step of the way, but detailed instructions. The link follows after our introduction to the topic.
This is a no-knead bread. Which is awesome, because the effort required for kneading is one thing that puts many people off. Note that the recipe calls for the use of a pyrex bowl – and it seems from the original tutorial that the choice of bowl is somewhat important to the end result; so this is one minor investment that may be needed. However, it should pay for itself quickly if you make bread on a regular basis.
One of the things that we like best about this recipe is that it contains no artificial ingredients. So you have full control over what you are feeding your family – and believe us, that’s a good thing: Many commercially available “big brand” breads contain additives of various kinds – including some that are highly suspect; for example Azodicarbonamide, known by the E number E927, is considered a respiratory sensitizer and has been banned in the EU – but is still in use in the USA as a flour additive!
Another thing about this bread that is awesome is of course the monetary saving. Someone calculated that the cost of one of these loaves of bread is under a dollar, including the cost of the energy used for the baking. That’s pretty amazing.
However what most people are raving about is the flavor. What is it about home made bread fresh from the oven that is just so unbeatable? I think partly it’s the “ultra freshness” – especially when the bread is still warm.
- 4 cups (484 g to 510 g | 1 lb. 2 oz) all-purpose flour* (do not use bleached all-purpose)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 cups lukewarm water**
- 2 to 3 teaspoons sugar (I use 2, my mom uses 3 — difference is negligible)
- 2 teaspoons active-dry yeast***
- room temperature butter, about 2 tablespoons
* I recently have been using 485 g of flour with better results — this might have to do with the winter, but after noticing that my dough was dryer than normal, I decreased the amount of flour a bit and am happy with the results.
- Also, my mother always uses 1 cup graham flour and 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour. Also, you can use as many as 3 cups of whole wheat flour, but the texture changes considerably. I suggest trying with all all-purpose or bread flour to start and once you get the hang of it, start trying various combinations of whole wheat flour and/or other flours. Also, measure scant cups of flour if you are not measuring by weight: scoop flour into the measuring cup using a separate spoon or measuring cup; level off with a knife. The flour should be below the rim of the measuring cup.
** To make foolproof lukewarm water that will not kill the yeast (water that's too hot can kill yeast), boil some water — I use my teapot. Then, mix 1 1/2 cups cold water with 1/2 cup boiling water. This ratio of hot to cold water will be the perfect temperature for the yeast.
***I buy Red Star yeast in bulk (2lbs.) from Amazon. I store it in my freezer, and it lasts forever. If you are using the packets of yeast (the kind that come in the 3-fold packets), just go ahead and use a whole packet — I think it's 2.25 teaspoons. I have made the bread with active dry and rapid rise and instant yeast, and all varieties work. If you are interested in buying yeast in bulk, here you go: Red Star Baking Yeast Also, if you buy instant yeast, there is no need to do the proofing step — you can add the yeast directly to the flour — but the proofing step does just give you the assurance that your yeast is active. I love SAF instant yeast, which can be purchased from King Arthur flour as well as Amazon.
[*]Mixing the dough:
• If you are using active-dry yeast: In a small mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar into the water. Sprinkle the yeast over top. There is no need to stir it up. Let it stand for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the mixture is foamy and/or bubbling just a bit — this step will ensure that the yeast is active. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. When the yeast-water-sugar mixture is foamy, stir it up, and add it to the flour bowl. Mix until the flour is absorbed.
• If you are using instant yeast: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and instant yeast. Add the water. Mix until the flour is absorbed.
[*]Cover bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm spot to rise for at least an hour. (In the winter or if you are letting the bread rise in a cool place, it might take as long as two hours to rise.) This is how to create a slightly warm spot for your bread to rise in: Turn the oven on at any temperature (350ºF or so) for one minute, then turn it off. Note: Do not allow the oven to get up to 300ºF, for example, and then heat at that setting for 1 minute — this will be too hot. Just let the oven preheat for a total of 1 minute — it likely won't get above 300ºF. The goal is to just create a slightly warm environment for the bread.
[*]Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Grease two oven-safe bowls (such as the pyrex bowls I mentioned above) with about a tablespoon of butter each. Using two forks, punch down your dough, scraping it from the sides of the bowl, which it will be clinging to. As you scrape it down try to turn the dough up onto itself if that makes sense. You want to loosen the dough entirely from the sides of the bowl, and you want to make sure you've punched it down.
Then, take your two forks and divide the dough into two equal portions — eye the center of the mass of dough, and starting from the center and working out, pull the dough apart with the two forks. Then scoop up each half and place into your prepared bowls. This part can be a little messy — the dough is very wet and will slip all over the place. Using small forks or forks with short tines makes this easier — my small salad forks work best; my dinner forks make it harder. It's best to scoop it up fast and plop it in the bowl in one fell swoop.
[*]Let the dough rise for about 20 to 30 minutes on the countertop near the oven (or near a warm spot) or until it has risen to just below or above (depending on what size bowl you are using) the top of the bowls. (Note: Do not do the warm-oven trick for the second rise, and do not cover your bowls for the second rise. Simply set your bowls on top of your oven, so that they are in a warm spot. Twenty minutes in this spot usually is enough for my loaves.)
[*]Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375º and make for 15 to 17 minutes longer. Remove from the oven and turn the loaves onto cooling racks. If you've greased the bowls well, the loaves should fall right out onto the cooling racks. If the loaves look a little pale and soft when you've turned them out onto your cooling racks, place the loaves into the oven (outside of their bowls) and let them bake for about 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before cutting.