If you thought for one minute that you couldn’t make a really good homemade bread with minimal work or baking experience, check this out:
Five minutes of prep work, zero kneading, and some oven time. Not much more complicated than that, and I am happy to be your tour guide. Let’s get moving…
There are only four ingredients (not including olives if you go that route). Bread flour, yeast, water and salt. Really. The recipe is an adaptation from Jim Lahey’s ‘My Bread’ so I thought you might like to take a look at it. Well worth picking up to add to your cookbook library.
I will not lie to you: this whole exercise will be much more successful if you have a kitchen scale because quantities do matter. However, if you don’t have one, carry on with your regular measuring cups. You will be able to tell how best to adapt your recipe when you devour your results. Scale or no scale, you will inhale this. All the ingredients go into a bowl (at this point you will also add olives if you are so inclined), then stirred just until the whole works comes together.
Back to olives for a second. If you add them, just roughly chop pitted olives, either black, green, or what the heck, a combination..
Toss them on top of the flour, add the water, and off you go.
The dough will be wet and sticky. In this case, that is a good thing. I may have overdone it a smidge with the dough photos, but wanted to make sure you could get a close up look at it and not be worried about making everything look perfect. That’s the beauty of this: It isn’t supposed to be perfect. Think rustic.
OK, enough with the dough already. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap nice and tight and let it sit at room temperature. I like to check the time and write it down on top of the bowl. You will want to count off between 12-18 hours from the time you make this creation to your next step. And speaking of the next step, here we are after 18 hours. It’s at least doubled in size, full of bubbles and smells nice and yeasty.
Time for the final rise. You will need some parchment paper that has been well-floured. Scrape/pour the wet dough onto the parchment paper and coax it around until it forms as close to a roundish shape as you can get, but don’t sweat it. Sprinkle the top of the loaf (yes, we can now begin to call it a loaf) with more flour. Move to a warm spot in your kitchen, cover lightly with a light weight kitchen towel, and let it sit there and do it’s thing for an hour.
One item you will need is a Dutch Oven – these are usually made of cast iron, and often have a colorful enamel finish. It has to be oven safe and hold about 6 quarts. This is because the bread will bake in the Dutch oven in a very hot regular oven so we have ourselves an ‘oven in an oven’ type of situation. If you don’t have a Dutch Oven, you can always try a covered casserole dish of a similar shape. Just make sure it can withstand temperatures of 475 degrees – yes, that is quite hot. What happens: during the second half hour of the final rise, the Dutch Oven goes into your oven. You crank up the heat to 475 and let the oven and Dutch oven get screaming hot at the same time.
One hour passed? Dutch oven hot? OK, don’t panic at this part, but you will need to be careful because I don’t want you to end up getting burned. CAREFULLY remove the Dutch Oven from the oven, take off the lid, and VERY GENTLY lift up your risen dough (I usually grab the parchment by all 4 corners) and again VERY GENTLY place it in the Dutch Oven. Put the lid on and pop it back into the oven for 30 minutes.
No peeking for 30 minutes, then CAREFULLY remove the Dutch Oven from the oven, take the lid off, and put the bread back into the oven for another 20-30 minutes. It will look something like this when you remove the lid: He’s a little on the pale side right now, but that will change.
Start looking at him seriously after about 20 minutes because he’s nearly done. I like to go about 30 minutes, but every oven is different. Technically, this bread should be done when an instant read thermometer reads about 210 degrees. I like to go a little higher, maybe 215 but that’s just me. If you don’t have a thermometer, trust your eyes. If it looks like this, chances are he’s ready. If it’s not quite how you like it, just leave in for five more minutes next time.
This is too cool! Once they come out of the oven, just stand there and listen for a minute….they will start talking to you: crackle, crackle, crackle. This is the sound of the crust contracting as it cools and is always music to my ears. Slide them off the parchment and cool on a cooling rack until you can’t stand it anymore. But really, you will be happier if they are cooled before diving in.
You’ve waited long enough. Go for it!!
I know, I know….a lot of photos. But I really really wanted you to feel confident enough to try this if it looks good to you. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll make it again and again. I know I did. Happy baking!! xoxox
- 400 grams Bread flour (3.15 cups)
- 200 grams roughly chopped olives (1 ½ cups) (optional)
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 300 grams water (about 1-1/3 cups)
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir to mix. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for a minimum of 12 hours and up to 18 hours.
- Scoop dough gently onto a sheet of well floured parchment paper. Coax dough into as close to a round loaf shape as you can get. Flour top of loaf, cover with a light kitchen towel, and let sit in a warm place for one hour.
- After dough has risen for 30 minutes, place a 6-quart Dutch Oven into your oven and set the temperature to 475 degrees.
- After dough has risen for a total of 60 minutes, remove hot Dutch Oven from oven and place parchment and dough directly into the Dutch Oven. Put on the lid and return to oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove lid and bake bread for another 20-30 minutes. Crust will be deep brown and internal temperature should read 210-215 degrees.
- Cool thoroughly before slicing.