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Friday, December 6, 2013

Perfectly Crusty Chewy Bread--Every Time!

I took a poll on Facebook and asked my readers if they would rather have a recipe for bread or hummus dip.  The bread won out.  And I'm not surprised.  Everyone loves bread.  I love bread.  But for those that preferred the hummus recipe, stay tuned, it will be posted soon, as well.

This bread is so easy, anyone can make it. I'm not kidding.  There is no special machine needed, and no kneading required.  It is mostly unattended.  But it tastes amazing!  I've been making bread for years, but this recipe outshines all the others.

This loaf is made with all white flour, so it's not going to be as healthy as a 100 percent sourdough wheat loaf (Why sourdough? So the phytic acid can be neutralized in the grain.  Phytic acid is in the bran and will pull zinc, iron, calcium, and magnesium from your body.  So, if you're going to eat whole wheat bread, make it sourdough bread.)  White bread is also acid-forming.  Aaahhh!  But guess what?!?  Olive oil is alkalizing and this bread tastes wonderful dipped in an olive oil herb blend (recipe will be below).  And what about fiber?  White bread has no fiber!  I figure if I pair this bread with a big, green salad and dip it in extra-virgin, organic olive oil, I'm covering my bases with regards to alkalizing and fiber.  If you're gluten intolerant or allergic, I'm sorry, this isn't the bread for you.  But this blog is primarily directed at those that are trying to ditch packaged/processed foods and learn how to make good food at home, from scratch.

You may have seen recipes like this one all over the Internet--a basic, no knead recipe.  But this one is a bit different in the instructions.  I tried those others and tweaked this one for more success.  I will explain below.

3 cups white flour - I only buy unbleached
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt - I like this brand.
1/4 teaspoon yeast - I use this brand.

Equipment Needed:
Large bowl - I use my stainless-steel KitchenAid bowl, which holds 6 quarts, but the 5-quart bowl in this set would work, as well.
2-cup liquid measuring cup - like this.
Some sort of spatula for scraping the sides of the bowl and for scraping the dough out of the bowl.  This is a good one.
Parchment paper - this is a must - find it here.
Cast-iron dutch oven - like this - mine is enameled, but that doesn't matter, the bread will not be touching the pan.  A glass dish may even work, but it has to be able to withstand 450°F and have a lid.

Start this the day before you want to bake it.  Don't worry, it will be unattended most of that time.

Put all the dry ingredients in your large bowl.  The bowl needs to allow enough space for the dough to double in size.

Pour in the water, all at once.  This is easy, folks!

Stir together.  I usually use the butter knife that I leveled the flour with.  All you're doing here is mixing it together, you don't have to knead it for 10 minutes or anything.  This dough will be very sticky and wet.  You will have dough stuck on the sides of the bowl.  I use a silicone spatula to scrape it down.

This process usually takes me about five minutes.  Easy, peasy.

(click on photo to enlarge)

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel, and let it sit in a warm spot overnight (it can sit longer, if needed).

Two hours before you want to eat your delicious bread, you should see that it has risen up beautifully and it's bubbly.  Like this...

Place a large piece of parchment paper on your counter, or table. Generously sprinkle flour on the paper.

Scrape the dough out of the bowl with a spatula.  Don't worry, it will be really wet and almost runny.  This is a good thing.

Sprinkle flour all over the dough and shape the loaf.  This is the important part!  You are NOT going to knead this loaf and it will be SO wet, you may be frustrated by it's stickiness.  Keep your hands floured.

Here you will fold two sides in and then the opposite sides in.  You will do that twice, if you can and the dough starts to form into a ball shape.  If you can (and sometimes you can't) flip the dough seam-side down on the parchment.

I have tried to knead more flour into this recipe, to keep the dough from being SO sticky, but then the end result is less than satisfactory.  The texture of the bread, once baked, is not so chewy and delicious, so please resist the urge to knead.  :)

(click on photo to enlarge)

Place the dough back into the bowl that you let it rise in (yay! no more dirty dishes!), KEEPING it on the parchment paper.

Fold the parchment over the dough, loosely.  Cover the bowl with the same plastic wrap and towel from before.  Let the dough rise.

An hour and 15 minutes before you want to serve your bread, place the cast-iron dutch oven in the oven and preheat to 450°F.  Let it preheat for 30 minutes.  Even though your oven may tell you it's reached 450°F degrees, it probably hasn't.  Let it preheat for the whole 30 minutes.  Make sure your oven rack is in a good place to fit the dutch oven with the lid on, but you don't have to put the lid on yet.

After the 30 minute period of preheating, you will put your bread into the dutch oven.  This is where my recipe differs from all the others: KEEP the dough in the parchment!  (You won't get the dough off the parchment, anyway.  It's too sticky.  This was the trouble I had in the past, it was SO frustrating getting the dough into the pan.  I tried letting the dough rise on a floured towel or a generously floured piece of parchment, but it always stuck.  Then it dawned on me, keep the dough on the parchment!  And it works great.  Even if the dough is stuck to the parchment, once it is baked, it releases.)  I carefully lift the parchment, so I don't spill the dough, and place it in the dutch oven.  BE CAREFUL, as the dutch oven is VERY hot!  Place the lid on the dutch oven and shut the oven door.  Bake for 30 minutes at 450°F.  After 30 minutes, remove the lid from the dutch oven, lower the oven temperature to 350°F, and bake 15 more minutes, or until the bread is nice and golden brown.

Enjoy!  This bread tastes best, straight out of the oven.  And you probably won't have any leftovers to store away.  :)

Olive Oil Dip
In a small ramekin, or saucer (I'm using a creme brulee dish in the top photo), sprinkle salt, garlic powder, and basil.  Drizzle olive oil over the seasoning and swirl a bit.  (I use Organic, Extra-Virgin, buy here.)  Mmmmm.

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