I haven’t bought a loaf of bread since I got back from Paris. How incredibly snotty does that sound? Well, whatever. I apologize for nothing!
Home baking is actually super easy if you do it the trendy new no-knead way. You basically mix up a particularly wet batch of dough, let it rise, stick it in the oven, and voilà. Bread. You can make extra dough and keep it in the fridge, or you can bake extra loaves and freeze them. The best part? It’s dirt-cheap. Invest in a five-pound sack of flour and a pack of instant yeast and we’re talking pennies a loaf. Well, maybe quarters. But still!
I was lucky enough to find Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day at my school library (I know, right?) and then its sequel, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day at Borders for 75% off. The method is simple and flexible and I have messed it up more than enough times to say with confidence that anyone can do it. I’ve had to make adaptations: I don’t have a “resealable food-safe plastic container,” so I use a mixing bowl and plastic wrap. I didn’t have a pizza stone (for a while), so I used an upturned cast-iron skillet.
This version is mostly whole-wheat, which means you get added hippie points as a bonus. I made it loaf-pan-style for ease of sandwiching, but you can also bake them as free-form blobs on a pizza stone or skillet if you don’t. Seeds make a tasty garnish, but you can skip them if you dislike awesome bread. I used half of this batch to make garlic knots, which were tasty but unphotogenic, and refrigerated half for this guy.
No-Knead Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf
from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day
makes two two-pound loaves
- 5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 2 cups AP flour
- 1.5 tbsp. instant yeast
- 4 tbsp. vital wheat gluten
- 1 tbsp. kosher or sea salt
- 4 cups lukewarm water (around 100º F)
- Optional seeds (sesame, poppy, caraway) for crust
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and mix without kneading until no dry spots remain. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, leaving a slight gap at one side. Let rise on the counter until the top is bubbly and collapses a bit, at least two hours.
Lightly grease a loaf pan. Take about half of the dough, dust it with flour, and, using slightly wet hands, shape it into a ball by pulling all the sides around to the bottom (the bottom will look all pinched together, but the top should be smooth). Elongate the ball into an oval the length of your pan, and set it in the pan (it should be about 2/3 full). Let rest for 1 hour and 45 minutes, loosely covered with plastic wrap.
Preheat the oven to 450º with a rack in the middle. On another empty rack, place an empty METAL broiler tray (glass will shatter; don’t use glass!) When oven is at temperature, use a pastry brush to paint the surface of the loaf and add seeds, if you want. Using a serrated bread knife, make several slashes in the top crust to allow steam to escape. Place the loaf pan on the middle rack and pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray to create steam in the oven. Shut the door quickly and bake for 40-45 minutes, until crust is deep brown and firm.
Remove from pan and let cool completely on a rack before slicing (this prevents the loaf from drying). Homemade bread will go moldy or stale faster than store-bought, so freeze whatever you won’t be using in a few days in a layer of plastic wrap and in a ziploc bag.