It seems that my hobby this fall and winter has been baking bread. I’ve always loved baking, and I love making bread, but it’s a time and labor-intensive process. Not only is there the time involved in mixing the ingredients, there’s generally about ten minutes of kneading (which can be therapeutic, but it’s still ten minutes), and then multiple rising times.
Well, last fall I discovered the wonders of no-knead bread. You stir up the ingredients, let it rise, shape it, let it rise again, and bake. It still takes time, but most of that time is rising, so I can be doing something else. Now I don’t remember the last time I bought bread because I’ve been making my own.
It all started with this recipe for a Harvest Bread full of nuts and dried fruit. One of my local grocery stores used to make something like this, then it stopped. One day last fall, I was procrastinating, so I did an Internet search to find a recipe along those lines and found this one, which also introduced me to the idea of Dutch oven or bread crock baking. That makes things even easier. I’ve made the rustic/artisan breads before where you have to put a pan of water in the oven. This avoids that step and still gives you that crusty European bakery effect. You just put your dough in a Dutch oven or bread crock, bake it in that with the lid on for most of the time, then remove the lid for the last few minutes. The steam builds inside the pot for most of the baking, and then you finish browning at the end. So, the night before I want bread, I stir together the ingredients, let it rise overnight, shape it and put it in the pot in the morning to rise again, then throw it into the oven. With this recipe, you put the pot in a cold oven, and it finishes rising as the oven heats.
So, since that one was so successful, I tried a crusty white bread recipe that makes multiple loaves. You pull off the amount of dough you want to use and keep the rest in the refrigerator, up to a week. The longer it stays in the refrigerator, the closer it comes to a sourdough taste.
Yesterday, I tried a skillet wheat bread that I’m still iffy about. It has the shape and a similar density to corn bread, but it’s a whole-wheat yeast bread. I guess it would be similar to a heavy peasant bread, but it’s a little too dense for my taste. I might tinker with the recipe some, and we’ll see how well it reheats or works split and toasted.
There’s a French bread recipe I want to try that I may bake in the Dutch oven. And a skillet cinnamon bread that looks lovely.
One weird thing I discovered in researching all this baking stuff is that supposedly, you should let a loaf of bread cool completely before slicing it because it alters the texture if you break the crust before it’s cooled. Is it actually possible to resist eating fresh-baked bread right out of the oven? Who does that? I do let it rest about 10-15 minutes, but then it must be at least tasted while warm, maybe with some butter and honey.