18 February 2008

By popular demand

After my post about breadmaking, I received a number of requests for recipes (how could I have had an entire post about breadmaking and not included a recipe? what ever was I thinking?). I mentioned the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book in that post, and another book I would recommend is The Bread Bible. You can usually find bread recipes in regular (i.e. not necessarily bread-focused) cookbooks as well. I'm not quite up to making up my own bread recipes just yet (you see, I'm not completely over my phobia of yeast...) but I've had no trouble finding delicious and simple bread recipes in any number of cookbooks.

This weekend's bread recipe comes from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook; it's the Hearth-warming Homemade Bread, and is a great recipe for a pretty basic hearth bread. So it's good for beginner breadmakers, or the more experienced among you. The recipe calls for all-purpose flour, but I like to use half all-purpose and half whole wheat pastry flour. This mixture gives it more flavor and I like that it's more whole grain. I think this would work well with an addition of one cup or so of seeds (flax, sesame, sunflower, etc.) if you wanted to go that route. I love this bread because it's so versatile. It's delicious on a sandwich, for breakfast toast, or as garlic bread with a nice italian meal. Also, I don't have a bread machine, or an electric mixer, so I'm just including the directions for mixing it by hand, but you can use an electric mixer if you prefer that route. Okay, okay, I'll stop rambling and just give you the recipe so you can try it out yourselves...

Hearth-Warming Homemade Bread (from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook)
(makes 2 loaves)

2 cups warm water (98-115 degrees F)
1 tbl sugar
1 tbl (1 packet) dry active yeast
6 cups flour (half all-purpose and half whole wheat)
1 tbl salt
olive oil for greasing the bowl
cornmeal, for dusting.

In a large bowl, combine the water, sugar, and yeast. Let the mixture sit until it turns creamy and tiny bubbles appear on the surface (about 5-7 minutes). In a separate bowl, whisk together 3 cups of the flour (1.5 of all-purpose and 1.5 of whole wheat) with the salt. Stir the flour mixture into the yeast mixture and beat by hand until very elastic (about 100 strokes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a dishtowel and set it aside for at least 2 hours (note: you can let it sit for up to 24 hours at this stage, and the longer you let it sit, the more of a sourdough flavor it will acquire).

Beat down the batter and stir in another cup of flour. Continue to add the rest of the flour until the dough is stiff enought to handle. Dough should be a little sticky at this point. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 15 minutes (until dough is smooth and springy). Shape into a firm ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl (I use olive oil). Cover with plastic wrap and towel again and let rise until doubled (about 1.5 hours).

Press down the dough in the center to deflate it. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just long enough to squeeze out the air. Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a ball and dip the top in flour. Place each piece of dough, flour side down, in a bowl (approximately 8" in diameter). Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and a towel again and let rise until doubled again (about 1.5 hours).

About 45 minutes before you plan to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 450 and place a baking stone on the center rack of the oven (I don't have a baking stone, so I just use a non-rimmed baking sheet). When dough is ready, sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal and carefully turn the dough onto the baking sheet, flour side up. Using a serrated knife, score the top of each loaf with an x or three slashes, or any other design you can think of (my boss at the bakery always used to make smiley faces) and put the loaves in the oven by placing the baking sheet on top of the baking stone (or other baking sheet).

Close the oven door for 15 seconds, then open it and spray water into the oven with a spray bottle. Close the door for 30 seconds, then repeat. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until loaves are golden brown and, when tapped on the bottom, sounds hollow. Transfer loaves to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before slicing. Enjoy.


  1. i am giving this a try today, but i am not an experienced bread maker at all - it's on my list of things to learn in 2008. what happens if i don't have a spray bottle - will it all go to hell? :)

  2. Oh yummy! This looks good. We had soup for dinner and I was just thinking that some homemade bread would be perfect with it. Thanks friend!

  3. yumm!
    Laurel's Kitchen is one of my old timey faves-I love it when others mention it :)
    And I would love to write a portland list for you, anytime!

  4. Yummy! This looks excellent. I wish the oven in my apartment was more consistent.