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Say goodbye to preservatives (everyday bread)

November 14, 2010

As part of my challenge to cook more and follow every single buzzed-about food trend Bittman or Pollan throw at us, I’ve been buying fewer and fewer processed items.  For a while I let this cut down on my bread consumption considerably.  Saying no to those long packaged loaves of gummy, pre-cut bread stuffed with mounds of corn syrup really wasn’t that hard to do.  The real question is why I didn’t do this much, much sooner.  You’d think a year living in bread-loving Germany with so many good Laugenbrötchen would have taught me to eschew the Wonderbreads of the world and throw together my own dough.

Note that I still have not, nor will I ever, let this food trend cut down on the enormous amount of Edy’s ice cream I eat.  Or the multitude of free store-bought cookies I down at my department’s daily cookie time.  We all have our limits and grad students are contractually obliged never to turn down free food.  But back to bread.  Beautiful, delicious bread with a buttery herb-filled crust.  Please, do yourself a favor and make this ‘everyday bread.’  Every day, or at least every once in a while.  The crust alone is to die for.

I always hesitate at the no-knead, throw together in ten seconds breads and pizza doughs of the world.  It doesn’t seem right not to have to work for your carbs.  This bread really can be that simple though, if you have a bread machine or a Kitchenaid.   If you live in a kitchen without those luxuries, you’ll be inconvenienced for a whole 10 minutes instead of 5 to get delicious homemade bread.  Personally, I love getting my hands all flour-ed up and going at the dough.  If nothing else, it helps me get out any pent-up aggression.  Better to take it out on the bread than unsuspecting passersby, right?

I enjoyed my bread with a fresh baba ganoush and buttermilk farro salad on the side.  Someday I might tell you the story of that salad and how it almost defeated me.

Everyday Bread

Adapted from Confessions of a Tart

400g unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour (about 3 cups plus 3 tbsp)
1 tsp salt
240g warm water (about 1 cup)
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey

For topping:
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon dried Italian herb mix (or your own mix of parsley/thyme/oregano)

In a small bowl, add honey and yeast to the warm water.  While the yeast are proofing (about 5 minutes) mix together the flour and salt.  If you have a kitchen scale, this becomes a nice two-bowl recipe that only dirties a couple of measuring spoons.

Add yeast mixture to flour and incorporate using a wooden spoon.  Dough should come together in a shaggy mess.  Turn out onto a well-floured surface, gather into a ball and knead dough for about 3-5 minutes.  To knead, press the heel of your hand firmly into the dough, then fold it over and repeat. And repeat and repeat.  When kneading is finished dough should form a nice, springy ball.

Rub or spray the bowl you made the dough in with oil and place the dough back in.  Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour, or until dough doubles in size.  Preheat oven to 450°F.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface.  Shape into a loaf – either the round loaf as above, or any form you dream up.

Combine olive oil and herbs and brush the bread with about 3/4 of the mixture.  It will seem like a lot of olive oil and might form little pools, but those pools will form the most delicious part of your crust.

Place loaf on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet let bake for about 30 minutes.  The crust will be golden-brown and the bread should sound hollow when tapped.  Add minced garlic to olive oil/herb mixture and immediately brush bread with all of the remaining oil.

Let cool to room temperature and then devour with your favorite topping.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink*
    November 15, 2010 12:29 pm

    Can we talk about the phrase “shaggy mess”? I think there is no better phrase in all of culinary-dom. Also, I’m going to start calling myself that on days when I forget to brush my hair or am generally in a sorry state. “Sorry I’m late for coffee, Em, but I’m a shaggy mess today.”

    • Emily permalink*
      November 15, 2010 1:11 pm

      Just be careful, because I expect delicious bread when I hear the phrase shaggy mess. So either come to coffee with some scones, or be forewarned that I might try to eat your arm.

  2. Sarah permalink
    November 15, 2010 1:08 pm

    I want to lick my computer screen.

    Can we make a scratch-and-sniff version of this blog that will smell like fresh bread? Best smell in the world.

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