Tuesday, December 10

The World's BEST Bread!

So I have a tendency to pin lots of recipes to my Pinterest board and then never actually try making them (something to do with procrastination I'm sure...).  This bread recipe has been pinned to my 'Recipes' board from almost the day I set up my account!

Now I'm sure procrastination played a part in why it took me so long to try the recipe, but I think I also knew it was going to be TROUBLE.  A bread recipe with only 3 ingredients, that I almost always have on hand, and an infinite number of variations.  Plus it looked so delicious that I was afraid I would be disappointed with the end result.

Well, I was right on one front!  The recipe IS trouble, but I was NOT disappointed with the result.  I've probably made (no word of a lie) over 15 loaves of bread now, and each one seems to be more delicious than the last.  I've gone through a 10 pound bag of flour!

The best part about this recipe is that it is soooooo easy.  It takes no more than 10 minutes of your time for the WHOLE recipe.  There is a substantial amount of time though where the dough rests, so it takes a little advanced planning.  I try to convert people to try it whenever I can.  Since I'm off work right now, I've had the freedom to toy with the recipe, so I'd love to share with you some of the tips I've discovered...

So here it goes....

**Again, the link above to the Simply So Good blog has the original recipe/explanation, but hopefully you'll be able to follow along :)**

You'll need to start this recipe a minimum of 14 hours before you want to eat your bread.  What I do is start it the night before at 7 or 8ish after Miss Abby goes to bed and then I cook it sometime the following morning to eat around lunch.  It's very flexible.

In a large-ish bowl, combine:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dry yeast (I use the quick-rise version, but if you only have traditional on hand, I've read you can use that as well)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt (I use coarse sea salt, but again, whatever you have on hand will work)
+ add-ins if desired (see below)

Stir together the dry ingredients and add to the bowl:

1 1/2 cups water

Sometimes I find that there is still some flour left over after adding the water, so I usually add more water 1 teaspoon at a time, until the flour has been absorbed.  I used to think that the extra flour would just absorb into the dough as it rises, but have found that not to be the case.

Here's the fun part....cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let it sit on your counter for 12-20 hours.

 This is what the dough looks like after sitting for 12-20 hours.

When you're ready to bake the loaf, put the container in which you're going to bake the bread into the oven and pre-heat the oven to 425ºF.

Note: The original recipe calls for 450ºF, but I found that bread to be too crusty/crunchy.  After some experimenting, I found 425ºF gives a nice crunch, but not too much.

Note: You need an oven-proof container that has a tight fitting lid or something that can be used as a lid.  Personally, I use a pampered chef round baker with a pampered chef baker bowl.  The original poster uses a cast-iron dutch oven.  My aunt even used a pizza stone as the base and her slow cooker 'bowl' as the lid.  Anything goes!  However, you will need something that is at least 5 inches in height and maybe 10 inches in diameter.

This is the covered baker I use...

While the oven is pre-heating, get a some parchment paper, take your bowl with the dough, gently scrape down the sides and drop the dough onto the parchment paper.  I don't know how to be more specific than that, but what you want to end up with is a 'mound' of dough that's roughly circular (but try not to get too picky on the shape, part of the charm of this bread is the 'rustic' look!).  I don't add any extra flour, and in fact, I never touch the dough with my hands (it's VERY sticky).  Cover the dough with the plastic wrap you used to cover the bowl, and let it sit for 30ish minutes.  Sometimes I add a little coarse sea salt to the top at this point as well.

After the dough rests, take off the plastic wrap, and working quickly, open the oven, pick up the parchment paper, put the parchment paper/dough onto/into your base, and put the cover on.  You want to do this step as quickly as possible to retain the heat, as the heat is what makes the steam, which is what makes the crust crunchy and amazing!!

Set the timer for 45 minutes and enjoy the smell that will soon be filling your house!

 This was the first loaf I made when I used flour and no parchment, but I've found the parchment way so much easier and cleaner.

At the 45 minute mark, take everything out of the oven, and put your bread on a cooling rack.  We're lucky if the loaf stays untouched for 15 minutes around here ;)

Now for the variations...

For all the variations, the measurements are just approximate.  I usually don't even measure, and just put in what I think looks 'right' ;)

Cheesy Herb Loaf

To the basic mix, add:
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
cheese cut into 1/4" cubes (approx 1 inch of a rectangular block of cheese, cut up into small chunks)

Here are some pics...
Sitting on the counter ready to go into the hot oven.

After baking

After slicing

This one I love to make with a pot of chili or homemade soup!

Raisin Cinnamon Loaf

To the basic mix, add:
3/4 cup soaked raisins (soaked in warm water for 30ish minutes, and drained well...I've used golden and sultana, both turned out delicious)
3/4 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar

After slicing (golden raisins)

Cranberry Almond Orange Loaf

To the basic mix, add:
1/2 cup soaked cranberries (soaked in warm water for 30ish minutes, and drained well)
2 tablespoons sliced or slivered almonds
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Carrot 'Cake' Loaf (makes a dense flatter loaf, but was very yummy)

To the basic mix add:
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup soaked raisins (soaked in warm water for 30ish minutes, and drained well)
2 tablespoons grated coconut
1 tablespoon pie spice
3 tablespoons sugar

I'd love to hear some other variations!  If you give this a try, or have any questions, please leave me a message :)